Epic has employed a very subtle but very important tweak to how UT3 feels to play. It's less floaty than UT 2003 and UT 2004, and plays with a heightened sense of gravity. The double side steps, double jumps and wall dodges are all still there, but it feels a tiny bit slower - especially on PS3. UT has always been known for its super fast twitch gameplay, and it still remains very fast, but UT3 on PlayStation 3 feels noticeably slower than the PC version.
Rather than being a result of any technical shortcomings of the console, this has been done to make the game more accessible to console gamers. A controller still isn't nearly as good for speed and reaction aiming as a mouse, so we're happy the change has been made. Hardcore UT fans may moan, but they'll probably be playing the PC game anyway. If nothing else, Epic is doing all it can from within the confines of the UT series to open its doors to a new audience.
Given the problems the Unreal Engine 3 has had on the PlayStation 3 you'd be forgiven for having a few doubts of the visual quality of this PC to console port, but there's nothing to worry about. UT3 really is a stunning-looking game that's only really equalled on the PS3 by stunning action game Uncharted. Indeed, it's Epic's best-looking game yet, better even than Gears of War, as the developer's head honcho Mark Rein told me.
Although the PS3 version doesn't look quite as superb as the PC game running on high-end machine, it's a remarkably good effort by Epic. The texture detail is outstanding and the frame rate runs beautifully smooth most of the time. On an HD TV the Gothic, war-torn meaty marine art direction really shines and the game as a whole makes a mockery of the sub-par Unreal Engine 3 games the PS3 has suffered over the past year.
The single-player campaign - the most fleshed out the UT series has seen - is simply a series of battles with bots tied together by Gears of War-esque in-game cut-scenes - and won't keep anyone's attention for too long. It does, however, provide a solid training ground for newcomers to the series not brave enough to go straight online. It's the multiplayer that'll keep you coming back though, and thanks to the ability to use PC-made mods in the PS3 game you'll always have new maps to play if people are making them. It's also worth pointing out that this is one area where the PS3 could have a big upper hand over the forthcoming Xbox 360 game - the ability to use mods on the 360 is currently up in the air.
Gamers wondering if they're going to have to sit through a lengthy install before playing can rest easy as UT3 only forces you to install a small amount of data - a process that takes less than a minute. An optional, lengthier install reduces load times even further, but we found the load times to be more than acceptable with the default install. If you want a more PC-like experience you can use a USB keyboard and mouse, and you can choose to not play against those players if you feel they'll going to have an unfair advantage. Lastly, the server list actually shows the ping of the game, meaning you can get a good idea of the lag you're going to experience without having to rely on a vague set of Network strength bars.
Unreal Tournament 3 for the PlayStation 3 is a stunning looking, slick and polished FPS that every competitive PS3 gamer should add to their collection. It's difficult to see how UT can unleash itself from the shackles of its genre though. Should Epic even bother? Should we commend them for sticking to their guns and not pandering completely to a mainstream audience by revamping the game? It's great fun of course, and UT3 has done nothing that will put off fans of the genre. Question is: is it going to keep you captivated until the likes of Killzone 2 and Resistance 2 arrive? We think so.