Unreal Tournament 3 Demo - Thoughts

Its no massive secret that I'm a big fan of the Unreal Tournament series...its the little clues like calling all my servers Deck 16, and adding in my own "KILLING SPREE!" commentary in other games.

The current trend for FPS games is for realism and "tactics". The Unreal series laughs at these concepts, and instead generates its fun from giving you control of a super-human with a huge-ass cannon. It's the Bruce Willis of the genre, with no plot, but lots of car chases and explosions.

The demo for Unreal Tournament 3 (nee UT2K7, before they changed the naming convention to avoid Madden-isms) dropped a couple of days ago. It weighs in at about 750 Meg, and contains 3 maps, online play and bot support. To reduce size it also only contains one skin for players.

I had a couple of issues installing the demo, mainly due to the way my gaming rig was set up. I have my OS in a separate partition, with all temp directories specified in another, much larger partition. The installer insisted on unpacking in the OS partition rather than the specified path, meaning I had to clean out some space. This has been noted by a lot of users on the official forums, and hopefully won't affect the full game install.

Once you are in you're in familiar territory...the menu paths are very similar to previous incarnations, so for left-handed me its a visit to the config to map keys, check out the video options and up the resolution, then into a deathmatch.

One of the big advantages that UT has had over competitors (Quake, Battlefield etc etc) is its bot support. Its one of the few "online shooters" where you can spend your entire life offline and still get value for your money. the bots are good enough, and smart enough, that you can learn to play the game in your own time, rather than the often depressing task of going online with a new game and getting repeatedly spanked during the learning curve. That Epic have included bots in the demo shows how important they realise this is. Having this ongoing single player support has also allowed UT to branch out into consoles, where the multi-player is still the added extra, and not the norm. it also gives the game a big "pick up and play" appeal, rather than having to plan in time to get online, find a game and go through to the end.

The other side of UT is that it is ultimately a tech-demo for Epic Unreal Engine. It's eye candy, and they know it. The screenshots I took were at 1280x1024, using level 4 of the internal settings (out of 5). I was getting consistantly smooth frames rates on Kitkat;

  • 3800+ Dual Core Athlon
  • 2 Gig DDR RAM
  • 7900GT Sli

As you can see, even then its graphical porn. On the top-of-the-line machine its going to be obscene, but it should play OK on most rigs.

Hopefully the full version will have slightly more granular graphic controls, to allow better tweaking, rather than a 1-5 sliding scale. The 3 maps that come with the demo are smallish, for 8-10 players. 2 are Deathmatch maps (Heatray and Shangri La), with options for Team DeathMatch and vs 1. The 3rd map is a Vehicle CTF Map (Suspense). I'm in 2 minds over the deathmatch maps...the "classic" UT maps tend to be slightly claustrophobic levels, bringing out violent bottlenecks, surprise meetings round corridors and general death pits. The 2 maps provided are both outside, and feel slightly too open (as you can see in the video, I was rarely unable to use the shock-whore combo, and there were no real grouping points). Ultimatley any FPS is only as good as its maps, so hopefully there will be some better ones (Deck 18?) in the full release.

The 3rd map is only for Vehicle CTF, and is based around a suspension bridge, with a base at each end. There is a tyical choice of routes, with vehicles restricted to the bridge, while foot troops can go over the top or under. One of the big issues with allowing vehicles onto a FPS map has always ben map size...to let vehicles be effective you need a bigger map, while to balance the game you have to make sure people on foot are not useless, and limit vehicle numbers. This often ends up in people having to trudge across large spaces, only to be killed and have to do it all over again. Vehicles can end just used as taxis, and in UT2K4 you often saw people clinging to the outside of machines in an attempt to move faster over the map. To alleviate this you now get a Back-to-the-Future-esque hoverboard in your kit, allowing you to shoot over the map on foot. Its limited by not allowing weapons to be usec, and if anything hits you you're knocked off and left as a target for a couple of seconds. For the truely insane you can grapple the rear of a vehicle and get towed along, the get slingshotted off when the driver handbreaks. Madness!

The vehicles themselves are easily recognisable from previous versions, with some tweaks. The Scorpion buggy is now enclosed, making it a little more durable, and has a grenade launcher rather than the energy bolas. The Hellbender jeep now lets the driver shoot, rather than just blow his horn. The Raptor flyer feels a little more sluggish. The Hellfire SPAM SPMA is back, but with a bit less range, but faster shells to compensate. The map itself didn't lend itself overly to insane driving, being mainly a flat straightaway, but the simplistic driving is still there. No massive changes there then.

