The road to Unreal Tournament 3 has been an interesting one for Xbox 360 owners. Not only have they had to gaze with green-eyed longing at the PC and PlayStation 3 versions available since late last year, they've also had to endure a storm of uncertainty regarding the possibility of user-generated mods existing on the Xbox. While that particular question still remains unanswered, at least those patient 360 owners can look forward to seeing some new content when the port finally arrives this summer. The most substantial addition to UT3 on the Xbox has to be the five new maps being offered. Like a travel guide with a Bio Rifle instead of a map, we recently spent some time in these new environments to see what they're all about.
First on the itinerary is Rails. This map is designed for use in the Vehicle CTF game mode. It's a giant level featuring a wide assortment of vehicles to choose from. Your selection isn't just limited to the Raptors and Mantas other levels offer. No, the big twist here is the pair of rail tracks from which the map derives its name. Each base is connected by these tracks, giving you the ability to sit on a mobile turret and cruise from one end of the level to other while shooting anyone in sight. You don't move very quickly on these turrets, so when you're sitting on the thing you tend to become a pretty easy target. To make up for that, the cannons pack a real punch. The setting has a very Gears of War feel to it, a postapocalyptic urban wasteland that feels simultaneously futuristic and classically European. There are lots of alternate routes through demolished buildings and a river bisecting the level that you can actually swim across if you're up to the task.
Another new map exclusive to the Vehicle CTF mode is Suspense Necris. As the name suggests, this one is an alternate take on the Suspense map already seen in prior versions of Unreal Tournament 3. The difference here is that the map is set following the Necris invasion, so the whole place looks quite a bit different. What began as a level set in a deep canyon with a flowing river and a massive bridge acting as the primary route from one base to another is now in ruins. The river has mostly dried up, chunks of the bridge have gone missing, and rather unfriendly tentacles crawl ominously in the distance. Downtown Necris, a map designed for the Warfare mode, takes on a similar look. It maintains the dense urban feel of the Downtown map, but with an unpleasant, ripped-apart look to it. Both of these alternate maps feature Necris vehicles rather than the Axon fleet the originals have.
The other two maps are both set in frozen climates with more than enough snow and icy water to go around. Cold Harbor is a Warfare map featuring one base set on a seaside harbor and another at the top of what could practically be considered a ski slope. From the outside, the map doesn't look particularly big, but when you begin to explore you'll find a cavernous docking bay leading to numerous underground passageways and elevators that will save you the trouble of traversing the steep, snowy hill. This one is probably our favorite of the bunch. The sheer brutality of the hill gives the map a unique feeling the others don't have.
Finally, there's the other cold-weather map, Koos Barge. As a simple deathmatch or team deathmatch map, it's the smallest of the group. The entirety of the map consists of a single freight ship out at sea. In the distance you'll see other boats bobbing up and down and the faint outlines of snowy mountains. This boat has two levels where you can fight: down in the holds among the shipping crates, and up top on the deck. It's generally to your advantage to stay on top, because while you can jump down below from nearly any location, those stuck below have only a few options to make their way up to the deck. In our experience, we had the most success just hanging out on the deck and picking off everyone down below.
Other new additions to the 360 version include a pair of new characters--a Ronin named Kana and a Liandri named Nova--and the ability to play in split-screen both online and offline. And then there's the downloadable content Epic released for the PC and PlayStation 3 versions, which will all be included in this go-around. You can expect to see Unreal Tournament 3 released July 7.