We’re only a few missions into the Unreal Tournament III campaign, not tremendously far, but far enough to have heard a speech from series regular Malcolm that plunged beyond parody and irony into some bizarre b-boy timewarp.
There’s a full single player campaign going here, jammed into a universe that for most people is only home to brutal space tournaments. As a result, flags are no longer ordinary flags, they’re FLaGs, which have something to do with power(?). Also, the cores are… something? And respawners… I don’t know. I really enjoy fluff, which probably comes as no surprise. There is a lot of really fantastic science fiction that deals with the kind of deathless society that actual respawning would create - Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon is a must. But the part at the beginning? Where you kill your own sister ten times, searing the flesh from her bones as a tutorial? I don’t know. I’m not sure the game needed its underpinnings exposed to this level. I think it’s actually harmed it. If you have ever attended a sporting event, you know that people consider sports to be sufficiently epic. There’s a story, written in that universe, that takes the tournament and the rest of the themes introduced seriously. It’s just not done here.
Not that it matters, of course: this is the Unreal Tournament you already know and love, or don’t love, at any rate it’s Unreal Tournament. I was surprised to see how well the game scaled to my older hardware when I played the demo, but the deja vu was overwhelming and I couldn’t withstand it for very long. Playing the game on the PlayStation 3 actually injected some novelty into the proceedings, without the feeling that you’re giving up much in the visuals department. When we play the PS3 online, like many other people we typically don’t speak - we don’t have the mics available - but that’s easily remedied. I think getting on and playing through the campaign mode cooperatively would be a hoot, though, marking the first time a game on that platform has pulled our group away from the nightly 360 ritual.
Mod support on the PS3 has been a remarkably elegant PR maneuver for both Sony and Epic, scourging Microsoft’s tender, unguarded flank with a profound populist message. Never mind that the PS3 version didn’t actually support mods at launch, and even now that they are patching in their campaign promises you can’t just download mods from the PlayStation browser and use them directly. Mods need to come over on memory cards for some inexplicable reason. Indeed, gamers lured by the promise of the $400 forty gig machine (or those who purchased the twenty-gig, as I did) don’t even have the slots to use mods built in. Oh, you weren’t aware? I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear that.