A couple of days ago, a friend of mine was telling me how he had recently bought a copy of Unreal Tournament 3 and that I had to get a copy myself and play it with him at some point.
I remember getting the game when it first came out (which happens to be the same year Team Fortress 2 came out), and I didn’t think too much of it.
My main game back then was Unreal Tournament 2004, and UT3 felt very different. Plus, at the time of release it was a buggy, nigh unplayable piece of shit.
The community I played with back then actually had to massively shrink their number of servers at the time because they bought these shiny UT3 servers and no one was playing. Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy about it. But this was four years ago. Since then, I’ve seen other games released and also sequels to those aforementioned games. And I’ve subsequently given them away for free on Steam. And not all of them were that good. Surely now would be a good time to give it a second chance.
About the game
UT3 goes back to what the original Unreal Tournament games felt like. As it turns out, UT2004 was a bastard child that not many of the original fans really took a liking to. The feel of this game is so drastically different fromwhat I was used to that I could barely move myself around. Since I left the UT2004 world, however, getting used to the controls was pretty much a non-issue and wouldn’t be an issue for anyone picking up the game today. A major difference was that your character actually feels like a physical being rather than a super light-weight puppet* Apart from physics changes, a few of new additions/subtle changes, and a graphics update everything feels the same. Playing this game again had the same feeling of coming back home after travelling the world; everything was just how you left it.
The Unreal games aren’t anything like more recent or popular shooters. It’s way more ‘out there’ than games like Battlefield or Call of Duty and doesn’t nudge players to fill a specific role like Team Fortress 2. You do what you have to in order to win and that’s it.
There aren’t any quarrels about a certain set up being over or under powered, no one yells at you for using a certain weapon, and you won’t have a chance of winning unless you work as a team (if you’re playing a team-based game, of course). So far, I’ve only seen one person call someone else a noob and that was because the noob in question out-manoeuvred the other guy who turns out to be a sore loser. Everyone called him out on it too, which was nice. “You got killed by a noob? That doesn’t say much about you then does it?” is a phrase that I’ve not seen almost chanted by a full server in quick succession since… Well, since I last played an Unreal game four years ago.
The feeling I got from seeing that display of human decency was something more than just nostalgia; seeing a new platforming Sonic game is nostalgia but this was just something so much more raw and pure feeling. It’s like meeting up with that girl/guy you had a crush on in school, seeing that they’ve not changed a bit and that they’re telling you that you’re going out for a drink. It’s fucking awesome, and that’s just from seeing people act nice towards each other.
The weapons and other pick-ups, the important shit in any arena shooter, are still just as fun to use. Rocket Launchers (not your pansy Team Fortress launchers, this baby can fire three at a time in a spiral that locks on to players), Flak Cannons, Sniper Rifles, Jump boots, Shield belts, Plasma Rifles, Link Guns (which still has the best alternate-fire kill description ever), Translocators, Hoverboards, and the Bio Rifle, one of my favourites. That’s not even all the guns. Shit, I just remembered one that I should never forget about: The Redeemer. This baby is is a hand-held nuclear missile which you can guide manually and use to inflict serious damage. The above guns are just some of the basics–there are a bunch of other guns that are specific to certain game modes that are either weapons in their own right or replace a pre-existing weapon.
Also, as I touched upon earlier, there’s no specific player role to fill or automatic loadouts for a player to spawn with. You spawn with a melee weapon and a pistol, the rest is up to you to find and cause mayhem with.
There are also more than enough game modes to enjoy. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Vehicle CTF are the self-explanatory ones that are included in a number of games now. Then, you have Warfare, which is capturing points but with vehicles, and, depending on the map, there are some context sensitive objectives. These are either required or will give your team a massive advantage.
Greed is a ‘collectible TDM’ type game where your kills drop a number of skulls, which changes depending on their own kills, and which you then need to take to a capture zone. Betrayal is an interesting one where your two-man team earn points for each kill depending on how well you and your opponents are doing (if they’re all worthless peons they’re only worth one point, but if he’s the dude in first place then he could be worth 50 points). What’s interesting in Betrayal is that you can betray your teammate by killing him and taking his points to increase your team’s score. Things can go from being team versus team to a free-for-all quite quickly. I think I’m forgetting a game mode or two as well, but with the nature of the next section, you’ll see why.
MODS! MODS EVERYWHERE!
There are so many mods for Arena Shooters that it just gets silly trying to list them for just the Unreal games let alone all of them ever made. But let’s try anyway!
- Team Arena Master (TAM): Basically like Team Deathmatch but you don’t respawn after you die a la Counter-Strike.
- Freon: When you die, you become frozen in place and need to be thawed out by teammates huddling up to you for X amount of time. So… Freeze tag.
- Instagib: This is technically a mutator (name for a small mod that doesn’t change the game mode as a whole in the UT universe), but it still makes things VERY interesting. You only get the one hitscan gun but it blasts people into chunky giblets as soon as you hit them. Hence the name Insta-Gib.
