A few of the BeyondUnreal staff take a look at Epic Games' second bonus pack for Unreal Tournament 3. We have the old guy - that's me, the vehicle nut - Dark Pulse, the sometimes clanner - Sir Brizz, and casual gamer extraordinaire - hyrulian.

While the both the Titan Pack and the massive 2.0 patch for Unreal Tournament 3 are free for you and me, it's easy to forget that there's a pretty substantial development cost involved in putting them together. So what kind of return does Epic hope to see on its investment? Do they want to stimulate sales by appealing to new players? Rekindle the interest of existing UT3 owners and extend their thanks to the existing community? Certainly the sale and free-weekend they ran on the back of the release indicates that Titan is an effort to spark a surge in sales… a real page out of Valve’s playbook.

Well, the correct answer is... we don't really know. For the sake of discussion, however, let us say that probably all of those reasons are contributing factors behind the release of the bonus content. And the reason why that matters is that it’s important to understand the purpose of the pack to determine whether or not it hits the mark.

The complaints we heard the most often just after the release of the Unreal Tournament 3 demo all centered on the menu and the interface. We even spent a good deal of time mulling over it on our review of the retail game. Everything about it came under fire, including the scattered and inconsistent placement of buttons, the odd way the selection bar scrolled around under your cursor, the lack of options, and even the color. It sounds crazy to spend so much time and effort complaining about seemingly peripheral issues, but if you're required to endure a series of annoyances to get to the good stuff then it does begin to eventually wear on you. And Epic Games must have agreed on some level as they addressed it head-on with patch 2.0. It's still not perfect and there are still glimpses of the old color scheme in the loading screens though it’s much more responsive and intuitive than it was before.

Dark Pulse: Gone are the days of zoomy text and the red on white color scheme, replacing it is a much sleeker muted blue on black. In addition to this, you'll find a lot more video options for you to tweak the game to your liking without having to resort to those “generic sliders” or INI hacking. You'll find some nice changes in the server browser, such as player scores and offline players will be pleased to know that the game now saves your settings in Instant Action. Make no mistake, though, this is still, for the most part, the same UI – just made less annoying (but still with those WOOSH sounds people love to hate) and more functional. The UI does its job – it works, although perhaps not as elegantly as some would like. But I've always held the opinion that there's far, far worse and less usable UIs than UT3's, and so most of these changes are a welcome change of pace.

The patch also introduces innumerable bug fixes and general improvements. Offline gamers rejoice - the computer opponents now make better decisions all around. Online gamers will appreciate upgrades to the server browser, network code, and working voting and demo systems. Even server operators and mod-makers have plenty to smile about. It would be easy to look at any one of these areas and point towards the omission of some favorite feature, but there's plenty of red meat in Titan and most people will find at least a handful of things they really appreciate.

Dark Pulse: In Patch 2.0, weapon throwing is now enabled, but the way weaponstay works has changed - when you pick up a weapon, it disappears for you, but not for others, and in approximately 30 seconds, the weapon will respawn for you, and you can collect it for more ammo. This is similar to how weapon lockers work in VCTF and Warfare gametypes. To balance it out, however, some ammo pickup amounts have been slightly decreased. This change, though, seems to be a good tradeoff between allowing weapon throwing, while keeping the game "fair" - now you can toss your buddy a weapon if he really needs it, but you can't just go and grab another.

Epic Games has hopped fully onboard with Steam and now offers nearly 60 Achievements for accomplishments from routine to madcap. You can also add your UT3 cd-key to Steam and make use of its exhaustive community features, including following friends into a game, independent-of-game text chat, and even in-game internet browsing.

Brizz: The Steam integration is a really nice addition to the game. While better integration would be nice (full server browser/friend list integration comes to mind), the achievements and retail to Steam activation are bones thrown from Epic to make anyone feel more interested in the game. The number of bug fixes in the attached patch is simply amazing. Some of the most annoying and gameplay-breaking bugs that were found by the community have been fixed and the consensus is that the game just feels smoother and better after the patch all around. This is only helped by an enormously better mid-game voting system and fully working client side demo recording. There is still some work to do, but this patch made gigantic, dare I say TITANIC, strides toward making UT3 "THE" UT.

hyrulian: It's nice that Epic included achievements, since almost all of the major games on Steam have them. But I don't really feel "driven" to achieve them, partly because most of them are rather mundane and repetitive, like scoring 200 betrayal pots, having UDamage for 20 minutes, getting 10 of a particular award, etc. I suppose if the achievements included more "exciting" things to accomplish (Brizz mentioned "headshot someone while falling" as an example) or if earning achievements actually got me something (as is the case in Team Fortress 2), I might actually be more interested in collecting them.

