Monday, November 26, 2007

Review: Unreal Tournament 3

It's finally here - the big You-Tee-Three. I've been anticipating this one for a long time. It's one of the reasons I built my new box. So let's dive right in!

Unreal Tournament 3. Wow. What's really to describe? The gameplay still feels very much like UT2004, but that's a compliment. It follows the tried and true formula of you and some friends and/or maybe some bots all slugging it out as messily as possible in a variety of jawdroppingly beautiful locations.

Ever since the first Unreal game back in 1998, Unreal has meant pushing the visual envelope in ways that make your eyes angry that real life doesn't look more like Unreal. It was one of the first games to take advantage of the fledgeling "3D Accelerator" hardware idea that we now take so very much for granted. Unreal Tournament, released in 1999, followed up that tradition with similarly awesome graphics and gameplay. 2003 was a little bit of a let down, but UT2004 immediately followed it up with what can only be described as sheer awesomeness.

Perhaps that's part of the problem I have with UT3. It had impossibly big shoes to fill. Even though I avoided 99% of the hype surrounding the game, for the express purpose of NOT getting my hopes up impossibly high, the game still left me a little disappointed in some areas.

Now, don't get me wrong- It's an awesome game. The visuals are mindblowingly amazing. The controls are still slick and intuitive. There's blood and gore and adrenaline-pumping goodness that makes you want to play it more and more. But you can't help noticing a few things right off the bat.

My Gripes With Unreal Tournament 3:
1)Only 6 Capture the Flag Maps
I'm a CTF monster. Whenever I go to play unreal, I immediately jump in to CTF. But UT3 only has six CTF maps (though it is somewhat mitigated by also having six "Vehicle CTF" maps... if only a little). This is perplexing given the history UT has of providing lots of CTF variety. Oh, don't worry, there are more Deathmatch and Warfare (which was called Onslaught in 2004) maps than you can shake an impact hammer at, but only six CTF maps. That was a major bummer for me. And to make it even worse...
2) Not a single one of those 6 CTF maps is a "Facing Worlds" port.
Come on! This should have been a no brainer! Facing Worlds is, bar none, the best and most popular CTF map in UT history. Making its debut in the original 99 UT, it endured and got remade countless times up through UT2004... but now I guess I'll have to wait for some community map guru with time to spare before I can place CTF-Face in UT3. Oh, and don't worry, Deathmatch Fans... Epic didn't completely drop the ball... Deck 16 made it into this iteration. Of course, that only makes me goggle more at why Face was left out, since Epic knows certain maps are popular beyond any other.
3) No Domination, Assault, Invasion or Bombing Run.
Again... Wuh... Tuh... Fuh? Granted, there may have been limited enthusiasm over the "second tier" game types of Domination, Bombing Run and Invasion, but Assault is a lesson Epic should have learned as one of their many mistakes in UT2003. There was an outright revolt among UT fans that assault mode was removed, so much so that it was put back in for UT2004. But here we go again, it's gone. And despite what the company mouthpieces will tell you, Warfare is not an "amalgamation" of Assault and Onslaught, it's Onslaught with a couple little additions. All the nifty and innovative levels you loved about UT99 and UT2004's Assault levels are gone. You should be as I am: severely miffed. And frankly, the elimination of four entire game types just exudes laziness.
4) The "Campaign."
Ok, maybe this one is more my fault than anything. I made an assumption. That assumption was based on the changing of the naming convention and the pre-release footage of the cutscenes having to do with the wars in the campaign. Previously, Unreal and Unreal Tournament were two separate game paradigms... one was a single player FPS with stories and characters and plot and dialog, the other was uncluttered, distilled, fast paced arena combat. The UT series had built up a naming convention around dates, whereas unreal branded its sequel simply "Unreal 2." So, when I saw that the next game was "Unreal Tournament 3," it led me to believe that they would be combining the two paradigms, and the game would contain both the arena combat slugfests and the rich single player story-driven experience. Alas, such is not the case. The campaign (which doesn't have to be single player, incidentally, it can be played multiplayer co-op) is the same as all the other UT campaign type experiences... that is, it's all the tournament maps in the game arranged in a certain order with the barest, least feasible "plot" connecting them together. This time, though, there are cut scenes between the levels to tell the "story" of why you're having to play capture the flag to decide a planet's future. And don't get me started on their cheesy attempt to make respawning sound like the most natural thing to do in combat. But the movies are well done, and the voice acting is pretty good. But still.. I was expecting something like Unreal 2 bundled in, and I feel like I've been led down the primrose path a little bit by Epic's marketing drones.
5) Unlockables
Argh. My least favorite idea to foist itself upon the FPS scene, this pants-on-head retarded system of content unveiling is one of the things that I hate about how the PC and Console game scenes are overlapping so much these days. This was my number 1 gripe with Battlefield 2142, which was enough to make me eschew the game altogether. At least there are already cheat codes out there to force the unlocking of the locked content.
6) Reduction in Options
Unlike past UTs, I can't choose whether or not I want translocators allowed in my game. I can't choose whether double tapping a direction dodges or not. There are less mutators. The menus are all deeply nested and not always intuitive. It feels like another decision made to dumb things down for console mouthbreathers.

