It's hard to believe that it was the year 2000 when Unreal Tournament last made an outing on the PlayStation console. Fans of the series have waited eight long years, and now with the release of the PlayStation 3 it's back. Unreal Tournament 3 is everything fans hoped for, and finally represents a transition from PC to console that loses nothing in translation.
The story, for those who have not played it before, is that in 2291, in order to maintain order in the expanding space colonies and mining outposts, a tournament was introduced where clans of warriors could do battle and vent their pent up frustrations (the game itself is just that - a great outlet for those real life frustrations). UT3 picks up 50 years later on where the game has become serious, and at stake may in fact be the future of the colonies. The Necros (read: bug-eyed aliens) have ravaged your home planet and now as a Ronin (gun for hire) you are out for vengeance.
The game is a First Person Shooter and like previous titles in the series it is full-on combat. You and your clanmates are pitted against one another to compete in various challenges. These can vary from simply determining who has the most kills on the opposing team, to more complex missions where you need to activate core nodes to render defenceless the opposing clan's node.
To do this, a various assortment of weapons is placed at your disposal. From a simple auto pistol to link guns and multiple rocket launchers. Weapons have a primary function and a more devastating secondary function. Weapons spawn at various points around the battlefield and right from the start you have just about the full arsenal at your disposal. One issue though is the sniper rifle. Yes, it is almost a stock weapon for FPS games, however the console controls are not necessarily the best for the more delicate motions required to nail that killing shot. UT3's speed and face to face combat makes stopping and trying to sight in a rapidly moving target almost suicidal.
That's not all though; what really sets the pace is all the extras. Vehicles vary from the air surfing hover board, tanks, turrets and the Manta: a small air bike. These add some real spice to the game, including the cool ability to hook onto a passing vehicle while on a hover board, and get towed along and through the different terrain features.
The battle arenas are varied in size and complexity. Some are relatively easy to work out while others feature running through a maze of corridors and roads at break-neck speed.
What makes all of this possible is the smoothness with which the game runs on the PS3. Aside from some lag issues while online (which could be a non-game issue, of course), UT3 runs at a terrific pace. To be successful it's all about speed, and some games in UT3 can be a blaze of laser and rocket fire, speedy enemies and lots of explosions. Its best described as “full on” and has you on the edge of your seat as you play.
Graphically the game can best be described as visceral. Toast an opposing player at close range and the inside of your TV drips blood and body parts, while the same applies to your weapon. The detail, shading and lighting are all great and make the most of your console. Perhaps not the minute attention to detail we have seen in some other recent FPS releases, however we suspect this is a compromise to ensure smooth and quick movement in the game.
While you can play the campaign or against bots, the online game is where the action is. Where the console version puts one over its PC counterpart is in how much it levels the playing field. We found it refreshing to play against other folk who effectively had the same gaming rig and the same level of graphics (no tricking out the graphics to raise your frame rate). The only difference being in ping times.
There is a lot to like about UT3 on the PlayStation 3. The only niggle we found was the voice-over you get during the match. Yes it is helpful to know your base is under threat, but tell me where the announcer's booth is so I can deal to that annoying voice!
The game is not ground breaking, but it does not purport to be. It offers a big step forward for the series while simultaneously retaining the philosophy of good, honest entertaining game play with over-powered weapons and buckets of blood. Your console and this game deserve to be together!