Do you, the game-playing public, care at all about Unreal Tournament anymore? That’s a question I had to ask myself when I started playing the PC version of Unreal Tournament III after its release late last year. Personally, I was thrilled to see the UT formula updated with a new engine and new potential for modification. But in the months ahead, something didn’t quite feel right. The servers felt a little emptier, and the mod sites felt a little more barren, as well. Had the once-thriving UT community splintered off and gotten into different games?
Checking back in on the PC version of UT3 today, things seem to have picked up a bit on the mapping and modding side. It might not be as hot and heavy as it has been with previous UT games, but there’s a good chunk of interesting content out there already, with more on the horizon.
All of this, from the still-forming mod scene to the lack of players on the PC makes me wonder how well the game will do on the Xbox 360, where it’s scheduled to land this summer, with retail sites reporting the specific, but unofficial date of June 30. After playing an early 360 version, it definitely seems like almost all of the pieces are in place for it to be a great version of a great game.
The game already performs just fine, with a good, sharp frame rate, good control, and plenty of available content. The 360 version has a new split-screen mode, allowing two players to get together on one machine. Also, you’ll get five new maps and two new characters, giving you more out of the box than the game has had on other platforms.
But, of course, there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s the ongoing discussions with Microsoft about user-generated content. The Unreal series has thrived on the PC due to an extremely active community of people making new maps, character models, and mods for the game, and PS3 users have been able to benefit, as UT3 on PS3 does have the hooks in place to use mods and other unofficial content. While representatives for Epic and Midway have indeed said that the talks continue, Microsoft officials have made their stance fairly public: allowing users to download content from the Internet and place it into an Xbox 360 game is too big of a security risk. Without that expandability, the 360 version would be way less exciting than its PC and PS3 counterparts.
Assuming that Microsoft doesn’t change its position, the 360 version of the game will be crippled in a way that the other versions aren’t. 360 players be stuck getting all of their UT3 updates directly from Xbox Live Marketplace. Perhaps Epic and Midway will try to license and collate the best user stuff from the other platforms and release them as regular updates in lieu of handing us the keys directly. But if you’ve been playing UT for any length of time, you already know that isn’t the same thing.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how this one turns out.