Unreal Tournament 3 represents a departure of sorts from its predecessors. While the early UTs were billed as sort of the blood sport of the future, Unreal Tournament 3 will usher in a single-player campaign about an intergalactic war and featuring characters that look like they were from the casting call for Gears of War, another Epic game. But while Gears of War is a very tactical game about using cover, Unreal Tournament 3, just like its predecessors, is about lightning-fast run-and-gun gameplay where you'll do a lot of killing and dying, but you're always able to respawn within seconds to continue the fight.
Though Unreal Tournament 3 will have a single-player story, the game is still built around the idea of intense multiplayer battles, either against computer-controlled bots or other players online. (While the PC supports up to 32 players, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions will support up to 16.) There will be a number of modes in the game, ranging from simple deathmatch to team-based games such as capture the flag, vehicle capture the flag, and warfare. Deathmatch is pretty self-explanatory--it's every player for him or herself in the race to rack up kills--so we'll dive into CTF, VCTF, and warfare.
Capture the flag is a familiar mode in most games. Each team has a flag that it has to defend while at the same time trying to capture the opposing team's flag. Unreal Tournament's twist on this is to toss in the translocator, a device that lets you teleport over short distances, which makes it possible to dash into a heavily defended room, grab the flag, and then disappear in the blink of an eye. While the translocator isn't a new development in Unreal Tournament 3, it still plays a huge role.
Unreal Tournament 3's multiplayer really starts to differentiate itself when you get to vehicle capture the flag, which is just what it sounds like. VCTF is capture the flag on larger maps that support a wide array of vehicles, and that allows for a much more epic struggle. There are some caveats regarding VCTF that are particularly helpful. For instance, if you grab the flag you can't get in and drive or ride in a vehicle.
Instead, you've got to carry it on foot or use the hoverboard, the new piece of equipment in Unreal Tournament 3. The hoverboard replaces the translocator in VCTF and warfare games and it is basically a hovering skateboard. The idea behind the hoverboard is to get you back into the action quickly, because there's nothing worse than finding yourself on foot in the wrong corner of the map, away from all the action. In UT 2004, that meant hoofing it for a minute or two, but in Unreal Tournament 3 you can hop on the board and zip around in style.
The hoverboard is a welcome addition to Unreal Tournament. However, it is easy to get carried away with it, and you have to consider two key things. First, while racing around on the hoverboard you cannot use your weapons. Second, if you're hit by even the slightest weapons fire you'll be knocked off of the board, which is pretty much a death sentence because it takes several seconds to get off the ground, leaving plenty of time for your attacker to finish you off.
Using the board is very much a risk/reward proposition, but there are some additional benefits to riding it. For instance, you can "grapple" onto passing vehicles, letting them tow you around the map at higher speeds. Thus, while a flag carrier can't ride in a vehicle, he could jump on his board, grapple a teammate's ride, and zip back to safety. This even works for flying vehicles, and there are maps in the game that are designed so that it's faster for the flag carrier if he can be airlifted across a divide.
We experienced VCTF on a map called Suspense, which is set in and around a high-tech suspension bridge. The goal is for each team to capture the opposing team's flag three times in order to win, but doing so can be awfully difficult. The primary approach to either side's base is the bridge itself, which is a fairly open and narrow kill zone where your vehicles and infantry can get chewed up quickly. It's possible for infantry to run or hoverboard up the cables to reach the upper support structure of the bridge, where sniper weapons and amped-damage power-ups await.
Yet perhaps the most potent weapon up there is the Longbow AVRIL, an antivehicle rocket launcher that can lock onto and track vehicles. The high perch makes it easy to knock out tanks below on the bridge, as well as various air units that are flying about. The only limitation is that the AVRIL comes with a small amount of ammunition, and there's no way to replenish your supply of rockets.