Unreal Tournament III - hands-on

Liandri Corp has a problem. A problem with three legs, two drivers and a horrible death beam that scorches the earth, leaving carcasses of vehicles in its wake. Currently, that problem is smack in the center of a CTF map that Epic included in Unreal Tournament III.

It's called the Dark Matter Walker, and it's just about the most fun we've had in a vehicle, since... well. Two minutes ago when we were on a hoverboard, hitching a lift to the front line by hooking on to the back of a speeder bike with an electric rope. The Dark Walker is slow; it takes a good minute or so to get into position. In the meantime you can play with its height. The flexible legs allow you to duck under any obstacle. Or you could fiddle with the alternate fire. It's a concussive burst that knocks anyone on foot backward, ready to be picked off.

Piloting the Dark Walker is absurdly fun. Producer Jeff Morris beams, "Yeah, it really is. It comes from the way we work. We iterate, iterate, iterate until everything is fun. The concussive blast was only put in the game a few weeks ago. Did you try the speeder bike?"

We did indeed. The speeder bike is a lightning fast rocket machine that can launch itself a good 100 meters into the sky in an exaggerated leap. Press the alternate fire while you're up in the air and the bike turns itself into a piloted missile. Unreal Tournament III has this streak of ludicrous insanity running right through it. It never stops being fun, even when you're on the losing side.

At the moment, that side is the newly fleshed out Liandri Corp. Morris points to a new emphasis on storytelling within the game. That’s because "more than half of our players never venture online with Unreal 2003 or 2004. Instead, they play with bots." To cater to their needs, a new single-player campaign is being built. Aliens have invaded Liandri facilities and, as a deathmatch veteran, you're recruited to the fight.

Rather than dump you into an arena with AI opponents, you'll be given missions within in each match: steal plans, root out infestations, or simply take down rivals. Nothing too complicated, just salt on an already sumptuous game feast.

And we can tell just how entertaining this game is by the cross-table shouts. The enemy, united by our brilliance, have got us cornered. A tank has crossed the front line and is shelling us. Meanwhile, a Hellbender armored support vehicle is lobbing circular bombs. Behind it, two more troopers begin locking on with rocket launchers. It's too much. The Walker collapses, legs buckling. We leap out. More cheers. They've cleared a route forward. We're vaporized in a second barrage. They cheer again.

Respawn. We've got to get back to the front line. And, oh look, another Walker just spawned...


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