November 30th, 2007
<-125x125 Button - left->Redefining the standards of the FPS genre – that was the mission of this game. Did it succeed? I would be tempted to think that the developers have made a very good attempt. The impressive amount of new features when compared to the 2004 edition is relatively well balanced as to attract new fans - to make it easy for them adjust to the game style. The old fans of the whole Unreal Game Series are debating their opinions on the official forums. This new tale brings some old characters back into the spotlight, like Malcom, the leader of the Thunder Crash team, also called by the Ronin hero “Thunder Cash” because of the high amount of money they got paid.
It is quite interesting to see how the story develops with each new version of a game or the games inspired by the original one. I own every PC game from the Unreal Series and so far I was impressed with new graphics and the game engine compatibility with a wide range of computer configurations, in fact the Unreal games have a reputation that they run pretty well on a lot of computers: this is not really the case with the latest title, Unreal Tournament 3. The first game told us a story in 2 parts about some prisoner on a space ship having a forced landing on a planet inhabited by some aliens and the trying to escape (Unreal and Unreal – The Return To Na Pali – The Gold Edition).
Ever since the first game, the music was impressive and very dynamic and the game engine was superior to all the other “attempts” at that time. The second game was a competition, namely Unreal Tournament (classic version – Game Of The Year Edition) – and it boosted the concept of multiplayer online and LAN shooter game (in worldwide competitions among the clans of players with very good skills). The story in that game, in short, was that the Skaarj (an alien race) attacked the Earth and destroyed a lot of cities – which determined the appearance of War Corporations like Axon, Izanagi and Liandri – and each of these corporations was fighting for power and dominance. The conflicts led to the legalization of “consensual murder” and that resulted into the organization of bloody public battles under the name of Unreal Tournament.
The next step was Unreal Tournament 2003, which was a merely “remix” of the initial Unreal Tournament, and since it didn’t bring something revolutionary like its predecessor, the fans were disappointed. At about the same time, there was the need of another game from the series that would have a much better single player story and that would somehow would be connected to the first game from the series and that was Unreal II: The Awakening – where John Dalton, a space-marine is sent with his crew in missions on various planets in order to retrieve some artifacts which mounted together would create one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. The Xbox version of the UT 2003 was Unreal Championship which was continued with Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict.
The next milestone was Unreal Tournament 2004 (March 16, 2004 - and later on released for the Linux and Mac platforms as well), which came with new graphics and added a few new game-play styles, like Onslaught and also vehicles (to be used on the huge maps for the Onslaught mode). The presence of some new weapons (like the grenade launcher, spider mine layer, Anti Vehicle Rocket Launcher - AVRiL) is also motivated by the new game-play at that time. The Unreal Anthology (games collection) containing the Unreal Gold, Unreal Tournament (classic), Unreal II: The Awakening and Unreal Tournament 2004 was released in 2006 along with soundtrack CDs with music from the whole series (and the fans appreciated that).
Single Player Story Trailer
Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest game from the Unreal Series (also the bloodiest) and comes with an interesting single player story, and an even more “addictive” multiplayer than ever before. In fact, that’s what the whole concept aimed at – the online matches offer unprecedented immersive action and hours of intense game-play. But this latest package doesn’t come without some flaws – while many new games have the same problem, that being the rush to publish them while they still need a lot of tweaking, others have huge system requirements. UT 3 can be classified as a somehow rushed release as there seems to be a total lack of support for antialising and thus the edges of the objects in the game are not smooth and they are really jagged in some parts. It’s not something we would still expect to see in a game released within this timeframe, as nearly all games today have in their menus various tweaks for the graphic effects.
The graphics settings from UT 3 are rather too simple and don’t leave too much room for tweaking and so the gamers will have to rely on the game engine to offer them the eye-candy and that caused a lot of debates on the official and other Unreal online communities. While we understand that the game editor application was brilliantly conceived to export maps for the PlayStation 3 (the game comes in a PS 3 version as well – though nothing beats aiming with a gaming mouse in a FPS) – offering an interoperability between PCs and consoles, the lack for proper filtering of the textures is not really acceptable! You can see below in the screenshot from a cinematic (so the overall game performance doesn't even come into question!) that the rendering of the shadows is poorly implemented (squarish edges) - and if that happens into a in-game movie (and that is actually a bik movie file and not a pre-scripted action!) which should look really well, what can we expect from the game itself? I dare the developers to explain that.