Its a similar story with the weapons. The enforcer has changed in that it no longer throws grenades, but instead has a triple-shot alt-fire. It can be dual-weilded though...which is nice. The biggest change seems to be to the flak-cannon, as the alt-fire of an explosive ball seems to have ben shortened a lot, with a higher arc of fire. The sniper rifle is back, and they have added a tracer line to disadvantage campers. Other than that you'll find the weapons very familiar from previous installments.

As to the gameplay its hard to say...to me it feels a bit slower, and less insane, but this may be down to the maps. The movement and potential for violence still seems to be there, but without the clinch points to drive players together its all a bit more laid back. This may be a good thing in some ways, as it stops people getting horrendous twitches after half an hour, but it feels a little less "unreal" to me.

Deathmatch on Heatray. Who put that Walker there?

Link to Picasa Gallery of Screenshots


Thanks for a fabulous and comprehensive review (with screenies, hurrah). I see you took to shock whoring immediately. No shock there. Haw haw.

I am glad it runs ok on yours, even with the graphics set down, it might well run on mine and still be pretty. Is the engine DX10? The differences on the crysis demo have been staggering.

brainwipe's picture

Crysis is todays mission...I have the demo sitting on my machine now.

I think it does support DX10, but obviously not on my machine.

re: screenshots, actually peasantly surprised at how well Fraps worked...last time I tried it I got massive lag issues...this time I didn't even notice it was running...

babychaos's picture

I thought Epic had said they weren't bothering with DX10 since it offers them nothing they cant do with DX9 and only three people in the world can run DX10 (with only one of them liking games) making it a waste time

Evilmatt's picture

I can believe that...Cliffy B has always been very much in favour of making the engine as technically accessible as possible.

babychaos's picture

nice one mate. Looks good. I like some of the little touches, like the rocket launcher reticle changing to show how many you have loaded. Physics engine looks to have a similar feel, but that level does look very open...

Any word on morpheus? ;)

byrn's picture

Levels worry me less in games like this. There are hundreds, ney THOUSANDS of hobbyists champing at the bit to create levels for it. UT has always had a good editor (as EMW will no doubt testify), so I am sure that your favourite pinch-point or low gravity levels will be faithfully transferred.

brainwipe's picture

When is the game released?

UT is actually a FPS I really enjoy and from the clip it looks like more of the same, which IMHO is a good thing.

Dwain's picture

No official date as yet, but expect November apparently.

Crysis demo, for reference, runs like a pig on my rig, even turned down. Also some graphics issues.

babychaos's picture

That video made me think of the original doom for some reason, probably the low res

Evilmatt's picture

Eurogamers review of UT3 is up, with an 8 out of 10.


I agree with most of it...there is very little real gaming innovation here, its a refinement of Unreal Tournament. I said I felt it was a little slower, they felt a little faster. They reckon Warfare is awesome, and I'm really looking forward to that...

babychaos's picture

I had a go on the demo the other night when I was taking a break from assassinating people or collecting stars. It is very pretty and runs very smoothly at 1600*1200 on my machine which is functionally very equivalent to babyc's.

If felt like I was expecting more or less a refined updated version of ut2k4 with some nice new stuff and a shiny new engine. I had a go on a few of the new vehicles the dark walker and the hover board are a lot of fun I was stomping around blasting things and then being towed behind a tank for a bit.

UE3 isn't quite as amazing as the first time I saw it mainly due to exposure since I have played through 3 games using it in the intervening time (Gears of War, Bioshock, and Stranglehold) it's still very pretty and the attention to detail on the levels is impressive.

If we do reanimate the zombie of the Unreal pirates Mod it's going to be difficult to manage the kind of polish that that the standard maps manage.

I look forward to trying out the finished article when it shows up end of the week.

Evilmatt's picture

A good review that, Pete. I've not played the demo but have ordered the game. BRING IT ON.

No doubt, I'll be on the lower end of the specs running it but I can't wait nonetheless.

Matt, I think we might need a forum to resurrect our plans for the UT Mod.

brainwipe's picture

Hah! I laugh at your attempt to have the lowest spec!

That (dubious) honour will surely be mine :D

byrn's picture