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6 Reviews

Unreal Tournament III

Back to FPS basics with the one-time shooting king. Has Unreal got what it takes to compete with the youngsters?

You could say UTIII is something of an antique. A throwback to the days of endless, repetitive Deathmatches, it's a simple, lightning-fast shooter with few of the complexities of modern games.

Get the armour, get the weapons, control the ammo and work out a route through the level so no one else gets the good stuff and you dominate their sorry arses. And never, ever stop running.

An odd and entirely unnecessary plot is the reason you're flung from Deathmatch to Team Deathmatch and location to location here, a story told with the same idiotic bravado and just-dropped teenage balls that made Gears of Wars an occasional laughing stock.

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To make flag-capturing part of a sci-fi storyline, UTIII pretends flags are battle-critical pieces of technology, even laughing at itself for doing so. So before long you're chasing red flags, controlling nodes, managing orbs, telling men whether to attack or defend territory and playing all the classic online match types.

As you might expect from a Deathmatch-styled shooter, UTIII on your own isn't much fun. Playing CTF with three bots on your team never really works. They don't understand the importance of driving in a straight line, or doing something immediately.

Fortunately, you're able to have Xbox Live Friends pop into your Campaign, dumping bots for proper people. It's then, when you stop worrying about drones driving your tank off a cliff and start telling to your mates what to do, that the beauty of UTIII shines though.

It may be using the same technology as Gears of War, but UTIII plays at a faster pace and is a more intense experience. Controls are customisable so you're able to spin in a flash or auto-select new weapons, plus the maps are very well suited to Deathmatch play. It's hard to explain what makes a good multi-player map. Is is corridors? Ledges? Walkways for sniping from? Pretty views? All of those mixed together with a sprinkling of magic? Whatever it is, UTIII has it.

The maps are big enough for vehicles and mass fights, yet never so sprawling you get lost. Arrows pointing you the right way help quite a bit, too. Plus there's a very impressive split-screen option as well, for two-player action in the same house. Just like in the old days before this 'internet' became so popular with all the kids.

The weapons are solid-gold classics. The Flack Cannon is your close-up, into-the-face shotgun for mess-making and instant deaths. There's a rocket launcher, plus variants on the machine gun, a sniper rifle for lurkers and a few novelty chemical weapons for when you're out of rockets and there's nothing better about. All as you'd expect.

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But there are some innovations. Deployable specials appear and change the game from being simply rockets versus shotguns. The Slow Field Generator - which pops up a bubble of time distortion inside which everyone moves in slow-motion - is a particular joy. Plus UTIII comes packed with vehicles.

Small four-wheelers like the Hellbender are good fun in a copied-off-Halo kind of way, but UTIII does more. Massive alien walkers, reminiscent of War of the Worlds (or, er, Half-Life 2), stomp around, firing lasers while emitting a low, terrifying howl. It's staggeringly atmospheric to see these beasts walking around battlefields - and even more fun when you realise that, yes, you are allowed to get in one and have a go yourself.

So, after a few hours, you go from thinking UTIII's some sort of cliched old dinosaur to absolutely loving the way it takes the old Deathmatch game and brings it slap-bang up to date. Which makes Unreal Tournament III a tough one to slot into the old 1-10 scoring scale.

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