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Unreal Tournament III Review

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We need guns, lots of guns...

★★★★★

It’s hard to predict the exact point where you’ll fall in love with UTIII. Perhaps it’s when you first unleash a laser that melts your opponent’s flesh, reducing even the burliest space marine to a pile of smoking bones. Or maybe it’s when you get your hands on a Redeemer – the most powerful gun in gaming history – that can vaporise teams of opponents with a teeth-rattling nuclear shockwave. But, if you’re a megalomaniac like us, the game will win your heart when you clamber into the cockpit of a War Of The Worlds-style tripod that emits a menacing growl as it rises to full height, then casually sears everything in its path with a crimson energy beam.

By now you should have realised that UTIII isn’t Rainbow Six. And even though it’s from the same people who delivered Gears Of War, the gut-knotting tension of strategic shootouts is all-but missing from this latest entry in the Unreal series. Instead, UTIII is all about balls-out blasting, lightning-paced gunplay and the desire to frag your friends in the dirtiest way possible, harking back to the halcyon days of mutltiplayer blasters such as Quake and providing a delirious change of pace from the harrowing wartime adventures and surly tactical shooters that dominated the charts in 2007.

But while there’s nothing essentially new amongst the carnage, what makes UTIII a brutal joy is its staggering array of weapons; from the time-honoured rocket launchers, sniper rifles and miniguns, to unique blasters such as a cannon that fires skin-eating spiders and a time-distortion bubble where fleeing rivals’ are slowed to a snail’s pace, each of the game’s tools of destruction are a thrill to use and will cause your heart to skip a beat when you spot a favourite spawning in the arena. Even better, each weapon boasts a secondary function that can be used in prickly situations - the Redeemer’s fly-by-wire missiles are particularly memorable - and while the armaments are unfeasibly powerful, the developers have maintained a sharp sense of balance, meaning that even the most tooled-up warrior can be stopped if you’re smart enough to spot their Achilles’ heel.

Adding to UTIII’s battlefield bedlam are a host of new vehicles – including traditional tanks and jeeps, alongside HR Giger-inspired biomech war machines – all of which can be commandeered as the skirmishes unfold. And if you need a quick getaway, each character now carries a hoverboard that would make Marty McFly proud, a nippy device that leaves you vulnerable to attack but can make the difference between success and failure when chasing an enemy half-inching your team flag.

In terms of multiplayer options, UTIII is crammed with familiar classics – deathmatch, capture the flag, you can guess the rest – along with a batch of new challenges that are sure to become fan favourites. One notable new mode, Warfare, challenges players to destroy an enemy installation and a series of bases along the way, a frantic scramble of ever-shifting battlefronts that can see fights lasting for over an hour and reducing the hardiest player to a quivering wreck of nerves.

The only downside is that, unless you purchase the PS3 version, you’ll need a PC of HAL 9000 proportions to run the game, and even the most souped-up machine will have trouble handling the intense action. But even if it costs a small fortune to get the best from UTIII, habitual gun toters shouldn’t begrudge a penny.

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