Saturday, August 8, 2009

Unreal Tournament III

Unreal Tournament III (PC)

Australia, November 27, 2007 - A few months ago, a little sci-fi shooter by the name of Halo 3 landed on the Xbox 360. You might have heard of it. Hailed as the greatest online experience to ever hit the Internet in the history of forever, I eagerly locked away a weekend to take Master Chief online. Yet after spending a day of driving Warthogs and capturing flags on Xbox Live, it still hadn't lit the fire of fragging passion that I was expecting.

I brought this up with some Halo 3 devotees, and their reasoning behind my disappointment was simple. "You just don't like sci-fi shooters with a fast pace and a need for twitch skills. You'd rather play more realistic shooters, where your tired, 31-year-old's nerves can handle the dawdling pace." Their sentiments seemed to ring true, as I realised that I've stuck exclusively to realistic shooters over the last couple of years.

In other words, it's the same Unreal Tournament that we've loved since the first UT was released last century. The original UT tore our PCs to shreds back in 1999 and since then we've had two other UT games, which actually makes this the fourth UT title. They've all stuck to the same formula, based around hyper-speed deathmatch action, but throwing in more goodies each time. This year sees the winning formula return, with a single major game mode addition, alongside a massive visual revamp designed to show us what the video cards of 2007 are capable of. While we usually encourage innovation in gameplay, by sticking to the older style of UT gameplay, UT3 actually feels new. Where all of its competitors have slowed down to focus on more realistic, tactical gameplay, UT3 has proudly snubbed this trend, and as a result feels unique.

UT has never been known for its strong singleplayer game, and sadly UT3 doesn't shake this trend. If you're looking for a deep and involving storyline, go play Half Life 2. However, if you'd like to train against competent bots to come to grips with the surprising depth and breadth of UT3's various modes and mechanics, the singleplayer game is a good place to start.

Between throwaway cut scenes telling a cardboard cut-out of a story, the singleplayer game slowly introduces you to the skills you'll need to avoid becoming a pile of bouncing gibs when you finally summon up the courage to go online. It eases you into deathmatch, then CTF, then the other game modes, as well as teaching you how to double jump and use the various vehicles and weapons. That's not to say it's very satisfying though, even with the awesome voice calls from your AI-controlled team mates. No matter how good today's AI is, and UT3 has some of the best we've seen, there's still no beating the cunning co-ordination of Homo sapiens. It's especially noticeable when vehicles enter the mix, as the AI struggles to not drive into walls or shoot in a straight line. Without a compelling storyline, the singleplayer ends up being a fairly sterile, though highly informative, extended tutorial.

However, the singleplayer does include four player online co-op, so you can take on the bots with a few pals. I found it to be very laggy though, even when hosted on my 24Mbit/sec ADSL2+ connection. Hosting behind a NAT-enabled router was about as much fun as chewing on a three-round burst of UT rockets, although using the 1.1 beta patch finally enabled it to work. Yet even with Cam by my side, warping and teleporting as he was, it was still nowhere near as much fun as firing up a 1 vs 1 duel server, proving that UT3's real strength lies where it always has - multiplayer.

System Requirements:
2.4+ GHZ Dual Core Processor
2 GBytes of System RAM
NVIDIA 7800GTX+ or ATI x1300+ Video Card


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