2007 Reviews

Unreal Tournament 3

  • Review Date: 2011-10
  • Release Date: 2007-11
  • Developer: Epic Games
  • Rating: 5.0

I played the original 1999 Unreal Tournament plenty, although only ever against bots, and enjoyed it a lot. The weapons were all very fun, levels looked great. However lacking a proper single player mode I skipped it's sequels UT2003 and UT2004, before returning to UT3 released in 2007.

UT3 was advertised as having a proper single player mode, much more than it's predecessors. Unfortunately the single player mode is really just a series of bot matches; covering typical deathmatch, Capture The Flag and Warfare gameplay modes.

I played on the lower difficulty levels to avoid much replay. This made the deathmatches laughably easy - even the 1 on 1 final battle I won 20-4 on my first play through. But it's the deathmatches I enjoy most, and often it's team-based 4 on 4, for instance. However I was playing on lower difficulties, so they should have been fairly easy.

The Capture The Flag levels were quite often easy, but there were a few where vehicles are involved that were a bit of a challenge, and then one huge levels in particular (Sandstorm) that was extremely difficult. But overall the CTF levels aren't very exciting. I find myself just running like hell in most of them, trying to avoid detection. Only twice in the entire game did a team-mate manage to capture a flag. They're completely useless. In most cases I was better off continuing to the enemies' zone and just stand around waiting for my team-mate to inevitably drop the flag so I could take over the run.

But it's the Warfare levels that throw the game completely out of balance. In these levels you have stations that you take control of in order, until you get to the enemies main station and destroy it. The opposing side is trying to do the same to you. Some of these levels were very easy, completing them in just a couple of minutes. But then there were others that were really, really difficult. It seemed to depend too much on whether or not your team-mates were being imbeciles. The Torlan Warfare level, which was number 15 out of 41, for me, was by far the hardest level in the entire game. My team-mates just seemed to dick around and do nothing. Even when taking over all stations, I couldn't even GET to the final station to even attempt to destroy it, while my team-mates were plonking around at the start still. A bonus card (which do a few things like reducing the opponents enemy count) was a necessity on this one. Then on the other hand you get to the penultimate level, Warfare again, and it's done in under five minutes.

So what I'm getting at is that the levels are wildly out of balance, with some that are too easy and the odd one that's too hard for where it's placed in the list. And that's all this game really is - a list of levels one after another, some of which are poorly repeated. There's a story going on about some war and the character you're playing wants revenge on the cliche hot chick who nearly killed him. But the story is a boring and didn't enhance the experience much at all.

The weapons are all the standard Unreal ones; all very fun to use.

UT3 uses, obviously, Unreal Engine 3. It looks great as expected with some awesome looking backgrounds and setpieces. There's a tonne of variety in the different settings including temples, space stations, market gardens and many outdoors levels. I guess it's hard basing a proper single player game around so many different settings, but I really wish more developers would put this much variety and fantastic looking environments into their games. Either that or perhaps Epic should make a proper, non-console biased, single player game like the original Unreal. Once you actually go through all the non-campaign levels and Titan Pack levels, you'll realise just how good UT3 looks. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it's the best looking game ever made up until November 2007 (excusing Bioshock and COD4 as I'm yet to play them). Sure, Crysis has stunning realistic outdoor scenery, but that's all has. What UT3 does is 3D art. The rich details, creativity and artwork put into each level is breathtaking, and just about every large outdoor level has huge setpiece backgrounds. Most single players games struggle to have a few set pieces all game long - UT3 does it in every single level! To me, a dark brooding island cathedral with mixes of tech and giant sprawling tentacles reaching into the sky is a lot more impressive than the sunny Crysis islands or flat plains of Stalker.

It's quite disappointing that a game that looks this good was wasted on multiplayer only with no proper single player. Sorry bot matches really doesn't count.

That being said, the looks are fairly similar to Gears Of War. The character models might as well have been pulled directly from GOW, while the textures and environments all have that similar muddy colour palette and blurry post processing effects. But UT3 takes the artwork to a whole new level over GOW.

The final hurdle in UT3 to mention, from a single player perspective, is that the game isn't very long. Assuming almost every level you complete successfully on your first try, you'll be through it in five hours.

I'm going to judge this as a single player experience, as I don't play online, and as such because it's all bot play it does probably warrant replays so you can get a better look at some of the levels. However, it is JUST bot play, which gets repetitive fast. On top of that some of the levels (CTF and Warfare) I didn't enjoy that much. In fact I cringed every time a Warfare level came up. UT3 might look fantastic, but it's not a proper single player experience, so not really recommended.

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