Unreal Tournament has been around for nearly a decade now, and is widely regarded as one of the top competitive first person shooters. Unreal Tournament III is the latest in the series, and attempts to carry on the legacy, this time on Xbox 360. We quite liked the PlayStation 3 and PC versions, so how does the manic shooter fare on Microsoft's console?
Thankfully, extremely well, as Epic have clearly spent a substantial amount of time optimising the game to run and look its best on the 360. On the gameplay side, Unreal Tournament III plays exceptionally well. The controls have been mapped comfortably on the 360 controller, with the right and left triggers triggering the primary and alternative fire modes respectively. Switching weapons is quick and simple with the tap of the right bumper, and dodging has even been implemented, working like the PS3 version where you hold the left analogue in either the left or right direction, and press A to dodge. Dodging is an important tactic in the Unreal universe, where battles constantly rage at breakneck speeds, and one must have the ability to dodge vehicles, bullets, and everything else that comes at you with brutal force.
And the battles are the core of UT3, and it's segregated into several different game modes. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag are fairly self-explanatory, and have always been standard in the UT series. UT3 mixes things a little though with the addition of three extra modes, namely Duel, Vehicle Capture the Flag and Warfare.
Duel is essentially Deathmatch but restricted to one on one, where a certain frag limit is set with a timer. This was added in due to the immense popularity of high-tier competitive play in the previous UT games, and is sure to attract the veteran players. Vehicle Capture the Flag is the same as Capture the Flag however with the addition of vehicles. It surprisingly isn't a mode seen often in many multiplayer games, so it's more than a welcome addition and is extremely fast paced and intense, especially with a full house of sixteen players. Warfare is the most large scale of the game modes, and is very similar to Battlefield's Conquest mode, where two teams fight for supremacy on the map by capturing nodes. Each node you capture produces more vehicles and weapons for use, and also links up to enemy nodes, which allows you to destroy and capture theirs and so forth. Once you've linked to their main base, the team must destroy their main node in order to win the match. The twist in this mode however is that both teams have a special 'orb', that when carried and inserted into an enemy node, instantly captures that node. This gives the losing team a strong chance of turning the tide, especially when all the odds have been turned against them, so there's an excellent level of balance in Warfare. Add in a large and varied amount of vehicles, hover boards that you always have making on-foot movement much faster, and several different maps to play on, and you've got yourself a total war zone. It's a fun game mode and will most likely be the popular choice on Xbox Live.
On a visual note, UT3 looks outstanding on the Xbox 360. Epic certainly know their own engine well, as load times are minimal, textures are sharp as ever and the game never seems to slow down, even with a full game and several things happening all at once. Even more impressive though is the implementation of split-screen. Split-screen can be carried onto online matches that allow it, and can also be used to play through the small single player portion of the game. Surprisingly, there is absolutely no image quality lost and no slow down whatsoever when running with two players, which is quite a fantastic achievement considering the graphical fidelity. The only issue with the visuals is some minor pop-in due to the texture streaming from the disc, but it's barely noticeable with a game that plays so fast. It's overall a fantastic port to the 360.
The audio of UT3 is no slouch either, with constant explosions and lasers roaring in the background with an industrial based soundtrack to go with it. The surround sound is quite well done also, with bullets zinging by your ears, aiding in the immersion of the game.
But Unreal in general is nothing without its famous announcers, and UT3 continues the series' over the top announcements with aplomb. 'Headshot!' blares out of the speakers as you successfully down your opponents with the sniper rifle, and the new announcements such as 'Rocket Scientist!' are yelled out once you've accumulated fifteen consecutive Rocket Launcher kills. It never really gets old and continues the UT trend of glorifying your skills. The only issue with the sound is just like that of the PS3 port, where the audio can be a little lossy due to compression. However, it's a minor issue and one most people won't notice, as they'll be too busy trying to keep up with the pace of the game.
Unreal Tournament III is a fantastic port to the Xbox 360 and one multiplayer and FPS gamers should definitely consider, as there's no game on the 360 that matches its breakneck speed, ferocity and level of skill. Though the single player portion is more of a training ground than anything, it's excellent for newcomers to the series to play through so they may learn the ropes. For everyone else however, multiplayer is where it's all at, and with the variety of maps (and five extras only for 360), the mutators which allow alterations in matches, six different game modes and a high level of polish in gameplay, Unreal Tournament III shows exactly why the series is so renowned and is a worthy purchase for any 360 owner looking for something new in the multiplayer arenas.