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 installment, 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 Unreal Engine 1, UE2 and then this is UE3 so that was a good angle as well.
And in order to 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.