Unreal Tournament 3
We Look Pathetic. We really do. No matter how many litres of steroids we pump into our arms or right angles we hew into our jawlines, sadly, we humans look about as menacing as a toddler staring down Mike Tyson when it comes to eyeballing a razortoothed alien behemoth who could rip out our spine and play it like a glockenspiel. If you don't believe us, take a look at the Unreal Tournament III no wonder these extraterrestrial bastards keep invading us.
One look at us and they think it's a deadcert win, a walkover, taking candy from a dead man's hand. And, yes, it would be if war came down to who looked the scariest Only, of course, it doesn't War's about guns, guts, vehicles, explosions, man against aggressor race, a battle for liberty, justice and an all-consuming lust for raw materials. Which, when it comes to shooters such as UT3, at least gives us a fighting chance.
The latest lot of space invaders to fancy a pop at humanity (admittedly not Earthdwelling humans, but rather Homo sapiens on a planet called Taryd) are a bunch of goths with a penchant for tight leather attire called the Necris, a race who make up for looking like a bunch of BDSM enthusiasts by employing the services of - yes, you guessed it - a race of razor-toothed alien behemoths (the Krall) to do most of the bloodletting for them. Just like its predecessors, UT3 is a game that shuns the contemporary, tactical, rolerbased approach used by so many recent multiplayer FPS titles, instead sticking to the tried and tested manic gameplay mechanic that propelled the original to international multiplayer superstardom at the end of the last millennium.
Entering one of UT3s countless levels for the first time is like revisiting your favourite '80s acti movie after months of watching heavy, character-driven World War II epics. The game's instant simplicity, ' unapologetic brutality and searing pace suddenly pull you back to a simpler time, when a multiplayer shooter's only concern was pure, unadulterated action. UT3 provides the type of gaming experience that has your arse crack sweating like a fat man's pits as it clings to the edge of your seat while you press your nose to your giblet-caked monitor and yell "Die!", before having your skull lopped off by a well-placed sniper shot.
But before we delve too deeply into the minutiae of UT3s frenetic firefights and impressive collection of game modes, weapons and vehicles, we'd better dedicate a few choice paragraphs to the game's much vaunted single-player campaign. This, friends, is Epic's attempt to cater for those of you who still don't like jumping online and competing against gobby American teens with egos the size of Everest and the eloquence of a dyslexic badger. Those of you who prefer to wage war against the virtual, preprogrammed killers born of some of the world's finest bot programmers. Or perhaps those of you still living in another century, where logging on involves ear-splitting 56K screeching and a five-day wait for your homepage to fire up.
We were promised a branching, epic journey, charting a global war between three human factions, during which your mission choices would be crucial to determining your path through the game and deciding the outcome of the conflict. We were promised that this would be followed by a terrifying struggle for survival as an alien race interrupts this skirmish for land and Tarydium (a resource that's to Taryd what black gold is to us earthlings), forcing you and your comrades to fight for your homeland. Assurances were given that all this would be bound together by an intriguing plot, centring on your quest for vengeance after your family and tribe are brutally slain by alien scum. So many promises. So much to look forward to. And what do we get? A rudimentary global map, with minimal mission branching, a modicum of knock-on effects (eg complete a certain mission to unlock a new vehicle) and a plot packed with more bluster and testosterone than a pro wrestling locker room.
The chief problem with the single-player campaign is that UT3s inherently multiplayer gameplay means that it all feels, well, a bit ludicrous, really. For example, playing Capture the Flag levels in the context of a global conflict is just bizarre, and we don't care how many times we're told that these "FLaGs" affect the enemy's respawn capabilities. It just doesn't feel believable. What's more, the plot is utterly underdeveloped and the campaign map is best described as a scattering of dots on a globe, with each mission accompanied by a basic written explanation and a briefing overblown with machismo. Sure, the FMVs linking it all together look nice and are smartly edited, and it's 4 nice to see Malcolm, Reaper et al develop personalities of a sort, but it all falls flat It may be encouraging to see a single-player campaign included here (it can also be played cooperatively), but it's a feature that quickly betrays its true self an optional and uninspired extra rather than the game's driving force (which, admittedly, it was never meant to be). There's also the problem that way too many missions involve no more than eight to 10 combatants in total.
