Why is my UT so pretty?

ut3 teh sam3z0rz

I’ve got UT3. I’ve played the shit out of it. Surprised, right? I know, me too.

I’m not allowed to write a review on the thing because my editor isn’t very comfortable with sixty pages of what would likely be strikingly pornographic adulation being posted as a legitimate review. I don’t know that I could do anything like an objective review, though, so I guess he has a point. I am not kidding you when I say that I want to have sex with this game. No dinner, no movie, not even a few choice words about its pretty hoop earrings and swanky nightgown; my junk wants to be in this game’s trunk. Plain. Simple. END OF LINE.

This is the point where the adroit few of you take a small break while the remaining headshot fodder comes up with any way they can to make the above sound like I want to press up against dudes. I look at the game like a well kept woman, though. Curvy where she needs to be, sharp where it counts and intelligent enough to make me respect her no matter how many times she turns me over and calls me a n00b.

There is one point at which I am confused, though: the visual presentation is absolutely stunning. I run this hot-ware at crazy resolution with all bells and respective whistles, each an every one, turned up to ‘holy shit’. I am getting the complete package and it is an amazing package indeed. You’ve got your bump maps, your moving brushes, your HDR and bloom overuse, your colorful textures and about ninety-thousand-billion times the triangles crunched per second than the game’s software rendered ancestor(s) and it shows. But why?

Yes, I actually asked that. Why? Please don’t start composing your banal response about aesthetic and art and progress and hardware and all of that; the question is largely rhetorical. In fact, I think I know why, but I want you to sit on it a second. If you were one of the three guys out there who didn’t respond with the company line, I applaud you.

It isn’t about progress. In fact, I’m pretty sure it isn’t about presentation. It wasn’t until the game froze, leaving me suspended mid-jump while the home server, presumably, crunched the wrong numbers, that I even saw the questionable investment of resources. I hung there, sitting on a cloud as my enemy held an angry aim on me, and looked for a moment at the environment. Gears whirred in the walls, light bounced and refracted from all angles, sunbeams tore through the otherwise invariably dire sky and my enemy – some crocodiliac mangled mess of a monster – presented me bump mapping of the highest degree. There were bits of my teammates, I imagined I could see, still on his teeth.

It was all very beautiful and as I was stuck there in bad-code limbo it occurred to me that there was a reason for the shine and sheen: Screenshots. The game looks amazing in screenshots. Screenshots sell games. You can’t show gameplay in a screenshot – not with any depth. Screenshots sell games. Screenshots sell games. I was, stuck there while the master server attempted zero division, exactly where they marketed me to be.

It occurred to me then that the time that it took to make that moving gear brush in the wall could’ve been better used making it so I didn’t get stuck there in the sky like that. I’d never have seen it anyway. The game is the king of twitch action. If you stop long enough to notice anything but the basic structure of the scenery your head comes off. I know this because it is me popping it off most of the time. The fluff and flare is absolutely needless to the hardcore.

In no other arena of life would I refer to myself as hardcore. I have difficulty with shoes; the ones that go on your feet. But UT is my little haven of awesome. Some of you have friends, some of them are girls and some of you have girl-friends. I have the innate ability to have that guy scream ‘DOMINATING‘ at me in the first thirty seconds of a UT match. It is not something to be proud of in mixed company, but hey, I kick YOUR ass.

As a hardcore UT playist I have no need for the pretty picture. It is great, and I’m not complaining about it at all, but having played every iteration of this game since the nineties I question the purpose of the face-lift. The gameplay is tweaked to the point of genius and the net code seems pretty solid once you get past the stuck-in-sky paradigm once every two-hundred games and the people I play with rock cocks, so why do I need to see dust motes and why does the wall need to be a machine?

Answer: 13 year olds. The kids who are coming to UT from Halo and think that it can only be hardcore if it is shiny and whose hands are not, in fact, stained with blood of the countless lives lost over a decade of head-poppery. It is to attract them and their parents’ hard earned sixty bizzles.

I suppose I resent this. I suppose you think I’m elitist for it. I suppose you think that because you can’t make it ten feet from your base without finding a bloody mess where your head used to be.

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16 years ago

This is a fantastic approach, though it isn’t entirely surprising. There is a reason that Everquest and Counterstrike were not immediately blown away by their sequels; they still worked, and they looked good enough (well, maybe not everquest).

I’m really curious about UT3. The first UT was graphically verbose, but wasn’t system crippling. I remember UT2004, when the demo came out. EVERYONE was playing the damn thing, because its graphics were also quite stable (I played on a Geforce FX), the content was solid. That was a game that everyone wanted a piece of, and it ws easy to find (and cheap) for some time later.

UT3 doesn’t have that vibe. There seems to have been little hype about it in the mainstream press, at least relative to past UTs. The engine would laugh at my paltry machine. It just puts up a massive wall saying “Unless you can handle my hardcore looks, and my hardcore gameplay, don’t bother”. That, I feel, is a bit unhealthy, because as Don says, the fans don’t need these graphics, they don’t need to play alone (in the world of PC gaming I’m sure they’d love to destroy halo fans while not listening to them on the mic).

Unreal is known by more people as an engine than a game, and to me that is a bit disturbing.

16 years ago

Christian, I have to disagree. While the graphics are awesome, UT3 manages to be played very well on older (3-4 years even) systems, just like UT2004 did. Also, not everyone was playing UT2004 – a very large portion of the UT community, possibly even the majority, disliked (and whined about) the horrible changes that came with UT2003 (and UT2004) such as dodgejumping, shield gun and adrenaline.

In terms of community, the original UT is still stronger and healthier than UT2004. Although people are now finally starting to leave… in favor of UT3, which feels like a UT game – contrary to UT2004. And hey, at least the graphics (static meshes that is) aren’t getting in your way on your every dodge, like they did in UT2004.

16 years ago

Good comment Droniac. I am glad to know UT 3 runs well. Beyond that, I do believe that UT2004 had a huge amount of player attention overall, even if it was from new fans rather than the dedicated community. I just hope both kinds of players migrate to the new game.

16 years ago

13 year old ‘hardcore’ nerdlings with technology fetishes aren’t a big enough part of the market to be worth spending so much time and money on- it’s got to be pimping out that gorgeous engine that’s under UT3’s hood that brings in the big bucks. Having neat looking aliens with believable skin texturing is pretty important in Mass Effect when I’m spending so much time listening to them tell me their life stories. In that sense, the whiz bang graphics in UT3 are more a bonus than anything- you get the blistering gameplay you’ve been waiting for, but it also happens to come with the eye candy people like me need for the latest slow paced console game.