"...It is not the best Unreal game available."

User Rating: 7 | Unreal Tournament III PC
Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest installment of the popular shooter series. While the game features absolutely stunning graphics it is not the best Unreal game available.

Gameplay is what fans have come to expect from the games: intense and furious fast-paced shooter action that can be played in a variety of modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag (CTF). Unreal 3 features a couple of new modes but they are nothing spectacular; one of the two new modes is vehicle CTF which is self-explanatory, and the other "new" mode is duel which pits two players one-on-one against each other. The duel mode is nothing because chances are you bought Unreal 3 for the purpose of inflicting pain and death to multiple opponents. The vehicle CTF seems like a revolutionary idea but again-it is nothing spectacular. Honestly, things can become a little old in this mode. And previous modes like bombing run and double domination from Unreal 2004 were omitted, and these two new modes do not fill that gap. Fortunately, standard modes like deathmatch and team deathmatch are still there. To make matters worse, there seems to be an unusually unhealthy dearth of maps to choose from. Each mode has its own collection of maps such as for special modes like the vehicle CTF, but most of the time the modes overlap available maps. And if you thought things could not get any worse I am sorry to say that they do. It seemed previous games had tons of alterable options and this was especially so in UT04, but here there are hardly any, and the ones alterable have a strict limit. For example the bot cap only goes up to fifteen and the frag limit does not exceed one hundred points. And again, UT04 allowed up to 999 frags and up to thirty-two bots could be used on any given map. Fortunately mutators make a return with options like instagib and big head mode. And another problem that involves the mutators: for me I like to frag a ton of people, and with the cap of only one hundred it really limits my enjoyment. And anyone who has played an instagib match on any Unreal game will know what I mean because kills rack up very quickly. Aside from the disappointing modes, etc., there is plenty of fun to be had in this game. Like its predecessors it involves extremely fast and furious shooter action whether you are on foot or in a vehicle. And all vehicles feature several very cool modes of attacking and there is almost certainly something there that the player will love. The vehicles are possibly the best gameplay aspect simply because they are not only fun to use, but if you use them well you can score many kills. Some of them feature cloaking devices, self destruct/eject pilot functions, mine laying, etc. And if you are mean enough you will have a load of fun just barreling around levels running people over. And speaking of vehicles, a new form of travel is available to all players during certain modes: a personal hoverboard. Each player has this cool hovering surfboard which becomes very useful when running back to base with the opposing team's flag. This hoverboard allows for some cool tricks like hopping over obstacles, ramping off of inclines, and even using an energy rapple to hitch a ride on passing friendly vehicles. While the hoverboard is the newest way to get around there is a new defensive ability that fits the game well: the ability to play dead. Yes, with the press of a button you can drop to the floor and just lie there, pretending to be dead. Unfortunately, if an enemy sees you do it you will be a sitting duck. This new mechanic is useful in some situations. While this is not the most revolutionary mechanic ever made it still is undeniably fun and often useful. The game is ultimately very fun, but due to the removal of numerous game modes and the strictly limiting options the game feels stripped.

Graphics here are without a doubt the most amazing aspect of this game. Everything about them is beautiful, well-rendered, and utterly extraordinary. The game's environments are the jewel of the graphics as they are rendered extremely well near or far. They range from lush, jungle-buried ruins to downtown city streets. The maps are mostly multi-staged so players can take the high road if they like to snipe or the low road for the up-close-and-personal work. Sometimes the levels are so gorgeous it seems better to run around drinking everything in than it is to actually fight on them. And when these levels are coupled with vehicles things get even better. The vehicles come in many shapes and sizes, some only as large as a motorcycle while others are as tall as office buildings. The one vehicle called a necris walker, which resembles something out of an H.G. Wells novel, is the biggest and "baddest" one of them all. It not only looks extremely intimidating but also it features two nasty red hot beams of energized death that can mow down players and machines alike. The walker is the end-all solution to players who like to just blast everything in their path, but there are other alternatives to this method. Another vehicle can cloak and lay various sorts of traps for enemy players or beneficial shield zones for allies. So really whatever your preference is when it comes to vehicles there will usually be at least one attractive option. Gun models in the game have not only been given a new look, but also they look plain stunning. Each weapon looks simply amazing, but what really stands out with them is their firing modes. Each gun features a primary firing mode and an alternative mode, each very impressive. Personally, the one that I like most is the link gun's alt mode which is this long beam of pure energy that can disintegrate. The player models are also very well done because often the competitors are tough, battle-worn men and women who are scarred and tough. They really do look like they have seen quite a bit of combat. Graphics most certainly take the prize home thanks to some very original level work and the amazing weapons.

Unreal Tournament has always been a fast and furious game. And frankly, with poor sound it could kill this kind of game because with that level of action and intensity it would need some serious sound work. Fortunately, sound here comes in a close second to graphics because they are wonderfully done. Many know that when playing Unreal the player who scores a kill needs to rub it to his opponent or call it out to his friends, so the fun taunt feature is there. The taunts are funny most of the time, and it adds even more to the sweetness of fragging someone. It is very appropriate for this kind of game. And not only can the player just taunt; he can also issue orders to teammates, etc. AI players generally will let you know about an approaching enemy vehicle and even what region of the level it is within. They even tell you when that particular vehicle is destroyed. And like in all Unreal games there is an announcer present so you know how many kills you have left, how much time is left on the present match, etc. The music that was added has an appropriately fast and sometimes hard beat to it to match the game. Most previous Unreal installments featured the same type of tunes and they fit the overall atmosphere very well. The gun sounds in the game are perfect. Never has it felt so satisfying to listen to rockets annihilate another player or a redeemer missile explode. And should you really want to create a true Unreal environment you should crank up the bass on your machine and let loose a barrage of rockets. Depending on the volume it will sound either like thunder or like a ton of tanks are taking a shortcut through your house. Sound absolutely rocks.

Ultimately Unreal Tournament 3 provides a fun and bloody experience, but I cannot help but feel like the game took a big step down from Unreal Tournament 2004. As a weathered Unreal veteran I can honestly say that I am disappointed. And this is due to the removal of numerous previous modes (assault, last man standing), the lack of alterable options (the frag limit is the most crippling), and the dearth of maps. To make a really long story short, these are my reasons for why I do not like the game as much as previous ones. All in all Unreal 3 is a fun game worthy of your PC collection, but maybe not so much the Unreal series.