On some of the larger levels, you can often run around for what feels like an age before you track down a foe, in contrast to the unrelenting 16-player vehicular slug-fests you can lovingly create in multiplayer mode. As a result several campaign missions feel more akin to limp altercations between two small gangs than raging war zones that will decide the fate of an entire race. Finally (and we promise after this we'll start extolling the game's myriad virtues), there's absolutely no sense of war progression, such as shifting borders to show how your victories and losses are aiding or hampering your faction's war effort, or even a sense that you could actually lose the war. Fail a mission and you just play it again and again until you win. As a result you're left with a campaign that's flatter than Holland. After it's been crushed by a meteor. It's a massively missed opportunity, because had Epic crafted a truly compelling single-player campaign to complement UT3s abundance of unequalled fragging mayhem, it would have found itself releasing one of the finest FPS packages of all time, one that would have given even The Orange Box a run for its money. What a shame...
The Real Deal
So, let's get back to the main aspects of UT3. the parts that make it one of the most desirable multiplayer blaster packages on the market. Powered by the very latest version of Unreal Engine 3, levels simply teem with the type of detail that'll have your eyeballs divorcing their sockets and shacking up with your monitor. If you're running well under the recommended specs (2.4GHz dual core with 1GB RAM, and an NVIDIA 7800GTX+or ATI X1300+ video card), then it's unlikely you'll be able enjoy LT3 as it s intended (beware of some instability issues 1 on PCs hovering around the minimum specs), but if your machine is up to the challenge, then prepare yourself for an unrivalled visual feast in which levels pulse with beauty and boast macabreyet stunning alien architecture, and in which vehicles suffer severe real-time damage, smoking and burning as their armour bucks and sags from enemy onslaughts.
Many of the game's modes will be utterly familiar to you - most notably Deathmatch, TDM, Duel and CTF. Vehicular CTF throws in the extra variable of motorised transports (which we'll come to in a bit we promise), but rather than having you tearing across the sprawling levels in the nippiest vehicles while clutching the flag for an easy score, there's the added catch that flags aren't allowed inside these mechanised beasts. And that means you and your sidekicks are going to have to work as a team.
Rev It Up
It can be all too easy to dismiss the UT franchise as a glory-hunter's paradise where every player is out for themselves, but over the years. Epic have slowly imbued the series with an increasingly solid tactical spine. The addition of vehicles aided this considerably, with combined-arms assault forces containing nippy and heavy vehicles, backed up by infantry and air support, usually prevailing over more ragtag teams in Vehicular CTF games.
This is even more the case in the superb new Warfare mode, which sees the Assault and Onslaught modes from previous UT games combined into one sublime whole. It's a triumphant addition (for more on how this works, teleport up to the -AH's fair in love and warfare box), one that further embellishes the essential strategic subtleties that enable UT3 to cater to both the twitchtrigger deathmatch fanatic and the clanlover in equal measures.
Also impressive is UTJs collection of vehicles, most notably the all-new Necris war machines that showcase the Epic development team's admirable artistic and design prowess. Putting the human arsenal to shame (which remains relatively unchanged from that of UT2004, with a couple of tweaks here and there), Necris vehicles are a joy to behold, adding a genuine sense of awe to battlefields as they roll, lumber or hover into view.
Most remarkable of all is the Necris Dark Walker, a towering three-legged death-bringer that looks like it's been plucked straight out of War of the Worlds. Watching these lumbering hulks wreak havoc across a battlefield is one of the most incredible multiplayer FPS sights you'll ever have seen. Throw in (amongst others) the buzzing, tentacled Fury, which practically swims through the sky with its gangly mechanical feelers, and the hysterical Scavenger, which can be turned into a sphere and driven like a bowling ball through hapless ranks of enemy foot soldiers, and you begin to grasp the sheer level of imagination that has been lovingly applied to each piece of alien tech. And with several vehicles having enough space for at least one other teammate, and the addition of hoverboards (see Boarding school"), the numerous tactical and offensive possibilities of vehicular combat become even more extensive.
Fire It Up
The UTseries has always been well known for its weaponry, and once again, all you fans of the series will be instantly at home with the hardware on display, as little has changed in this department since UT2004. There's an argument here that the lack of new firepower is a bad thing, but once your fingers close around each weapon's bulky casing and you depress the trigger, you'll realise you'd be hard-pushed to find superior alternatives. As ever, each weapon has at least two firing modes (some of which can be combined to devastating effect), with the primary one usually possessing a quicker rate of fire but inflicting less damage, while the secondary option is usually slower but packs more punch.
