Unreal Tournament III Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox 360
Release date:
July 7, 2008
Epic Games
1 - 16
First-Person Shooter

Unreal Tournament III

Not much more than a graphical upgrade.

Review by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
July 25th 2008

The online servers for both PS3 and PC versions of Unreal Tournament III have become ghost towns, and nothing has been done to prevent this sorry fate from befalling the 360 version. Unreal Tournament '99 was once my favorite shooter of all time, with inhumanly intelligent AI, well-balanced weaponry, carefully crafted levels, and a lightning-quick pace. Unreal Tournament III is a sluggish, shadow, and determined to ignore the advances in the FPS genre that have come about in almost a decade since the start of the series.

Unreal Tournament III is great for a quick game or three, but a severe lack of modes and customization options makes it hard to recommend over other shooters.

It's not a bad game. With the right crowd, Deathmatch and Warfare can be a blast online, or just with a bud sitting on the same couch thanks to the new split screen option. There's rarely any lag and even an option for dedicated servers, which Midway hosts a few of itself. It's just disappointing. There are a ton of maps - forty if you include all the remixes and revisits to classics, but everywhere else content is lacking. There are virtually no new weapons, only a couple new vehicles, the handful of mutators are mostly useless, the customization options are slim to nil ... and personally that makes Capture the Flag, the game's third and final mode, unplayable for me. I didn't mind the enemy's flag would revert instantly in the original where the pace was so quick you were only minutes away from securing it again, but in a game of Vehicle CTF, it's such a long haul to the enemy base that I'd rather forfeit and save myself the tedium. Just a little option to delay the flag return for five seconds would have saved it for me.

"Tedium" is the watchword for the game's single-player campaign. Dropping the tournament format, the absurd storyline tries to justify things like respawners and flags in actual combat. It might have been great if this had been done in a Red vs. Blue tongue-in-cheek style, but sadly they're serious about it. Even more sadly, this mode consists of nothing more than fixed games you could play with far more flexibility in instant action. At least Unreal Championship 2 tossed in some fresh mission types, not to mention having much more going for it in the gameplay arena. Since bot commands are too general and awkward to be of much use, winning these team matches too often boils down to pure luck. Too often my team had no clue of what they were supposed to be doing to win the match, while the enemy was manning every turret and taking every advantage. Having a friend or three helps stomach this mode, but it's really pointless to play when it's far more limiting than instant action.

With the Speed Freak mutator applied, UT3 plays great on a console with responsive controls that almost but don't quite reach a PC level of accuracy. Less can be said for the vehicles, though their great power is balanced somewhat by their lumbering movement. The overall weapon set isn't as balanced as it has been in previous games, however, with increased tracking benefiting the explosive crowd, and the default enforcer useless to the point of insult. Unreal Tournament III is great for a quick game or three, but a severe lack of modes and customization options makes it hard to recommend over other shooters, including previous games in the series.

displaying x-y of z total