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     " I have to wonder what the hell is going on when you take FIVE YEARS to produce a sequel and it is INFERIOR to your previous game. "

      Title: Unreal Tournament 3 by Midway

      Format: Xbox 360 Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: One of the most famous and venerable first person shooter franchises of all time finally makes it way as a faithful port to the Xbox in all its low-grav hopping, insta-gibbing glory. But will this latest installment finally live up to the series' pedigree or is it just another attempt to cash in on a well-known name? Read on, my Monkeys, and find out.

      What This Monkey Thought...

          I have to admit, right off the bat, that my feelings are conflicted as I start writing this review. The reason, simply enough, is that there are several different ways to look at this game and, depending on how you weigh them, you can reach very different conclusions as to the title's overall worth.
          On the one hand I want to judge it very strongly on its technical merits. Unreal Tournament 3 (UT3) is, without a doubt, one of the best-running shooters on the 360 to date. It is bright and shiny, with great graphics (though definitely not the best on the 'Box), awesome levels, and a wide array of weapons and equipment to destroy your adversaries with. It has a multiplayer experience that includes bots, something not nearly enough games do, and sports framerates that don't drop regardless of how many other people you have slugging it out with you on-line. All of which is awesome.
          It is also the first truly functional version of the Unreal franchise on a console, so if you've never owned a gaming PC it might be the first time you've seen the ultra fast-paced, frenetic gameplay that made the series the definitive "twitch" shooter of the last decade. UT3 includes absolutely everything that the PC version has, including most of the mutators (game-altering extras that add things like one-hit kills and low gravity), all of the patches and updates, and, as a bonus, a 360-only campaign mode that takes you on journey of loss and revenge. All of which is also good.
          So at this point you might be saying, "then what's the problem, Mojo? It sounds great...why are you conflicted?"
          The answer, oh lonely reader who must attempt to simulate human contact by conversing with your monitor, is that the game is both trite and stripped down. It is, for those of you who have followed the franchise over the years, essentially just a prettier-but-cannibalized version of Unreal Tournament 2004. It is exactly the same game with absolutely no real upgrades or improvements. The weapons are the same, the vehicles are mostly the same...heck, even the models are reused. There are a few token improvements and additions--the guns feel more balanced and there are a few new vehicles that are cool looking, if nothing else--but in the vast majority it is really nothing more than a graphical update. There is no functional change to the mechanics, no dramatic alterations to the environment, and no innovation to the gameplay what-so-ever.
          What's worse, for some reason that is completely unknown to either man or monkey, they actually stripped off most of the game modes. Gone are classics like Assault, Bombing Run, Domination, and Invasion...leaving you with nothing but Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Warfare (what used to be Onslaught).
          Even the campaign, which in truth is just a series of random games strung together by a couple of cut scenes, doesn't extend beyond this formula. It's Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Warfare...Warfare, Capture the Flag, and Deathmatch...over and over again, repeat ad nauseum.
          Now, I may only be a simple jungle Monkey, but even I have to wonder what the hell is going on when you take FIVE YEARS to produce a sequel and it is INFERIOR to your previous game. Sure, it's prettier, but that's all it is. Same weapons, in many cases same maps, and fewer game modes.
          So what the hell is going on?
          I wish I knew.
          And, thus, I'm torn on how to rate the game. On the one hand, UT3 performs solidly, there's no doubt about that, and is marvelously fast-paced with a very balanced feel. It is absolutely classic twitch faire.
          On the other hand, it is a game that was last considered innovative several generations ago. It has none of the nuance or depth that a game like Call of Duty 4 has, and has inexplicably taken an evolutionary step backwards even when compared with its own franchise.
           So, in the end, I guess I have to judge it exactly as such. It is a solid twitch shooter that is easy on the eyes and smooth in the action...but that feels lacking and brings absolutely nothing new to the party.
      The Verdict:

      The Good: Pretty, smooth, and solid...engine-wise it is probably the apex of the twitch shooter.

      The Bad: Cut-down, recycled, and seems to be meant for people who aren't looking for anything new in a game.

      The Overall Ugly: It is undeniably fun to play...but you'll spend the entire time wondering why they didn't give you more.

      What it's Worth: Rental.

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