Ultra-realistic tactical shooters may have taken center-stage in recent years, but Unreal Tournament 3 proves there's still demand for brutal, flag snatching deathmatch amongst PC gamers, and with Epic Games' strengthened investment in console versions - no doubt fuelled by a certain 360 shooter that recently found success - rocket-flinging frag fests may become king of the couch again as well.
Last week we sat down with UT3 producer and all-round good guy Jeff Morris to chat-up the recently-renamed shooter instalment, what's in store for the finally-announced 360 version and the ever-rosy future of the Gears of War studio.
So without more dithering, it's over to him...
So first off - why the name change? Does that mean Epic is stepping away from the yearly, sports angle for Unreal Tournament?
Jeff Morris: Well we were never really going to do it on a yearly rotation so it didn't make a lot of sense from that angle. The technology was a good reason to do it as well; Unreal Tournament 2004 included all of the content from Unreal Tournament 2003 so in the hardcore players' eyes they were always sort of the same product. Also UT '99 was UE1, UE2 and then this is UE3 so that was a good angle as well.
And in order the deliver a good single-player component we needed to make sure that people knew this was a break from what we'd done in the past where we just had the basic ladder for you to go through. And you know, we want to ship in 2007 but if the game's not done we're not going to and because of that, we don't want to try and sell a game that says 2007 in 2008.
I will say though we were really surprised by how well received it was by the fans, because weeks ago when we decided to do this we were looking at the forums and they were already calling it UT3 then and didn't like 2007, today they were doing wallpapers for UT3 and we were like "did it leak?!" No - that's just what they thought it was going to be and it turned out on the forums they just loved it, they thought it was a return to what they wanted in the first place.
When you get the hardcore on your side and have that ground swell of word of mouth - normally you've got this big surprise and everybody's all 'that's no big surprise!' but with this they were like 'whoa!' They just felt really gratified.
You've finally announced Unreal Tournament 3 for Xbox 360 - what were your reasons behind the decision?
Morris: I think part of it is we want to make sure people know that our engine works on all the different platforms. Gears of War also made it a lot easier do a 360 port - they got our engine totally to a shippable state. We were never really an exclusive on PlayStation 3, but this made sense for us now with Gears of War - to sort of capitalise on that and get it on the platform while also having the PS3 and PC version.
And there's a lot of really great multiplayer shooters on the 360 and a lot of them are tactical shooters and things like that, so I think our over-the-top carnage attitude is something that people would like. And I always think that the Xbox 360 is the gateway drug for PC gamers - you know, you're a PC gamer and then the 360 warped in to the fold - and we think it's actually a really good platform to bring a lot of our fans our dedicated PC gamers.
Are there going to be any big differences between the PC and Xbox 360 versions?
Morris: It'll all be the same game. A mouse is awesome for looking here, then looking here really fast and really precise and I don't know if there's a controller analogy for that. So we make sure that movement speed is down , we may increase the collision cylinder slightly but nothing too fundamental - it's all the same maps and all the same single-player.