Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest installment of the Unreal franchise and is one of the least favourite of the series among the fans. All of the negative reviews mark UT3 as a severe disappointment to the series. Compared to the predecessors it lacks content, has an unnatural visual style, has unnatural controls and actually has a plot. Luckily I played UT3 before playing the rest of the series, so my opinion will be unbiased (hopefully).
The whole idea of the Unreal Tournament is a sport containing weapons and the ability to respawn. A sport so expensive to run that it is valued more for the spectacle than the actual recreational value. This tournament also has some bearing similarities to real life sports. In most ball games there is a need to evade your opponent, by dodging them or fool them into thinking you’re going to dodge. Unreal Tournament has dodge as an abundant game-play element and is the main source of strategy and cunning in the game.
Another aspect of ball games, specifically American football, there is a need to find enough room in order to make a ranged maneuver (like throwing the ball to a player placed further ahead). Or the need to have a particular accuracy or projectile shape of a maneuver in order to succeed in certain scenarios. Unreal Tournament also employs these in it’s strategy, because the player has to aim differently and choose different weapons according to the situation. The player also needs to try and predict what the opponent is about to do, to preemptively fire slow weapons or line up tricky shots, but this is common place in all fps games of the era. Definitely worth noting though.
The level design of the Unreal Tournament series is usually focused around visual awe, unique settings and functional level design (design areas just for game-play, not because it makes sense for the setting). Functional level design is important for a competitive multiplayer title. The use of varying and unique is definitely a plus and makes good use of the sport. Compared to a true battlefield where you can’t be too picky of where you’re dispatched. The visual awe enhances the showmanship of the sport and the technology advancements of the game seem to be focused on the gore and violent spectacle.
Unreal Tournament 3 follows some of these tenants to the series and doesn’t follow others. Some of the tenants that are broken are for the better and some are not. Unreal Tournament 3 contains an actual battle plot and all the levels are made for a place in the plot. This limits the variety of levels and visual styles tremendously but also strengthen the premise of the game. The visual palette only conforms to the character classes, making it look rather consistent, but also repetitive.
However, the functional level design scheme remains. Objectives are still designed only for the spectacle and the game-play, despite the plot restraint. It’s as if the fiction for the maps are generated around the game-play concept and the settings are dictated by the visual palette. The visual palettes are dictated by the home team, robot maps are over-urbanized, iron guard mercenary territory consists of gritty iron wastelands and slums and necris maps are dark and organic.
Respawners? On a battlefield?
The plot of Unreal Tournament 3 is really terrible. It achieves what it needs to, but doesn’t really serve much of a narrative or philosophical purpose (that I noticed). One thing I did like about it though is that it had a positive perspective on revenge, until the very end where it is achieved, then Reaper’s vengeance results in his downfall and near dehumanization. It also keeps to the original idea of the tournament being expensive, in UT3 your team has little control and is constantly cluster-fucked by General Malcolm, because only he can fund Reaper’s objective.
Unreal Tournament 3 attends to some of the key aspects of the UT franchise whilst doing something different. Apparently there are some technical and production flaws that lower the title, but that’s not the point of my blog. The changes made to facilitate the plot are not for narrative purposes, they are just there to help the themes and overtones of the sport. This results in a single player campaign plot that is ridiculously detached from the game-play.
The sport is still treated well though and for that the multiplayer is a good enough reason to get this title.