Crispy Gamer

Unreal Tournament III (PS3)

As its name implies, Unreal Tournament III is all about competitive play, either against the computer or those who share an affinity for fast kills. Its gameplay is dead-on, its cadence is hypersonic, and the fun is rarely disrupted, because there are no re-spawning times. Even though UT3 is more refinement than reformation, supplementary modes are included for those seeking a more strategic experience in addition to its proven pace.

Unreal Tournament III feels more akin to the original game than subsequent sequels, especially once you hear the familiar title theme that effectively builds anticipation for the impending mayhem. That's a good thing for purists, but the game also delivers that for which the franchise is best known: its speed.

To emphasize quickness and quantity of kills, Epic doesn't make you worry about resource management, as you'll never run out of ammo. The game also features an unlimited supply of effective weaponry, such that you'll never feel ill-equipped in combat, even during brief moments with the default but accurate pistol. As a bonus, weapon upgrades are always within reach, and auto-selection of your most powerful weapon optimizes your potency (here's looking at you, Rocket Launcher).

Unreal Tournament III expands upon the vehicle formula first introduced in Unreal Tournament 2004 by providing a slew of new detailed wheels that all look fantastic. While vehicle balance pales in comparison to Halo, it?s never a hindrance. A welcome addition, however, is the convenient hoverboard for rapid transit to nearby or distant skirmishes.

With regards to the controls, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more precise implementation of dual thumbsticks than in Unreal Tournament III when using Sixaxis. My inadequate rig left me unable to try the PC version, but the speed of play on PlayStation 3 feels on par with what I remembered of the original game. And you can even use a mouse and keyboard if you like, though I never felt the need.

Dual thumbsticks do take some getting used to for seasoned UT players, but after a mere 10 minutes, you'll masterfully take down opponents with haste. One distinction with PS3 controls that I particularly like is the way jumping is mapped to the left analog stick. This absolves your aiming thumb from having to hit a face button to jump, a nuisance that commonly slows down similar games. Despite what may be assumed, UT3 on PS3 is not the underprivileged counterpart of the PC version.

In addition to Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag (also with vehicles), one-on-one Duels and a new Warfare mode are also present. Warfare is a hybrid of the now defunct Assault and Onslaught modes and requires cooperative team play when stringing together waypoints in proper order before ultimately destroying an opponent's guarded power center. It's sort of like laser tag with objects and brings an increased level of strategy to otherwise routine deathmatches.

Multiplayer allows for either local or online play using any of the above-mentioned modes in addition to cooperative campaign. This is where UT3 shines and is everything one would expect it to be. Players can either join the next available match, start a friend match, or host their own session using a predetermined criteria such as mode, map and control selection. I waited no more than a few moments before starting a quick match (unlike other lengthy multiplayer experiences) all with little to no lag, though I did experience one isolated incident of choppiness for about a minute.

For any concerned, you can limit multiplayer controls to thumbsticks only, keyboard and mouse only, or both. When using both, I couldn't tell if I was just an easy target for seasoned players or if my use of thumbstick controls put me at a disadvantage. Whatever the case, I had my fair share of takedowns and never felt frustrated -- everybody gets killed here.

Even though Unreal Tournament III is a multiplayer game at heart, Epic did a nice job of including minor variations such as the campaign mode which can offer a certain degree of single-player achievement. It merely mimics the feel of multiplayer using artificial intelligence bots while adding blas? cut scenes, but the simplistic objects do their job and the enemy behavior is surprisingly sophisticated. Sadly, user-mods are currently absent (though planned) for the PS3 version.

In terms of presentation, the shooter performs, though in ordinary fashion. The HD graphics are technically present, but they?re rather dull and nothing to gawk at. Sound effects are meager, but the soundtrack is both fitting and catchy. With exception to the classic "Headshot!" or "Double kill!" or "Killing spree!" announcements, voice work is forced at best (aka, insert baseless expletive here), and menu text is ridiculously small, even on my 32-inch widescreen. Overall, however, UT3's appearance and audio never get in the way of gameplay.

While the premise isn't as fresh as last year's Gears of War, Unreal Tournament III offers the fastest online multilayer experience around, and one of the best on PlayStation 3. If you enjoyed the first Unreal Tournament, you'll feel right at home. The game is breakneck, has forgiving hit detection, and handles like a fine German automobile. It may lack innovation, but the game is a skilled shooter and a compelling addition to the PS3 library.

This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.