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Unreal Tournament 3

If any of you have read my review of Unreal Tournament III on PC, you’ll know that I was a little disappointed in it. No, actually, not just a little disappointed; more like let down. The kind of feeling you got when you went and saw The Phantom Menace or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bitter fan rage is a fair description of what UTIII brought out of many fans of the series. The game then made the jump to PS3, where, ironically, it had a more interesting mod community than the PC version did. Now, months later, the Xbox 360 finally has a version of its own – it has no mod support, but it does sport a few features that its counterparts don’t, and is all the better for it.

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UTIII attempted to bring the classic UT gameplay up to speed with current technology, and from a basic standpoint it worked. However, something was lost in translation; the massive array of options from UT2K4 was stunted, with a relatively barren selection of maps and mutators. The game just didn’t feel right, and the drastically low sales of the PC version proved it – as well as forums full of people complaining that there were barely any populated servers for the game. It just wasn’t a success; however, the PS3 version was lauded for its groundbreaking mod support – something that set it apart from other console FPS games. Frantic shooters like Unreal Tournament are a dime a dozen on PC, so maybe that helped gamers swallow the UT3 pill a bit easier when it came out. Still, the PS3 release couldn’t fix some of the larger problems with the game; the campaign was still absolutely dire, the map and mode selection was still woefully anorexic, and to top it all off, the game didn’t support splitscreen. That’s hardly a problem on PC, but a multiplayer-centric shooter being released on a console without a social mode? Blasphemy!

Thankfully, the 360 version corrects this. While it doesn’t support user-generated content, this version of Unreal Tournament III allows friends to duke it out alongside bots – a feature that takes me back to the good old days of Perfect Dark and whatnot. Playing a game as competitive and ludicrous as Unreal Tournament with a buddy next to you adds a lot to the overall playability of a game, and you can even run through the icky campaign together – the endless stream of Warfare matches with awful cutscenes is easier to slog through with a fellow gunslinger at your side. Unfortunately, the game only supports two players to compete at once, a step backward from the four-player mayhem of Unreal Championship back on the original Xbox. Still, never look a gift-horse in the mouth; the splitscreen enhances this game greatly.

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As far as the actual game goes, Unreal Tournament III is the same as ever on the 360. There’s your deathmatches, your flag matches, Warfare… if sitting down for a few hours and mindlessly plugging bullets into people is what you’re after, UTIII delivers in spades. There’s never any need to reload your weapons, so feel free to mash the trigger even when you’re wielding a rocket launcher the size of your torso. The vehicles are also entertaining to drive, with the bouncy Unreal 3 Engine physics powering them around the terrain – as well as rendering all-too-detailed chunks of your blood and gore when someone nails you with a missile. Yes, UTIII retains the puerile science fiction aesthetic that makes it so hilarious to play. Lasers? Check. Nine barreled chaingun? Check. Exploding heads/limbs/torsos/everything? Oh my, check. The adrenaline-fueled mayhem helps alleviate the feeling that you’re playing the same game that came out in 1999 – you are, by the way – but considering how pretty the game is, it hardly matters.

“Lasers? Check. Nine barreled chaingun? Check. Exploding heads/limbs/torsos/everything? Oh my, check.”Unfortunately this version runs into the same problem the PC version did – namely that the Xbox 360 is chock full of simple shooters. Still, UTIII has some advantages. The graphics are exceedingly pretty, as the game runs on the Unreal 3 engine that powered Gears of War, and the Xbox Live support is smooth enough to make playing online worthwhile, whether you’re in a deathmatch or playing co-op over the internet. It may not beat out Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, but it’s certainly around that level of quality.

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Ultimately, there isn’t much to say about this version of Unreal Tournament III. It’s the same game that’s available on PC and PS3 already; it just has a few little things that make it more interesting – especially if you don’t own the other versions already. Splitscreen multiplayer and new maps definitely improve the overall experience, and there’s just something that feels different about playing this game on a couch than in front of a computer. It’s decidedly old-school, but if instant-gratification action is what you’re after, don’t hesitate to pick up the 360 version of UTIII.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in October 2006.

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