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To coincide with the European release of Unreal Tournament III, I gave it a spin to find out whether it’s worth your cash. I’m a hardcore console gamer– always was, and always will be. So when Midway announced that Unreal Tournament III was going multi-platform instead of staying PC exclusive, I was one happy camper.

I always thought of Unreal Tournament as one of those games that stayed exclusive to a platform just because of its evolution on the PC, or maybe because the developers just couldn’t see that type of fast-paced FPS played with a joypad. If you’re new to the series like me, some things will be apparent the first time you pick up a controller. The first thing you will have to get used to is the controls, since they are not mapped very well to the Sixaxis, and some buttons have no purpose, or are just duplicates.

The second thing I noticed is that the single player mode is extremely dull. There are six teams: Ronin, Thundercrash, Krall, Liandri, Iron Gaurd and the Black Legion. You play as a Reaper from team Ronin, and as the title suggests, all teams are competing in Unreal Tournament for the championship title.

Before each mission you are given a briefing, and also the illusion that there is actually an objective for what you are doing, but really you’re just playing “kill ‘em all”. Since Epic and the Unreal Engine were involved, I was expecting a cinematic experience with an intense story, massive explosions, and body parts flying around the screen.

In reality, you’re paired up with dumb AI and equally dumb opponents. To be honest, it’s like a dumbed-down version of the online play. The story is also as thin as rice paper, and while there are some nice cut-scenes to get you pumped up before each round, when you begin playing it is just a repetitive letdown.

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There are no levels, just maps. The same maps in single player are used online as well, and if you are ever bored enough to complete the single player, you won’t find anything new online (unless you’re playing a user created map).

The single player may be a letdown in nearly every department except one, and that’s visually. This is where Epic really shows how they can work their magic with Unreal Engine. Everything has a unique look, whether it’s a shiny wall dripping slime or your favourite gun charging up with bio waste, it’s all a pleasure to the eyes.

Each team has a different look and there’s no surprise that Unreal Engine compliments them all. Every colour and texture has been looked after in this game, and visually it is one of the more impressive-looking games on the market today.

Once you grow bored of the Campaign mode, the online mode is definitely worth the money you paid for this game. Before I went online, I had a look around the options menu and found a nice little feature that enabled me to install the game on my HDD and cut out all the loading times. This was a great help and emphasized what Mark Rein was saying about how he wanted all the perks of the PC version left intact on the console version.

I’ve always heard that Unreal Tournament is a series with online play that is hard to rival, and once I selected online multiplayer the fun times started to roll. When you begin, you may select and customize your character, then jump straight into the servers.

Be careful, though, because all of the perks of the PC come with the bad. If you jump into any game near full capacity, you’re 99% sure to find lag. Not a little lag, but a full-blown 10 second delay, where you won’t know who you killed or who killed you.

In other words, it’s unplayable. I learned this the hard way, but soon found that the un-ranked games are less full and a good game can always be found there.

Another PC perk, and the best of them all, are the mods. These are user generated content for the game itself, and just like on the PC it’s all free with no strings attached. Mods can come in any shape or form, such as weapons, maps, or new perks. They are not limited to what the developer can think of, but what the community wants.

I got around to installing one mod and it’s as easy as pie. All you need is a memory stick and two minutes of your time. If you can’t be bothered to do it, that’s no problem either– if you join a game using mods you will automatically download them to keep.

And some mods can really elevate the game to another level, with new third person camera angles (an over the shoulder Gears of War look) and new game modes – some of which you wish were in the game from the outset.

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There is also the use of keyboard and mouse, if you wish to call that a mod. It’s just plug-and-play, but after using it I still prefer the Sixaxis, mainly because it’s not very practical stretching the USB cables and trying to get comfy in the couch. I didn’t want to sit directly in front of my 32” LCD and burn my eyes out of their sockets, but for some players, keyboard and mouse support is a godsend, especially if you buy yourself a wireless bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

So far my online experiences have been nothing but great, but I have noticed a few things as I’ve continued playing. Apart from the lag in ranked games, which can make the game unplayable, there is as yet no voice chat. This can be a killer to anyone starting a clan or just looking to find online friends to play regularly with. A ranking system would be a god send as well.

A combination of great online play and a ranking system kept me coming back again and again in Call of Duty 4, and Unreal Tournament III has the online play factor but a ranking system would really help with the whole “I need to get just one more rank” factor of the game.

Unleashing the game on consoles for the first time meant UT3 had two roads it could go down. It could change completely for new fans and adapt to the console life, or stick to its roots and keep all the older fans while making some new ones.

So does Unreal Tournament III make the cut? Yes, since the fact that this game has so much going for it in the multiplayer department makes it easy to overlook the lag and poor single campaign, which in all honesty could have been dropped. I played this game religiously online and loved the visuals. It also shows what consoles can do if the developers put their minds to it, with lots of mods and no load times. Forget the campaign mode and get online!ripten-score-75.jpg

What does this score mean? Check out our review scoring breakdown.