Unreal Tournament III
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Midway
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-16
Words By:

Unreal Tournament and the infamous “Unreal” graphics engine have been synonymous with fast-paced online 3D gaming for many years. They have tended to set the bar in terms of graphical content and gameplay for others to achieve and try to better.

This is the first outing of the series on the PS3. This title is tentatively making the transition from PC to console in a genre dominated by PC gamers. Mouse and keyboard controls tend to be considered the de facto standard, so does the humble Sixaxis™ controller cut the mustard? But more on that later.

If you are unfamiliar with the Unreal Tournament series, have you been holidaying on an alien planet for the last 10 years? I won’t bore you with details of what the general gameplay is because it is essentially more of the same winning formula - ported to the PS3. If you are not sure, Google for Unreal Tourny and come back in a few years time when you’re finished reading.

The actual development of the Unreal 3 engine has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Epic. Delayed games, threatened law suits, questions over the viability of the PS3 version to mention a few.

It is good to see it finally turn up and not just be a piece of vapourware. The code is up and running and throwing stuff around at an impressive rate. (EA & Valve take note…) The PS3 can shift plenty of polygons and not deteriorate into the gaming equivalent of wading through beeswax.

The single player game starts out with a bit of a showcase demo of the engine. Instead of pre-rendered cut scenes the intro appears to be running in game, at least judging by some strangely disturbing graphical artefacts jiggling about on the characters eyebrows. However I have noticed similar polygon jiggling going on in some scenes in Assassin’s Creed, so maybe this is more of a PS3 GPU flaw than an issue with the coding.

Initially starting as a tutorial the game tries to shoe-horn the plot into a series of different game styles, gradually introducing the vehicles and rules of the different games with each new level. Sadly this doesn’t really work. Between each level you get some ‘radio chatter’ to flesh out the back story rather than the lusciously rendered visuals at the start at the game.

Unsurprisingly UT3 really comes into its own online. There are a variety of different gaming options; you can join a quick match, search for specific servers or host your own game. Internet and LAN modes are supported, as is the option to use keyboard and mouse instead of a PS3 controller. The game actually handles pretty well with the Sixaxis using the standard dual thumb stick controls of most FPS console games. L1 and R1 fire primary and secondary weapons, L2 and R2 cycle through weapons. So you never feel like an arthritic spider hunched over your keyboard as in some PC games. A nice addition when searching for games is that you can opt to exclude servers supporting a keyboard and mouse, allowing you to play on a fairly level playing field, (rather than bemoaning the fact that the keyboard and mouse players have some advantage in speed & accuracy).

The sheer beauty of the game didn’t strike me until I was joining an online game with an unfamiliar level set in space. Instead of immediately diving in and starting fragging I decided to browse around the level first. Nipping out the porthole and drifting backwards into space I could truly appreciate the level design. The twisted Alien-esque ship would not look out of place in a H.R.Geiger sketchbook. In a game as frenetic is UT3 you often don’t stop to look at the graphics, barely having time to blink between your next frag or untimely death.

As expected there are a decent array of weapons and vehicles at your disposal. The detailing on the weapons is impressive. Apparently there are as many polygons in a single weapon as there used to be in an entire level on the earlier games. Vehicles feel suitably solid and weighty, and there are several turret-type weapons dotted around the maps too.

Voice chat is also supported but like a lot of PS3 gamers I have yet to try it. There seems to be a far smaller number of headset owning PS3 owners than 360 owners. Maybe more games like this and Warhawk will push up ownership figures.

Longevity is added to the game in the form of mod support. You can install mods built on a PC to the PS3 game via a memory stick or alternate media device. Sadly you don’t get the mod tools for yourself with the PS3 version.

Overall though it is a solid conversion. I was initially uninspired by the single player game, but as ever it is online where it really shines. Now what I really need are a handful of old mates who also have the game, a headset, and a few cold beers for a solid evening’s entertainment.

Best Bits

- Luscious visuals
- Impressive level design
- Mod support
Worst Bits

- Limited voice chat
- Soulless single player experience
- Being fragged too often
- Lack of mod tools for PS3

by: Telecoda

Copyright © Gamecell 2008