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 360, just as it did on PS3. UT has always been known for its super fast twitch gameplay, and it still remains very fast, but UT3 on both consoles 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 how Epic's Unreal Engine 3 has performed on the Xbox 360 already, we expected UT3 to look brilliant and run smoothly, and it doesn't disappoint. UT3 really is a stunning-looking game that's up there with the best the console has produced. 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 Xbox 360 game doesn't look quite as superb as the PC game running on a high-end machine, it's a remarkably good effort by Epic. The texture detail is outstanding and the frame rate is beautifully smooth. On an HD TV the Gothic, war-torn meaty marine art direction really shines and the game as a whole shows what UE3 powered games should look like.
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. Xbox 360 owners hoping to be able to use user created maps as PS3 and PC owners are able to are out of luck, but this 360 release does include five maps not found in the original PS3 release and two new characters. It also includes an impressive split-screen mode across all game modes (except of course online ranked matches - that would be cheating!). It's certainly a nice addition, although we imagine most people would trade it for nigh on unlimited playable maps.
Unreal Tournament 3 for the Xbox 360 is a stunning looking, slick and polished FPS that every competitive 360 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 CoD: World at War and Gears 2 arrive? We think so.
For a more detailed look at how the Xbox 360 game compares to the PS3 version, check back tomorrow for a video comparison.