The new vehicle selection shows that Epic has gone beyond merely ripping off the vehicles from Halo – by ripping off Spielberg’s War of the Worlds as well. Still, if the end result is as cool as the Necris Darkwalker – a spindly-legged tripod of death-ray wielding destruction – who’s complaining? Weapons, meanwhile, remain a key strength of the series. Whereas UT’s original rival, Quake, kept its weapon set down to a handful of strong, complementary archetypes, UT has always tried to give you variety and the chance to experiment. UT’s classics, like the flak-cannon, the rocket launcher and the shock rifle, have always delivered this; what they lack in punch in their main firing mode they make up for with the versatility of their secondary fire. It’s also nice to see old favourites like the Redeemer, the piston hammer and the (now dual-wieldable) Enforcer return.
Hugo wasn’t particularly taken by the all-new single player campaign in the PC version of UT3, and not without reason. It’s a bold attempt to ditch the old alien tournament premise in favour of a Gears of War-style man vs man vs bloody nasty Necris struggle, but in effect what you’re getting is a series of bot matches taking you through the various game modes, and with some rather feeble attempts to explain why respawners and all the rest of the tournament gubbins have been thrown in. It’s more entertaining and varied than you might expect, but doesn’t turn the game into Gears of War.
However, I’d argue that on the console formats this campaign plays a vital role. While a lot of the people who took up UT3 on the PC will already have graduated through UT, UT2003 and UT2004, there will be a lot of PS3 owners for whom this will be their first Tournament. With this in mind the campaign does a superb job of introducing the rules of Capture the Flag and Warfare, building the fundamental game skills and letting you familiarise yourself with the maps, the weapons and the vehicles. I also like the way in which the numbers and abilities of the bots ratchet up as the campaign progresses – you’re constantly getting a decent workout. If you’re not a hardcore FPS player and you go straight into the online UT3 battles, I’ll guarantee that you’ll be handed a can of well-shaken whup-ass. Take the time to work your way through at least some of the campaign and you’ll have a much better chance of dishing some out in return.