Epic Games love gore...and they make it look so pretty. Remember chainsawing some Locust in Gears of War, watching the blood splatter on the screen and thinking "What a sadistic game?" (Then shrugging that thought aside because it was damn fun?) Well the same will happen when blowing your foe apart with a rocket launcher in Unreal Tournament 3. It's an immensely fun, fast paced shooter perfect for all those console gamers without a decent PC.
Firstly, let's get this straight before I start. Unreal Tournament 3 (UT3) is all about the online play. If you don't have Xbox Live Gold, do not buy UT3. You will not get the full experience from the game. Now, that's out of the way, let's look at the game.
Unreal Tournament 3 is the Xbox 360 version of the highly popular "twitch" FPS for the PC with some new maps and characters in it. For those who don't know what I mean by "twitch", it basically means that the Unreal series is not a "think and plan your strategy" sort of game. It is, instead, a "make limbs fly, make bodies drop, make blood splatter as quickly and as much as possible" kind of shooter. UT3 is fast. And I mean fast. If you are not alert, you will be on the floor with several holes in your body. Unreal is, essentially, a mouse and keyboard shooter, but the transfer to controller is actually very good.
As I said, this isn't really a single player game, and it shows. The so-called "campaign mode" is a bit pointless. It is basically a series of matches based on the online modes with bots instead of people. Added to this is a poor story that focuses around a man named Reaper, an over-muscled mercenary whose town is destroyed by the Necris, a strange race of aliens who only care about killing. You play through a series of matches with AI as your enemies and allies instead of real people working up until you destroy the Necris. It's there for those without Live and it's a good form of training for those unsure of the controls before hopping online.
But the campaign mode really shows how beautiful it looks. It has a similar gritty style to Gears of War, but with some gorgeous lighting and wonderfully expansive levels. Surprisingly there is no frame-rate drop alongside the fast motion and huge explosions. The Unreal engine really does show off its power here. The maps really are beautiful too. They're like a sort of surreal Star Wars/Halo crossovers that are so well constructed that each time I play them, I still get lost and yet still know where I am. It sounds strange, but it's perfect for running around and blowing people up. They're so perfectly designed for each mode and are well balanced for each team. But without decent gameplay, the graphics and maps mean nothing.
UT3 has six different modes for you to digest and rack up your kills in. The first four are standard fair in FPS games nowadays. They are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Duel and Capture the Flag. Those are mainly modes where you need to rack up kills or steal your opponents flags to win. These modes are immensely fun to just run around with your weapon of choice and pile up the bodies while avoiding death yourself. The last two modes are where this game shines. First of all, we have Vehicle Capture The Flag. The added vehicles, which I shall look at later, add a whole new level of mayhem to the stealing the flag affair. The last mode is Warfare. This isn't exactly the most original of modes, but it is so well pulled off it is great fun. You're split up into two teams and each team's job is to capture nodes to unveil the enemies core so it can be destroyed. To capture the nodes, you need to destroy them first, if they are controlled by an enemy, or place an orb in the node to capture it. It is a frantic game of defend your nodes while trying to destroy your enemies core. The vehicles are also present making it great fun and a really well thought out mode that is different every time you play, even though it may be on the same map.
The place where UT3 shines is easily in it's weaponry and in the vehicles. The power of the weaponry will ensure that hiding and ambushing is not an option. You need to run and gun--simple as that. With weapons such as the rocket launcher and the Flak cannon, you will have to run and dodge while trying to hit your target as well. You will need aim well or you will have your ass handed to you on a plate. Some of the weapons are pretty imaginative too. The Flak Cannon is a shotgun style weapon that fire projectiles that bounce off of walls and ceilings. This is very useful when your enemy is running around a corner as you can still kill him. The Impact Hammer is an instant kill weapon that you need to get up close and personal to use, which is harder than it sounds. The Bio-Rifle is a strange weapon. It fires blobs of hazardous goo at your enemies. But this weirdness is the unique edge the Unreal series takes.
The vehicles in the game are fantastic. My personal favourite is the Dark Walker, a War Of The Worlds-esque tripod whose lasers are capable of blowing enemies to smithereens. The humans, or Axon, vehicles consist of huge tanks, vehicles with blades to slice anyone in the way and the Leviathan, a massive tank with a huge cannon able to create an explosion about as subtle as a tornado. In any game mode with vehicles included, every player gets hoverboard to quickly travel around the map. This is the easiest and fastest way of getting orbs and flags around the map, since they can't be taken into vehicles.
Everything sounds so great in the game, minus the voice acting. Explosions and the weapons firing sound fantastic and really immerse you in the strange world of Unreal Tournament. The voice acting is average at best. It suits the average feel of the storyline at least. It consists of the normal gruff, action hero voices and alien gargling. Not that great, but passable.
With these many modes and ways to play, playing online is fantastic fun and the best part of the game by far. If you want a game for a great single player or so you can plan your move through online, this is not for you. Unreal Tournament 3 is all about the action. It isn't deep, but it is immensely fun. Rent it first to see if this is your type of game. If you like games in which you run around shooting anything that moves, buy UT3. It is, by far, one of the best run and gun games for the console.