Since the development of Unreal Tournament has been suspended by Epic Games, those who want a dose of the franchise have to look back to 2007’s Unreal Tournament 3.
That means we have to rewind to a time when “more of the same” was the philosophy of the gaming industry. This isn’t always a bad thing, but the third main entry in the Unreal series is very much a product of its time.
Unreal Tournament 3 has all the meat that made the series famous. The most basic modes, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag, all play out just as they have in hundreds of other games. The exception here is that the Unreal Tournament series is OG when it comes to fast-paced multiplayer gaming, and UT3 continues that tradition well.
The action is fast, and the controls are tight and straightforward. You can pull off maneuvers like double-jumping, side-dashing, and wall-jumping with ease, which makes the tightly-packed levels more interesting. The game ends up being very vertical, as jumping is one of the best ways to avoid fire and get the drop on your enemy.
The only problem with these basic gameplay modes is that what was once innovative has become an industry standard. When playing UT3, you’ll likely have a blast for 30 minutes or so before you start getting bored.
There have been games since Unreal Tournament 3 that do Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes better. It was fun when it came out, but even in 2007 UT3 wasn’t innovative. Now, it just feels old.
Warfare Mode, the key mode of UT3, is more interesting. In Warfare, there are vehicles, the maps are bigger, and the objective is more unique. In this mode, you must capture nodes across the map.
While it usually takes a bit to capture a node, if you are holding an orb, then you can instantly seize it. Alternatively, you can use it to defend an already-captured node for a short amount of time. However, once you kill an orb carrier, either side may claim it for a short period until it respawns in its original position.
If there’s one reason to play Unreal Tournament 3, it’s because of Warfare Mode. No game really captures the same kind of dynamic. In turn, it makes other modes feel more like bonuses than key parts of the game.
There’s even a story in Unreal Tournament 3. Save your stationary, though; it’s not anything to write home about. UT3’s campaign has you fighting the Necris as a member of the Ronin, a band of survivors of a Skarrj attack. Unfortunately, this just kind of pulls from the single-player Unreal lore without actually offering a full-fledged single-player experience.
While there is an actually story here, you’re basically just playing matches against bots between cutscenes. This means you’ll be fighting deathmatches and playing Capture the Flag against the A.I.
You’ll appreciate the single-player campaign. However, it goes against what people actually want from an Unreal Tournament game. Players aren’t playing Unreal Tournament 3 to fight bots; they’re in it to take on real people. However, the story mode does make a good tutorial for multiplayer, which is the real meat of the game.
One of the significant improvements Unreal Tournament 3 has over its predecessor, Unreal Tournament 2004, is its graphics. In 2007, Unreal Engine 3 had only been around for around a year when UT3 was released, and Epic Games was fresh off developing Gears of War. The game launched on a new generation of consoles, and with its newer engine, put previous Unreal games to shame.
You can really see the Gears of War influence in the models and textures of Unreal Tournament 3. The models are hulking, and everything is somewhat gritty. That wasn’t terrible for 2007, but you’ve likely seen around 100 games that look precisely like UT3. In its defense, it’s more that a ton of games ripped off Gears of War and UT3’s look that seeing it now makes the style seem so tired.
Despite the overused style, the graphics hold up decently today. UT3 mostly suffers when it comes to effects. You’re not going to find the fancy lighting effects that come standard issue in today’s shooters. However, the gameplay is fast-paced enough that you don’t really notice the old effects when you’re actually playing.
Unreal Tournament 3 hasn’t aged very well. This isn’t because it wasn’t good to begin with. It was a great, fast-paced shooter in 2007. But in the past 12 years, many games have done what UT3 did better.
If you’re looking for a nostalgic, fast-paced shooter, UT3 is worth picking up. You can probably find a used copy pretty cheap, and it definitely delivers a competent experience. Warfare Mode is the one thing that keeps the game relevant today, and it’s worth playing just for that.