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Two months and eleven days has never seemed so long. That’s the time those of us in Europe who didn’t want to import a US version of Unreal Tournament 3 for our lovely, shiny Sony consoles have had to wait for the game to launch here. The good news is that, having already dealt with one disappointment – that we didn’t get to spend our Christmas playing UT3 – we don’t have to bear any others. As you might remember from Hugo’s review, the PC version was fantastic. On the PS3, UT3 is fundamentally the same: a gorgeous looking, superbly designed, multiplayer-focused action title.
I won’t go too far in repeating what Hugo has already said. UT3 isn’t a vast, all-encompassing revamp of the classic series but a well-considered update, bringing the visuals up to the high standards we’ve come to expect from the Unreal 3 engine, slicing away some of the fat introduced in Unreal Tournament 2004 and grafting on new vehicles and game modes that expand the basic gameplay without changing it out of all recognition.
Arguably the biggest change, gameplay-wise, is the addition of the new Warfare game mode. We still have Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch for those who prefer simple, fast-paced fragging, plus Capture the Flag in both your standard dash, grab and sprint variety and a new format that adds vehicles to the mix. Epic has also thrown in a one-on-one, winner stays on Duel mode. Warfare, however, takes a more objective-based approach. Each team has a base with a reactor core. In between the bases lie one or more power nodes. Capture enough nodes to link your base to the enemies and you can then start blasting his reactor core to bits. Do so, and you’re on the winning team. At first – particularly on the larger maps – Warfare can be bewildering, though the mini-map and onscreen prompts certainly help. With time, however, you appreciate the way it adds a new ebb and flow to the classic UT gameplay, as teams attack and counter-attack the nodes, often using the handy power orbs which – if you’re fast, stealthy and smart – can be used to capture one instantaneously.
With the introduction of vehicles to UT2004 the maps took on a new scale, and here that process continues. Luckily, the game hasn’t abandoned its fragfest roots, packing in some maps clearly designed to facilitate high-impact eight-way brawls, others for more tactical sniper-rifle and rocket-launcher heavy games, and others still built with the larger team-based games in mind. Ingeniously, Epic has avoided the old Battlefield large-map problem – the fighting is going on a mile away but some git has nicked the last vehicle – by giving each player a hoverboard that can be equipped with a press of the square button.