While the single player "campaign" is certainly a step up from the previous few iterations of the game, it's a long shot from its billing of being a true campaign. It's just a bot ladder with cut scenes and a cohesive but thin story. It feels no more immersive than the first UT, if not a bit less so. UT1 was the last of the games that the tournament truly fell like an important competition in which you were truly working up the ranks. The war in UT3 doesn't quite have the feeling of an important battle. [Ed: LordHavoc - Personally I find it substantially more immersive than the original UT, the missions are vicious and challenging and it's hard not to be drawn in to the experience.]
The graphics are also not the upgrade we've come to expect from the Unreal series. The graphics are quite attractive, but it doesn't represent the large jump in graphics quality that the previous increments did. It mostly looks like the UT2k series with some higher polygon counts and prettier textures. [Ed: LordHavoc - Or UT2004 dropped into the Gears of War tech - which it is.] The lighting, an area the Unreal engine has always dominated in, appears relatively unchanged from the previous game. It certainly won't compare to the likes of the Doom3 engine, though Doom3 can't handle vast outdoor environments with the speed and grace Unreal Tournament 3 does, so some trade off is a requirement. Ordinarily I wouldn't be too hard on the graphics of a game, it should always play a back seat to gameplay, but in the case of anything brandishing the Epic or id logos, we all know they're tech demos as much as they are games and they represent a fair number of the up and coming games. Here, graphics matter, and UT3, while more than attractive, isn't nearly as stunning as I'd hoped. The cutscenes, however, are superb. [Ed: LordHavoc - This largely depends on your choice of World Detail Level, at the default of 1 it looks almost exactly like UT2004, at higher settings like 4 it looks outstanding, and makes even high-end computers cry for mercy. Award - Note that I've run it mostly with all settings, including World Detail Level, at the highest setting at 1600x1200 with no FSAA. The screenshots were taken with the setting at 4 due to some crashes and freezes I experienced with it all the way up. I wasn't overwhelmingly impressed with either setting, though the framerate was buttery smooth through all of them.]
The biggest problem with the game, though, is that it simply feels old. It's fun, yes. It's pretty, true. But picking it up feels little different from picking up UT2k4. Or UT2k3. Or UT1. It's another iteration of a classic arena game, with pretty much all the same game modes intact. But it also feels like a copy of itself. Sure they added hoverboards (which can be annoying if you get shot and end up on the ground for quite a while), they added orbs, they added some new vehicles that look different while doing the same thing. [Ed: LordHavoc - I kind of disagree. The Hellfire can easily be mistaken for a Hellbender in terms of having a shockrifle turret as its default weapon, but when it transforms into an artillery piece (with the ability to turn any artillery shell into a camera floating in the air for better targetting of remote locations.) It's wholly different from anything in UT2004. The Cicada is very different from the Raptor as well.] These are all fun and interesting. But I can't help but feel that UT1 was the most fun of the series. I can't explain the magic of it. I doubt anyone can, otherwise it would have been duplicated. [Ed: LordHavoc - I think the biggest change is the item placement in the maps, which were much easier to pattern run in UT1 than in the sequels, keeping your armor up and dominating a server - a very difficult task in UT3 when armor and shield belts are scattered at the far reaches of each level, or missing entirely, and health vials are even more precious than ever before.]
The maps of UT1 were interesting and immersive and dripped of atmosphere. The classic Unreal style of map structures were unique in the gaming world and carried into UT1 from the original Unreal and not beyond. The UT2k series and UT3 maps feel modern, but they feel somewhat generic. They're somewhat abstract like the Quake3 Arena maps were, as though they create a backdrop but not an environment. The game modes were more interesting back then too. While Warfare has elements of Domination in terms of holding nodes, it's a slower paced feeling, though the orbs bring back Bombing Run in a larger scale. The biggest loss of the series, though, is Assault. This was a defining element in the classic UT, and gave it a faster paced alternative to Team Fortress. The missions were diverse and interesting, and gave a true objective feeling, and one of interacting with the world around you. While originally planned to be in UT3, it was stripped out in favor of Warfare.
While it doesn't do well to pine over the nostalgic days of gaming, in the case of the Unreal series, there is a conscious continuity to the games. Each is supposed to be building upon the previous. Unfortunately it seems that some of the more innovative designs, in the past, instead of being refined, are being eliminated and folded up into the ever growing Warfare/Onslaught mode. While Onslaught is a favorite of many, and is certainly interesting, it seems to be consuming a lot of what made the Unreal series unique.
LordHavoc - There are some technical issues, however. The game won't install on my Vista Home Premium based Asus G2K-A1 notebook (simply errors out before it even presents the license agreements) - a friend of mine had to purchase the game on Steam to get it to install on his identical notebook, however it installs fine on my Windows XP machine.The game locks up during cutscenes on my Windows XP machine (can be fixed by editing “My Documents/My Games/Unreal Tournament 3/UTGame/Config/UTEngine.ini” and going down to the “Engine.ISVHacks” section and changing “PumpWindowMessagesWhenRenderThreadStalled” to True, then the cutscenes merely jerk a bit now and then instead of locking up - the lockups are particularly nasty because the familiar ctrl-alt-del task manager is hidden from view by the game!). The menu layout is confusing and requires way too much clicking to get anything done, especially the hiding away of settings like Screen Percentage (it renders at half screen resolution by default) and World Detail are harmful to new players who might never experience the game as it was intended.
Award - Thankfully I never had the installation problems, though I did have the dreaded locking. I had to hard-reset a few times because of it, which is especially frustrating since I must let the Intel RAID management finish an array check after an improper shutdown. For me it happened on map load, not the movies, though. I also experienced an odd session of getting a runtime error crash to desktop every time I'd try to load a map. After a few rounds of this the game would not start up properly either. After a reboot, it still happened. After another reboot, it's been fine ever since.
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