Unreal Tournament 3 Multiplayer Hands-On - The New Multiplayer Modes, the Hoverboard, and More

We went to Epic to get some serious hands-on time with the PC and PS3 versions of this gorgeous multiplayer action game.

The year 2007 is a huge one for shooters, featuring big-name games like Halo 3, Crysis, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Half-Life 2: The Orange Box. However, one shooter that's been flying under the radar a bit is Unreal Tournament 3, the latest edition in Epic's multiplayer combat franchise. That's partly because Epic has been relatively mum about the game, working quietly in its North Carolina offices over the past year. Imagine a game that's even more graphically advanced than Gears of War, but with a much larger scale, allowing up to 32 players to battle it out together on the PC. Thankfully, we got our first serious hands-on with the game recently at Epic, and this gave us a chance to check out various multiplayer modes and explore what's new, improved, and cool about the latest Unreal Tournament.

Unreal Tournament 3 represents a departure of sorts from its predecessors. While the early UTs were billed as sort of the blood sport of the future, Unreal Tournament 3 will usher in a single-player campaign about an intergalactic war and featuring characters that look like they were from the casting call for Gears of War, another Epic game. But while Gears of War is a very tactical game about using cover, Unreal Tournament 3, just like its predecessors, is about lightning-fast run-and-gun gameplay where you'll do a lot of killing and dying, but you're always able to respawn within seconds to continue the fight.

Unreal Tournament 3 will introduce a single-player story while ratcheting up the multiplayer action.

Though Unreal Tournament 3 will have a single-player story, the game is still built around the idea of intense multiplayer battles, either against computer-controlled bots or other players online. (While the PC supports up to 32 players, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions will support up to 16.) There will be a number of modes in the game, ranging from simple deathmatch to team-based games such as capture the flag, vehicle capture the flag, and warfare. Deathmatch is pretty self-explanatory--it's every player for him or herself in the race to rack up kills--so we'll dive into CTF, VCTF, and warfare. Capture the flag is a familiar mode in most games. Each team has a flag that it has to defend while at the same time trying to capture the opposing team's flag. Unreal Tournament's twist on this is to toss in the translocator, a device that lets you teleport over short distances, which makes it possible to dash into a heavily defended room, grab the flag, and then disappear in the blink of an eye. While the translocator isn't a new development in Unreal Tournament 3, it still plays a huge role.

Unreal Tournament 3's multiplayer really starts to differentiate itself when you get to vehicle capture the flag, which is just what it sounds like. VCTF is capture the flag on larger maps that support a wide array of vehicles, and that allows for a much more epic struggle. There are some caveats regarding VCTF that are particularly helpful. For instance, if you grab the flag you can't get in and drive or ride in a vehicle. Instead, you've got to carry it on foot or use the hoverboard, the new piece of equipment in Unreal Tournament 3. The hoverboard replaces the translocator in VCTF and warfare games and it is basically a hovering skateboard. The idea behind the hoverboard is to get you back into the action quickly, because there's nothing worse than finding yourself on foot in the wrong corner of the map, away from all the action. In UT 2004, that meant hoofing it for a minute or two, but in Unreal Tournament 3 you can hop on the board and zip around in style.

You die fast in this game. Thankfully, you respawn just as quickly.

The hoverboard is a welcome addition to Unreal Tournament. However, it is easy to get carried away with it, and you have to consider two key things. First, while racing around on the hoverboard you cannot use your weapons. Second, if you're hit by even the slightest weapons fire you'll be knocked off of the board, which is pretty much a death sentence because it takes several seconds to get off the ground, leaving plenty of time for your attacker to finish you off. Using the board is very much a risk/reward proposition, but there are some additional benefits to riding it. For instance, you can "grapple" onto passing vehicles, letting them tow you around the map at higher speeds. Thus, while a flag carrier can't ride in a vehicle, he could jump on his board, grapple a teammate's ride, and zip back to safety. This even works for flying vehicles, and there are maps in the game that are designed so that it's faster for the flag carrier if he can be airlifted across a divide.

