I picked up UT3 a couple of weeks ago. I’d just finished it when Guild Wars fell into my hands, and I never got around to writing about it. I suppose I could save all of us a lot of time by just saying it sucks, but part of how we do business here is to catalog how things suck, a process which begins now:
Mark Twain famously took a version of his story “The Jumping Frog”, which had been translated into French, and translated it back into English. The translation from English to French to English again results in rich comedic nonsense. This is not unlike what we find with Unreal Tournament 3, which seems to have been ported from the PC to the Playstation 3 and back again.
The interface is a warren of festering idiocy. The game begins with what feels like a half dozen splash screens and ads, meaning you have to bang away at the ESC key repeatedly to get to the menu where you can log in. This is step one, meaning it happens before you decide if you’re going to play single or multi-player. You can choose not to log in, but you still have to deal with the login screen either way.
If you play the single-player campaign, you can only play the currently unlocked mission. If you go back and re-play one from earlier in the game, it will overwrite your one and only save game and you will be reset to that earlier part of the game. I should point out that UT99, the nine-year-old original in this series, could cope with replaying old missions without doing anything this stupid. Even the PS3 is no longer limited by “slots” on a memory card. We got these fancy newfangled hard-drive thingies, and there is no reason for the game to do this.
The game always, always pops up a warning about how my network might be mis-configured when I’m starting a single player game. I always have to mouse over and click “ok”.
Taking a cue from the worst parts of Vista, the game is constantly throwing up popups to the effect of, “Are you sure you want to do that thing you just did?” You cannot disable these. You just have to keep clicking “ok”. Every. Damn. Time.
The game setup options are stripped down to nothing. You can’t configure the attributes of individual bots. It doesn’t remember the settings you used from the last time you played, which is asinine considering the excessive number of clicks required to do anything with this beast. It is impossible to make a game with lopsided teams using bots. (This was one of my favorite ways of playing. I’d pit myself against superior numbers of bots and see how long I could last.)
Starting a game is like running a “New Hardware Wizard” in Windows. You have to go through several pages of options, and each page has just a few small options on it. Half the game is just gone, and the half that remains is spoon-fed to you at an infuriating pace.
This only scratches the surface of the problems with the interface. This is what PC gamers mean when they say “dumbed down” for consoles. This interface only makes sense when you’re looking at a television and holding a dual shock controller.
They have added an absurd, angsty plot to the game. Delivered through pre-rendered cutscenes, it tells a tale of a small team of mercs who have their home colony destroyed, get very angry, and then fight a war by playing capture the flag. The storytelling is lazy and infantile. The game tries so hard to convince you you’re not doing what you’re very obviously doing. Note to Epic Games: I can understand you’re suddenly embarrassed to be making a game about CTF. But you’re not fooling anyone.
It’s strange, because there are two game types that would have made a lot more sense in terms of the UT3 story: Assault and Last Man Standing. They were part of earlier entries in this series, before it had a story. They would have meshed with the “fighting a war in which soldiers can respawn” concept we have here. But those game modes are missing in UT3. Instead we have flags and the capturing thereof. We also have announcers talking about “winning the match” and saying “play” at the onset of hostilities. So which is it, Epic? Is this a war or a sport?
Spoiler alert: All the major characters die. After enduring these cutscenes of childish bravado and agonizing attempts at ghetto slang it was preposterous for the game to suddenly try to be serious and edgy. In the last moments of the game the main character – who is named (sigh) Reaper – is facing a huge crowd of foes. Then one of the foes tosses Jester (Reaper’s sister, a member of his merc team) at his feet, dead. I laughed. This game just hadn’t gotten me to take it seriously yet, and now it’s trying for Shakespearian tragedy?
Reaper is the classic cardboard bad boy, and about as exciting as a bowl of cold oatmeal. The bad guys had no motivation except to be interplanetary jerks. There was a betrayal you could see coming a mile off. The secondary characters are made entirely of catchphrases and clichés. The dialog is absurd.
The gameplay is fine, provided you want online play with internet strangers. This is very close to the frantic deathmatch feel of the original. The weapons feel great and the graphics are gorgeous. But if you’re into LAN games, the campaign mode, or fighting against bots, the game falls miserably short of the achievements of its 1999 grandsire.
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