First Impressions: Because blasting your buddies to smithereens never gets old.
Shooter lovers rejoice, for the latest edition of the FPS competitor's staple, Unreal Tournament, will be gracing your console later this year. Originally titled Unreal Tournament 2007, Epic decided to drop the sports game-like yearly moniker and call it ?III? instead. The reason for this is not-so-coincidentally three-fold: first, they wanted to let gamers know that this version will be a completely new evolution of the series rather than a minor annual update like sports titles. Second, they wanted to reflect the fact that the game will be released simultaneously on three platforms. Yes, you read that right; although UTIII was originally a PC and PS3 exclusive, it will now also appear on the Xbox 360 ? which really isn't surprising considering the roaring success of Epic's most recent project, Gears of War. Third, they wanted gamers to know that this version will be utilizing the amazingly powerful Unreal Engine 3.
It goes without saying that the graphics are unbelievable. The level of detail, explosion and particle effects, lighting and shadow effects, animation and physics are simply stunning. If you thought Gears of War looked great, you ain't seen nothing yet. A small but illustrative example of the engine's power is the fact that a single weapon model has about the same polygon count as an entire level
in UT 2004. Whoa. Best of all, UT Tool Kit will be included with the PC version, allowing gamers to really dive into the new technology themselves and create their own custom mods.
Perhaps the biggest change from earlier UT titles is the inclusion of a true single player campaign. Previously, the offline modes were simply bot fights in the multiplayer maps, but now we will be getting something never before seen in the series: a story. Well, something resembling a story anyway. As we all know, the Unreal Tournament is a brutally violent sporting event set up by huge mining conglomerates to keep their miners entertained. In UTIII, the story takes place 50 years after the original where you will play as a young miner out for revenge against the evil corporations responsible for killing your family. Unfortunately, while you're carrying out your brutal brand of justice, the even more evil Necris Black Legion invades the planet and begins infecting it with their nanotechnology in a form of alien terraforming. Needless to say, once this happens the chaos and bloodshed explode exponentially. Epic claims the story won't be as deep or engaging as Gears of War (which is a little scary considering GoW's story was thinner than wet tissue paper) but it should at least provide better entertainment value for those who are offline. Bot AI has also been improved to act more realistically, unlike previous versions where they were programmed to miss on purpose.
But of course, the real action will be found online, which benefits from even more improvements. UTIII is perhaps best described as a blend of the original and 2004, generally considered the most loved and most innovative of the franchise, respectively. Epic listened to their fans and are removing what they didn't like and enhancing what they did, which means the insane jumping moves are being toned down, melee attacks have been reduced to a single melee weapon, and unpopular gametypes like Double Domination and Bombing Run are history.
Decreasing the number of multiplayer gametypes has allowed Epic to better focus on improving the quality of each gametype rather than flooding us with quantity. Old favorites like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and CTF will of course be the staples, along with Warfare, an updated version of the popular vehicle-based Onslaught mode. Maps will be huge and filled with destructible objects, while some will feature those cool funky physics like low-gravity we all know and love. Most of the time, however, the physics will be a bit more realistic so there won't be any more of that crazed frog jumpiness that drove many people nuts. The game will still be brutally fast though, requiring constant movement and a quick trigger finger.
Other enhancements include brand new weapons and the return of many old favorites, like the goo-launching Bio-Rifle, the Link Gun (which can also repair vehicles), Shock Rifle, the Stinger, Flak Cannon and Rocket Launcher.
You will also be able to pilot a wide variety of vehicles from both the Axon Corporation and the evil Necris. Axon vehicles include the speedy Manta hoverbike, the Hellbender ATV and the Goliath tank. The creepy Necris vehicles include the fast Viper hoverbike and the Nemesis tank, which has a unique gun turret that moves up and down: lowering it increases your speed but reduces your firing angle and rate of fire, while raising it slows you down but creates a greater firing rate and angle. The towering Dark Walker looks like a War of the Worlds
tripod war machine, with skinny tentacle-like legs and devastatingly powerful energy weapons. It's so tall you can step over low buildings and bridges; if necessary, you can also crouch under tall obstacles too. The downside is its sluggish speed and slow rate of fire so you'll need to protect this puppy's flanks from smaller and faster enemies.
Another new vehicle is the speedy Hoverboard, which lets you quickly zip across the map and will no doubt come in handy during CTF matches. Although you will be defenseless while using it, you can taunt the opposing team by performing some basic Tony Hawk-style tricks. Dude!