We experienced VCTF on a map called Suspense, which is set in and around a high-tech suspension bridge. The goal is for each team to capture the opposing team's flag three times in order to win, but doing so can be awfully difficult. The primary approach to either side's base is the bridge itself, which is a fairly open and narrow kill zone where your vehicles and infantry can get chewed up quickly. It's possible for infantry to run or hoverboard up the cables to reach the upper support structure of the bridge, where sniper weapons and amped-damage power-ups await. Yet perhaps the most potent weapon up there is the Longbow AVRIL, an antivehicle rocket launcher that can lock onto and track vehicles. The high perch makes it easy to knock out tanks below on the bridge, as well as various air units that are flying about. The only limitation is that the AVRIL comes with a small amount of ammunition, and there's no way to replenish your supply of rockets.

Vehicular Manslaughter

The next VCTF map that we played showed off some of the environmental elements in Unreal Tournament 3. Sandstorm is so named because there's a blinding sandstorm that kicks up randomly throughout the battle, reducing visibility to almost zero. This can be a boon if you've got the enemy flag and are racing to safety, but it can be disastrous if the sandstorm hits at the wrong moment. Sandstorm is also notable because it's a great showcase for all the Necris vehicles in the game. The Necris is the new faction in Unreal Tournament 3, and its vehicles could be described as a blend of the machines from The Matrix movies with the Martians from War of the Worlds. Sandstorm is shaped like a horseshoe, so to get from one base to the other you can go the long way via land, or you can use air vehicles and grapples to ferry troops over the much shorter divide.

The Unreal Engine looks better than ever.

The most "epic" multiplayer mode in Unreal Tournament 3 has to be the new warfare mode, which is an evolution of the onslaught mode that appeared in UT 2004. Onslaught was about capturing a network of nodes; doing so made the enemy power core vulnerable to attack. Warfare improves on onslaught in a number of ways, from the addition of the hoverboard, which makes the huge maps a lot easier to navigate, to the introduction of other elements, such as off-node control points that you can capture in order to give your team an advantage. For instance, one node might give your team access to air vehicles that it otherwise would not have. Yet perhaps the biggest new feature in warfare is the introduction of the orb, a special sphere that can break the stalemates that often occurred in onslaught.

Each team in warfare gets its own orb, and no, you can't capture the other team's orb and use it for yourself. The orb is critical, though, because if you carry it and touch a vulnerable enemy node you'll instantly capture and fortify it, a process that previously took several players a couple of frantic minutes to do. Even better, in order for the enemy to take that node back they must first destroy the orb and then destroy the fortifications around the node. This makes it possible for one team to quickly seize nodes; imagine if one part of the team were busy taking a node the conventional way. As soon as it fell, another part of the team could instantly convert the next node, potentially opening the enemy base up for a quick raid. On the other hand, if your base is under attack, your orb can be used to instantly capture and fortify the adjacent node in order to protect your base. If you kill an orb carrier it'll reset in about 12 seconds, forcing the other team to have to pick it up again at its spawn point. Of course, having their orb laying next to one of your nodes isn't a good thing, since an enemy could rush in, pick it up, and touch the node. So you can sacrifice yourself to detonate the orb prematurely, which causes it to reset.

Epic says it won't include a warfare map in the demo because there's no single warfare map in the game that captures the variety of this mode. Some maps are symmetrical in that the geography for both teams is essentially identical, while others are asymmetrical. The perfect example of this is the Islander level, which is set up so that one team has all the vehicles, while the other team occupies the high ground and has defensive turrets and barricades to prevent the attacking team from steamrolling them. The easiest way for the attackers to destroy the barricades and clear the way for their vehicles is to seize a shaped-charge explosive that's located in the middle of the map and use it on a barricade.