And yes, there’s a reason for that – and I won’t go into details - but the game engine uses the “deferred shading” technique which helps the game run faster, but hinders even the forced texture-filtering settings from the video-card drivers. Normally a gamer shouldn’t have to apply all sorts of tricks or get into some complicated (for average PC users) procedures so that the game would look “the way it’s meant to be played”. If it doesn’t look good, right out of the box, even with the maxed settings from the graphics panel (on a PC that is more than capable to run the game), then many people might not buy it – it’s a harsh decision, but the reason is pretty good. As PC requirements, the game needs Windows XP SP2 or Windows Vista or Linux with advanced 3D processing or Mac OS X 10.4, 2.0+ GHz Single Core Processor (or better a dual core one with slightly higher clock frequency), 512 Mbytes of System RAM (or 1GB, the more - the better), NVIDIA 6200+ or ATI Radeon 9600+ Video Card (or the latest top high-end cards) and 8 GB of free hard drive space.
The story in the game follows the adventures of Reaper, the leader of the Ronin team (as the Izanagi called them - Ronin meaning samurai). They were a clan of warriors who protected the Twin Souls mining colony. The Necris team came, led by Akasha, and they destroyed the colony – that made the Ronin retreat to Earth, where the Izanagi Corporation hired them for the Tournament. Malcom, a former player and famous champion from the Unreal Tournaments, was hired by the Izanagi as well to lead their operations. Each chapter has video tutorials about what the player is supposed to do.
The first mission was more about proving the “legendary” warrior skills of the Ronin. It was hilarious at some points when the team mates shouted “I need some back-up”, “I’m taking heavy fire” or “I just got owned!” It wasn’t exactly as if Reaper didn’t have his plate already full.
“With the Caesar’s Coin”, the battles started to be more and more difficult as the gamer is dependent up to a certain point on the team members (bots) who will have to achieve certain goals in order to win specific tactical approaches. During the matches from “The Liandri Conflict”, the Ronin have met The Corrupt, as those robots appeared earlier on in UT 2004, but this time they were led by Matrix, one of the executives from Liandri who had upgraded at the request of the superiors.
A new attack takes place over the location of the Izanagi and Reaper is disappointed by Malcom’s attitude. And so, the Ronins are sent on the Necris homeland, in order to defeat them. What Reaper really wanted was to kill Akasha, the one who led the attack at the Twin Souls mine colony. After chasing her on a space ship, and on the Necris land, the team ends up near the home of Akasha, where only Reaper steps in to defeat her “up close and personal”. In the “Disposable Assets” chapter-movie, the gamer can see how Malcom betrays the Ronin team, by making an agreement with one of the Necris leaders. After defeating Akasha, Reaper is faced with his worst fear – the death of his sister – and then he realizes who betrayed them and who gave their location to the Necris squad that killed his team. It’s a shame really that there’s not an ending where Reaper would fight against Malcom, but I’m guessing that this will come in the next tournament game from the series (I would hate to believe they would leave this ending in thin air, just like that). Throughout the game, each chapter has different game styles, like Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag and Duel (this one being between 2 players).
Obviously the game has a lot more to offer than the single player mode. You can play with your online friends or make a LAN Game Party. You can choose your player from the Iron Guard (yeah, Lauren is still hot as Reaper says in one of the matches and she replies “you bleed better than you shoot”). Such games can have up to 32 players divided into 2 teams. Another very interesting idea is that when you play with bots – the artificial intelligence has been so well improved that it can recognize voice commands (you can use a microphone), like “go and check the bridge” – and they might answer “the bridge is clear”.
If we had the Axon vehicles in the UT 2004, in UT 3 we also have some Necris vehicles, like the Darkwalkers (those huge 3 legged vehicles) that look like the alien machines from the movie “The War Of The Worlds” (that’s another game – added to the list - that was inspired by those aliens!). Did I enjoy playing the game? Yes, a lot actually, especially since I was familiar with the series and I liked the combat feeling the game gave me. I'm not saying in the lines above how bad it was, but I'm still curious how could the devs miss the point of most games today - they have to look totally amazing, even if the action in them is realistic or unreal.
The sound in the game was… “unreal”. And this is not like saying “this apple is so… red”, but rather expressing the same feeling all the games from the series have given me over the years – which means it was typical. But what was the most impressive, was the soundtrack of the game – truly amazing – very dynamic and stimulating. I did get it with the game in the same package and some of the tracks can be easily listened to in other environments or circumstances as well, especially the tracks from the first CD.
Digitainment Mark: 8 out of 10 (for having a rushed release)
Publisher: Midway Games
Designer: Steven Polge
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Official Website (where you can also order the game): http://www.unrealtournament3.com