Favourites making a return include the Link Gun (which can regenerate vehicles and nodes as well as destroying them), the multi-missile-firing rocket launcher, the flesh-ripping Flak Cannon and everyone's favourite tactical-nuclear-missile launcher, the Redeemer (which can have its projectiles knocked out of the sky by a hotshot). New to the fold is a collection of deployable weapons, most notably the Stasis Field, which generates a huge block of jelly-like goo that turns enemies into slo-mo sitting ducks when they try to wade through it There are also some great power-ups and upgrades to track down (which thankfully are sparingly scattered though each level), including Invincibility, U-Damage, Jump Boots and a set of region-specific body-armour parts.
Armed with this devastating array of firepower and upgrades, and with the action ramped up to Quake-like speeds, UT3 proves to be an unrelenting assault on the senses, its simultaneous demands of accuracy, quick reactions and strategic thinking resulting in one of the fastest most enjoyable fragging experiences you'll have had in years. It's brutal too (though gore levels can be turned down if you're a touch delicate), with enemies flying into a thousand blood-caked pieces, heads spinning off shoulders and flesh being incinerated, leaving behind just a rigid skeleton where an opponent once stood.
Rounding off this superb package are some of the finest bots you'll ever have had the pleasure of decapitating. Despite the very occasional bit of odd behaviour (bots firing at enemies that aren't there or trying to move vehicles through walls), UT3s enemy Al has again raised the bar for virtual-opponent realism, often to the point where you can't distinguish the computer-controlled enemy from the living, breathing one.
While the future of team and multiplayer first-person shooters may well lie with the class-based war zones of Battlefield. Quake Wars and Team Fortress, UT3 proves that there's still oodles of room for the more straightforward multiplayer frag-fest Its single-player campaign may be weak and forgettable, but its true genius lies in the untouchable quality of its firefights, its splendiferous visuals, diverse level design, massive attention to detail and downright awesome vehicles and weapons. No other game on the market can equal its thrill and frenetic nature, and while there may be larger, more populated and tactically adept virtual-battlefield games out there, as a pure multiplayer fragging and vehicular FPS experience, UT3 is utterly peerless.
To A Veteran gamer it's strange to think that in the eyes of many, Epic Games is "the company behind Gears of War". The US developer built its reputation by creating the atmospheric shooter Unreal and the multiplayer online FPS spin-off Unreal Tournament. And it made mountains of cash by licensing versions of the Unreal Engine.
Yet with all the recent success of Gears of War, for senior producer Jeff Morris, there's only one game that reloads his Flak Cannon: "I don't just love UT3, I'm in love with UT3! It's a dream game for me and definitely the highlight of my career. For someone who's worked on Civilization, Alpha Centauri and Gears of War, that's a hell of a statement.
Over the next four pages we discover the rejected ideas for UT3, where the team made a "rookie mistake and how the Dark Walker stomped into life.
"We really wanted to bring Unreal Tournament gameplay to the Unreal Engine 3. Also, we were aware that the industry was heading towards these slow-paced, tactical, real-world shooters, so staying true to what UT did well was probably the most radical thing we could've done. We tried out other elements, like a Commander mode where you choose artillery strikes and stuff like that, but they felt like they were pulling away from that fastaction twitch UTgameplay. We also wanted to reduce the floatiness and the extreme movement of UT2004, and find a nice middle-ground between that and the original. I think we nailed it really well. Plus, I'm pleased that even though 70 per cent of the ideas for Warfare didn't pan out some did stick, like the hoverboard and the orb (which I feel solved the stalemate problem that the UT2004's Onslaught mode had)."
"We definitely wanted to revisit every single weapon, even things that were umbrella features like how long it took to switch between them. We'd also come up with ideas for new weapons -I think we have 12 weapons in UT3 - and we were gonna go to 13 or 14, but you're not going to be able to fit them all on a selection wheel. We had core weapons we knew we had to keep, and we integrated features of the ones we didn't into existing weapons. So we put the grenades back in the rocket launcher and Spider Mines became a deployable weapon.
"Actually, a lot of the ideas we had for cool weapons turned into deployables. The EMP, for example, I felt was a nuance weapon - you had to put it down and wait for someone to run over it and then fight 'em! At first I thought nobody was going to do that, but the first time I go online after UT3s release and people are using them all over the place!
"I think we added enough new weapons, along with the new deployables, and the six new Necris vehicles."
"The main gist was giving people who aren't in a fight a chance to get into one. We needed to make a trade-off - that if they take any damage, they go flying - but we wanted to give them an option to get places quickly. The lioverboard doesn't take up a weapon slot and it's as easy to use as double-jumping. The original inspiration was just solving that problem of distance, but it solved other problems, like guys bailing on you in vehicles.
