Unreal Tournament III Hands-On

It's only funny when someone gets hurt in our look at Midway's upcoming Xbox 360 shooter.

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At Midway Gamers' Day 2008, the Xbox 360 version of Unreal Tournament III was playable for all who dared to challenge its wicked weapons, brutal bots, and all-new split-screen play. The play areas were set up to highlight this new functionality, with journalists and their posses of bots challenging each other to quick capture-the-flag matches on single TVs, with single systems. It was all good fun, especially when people got hurt.

Big soldiers, big guns, big action: Unreal Tournament III is coming to the Xbox 360.
Big soldiers, big guns, big action: Unreal Tournament III is coming to the Xbox 360.

Of course, you've probably already read quite a bit about Unreal Tournament III, given that the game debuted on the PlayStation 3 and PC last year. The Xbox 360 version offers everything on those versions, including all the updates and patches, plus the split-screen play, three entirely new maps, two revamped maps, and three brand-new player characters. We talked to Mark Rein, the vice president of Epic Games, and he said that his favorite new map was called Rails (a working title). In this map, a rail-mounted assault turret can travel up and down the field of battle. Apparently, one awesome application of the apparatus is to provide cover fire for a fleeing flag carrier. As your mate streaks downfield with the enemy banner, you can leave all manner of violent death in his or her wake from the security of your mounted pod.

Of course, all of the normal Unreal Tournament III action was also on display, with charged-up rocket blasts, flak cannons, sniper rifles, and all the other imaginative weapons for which the series has become so famous. We played a couple of one-on-one capture-the-flag matches, and everything seemed to be going well until an enemy bot nabbed our flag. Then, running backward and juking from side to side with the grade of a figure skater, it managed to kill us and the rest of our team with a flak cannon. It was some darn fine pistol work, especially for an AI construct. But that embodies two qualities that the Unreal series is famous for: smart bots and slick moves. Unreal Tournament III for the Xbox 360 will have both in bunches.

Even though it's due out sometime this summer, the game is already running flawlessly without any hitches or hiccups, even when the entire world seems to be exploding from two perspectives. And that's important, because the new split-screen functionality has been sewn into every aspect of the game. You'll be able to play local versus and cooperative matches with friends, but that's nothing. If you have a friend over, you both can jump into the co-op campaign of a friend far away. Or, if you have link cables, you can easily set up four-player co-op or versus matches.

That's quite a bit of new content for a game that's already been out awhile on both the PS3 and PC, but according to Mark Rein, there will also be a surprise on the Xbox 360 version of Unreal Tournament III that will reveal details about another upcoming Epic game, Gears of War II. That's just one more reason to await this game's violent arrival sometime in the summer of 2008.

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