Unreal Tournament 3 looks incredible thanks to the latest version of the Unreal Engine, the same one that powers Gears of War and many other games. However, the version found in Unreal Tournament 3 is more evolved than the one used for Gears of War, which makes sense since it has had a year more of development. As with prior games in the series, Epic will ship Unreal Tournament 3 with the latest version of the Unreal editor, which will let players and community members make their own unique mods or levels for the game. These user creations can be played on both the PC and the PlayStation 3. For the latter, user-made content can be made on a PC and transferred to a PS3 using a memory stick. In terms of consoles, the game will be PS3-exclusive at first, though an Xbox 360 version has been announced. (User-created content presents clashes with the closed nature of the Xbox 360; Epic says that it's talking to Microsoft about the situation.)

The PC version will come first, followed by the PS3 game. Xbox 360 owners will have to wait a while, though.

Epic is keeping the system requirements for the PC version very modest, though if you want the game to look its utter best you'll probably want a relatively powerful system. One a low-end machine the graphics look comparable to the last Unreal Tournament, but on a high-end machine all of the impressive gloss just pops out at you. We also got a chance to check out the PS3 version, and it looks just as good as on a high-end PC. Performance was smooth in the instant-action match that we played, and the controls mapped solidly to the Sixaxis.

When Epic announced it was changing the name of the game from Unreal Tournament 2007 to Unreal Tournament 3, it said the reason was that because it felt the game represented the "next generation" of Unreal Tournament. The gameplay has certainly evolved and the engine is just beautiful to look at, and we're excited at the possibilities here. Unreal Tournament has always been a great multiplayer game, but the idea that players will soon be able to make and share custom content for a console opens up a new avenue for gaming, and it could help breathe life into the modmaking scene. The PC game will ship this November, and Epic is working to get the PlayStation 3 game done as quickly as possible, but the release window for that hasn't been announced yet. Finally, the Xbox 360 game will come at a much later date.

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186 comments
imdhunter
imdhunter

"...which makes it possible to dash into a heavily defended room, grab the flag, and then disappear in the blink of an eye." Not true. You can't Translocate while carrying the flag, so you can dash into a heavily defended room, grab the flag, and eat a Flak ball.

bigbangsun
bigbangsun

Give PS3 owners just one more FPS game that's worthy of attention, and they throw up fists. Sometimes people need to justify spending WAY too much money for something. They don't want to feel like they've been jipped. You know, because it causes erectile dysfunction. Anyways, my PC can more than handle this, so I'm buying. *goes back to playing Resident Evil 4 on the 40 dollar Gamecube I just purchased*

darkwolf1982
darkwolf1982

With UT3 on three different systems (PC, PS3 and X360), does this mean UT games get to some "Inter-System" multiplayer action?

BarkotGamer
BarkotGamer

Im playing on Full Graphics - No Lag w00t :D game PWNS its really great, cant wait for it to come out

nate1222
nate1222

I've played the downloadable demo of UT3 and my rig can handle it. Of course, I had to take a few hits on visuals, but the sheer scope of the areas I played staggered me. My rig specs are 3.33Ghz CPU, 1.024GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 7300(256MB). I know I'll have to bump up to at least a 8600(512MB) for it to look really good. But I can deal with my current card for now.

nate1222
nate1222

I own UT2003 and have never fallen out of love with it. Now that I have a rig that can handle UT3, I must get it. It's the new crack!

assmunch36
assmunch36

people say ut games are too fast, personally i always thought they were too slow and always upped the game speed whenever i played... im not tryin to be big headed, i died a lot, i mean really all the time... but damn its fun with the speed cranked up

Exostenza
Exostenza

I'M SO STOKED!! I pre-ordered my collectors edition! YAH!

hwatney
hwatney

I have been playing the demo for three days - I think I have found my new favorite game.

chakan2
chakan2

"There are way better FPS coming this year from UT3" Um...no. Halo 3 probably has a better single player campaign, but UT smokes everything when it comes to online play (2004 did and still does, and I'm betting this ups the standard).

pstation_donkey
pstation_donkey

This is going to be the greatest thing to ever happen...ever.

Furry_Fox
Furry_Fox

I'm a big UT fan, and i CAN'T WAIT for this to come out! ^^

danielcwc
danielcwc

To be honest, UT is all about fast reactions and reflexes to play well in the game. If you can't keep up with the speed, sorry, you're gonna die. Not to mention when they start the instagib servers, one hit kill and will require more douching skills and stuff to play. People who played UT before in GOTY version and stuff will benefit in this game since we can keep up with the speed. Seriously, when people say this game is too fast, I really don't think so. Maybe it's just that you are too slow~? I played UT ever since 2000 GOTY version and love it all the way. This new game does have some new mechanics and stuff to get used to. If you noticed, they have modified some guns, such as biorifle. It was really different from back then(which was a crappy gun) Now it actually gets really powerful and stuff and the minigun turns out to be really hard(for me) to control.......lolx anyways I get used to it in less than 2 hours. Once you get used to the guns and stuff, it's basicly a really fun game to play. Btw, IT"S a GREAT IDEA to add vehicles to CTF, that's what I have been looking foward for a long time. Good job guys, please release the game on time so I can buy it>~

kemar7856
kemar7856

nothing really special its just gears of war with hovercars

SrTVBR
SrTVBR

For those who play UT from the first one, will like this one much more... and thanks for the hardware performance info JumboSpaceman

mbashour
mbashour

they said both that enemies could and could not capture the orb..which is it? and you only get to use it once right? otherwise i think itll make onslaught to easy. liked the past games. prolly pick this one up next year at the slump since better games are comin out in nov.

JumboSpaceman
JumboSpaceman

Can't wait for the editor! I've been playing the demo and I was disappointed AT FIRST, but this game really grows on you. It has a slightly different feel from '04 and that may seem "off" to long-time players, but it is still fast-paced and fun. I didn't even notice all of the eye candy until I turned down the game speed ( I always bind time controls to my keyboard for slomo and players only). I haven't even tested it with both of my 8800 GTX cards on. It runs perfectly on one. Very impressive optimization. If this uses DX 10 by default we might finally be seeing some of the benefits. The game will look even better with full texture detail (the demo didn't have anything at 4 and 5). And I'm sure there will be a whole lot more personality with the full cast of characters and maps. The previous Unreal was largely limited by processor speed, but it didn't use multi-threading and couldn't take advantage of multiple cores. This one is optimized for multi-core systems, so expect varied performance based not only on the video card you have, but depending on your processor architecture. It's finally time for games to take legitimate advantage of all of this great technology. I really think that the vehicles need some balancing to be effective on more open maps than the one availabe in the demo. Also I hope to see the return of low gravity maps and some good mutators like quad-jump.

Vasot
Vasot

Meh.. Crysis looks way better looking and Timeshift looks like something new and refreshing for the genre I do not see what is so special about UT3 There are way better FPS coming this year from UT3

Dogswithguns
Dogswithguns

Ive been playing the demo. and it's awesome. I must buy must have for me.

homebrew197516
homebrew197516

I think the PC is the better deal with this game, especially as you get up to 32 players on pc.

Jose619
Jose619

ZOMG!!!!! this games hauls some serious ass

Makoto22
Makoto22

Eso da pa más, no se preocupen. Sayonara.

Nuclear_Kernel
Nuclear_Kernel

I' m like Sandro909, I didn' t think it would be so good. The demo was good gameplay wise but I had some problems with the instalation but it' s still BETA. Best of all for me: I was able to play it on Barton 2600+ and Radeon 9600 Pro.

raverrozza
raverrozza

everythings sounds good except for only 16 players available on the deathmatch.

Duke852456
Duke852456

If the Demo was this good! Just wait till the Full Game comes Out! :0

miksalud
miksalud

This is going to be the best game that ever wore the "Unreal" word in her name. Cant wait to try this out. I mean if not for the game itself... look at those graphics...that can only be in game pictures!!!

Sandro909
Sandro909

The demo made me a believer. I can't wait for UT3. :D

Tiemmego
Tiemmego

Nice game, really heavy graphics but in minimal it looks better than the 2003.