"We added the hoverboard's tether function, mainly because we thought it would be cool to be airlifted by raptors and towed around by fast-moving vehicles, but it was also a very natural thing to be able to reel yourself in like a fishing line, get to the vehicle and jump in. The hoverboard was such an elegant solution - it gives the person left behind a chance to get into the vehicle and doesn't rely on the person who took off in the vehicle to realise that the left somebody behind. It really felt like UT, and it was fun to do the taunts and tricks too."
Death Of Commander Mode:
"One of the cornerstones of iterative game development, when you're playing the game all the tirfie ancftjet it running very early on, is that you want to fail quickly - you don't want to fail six months in, you want to know pretty quickly if a feature is fun so you don't waste man hours and money on it. The Commander mode was one major feature to go - nobody used it, and when they did, it wasn't any fun. The feedback you get from blowing someone up is immediate when you're running around, but in this you'd get these radii that would ring out over this 2D map, that was very similar to the map that you have in Warfare now for choosing which node you teleport to. It just never felt right -nothing feels less like UT than sitting on a 2D screen clicking on a map!
"Another one that didn't pan out was real-time terrain transformation during battles, which was a performance burden. Also we fought against the fact that Necris areas made it easier to see enemies, as colours would stand out from the dark background.
"The lead designer of Gears of War 2 is a guy named Lee Perry, who was working on a feature of Unreal Engine 3 where you could reverse gravity within an area. The test was a ball with a bunch of tentacles off it, which would go along, enter this region and all the legs would hang upwards, then when it left the area, the legs would drop back down.
"Steve Polge (UT3 lead designer) thought it was cool and wondered if we could use an animation system where the legs would be playing in animation, but as soon as they interacted with the ground, they would blend with where they were stepping. That's where the idea for all the walker vehicles came from, and we took that and spent a lot of time getting the legs to look right and move correctly.
"Of all the new features in UT3, the vehicles were by far the most timeconsuming because they had to feel right and they weren't things that used the existing movement - this one's a walker, this one's a hover-thing, this one's treaded. Man, the Dark Walker took a lot of time to R&D!"
Balance Of Power:
"Balancing wasn't as bad as it could've been if we'd totally rebooted the Axon team. We built upon the past, and it freed us up to balance the new things much more than if we'd had a brand new game with all new features and all-new balancing. It's sort of like a workout - we'd play UT early in the morning, that would focus us for the rest of the day, clearing our minds and getting our adrenaline pumping. We're all such fans of the game that playing UT3 a lot is something that we really enjoy and that's how you balance it - you get some of the best UT players in the world trying to exploit the hell out of stuff. From that you're able to make pretty good decisions about what to adjust and tweak."
"Well, I take a little bit of pride in that people got excited over the single-player after I gushed about it having an RTS-level of story! But fundamentally, there were a lot of things that didn't make it into the campaign.
"There was a lot of story that we wanted to tell in the missions that didn't come out and we made a really big rookie mistake - that you could go two hours, maybe even three or four, between story elements and cinematics - so you never really gave a shit about the characters or about their story arcs. The story itself was campy and over-the-top so it was hard to take seriously, and the single-player mode turned into an eight to 10-hour tutorial. From that perspective it was successful, but who wants to play a 10-hour tutorial? We didn't get the polish into it that we wanted, and because of that it felt flat -it's something that we are definitely looking to'get right for future games.''
"We've seen loads of great stuff from the modding community. One of my favourites is the Jet Pack mod that basically lets you play Tribes in UT, with a bounding jetpack that runs out and you have to land. There's even a LEGO one, built with bricks, and using our physics engine. You can blow holes in walls in this fully destructible environment that doesn't look anything like a UT level. There's some really awesome character mods, such as this really tough tattooed rabbit - that looks like he should be in Braveheart -and some people have recreated Master Chief.
"We've launched the Make Something Unreal modding contest now and the best thing is that it makes people finish, instead of diddling with content forever and tweaking. They have this deadline, this goal, to finish by, that forces them to release something that people can play, which can only be good for the community."
"UT3 has so much content, so much good stuff -everything that's there in-game is enjoyable and fun. It's true to what we did before but it's brought something new to the party. I've worked on a lot of great games, like Civilization, Alpha Centauri and Gears of War, and, for me, UT3 was my most memorable project. It's the only one that I played for months and months after I shipped. Usually that just never happens, because you're so sick of the game. Even though I'd been working on UT3 for close to three years, I'd still play it recreationally for hours - it's not bullshit, I'd go home and couldn't scratch that itch with anything else. There's nothing else where I can go and smash shit up and shout, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I just saw that!' with such frequency as I can with UT3.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode