Unreal Tournament III
We've known for a while that Unreal Tournament III would land on the Xbox 360, but in what form was unknown. At Midway's recent Gamers' Day, Epic Games' Mark Rein revealed what will be included in the Xbox 360 package. Xbox 360 owners will get five new multiplayer maps, two new characters and two-player split-screen play. While gamers who already own the PlayStation 3 or PC version don't really need to sell off their copy of the game in favor of the Xbox 360 version (unless they're Achievement whores), Xbox 360 gamers will have yet another top-notch first-person shooter experience to add to their arsenal later this year.
But let's be real -- there are actually three all new maps, and two maps that are remixed versions of maps that were already available. All five of these maps will also be added to the Campaign mode. Here's the breakdown of all five maps that will be included in the Xbox 360 version of Unreal Tournament III.
Suspense Necris: A re-envisioned version of the Vehicle CTF map Suspense will now allow gamers to take to the dark and moody battlefield with Necris vehicles. The bridge in the level has been damaged in battle, and the water has been now been sucked dry by Necris tentacles.
Downtown Necris: A retooled Warfare map that's been invaded by the Necris. Downtown Necris is the only map that allows for both teams in the battle to gain access to both Axon and Necris vehicle sets by capturing spawn points.
Cold Harbor: A new Warfare map that is a King of the Hill style locale that features a node at the top of a mountain that you're aiming to capture. Capturing the node sends missiles offshore towards the enemy base. You then have 60 seconds to defend and hold that node before the missiles impact, but if the enemy captures the spawn point they'll deploy a weapon that will automatically take out the missiles, and the sides switch. Under the mountain, teams can nab nodes and pick up air support vehicles such as Cicadas and Raptors.
Rails: One of the largest Vehicle Capture the Flag maps, Rails features two rocket turrets that move along rails that stretch across the entire map. Experience rocket battles between the two turrets, and rain attacks against unsuspecting foes below the rails. These turrets can be a deadly adversary, and you can use them to take out tanks if you've got the skills.
Koos Barge: A small two-level water-based four-to-eight-player Deathmatch map that's also perfect for one-on-one battles. Drop your opponents in the tight corridors that feature a lot of line-of-sight areas.
Unreal Tournament III already features over 50 pre-made characters, and the Xbox 360 will include a paltry two more. The first is the deadly Ronin, Kana, and the second is a Liandri Robot named Nova. The three-map downloadable content that's already been released so far for the PS3 and PC will also be included in the Xbox 360 version of the game.
One of the cool features that was included in the PS3 version was the support for user-created content. Users could easily transfer maps to their PS3 from the PC, and share them with their friends. However, even though Rein says they're in talks with Microsoft to try to make this a possibility -- we're not holding our breath. If there will be user-created content on the Xbox 360, it's most likely it'll be mods and maps Epic chooses from the community and distributes via Xbox Live.
Even though Unreal Tournament III won't be available on the Xbox 360 until this summer, it's already running quite well. Both single-player and two-player split-screen was playable and looked solid. Even though we're a bit over the whole concept of split-screen gaming, it does support cooperative and competitive play locally or over Xbox Live.
We do have a few gripes, but we can't really fault Epic for most of them. Free mods are a big part of what continue the lifespan of Unreal Tournament games, and Microsoft is really dropping the ball in making it a difficult situation for Epic. If Epic has to not only farm the community themselves and release the mods, or God forbid charge for content that's free for both the PC and PS3 communities, there will be a lot of disgruntled consumers that may opt to grab the PS3 or PC version of the game instead. Plus, here's yet another game that doesn't take advantage of the PC versus Xbox 360 interoperability -- a feature that Microsoft boasted would happen in a lot of Games for Windows titles, and one with which developers have barely experimented. Finally, we're betting the new content that's coming to the Xbox 360 will land on the PS3 and PC at some point, rendering any exclusivity null and void.
But, the big question is, will Unreal Tournament III be embraced by the Xbox 360 user base? The game is a frantic, intense first-person shooter experience, with tons of modes, vehicles and weaponry we've grown to love. If you've never gotten the chance to play Unreal Tournament III, you're missing a heck of a ride, but with a software library that's bursting at the seams with top-rate multiplayer first-person shooters such as Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, Team Fortress 2 and Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Unreal Tournament III may have a hard time making a dent. If Epic can work out its differences with Microsoft to get user-created content in the game in some manner, it may have a chance. But if they think gamers will pay the full price point for a six-month old game that's not as feature-rich as what gamers can get on other platforms, it may look like Midway and Epic are trying to make a quick buck with a subpar version of the game.
This preview is based on an unfinished build of the game seen at the recent Midway Gamers Day.