That sounds like a lot, but we really haven't even mentioned the game content! Titan is the biggest Tournament pack to-date, delivering sixteen levels, two gametypes, new turrets and deployables, a new vehicle, and two new player-characters.

It may seem strange to name an entire bonus pack after a mere mutator, but the Titan mutator yields eye-popping screenshots and plenty of memorable moments. And honestly, who wouldn't be attracted to the idea of wreaking havoc with a thirty foot tall behemoth? You can add Titan to just about any gametype and to say that it changes the gameplay a lot is probably an understatement. Filling up your Titan-transformation meter is tied not only to kills but also completing gameplay objectives and it helps promote team gameplay. Restricting a Titan's movement and ability to heal, grab powerups, or carry orbs and flags adds something of a role-play dimension to the game. It's true that it could stand a bit of tweaking as it's easy to rack up kills and earn Titan status in some of the more powerful vehicles. But on the whole, it broadens the appeal of the game in many gametypes... and it's definitely Unreal.

Brizz: Titan is definitely the star of the Titan Pack. What Epic was clearly going for here was pure casual fun. You're not going to see Titan on the leagues and ladders ever, the change to the gameplay is not conducive to competitive gameplay at all, but it will give you hours and hours of pure enjoyment if you throw caution to the wind and just play the game. Yes, Titans are unbalanced. Yes, they are easy to spawn rape with and be a general pain with. But you know what? That casual UT3 player manning the Titan is having more fun in the few moments they are trashing the opposing team than the whole time they were playing the game before the patch. And that is why we need Titan.

hyrulian: Titan brings lots of fun, excitement, and hilarious moments to the game. Who wouldn't relish the feeling of roaming the map as an almighty thirty-foot-tall monster, able to knock people off their feet and blast their enemies to bits? In a team game, having Titan enabled opens up new strategies; while a Titan cannot complete game objectives, it can serve as a tough offensive or defensive player, allowing the others to score with less resistance. Especially amusing is when there are two or more Titans on a team performing an all-out assault on the enemy. While one might say that's unfair, one must keep in mind the enemy team can do the same. While Titan brings new excitement to team-based games, I believe Titan has no place in free-for-all Deathmatch, since it would make it so much easier for the leader of the game to win the match.

Greed has caught on rather quickly with the more hardcore players as it is an interesting mix of Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Bombing Run. It also happens to work pretty well with the Titan mutator if you wish to add a bit of chaos. Deciding whether to drop off your collection of skulls or grab a few more for a powerup and a big score adds an additional element of strategy. It's definitely a twist in the gametype lineup that was sorely needed.

Brizz: Greed is a gametype that Epic clearly put a lot of additional thought into. Based loosely upon Mysterial's UT2004 mutator, Greed modifies CTF and VCTF in a way that makes it feel a lot more like 1-Flag CTF (a gametype I think would rock in UT) instead of the standard two flag CTF that has been in the series for nearly ten years now. While the gametype doesn't work perfectly in every single map, it does what it does so well that it ends up being fun anyway. My only complaint with Greed? The teleporting bases. When you score it teleports you back to your side. This makes it difficult to kill people when trying to defend, making defense a nearly purposeless role in Greed. It's better to engage and kill in other areas of the map, since if they bump into the score base (aka the flag stand), they will be instantly teleported away. Aside from that, Greed is great.

hyrulian: Greed ... what a frenzy! It almost feels like Bombing Run, except instead of going after just one game objective (the ball), the goal is to collect skulls that drop off dead players and take them to the enemy base, while preventing the enemy from doing the same. Because of the aspect of collection, there are choices to be made while playing: do you collect just a few, making you a bit less of a target, and take them to the enemy base for a quick but small score, or be greedy and hoard many of them in hopes of taking a big lead in one giant step? Greed will surely keep everyone on their toes, wary of who might be lurking just around the corner, waiting to take their stash. Games of Greed are pure, non-stop, heart-pumping action, full of excitement, frustration, and just plain disorder.

Instagib is very popular because of its simplicity and focus purely on aim and movement, so adding a gametype that piggybacks on that idea seems like an easy win. Indeed Betrayal does add a layer of depth with its point-value system and it’s just a sheer joy to betray your team mate. The rules and scoring are a bit complex though and I've seen many players walk away from it confused. More documentation should have been available for this one from the start. Still, Betrayal should prove itself popular with those that like the skills associated with Instagib, but grow bored by its shallow gameplay.

