One of the nice things about having broadband again is that there are so many new goodies to download. I grabbed the new 750mb+ Unreal Tournament 3 demo, to give my new monitor a test-run with a late-2007 game. But the demo seems to be a case-study of what not to release, in advance of a retail boxed game that I might actually have purchased. First there’s a clunky, unintuitive, mouse-laggy and generally horrible initial setup/menu system to wade through. A triumph of poor usability.

And then, when the game loads up the main single-player Suspense level… it looks worse than UT2004? With all the settings at maximum? What? I felt I was back in the Doom/Heretic years of gaming. Yet the other two sample levels look fine (especially Shangri-La); which is weird. Perhaps because Suspense is a more intense multi-vehicle level, the developers decided to cripple it in some way for the demo? I can’t be my OS or hardware; since I’ve tried the BioShock demo too, and it ran/looked fine on my system. And BioShock is built on the UT3 engine.

So my overall impression from the demo is that UT3 will absolutely need a new top-of-the-range graphics DX10 8800 card to do the larger / vehicle-oriented levels justice, no matter what the “minumum specs” say on the box. That’s acceptable, it comes with the territory of PC gaming. And yet… what niggles is that dreadful menu interface. Here comes another very expensive compenents upgrade-cycle for PC gamers, yet they get kicked in the teeth with a clunky console-oriented menu interface when they load up a game on their improved PCs. Given the millions of $s and years on man-hours typically invested in making a modern blockbuster game, can’t a little of the huge budget be spared to make two interfaces; one slick and intuitive one for PCs, and one dumbed-down clunky one for the Xbox360/Playstation?