- Big head mode: Goldeneye fans play UT too!
- Infinite Chaos: Everyone’s weapons fire faster and have infinite ammo. Good, gory, stress-relieving fun for when EVERYTHING MUST DIE.
- Invasion/Horde Mode: I got quite angry when someone said that Gears of War 2 revolutionised how multiplayer can work when they came up with a game mode of players fighting against waves of enemies. I got angry because Unreal Tournament had beaten them by four years and it was more fun. Technically this WAS a game mode rather than a mod but this is where I cheat by saying that people changed it in there own way and even added…
- RPG elements and XP abilities: Yep, before Call of Duty started having people leveling up in multiplayer to get perks, there was an Unreal mod for it. One of the highest level unlocks was a killstreak bonus that summoned a giant nuke. Sound familiar?
- Some game you may never had heard of: TEAM FORTRESS 2! Valve didn’t give The Original Quake sounds and a different view point because someone fucked up the coding and Team Fortress Classic doesn’t look like shit because they were lazy. Team Fortress was originally a Quake mod and a damned popular one at that.
- Skyrim: Not really but with all the retards Googling ‘Arrow to the knee’ jokes I’ve just drawn more attention to this article. **
- Speaking of memes: Remember that hand-held remote controlled nuclear missile weapon that I mentioned before called The Redeemer? Yeah, there’s a mod that turns that into Nyan Cat.
Those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. There are THOUSANDS of mods out there for arena shooters. Hell, Unreal Tournament always has a ‘Make something Unreal’ contest involving mods, maps, and full game conversions. What’s doubly impressive is that these aren’t made by game designers in their spare time to just show off–these are made by people playing the game who have an idea and say to themselves “You know what? I’m going to create this and put it in the game”. They don’t get paid (actually, I think winners of the contests may have gotten a cash prize but it’s more than contest winners creating content), and most of the time no one can even remember the creator’s name. All people remember is how much fun they had playing with the mod.
Valve currently has a good thing going with the Workshop or whatever it’s called where you can get paid if they actually put the item in the game, but it feels like they’re somewhat missing the point. People don’t mod the game or add maps because they want to be paid. They do it because they love doing it. In my opinion, if hats hadn’t exploded into such a ridiculous thing, then Valve would likely be letting people download the fan-made items free of charge as just reskins.
It’s a real shame that there isn’t more modding being done nowadays, but I’m guessing it’s because you don’t have as blank a template any more. Take UT or Quake, for example. Players are just a generic dude who goes around killing shit with weapons that they pick up as they go along, or they might spawn with three or four of them. You can do so much with that and change stuff around. I imagine there’s almost nothing you can’t do.
Then there’s Team Fortress 2. You have two distinct teams (no free-for-all modes), with nine separate classes with different health and movement values. The classes can only use certain weapons/equip and certain items that, with only a couple of exceptions (shotgun and pistol), can ONLY be used by that class. There’s still fair bit that you can do with that but it’s nowhere near as much. That isn’t to say that there’s nothing of worth out there (namely the Prophunt and Saxton Hale mods are fun), but they don’t seem to have that staying power. Saxton Hale can get boring if you die early, and people who play Prophunt all the time know all the tricks of the map and hide in places you would never bother looking, unless you too play it a hell of a lot. But, these are things to talk about another time.
Let’s not complicate things
It seems that gamers now want strict direction from their games. You are this guy, this is what you do, you can also do Y and Z if you want, but X is your main thing. Why? What was wrong with “Here are guns, other players are over there, they want to kill you, kill them for points”? What was wrong with “You are Mascot B, run to the right, don’t die to win”? Nothing. Nothing at all was wrong with them, and those who are old enough to remember playing them know this. But we get fucked over by companies making crappy remakes/games with the same name so that they can cash in on nostalgia. They add stuff that isn’t necessary, they spend too much money in departments that don’t really matter, and the fans end up hating it because silly things get added that don’t fit the game (like Sonic with a sword).
You can’t add too much extra stuff to an arena shooter. If you add too much, it stops being an arena shooter. If you were ever a fan of the Unreal series, get UT3. If you never played an Unreal Tournament game before, get UT3. If you’ve never played an arena shooter before, go get UT3. It may be a few years old but there are still a lot of people who play it, and it’s £14/$20 on Steam. It was actually on sale over the summer, so you know that some people bought it just to try it out and have stuck around. The servers are populated, you’re going to get a good connection (European players have Multiplay servers to go to and there are a lot of American servers out there too), and it’s affordable. Hell, it’s within the “Yeah, I can spend that” range of money for buying a Christmas present for someone. You have no excuse to not play this game and start having fun.
* Essentially the difference between fighting on Earth and Planet Vegeta.
** It’s the new ‘Cake is a Lie’ and I can’t be the only one who’s sick and tired of it already