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Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3

Publisher: Midway
Platform: PC (also confirmed for PS3)
UK Price (as reviewed): £23.95 (in. Delivery)
US Price (as reviewed): $57.68 (excl. Tax)

Unreal is one of those franchises which is a little bit complex in places where it doesn’t really need to be, if you want my frank opinion. There are two main franchises which run kind-of-parallel and which have entirely distinct gameplay styles and audiences.

There’s the core Unreal series which is a singleplayer game and the Unreal Tournament series which is a multiplayer focused game. How the two fit into the same universe – which they must do because they often share weapons and enemies – is something I’ve never been especially clear on. How do you reconcile gladiatorial combat where death is little more than an inconvenience with intergalactic war, ancient super-weapons and marooned prisoners?

With Unreal Tounrment III, that’s how. The new game from Epic and Midway is a clear attempt to take the best from both series’ and incorporate them into a single game with a unified setting.

Unreal Tournament 3
Malcolm is back in the hood!

To that end, UT3 has both a story-driven campaign mode and the usual multiplayer modes. Oh, and when I say ‘story-driven campaign mode’, I don’t mean the rubbish “OK, now win this match…then this one…and this one” campaign which fluffed up some of the past UT games. This is a story with proper characters, cutscenes and emotion within it, or at least as much as can be mustered in a game which still has to use the same game modes over and over

The game also features the proper, true début of the UE3 engine. True, it’s the same engine used to power games like BioShock and Gears of War, but the engine takes its name and real purpose from UT3 nonetheless. The engine was built by Epic for this game and this is a proper chance to see what the engine can do.

UT3 also showcases one of the more controversial features of games development - Ageia PhysX hardware support, which we’ll get to looking at in a page or two. I spoke to Mark Rein at the UT3 launch event just a little while ago and he was clear that he thinks Ageia PhysX adds a lot to the game, but is requiring gamers to spend £100 on a new PhysX card really a step forward?

Unreal Tournament 3
Click to enlarge

Does using dedicated hardware to increase the physics interaction make sense for gamers and, more importantly, does it actually add anything new to the game at all? That’s something we’ll be taking a look at later on when we gauge the power of the game and guide gamers on how to get the best performance.

So, with a newly revamped singleplayer campaign complementing the same potential multiplayer excellence that gamers have come to expect form Epic and with an engine which we’re assured is both scalable and beautiful, UT3 could be clear Game of The Year material. Assuming it isn’t all just hype and PR spin, of course…