Unreal Tournament 2007

2005 was a pretty hopping year for FPS fans. We had a brand new contender sweep away lots of competition in F.E.A.R.; we had a new (and I use the term loosely) Quake game; and Half-Life 2 got one of its long-awaited updates in Lost Coast. But I tell ya, something still didn't sit right with me. Something was missing. Thankfully, Epic and Midway decided to mend the hole in my heart by hooking Shack up with an Unreal Tournament 2007 interview. The game may still be an estimated six-plus months away from a release date, but from what I learned, that will only make the waiting harder.

The first thing you'll notice about Unreal Tournament 2007 is that it's pretty. Well, "pretty" doesn't do the game even half justice. This sucker's gorgeous. The reason for this is the engine purring away under the hood: Unreal Engine 3.0. Epic producer Jeff Morris doesn't really feel the need to describe the game to anyone who asks; he'll just show you. "The visuals pretty much speak for themselves," he says, "and I have a lot of confidence we're going to be one beautiful title." No kidding. Keep in mind that there have been screenshots released for this game since the middle of 2005. And they look like that?! The sky is the limit when it comes to Unreal Engine 3.0.

Of course, being a PC title—and yes, PC gamers, it will release on your platform first—the game is already being salivated over by modders worldwide. Ever since the glory days of Doom, the game that comes in the box has only been the beginning. Gamers want more; specifically, they want the ability to tweak the game to their liking, and UT2007 does not aim to disappoint. "UT has always been known for having a large, active mod community and we are looking to maintain the trend with UT2007," said Jeff. "I believe Unreal Engine 3 will allow UT2007 to have as strong a mod community as UT2004, if not larger since it's so much easier to use than UE2 for non-technical folks."

Now for those of you (like me) who can't even build a single square room without crashing a game, modding may not be that big of a deal. I'll play the mods crafted by my fellow gamers, but until some good ones show up, I'll be sticking with the game that comes on the disc. (Not that I'm complaining!) So what do we have to look forward to? Everything you love about UT99 and 2004, plus more! While there will be some UT2003 elements, that game is considered the low point of the franchise, and Epic acknowledged that by expanding on what fans loved about the first and third installments. Specifically, the goal is to focus on multiplayer deathmatch competition. Expect to see such classic game modes as deathmatch, team DM, one-on-one, and capture the flag.

The Assault and Onslaught modes have given birth to a new mode: Unreal Warfare. Jeff elaborates: "Originally we envisioned the new game type, Unreal Warfare, as its own unique type. What quickly happened however was as we implemented UW features, we realized our other game types would benefit from them as well. It became clear that we could maintain what people loved about a game type like Onslaught, while innovating in a number of areas and delivering lots of new game play. Unreal Warfare has since turned into a meta-game that links a series of Onslaught matches into a dynamic campaign experience. We're still in the crazy-idea phase, so I don't want to discuss too much that may or may-not make it through the 'fun triage'."

Vehicles were a welcome addition to UT2004, and 2007 plans to include plenty of em to keep the fragging varied. Many of the nine UT2004 vehicles have been revamped to be grouped into the Axon Team. Facing off against Axon is the brand new Necris team, which will have their own set of nine vehicles. Someone at Epic must be a "Back to the Future II" fan, because one of these new rides happens to be none other than a hoverboard. (Though hopefully sans the pink color scheme and "Mattel" label.) Jeff says that while it's technically not a vehicle, "the new hoverboard is quickly becoming a play test favorite. Instead of your trusty rocket launcher, hoverboard riders have a grapple that they can use to latch onto other vehicles. It's quite a sight to see a Hellbender towing three hoverboard riding teammates into the fray behind it." So basically, you've got power, McFly! Let's hope these hoverboards can go over water.

What good is driving around if you don't have beautiful scenery to... destroy? Expect the sci-fi UT universe to raise the level design bar even further, thanks in part to the awesome Unreal Engine 3. "We've developing a number of environment sets that are inspired from previous Unreal games," said Jeff, "while at the same time taking advantage of the mind blowing detail Unreal Engine 3 allows us to pack into each level. Our level designers have been given a lot of freedom per level with our visual scripting language, Kismit. They're only limited by their imagination." That and frame rate, of course. When the modding community gets comfortable with the revamped toolset, expect to see some gorgeous maps, total conversions, and more.

So you'll be running, shooting, and driving through some beautiful environments, but how will the game feel? Actually, quite a bit like its predecessors, which isn't a bad thing. Jeff explains that "When working with a popular franchise, I've always felt it's risky to reinvent your game with a new iteration. You want to make sure that you bring along all the people who enjoyed the original, while at the same time appeal to new players who might have passed on it. I feel we've done an excellent job of creating near perfect UT game play by carefully studying the 3 previous products, listening to the fans, and balancing it all with a solid design instinct."

Unfortunately, the only release date we have to go on right now is "2006." However, I'm willing to bet Epic wants a tad bit more exposure before releasing another installment of their pet franchise, so this writer's guess is a few months after E3. Yeah, waiting is the hardest part, but darn it all, it's UT; it can't not be good. With amazing, next-gen graphics and game play that has proven addicting time and time again, this UT looks to be the best addition to the series yet.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

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