But those few niggling points aside, it's still fun. It's still Unreal Tournament. What wasn't inexplicably cut from the game is fast and fun and beautiful. I just feel like I went to my favorite restaurant, ordered my favorite meal, and found myself being served half the portions I was used to for the same price. Verdict: B.


Anonymous said...

Great review! I feel exactly the same way about UT3. Shame so much was left out. Think I'd rather go back to UT2004, to be honest. Sigh...

Anonymous said...

Could nearly exactly come from me, your review - the first thing i tried was to find CTF-Face3...


Anonymous said...

i made a comment on the epic UT3 forum similar to what was said in this review ( i felt as if i was getting half the game, but paying the same price)...and you know what?...they deleted the entire thread (originally started by someone else) and banned me for life...a real im glad someone else said it this time.

Anonymous said...

Dude, Dimento Graven here, I was watching PPMcBiggs play it...

I dunno, the whole FPS genre has been pretty overdone for me. The latest UT4 just looked like more of the exact same schlock that they've been foisting on us for years, just 'prettied' up a bit more.

FPS's really haven't changed all that much since the Doom and Duke Nukem days as far as I'm concerned.

No REAL innovation, other than figuring out ways to make us pay a shitload more for the same old shit, over and over again.

As far as I'm concerned as the "official" Fucking Old Guy, FUCK the FPS's, Fuck 'em right in their ear!

Gas Bandit said...

I don't think it's fair to say that FPSes have not evolved since Doom and Duke3D. UT2004 had some very revolutionary aspects to it, in the areas of vehicle utilization, the Bombing Run gametype (think Football but with guns), and especially the Onslaught game type.

Heck, UT99 was revolutionary in that it was the first decent FPS implementation of Capture the Flag, and the "Assault" game type was downright brilliant.

I do, however, agree that the only real thing UT3 has done has "prettied up" the same formula. In fact, I think they went overboard. It seems to me that in many cases they're trying to see how many unnecessary polygons they can get away with using rather than the more standard, age old method which was see how efficiently a given game asset can be rendered, with the sleekest design and the fewest polys.

Hell, I crinkled my nose at the new designs for the Rocket Launcher and especially the Flak Cannon. They don't even look like weapons anymore... more like an artist's conception of a swarm of shoehorns having group sex with a tinfoil-wrapped microwave antenna.

Anonymous said...

Dimento Graven back again, well apparently YMMV when it comes to the FPS gaming experience. Pfft, as far as I'm concerned "vehicles" peaked at the jet pack.

Plus, I enjoyed the ability to lay unlimmited amounts of traps, like with DN... As long as you had a supply of pipe bombs, you could litter the entire play field with 'em and then, in one glorious timed moment, kill every other motherfucker in the game.

I dunno, again, my opinion of the multiplayer FPS'er is probably jaded, not only from countless hours of spending game time dead at the hands of those who probably smelled of "cat ass and murdered time", but also (and more specifically) spending game time dead at the hands of PPMcBiggs and having to endure his shreiking taunts and never ending post kill self-aggrandizement.

Small consolation to my ego holding out my hand, closing one eye, while making pinching motions and thinking to myself "I'm squishing your head... I'm squishing your head..."

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