Brizz: While I am not an instagib fan by heart, Betrayal simply has one of the best gameplay mechanics you will find in any UT gametype to date. It is clear that the gameplay got a fair amount of testing and tweaking during development. I can't stand to play Betrayal for long, but it is incredibly fun and definitely a great addition to the Titan Pack. It is worth anyone giving it a shot, and seeing how the gameplay mechanics work in practice.

hyrulian: On the surface, Betrayal plays like Instagib Deathmatch, but with an extra twist: each player is part of a temporary 2- or 3-person team, and each kill adds a number of points to the team's "betrayal pot". While one can be an excellent Instagib player and simply try to go for as many kills as possible, it probably won't lead to winning the game. The key to winning the game is stealing the points from the betrayal pot by killing one of your teammates. Like Greed, this leaves players with two choices: betray your teammate when the pot isn't very big to grab the bonus as often as possible, or continue racking up kills to make the pot bigger and take it all at once, hoping your teammate doesn't betray you first. Betrayal pretty much comes down to just three things: (1) Kill and don't be killed. (2) Know when to screw your teammates. (3) Know when your teammates are trying to screw you.

The two new models are just as lusciously detailed as those that shipped with the game. It's puzzling though why they didn't make the Malcom model playable instead or bring back fan-favorite, Xan. There are lots of memorable characters in the Unreal and Tournament games and Epic would do well to throw the fans a few bones. Most popular series build on the brand by bringing back favorite characters. As such, this one counts more as a bullet-point to the Titan Pack Fact sheet than it does as an appeal to the new or existing player. However, I won't look a gift-horse in the mouth and am currently using the new Nova model when I play online.

There are plenty of new levels as well, if you’ve never played the Xbox 360 version. The five exclusive maps for that series have made their PS3/PC debut in the Titan Pack. Two of those are Necris versions of existing Warfare maps. Of those, VCTF-Rails and WAR-ColdHarbor stand out the most. Turrets on rails that run from base to base is a gimmick that holds up well and the layout yields plenty of on-foot and vehicle play areas. Once again, Epic comes up with a unique way of taking out the core, turning ColdHarbor into more of a vehicular Domination-style map. The Necri-fied Warfare maps look great but the gameplay doesn’t hold up as well, particularly in Suspense where not only must the Axis side deal with inferior vehicles but inexplicably has one fewer than found in the original. DM-KoosBarge is quite small, but at least the rocking of the boat and the crashing of the waves look great!

If the remaining levels have one thing in common, it has to be that they are, for the most part, quite memorable. Almost every level has a unique atmosphere and a hook. You might call them gimmicky, but many of them work. And DM-DarkMatch is the poster-child. Take a deathmatch map, turn off the lights and add some dynamic lighting and you’ve got a level that will get people talking. It’s certainly good for a laugh and it also hearkens back to the darkmatch gametype found in the original Unreal.

Sharing the gimmick spotlight would be DM-OceanRelic, perhaps one of the most breathtaking levels in the game. Not only is the setting fantastic, but there’s a laundry list of unique features such as the slow-field pickup, a health-refreshing pool, a Berserk powerup hidden in a damage-volume, a Redeemer in a flooded tube, and even the occasional tremor. It’s definitely the overachiever of the bunch in that department.

DM-Eden Inc is the place you’ll want to go to experience the hilarious X-Ray deployable. Pop that puppy in a high traffic area and you’ll see right through your opponents… literally! Aside from the fun-factor of shooting a boney version of your enemy, there’s really little use for the deployable as it only damages those foolish enough to enter its distinctive field.

Hardcore players and series veterans will enjoy the return of DM-Turbine, a remake of the classic Unreal Tournament level. Other than looking a little chillier than the last time we saw it, the level looks none the worse for wear and it holds up well with UT3’s gameplay.

Speaking of throwbacks, WAR-Hostile is well-worth checking out for any fan of Unreal. Thematically, it’s a return to Na Pali, complete with some amazing (and amazingly loud) ambient sounds, Nali crucifixes, and a brooding atmosphere that’s to die for. It’s also home to the unremarkable, but effective, Stinger turret. Keeping with Epic’s ideology of creating anything but symmetrical Warfare maps, the node layout is indeed rather odd. I haven’t quite figured it out myself, but it’s hard to resist the aura.