AJmon13
AJmon13

I hear a lot of nonsense from my PS3 buddy about how the 360 "isn't getting this at all" I gotta show this to him :P Even if I have to wait...its not like I'll be playing other great shooters during the wait XD

Syliss
Syliss

Lots of love for Unreal and UT...this game is going to be awesome

Luieburger
Luieburger

Graphics look great on max settings in the Beta version. I'm not much for this kind of FPS but if you liked any of the other unreal games then this one is for you. It's pretty fun.

Velocity
Velocity

I'm in for this. My last fast-paced FPS for me.

Shadowstride000
Shadowstride000

just to see the difference in graphics from 3 to 5 lol...worked out well for me i guess :P. Also it wasn't SUPER choppy, just a slight stutter from time to time, but like I said, after I maxed everything out it runs almost perfect now :).

Deathscyth-Hell
Deathscyth-Hell

could be funny optimization just out of curiosity... if your game was running choppy, why'd you turn it up?

Shadowstride000
Shadowstride000

wierd thing about the graphics....I only got a 8600 GT and the default graphics were set at 3 and 3 for world and texture, and it ran a bit choppy. So I went and turned everything up to max and it runs near flawlessly now..anyone know why it would run better w/ things maxed out?

machockey
machockey

it does run smooth, i just cant wait to see the game with full bells and whistles. and i absolutely love the game play. fast and fun just like all the unreals' . i just am looking for more. does gears look better for the app on the unreal engine?

yuucom
yuucom

This game is back to basics :). Old good ut1. Al last there is a great DM with nice weapon balance. Lots of game modes, lots of mutators ;). OMG this will be a great game. I dont even say a word about the graphic - IT IS SPECTACULAR and runs smooth. Epic did a great job with optimizing their engine. I CAN'T w8. There will be a lot of fun in Winter with Quake Wars and UT 3 :).

sousuke223
sousuke223

ive never played any of the unreals but what ive seen fo them they all looked fantastic i cant wait to get this one for pc im not even that bummed about 360 coming out late ebcause it hink for this game which has always been pc itll me funner like quake

imadqamar
imadqamar

@Mecharuva Yeah, 7950 GX2 is a 1 gig card. Check nvidia's site. @jaredrichards Its strange that it runs slow on ur system. I have an 8800 GTS (640MB).. and it runs flawlessly with all settings maxed out at 1440 x 900 (widescreen 16:10 res). Are you using updated drivers?

BlaMMoRD
BlaMMoRD

I didn´t really enjoy the CTF vehicle mode. But, deathmatch was cool enough, just like the other games. Nothing new really, except the hoverboard ;P And to Allensola - Have you tried the "original" (the first) timeshift demo? I think it was way cooler, maybe the graphics weren´t as good, but the weapon/character designs were waaay cooler. Also the timesuits look, was really alot better.

zero9167
zero9167

The pc demo is really boring IMO... it's just not interesting at all...

MusashiFilms
MusashiFilms

You know, I just think I'm done with the fast-paced FPS styling of the Unreal series. I'm just not a twitch gamer. Never was, really...but in the olden days, Unreal and Quake and so forth were the only steady online options in the genre. Now, with the Clancy series, COD4, Halo 3...I've found an online FPS with a bit of twitch, but not as much as the Unreal series. And I'm okay with that.

Mecharuva
Mecharuva

@jaredrichards3 1Gb Graphics Processor? BS. I'd love to see proof.

TrueEevil
TrueEevil

'Yes good graphics, but to be honest it felt like the same product but different package" Thats pretty much the point. Hoverboards and such aside its the classic UT formula. I can see how it would wear on older players after a while, but in my opinion they are banking on whats been successful along with some new content to try and get to the Console market while maintaining their PC following. Future versions will need change and innovation for sure. Time weapons, Portal-esque designs and such will come in the next few years, but for this one: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

aximili88
aximili88

Actualy you dont need a super computer to play this. If you have something from the past 2 years with an actual gfx card, you can play this. The gameplay is closer to the original than ut04 and the enforcers are a welcome return (not to mention the satisfying impact hammer, BOOM!) oh an i think i read somewhere that the democaps out at 60fps and you really only need 25-30 to have a smooth game.