The Capture the Flag maps are a mixed bag, and oddly most of these maps don’t work that well with Greed (which allows you to choose from CTF and VCTF maps during setup). CTF-Morbid, intended for use with Titans, is useless without them and exploitable when they are present. LostCause is a beautiful, undulating level suitable only for very small numbers due to the fact that there are merely two ways in and out of the flag room. Nanoblack looks great, but works only with a large player load. Only Shaft stands out as a traditional mid-sized CTF level and it works well enough. Its uncluttered appearance and stripe of color on the walls are even reminiscent of Unreal Tournament.

Dark Pulse: Some of the maps in Titan Pack are really good stuff. If I had to pick just a few favorites, I'd pick CTF-Nanoblack, DM-Turbine, VCTF-Rails, and WAR-ColdHarbor. All four of these are really great maps that are worth giving a spin if you like their respective gametypes, but nearly every map really has something in it that makes it a winner. The only map that really falls flat for me is CTF-Morbid - it's well done, but I never really liked Morbias-style maps, and this one isn't going to change my mind either, Titans or no Titans.

The Stealthbender and Eradicator turret are both found in VCTF-Stranded, an asymmetrical level with an Asian theme. The new turret is little more than a SPMA with its read-end lopped off. The Stealthbender, however, is just as maddening as the Necris Nightshade with its persistent invisibility and deployables. Unique to the Stealthbender is the Link Station which, if dropped on the ground, spews forth link beams like a fountain, healing any nearby vehicles. It’s a great help to those wishing to camp in the Goliath tank which, unsurprisingly, is also present.

Dark Pulse: Even with the addition of the Stealthbender and the Eradicator, Axon vs. Necris maps are still entirely a farce because, assuming both teams are of even skill, the Necris side will still usually wipe the floor with the Axon side. This is especially pronounced in the new VCTF-Suspense_Necris, where Red actually has a vehicle REMOVED (The Hellbender) while Blue gets two Nemesis tanks, a Viper, a Darkwalker and a Fury, with a Nightshade in the middle where the Redeemer is.

The levels, and indeed the contents of the entire pack, have been lovingly created and look gorgeous. All of them are memorable and most have gimmicks in them that you will either love or hate.

Perhaps best of all, the Titan Pack does a great job at throwing out a lot of interesting ideas to the new player. Coupled with the sale and free-weekend the game has already seen a big boost in player count online. It also offers a few bright spots to the hardcore crowd, and it even tosses a morsel or two to the Unreal and Unreal Tournament fans. It’s not the perfect pack for everyone but that’s probably not possible anyway. Still, Epic has done a nice job as most people will find something in it for them.

Brizz: UT3 is complete with the Titan Pack. Not only does it add tons of new content, the 2.0 patch makes the game feel smoother and much more playable online. It truly is the savior of the game. Not only that, but like it or hate it, you can't argue that this did not positively impact the general attitude about UT3. Epic really took the game from zero to hero in no time flat a good 18 months after the game originally shipped. The sharp increase in players, servers and sales will hopefully give Epic incentive to keep working on UT3 and incorporate better community features in future UT games.

hyrulian: I'll be honest; the Titan Pack is probably what got me playing UT3 again. When Epic first announced UT3, I had great anticipation for it, only to be a bit disappointed when some of the expected features were apparently dropped from the game. Eventually I got tired of playing the same old Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Warfare, which I think is actually not as good as the original Onslaught from UT2k4. The Titan Pack brought me some exciting new stuff to play around with, which is fun both offline and with friends. I know, I can't ever really blow off the "traditional" gametypes, but being able to take a break and play something different made UT3 so much better for me.

Dark Pulse: All in all, I really like what Epic did with Patch 2.0 and the Titan Pack. A lot of the reasons people disliked the game are now a thing of the past, and they gave us a bunch of really good maps, some interesting new gametypes, and the gameplay feels better - with a low ping, you might even think you're playing offline. There's no denying the two free weekends and the sale have had an enormous impact - A 2000% increase in players (That's not a typo, by the way - two thousand percent) and the game hanging in the top five sellers on Steam clearly says that people are interested in the game. Perhaps you're a new player; if so, welcome aboard! There's lots to enjoy. Perhaps you're a former player who heard about this but are trying to decide if it's worth picking up again; all I can say is, I've talked to several people who've told me they've found stuff they like enough to pick the game up again. I've always held that despite its problems, UT3 was a good game, but with this patch and expansion - all for FREE - a good game has become a great game now. There's really very little left with UT3 now - and Epic seems to even be willing to fix those. Whether the game's $12.99 or $20, it's worth every penny.

I’m not sure what kind of return on investment that Epic has seen, but hopefully it is substantial enough that we’ll see the Behemoth Pack sometime down the road. Growing the game is good when that also includes growing the number of people playing and we all win when that happens.