December 9, 2005

Unreal 2007 for PS3

Posted in General, news & rumors, previews, Shoot 'em Up at 9:55 am by playstation3

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Building a better battle

“We’ve been working on the side of things for about a year,” the game’s lead designer, Steve Polge, told us as we first laid eyes on it. “We started off refining the basics, the movement and the weapons,” he recounted. “We went back to the roots; played older UT games, other FPSs, so that it just feels really good.” However, Polge wsa quick to add: “We’re stilli n the early part of development.” Judging by the level we saw, you wouldn’t have thought it.

In a classic segue into “the really cool stuff,” Polge quickly talked about the weapons being familiar, but enhanced, then got down to one of the major elements that could make UT2007 the PS3’s online killer app: its vehicles. ‘We’re really innovating most with the vehicles,” explained Polge. “We think it’s something that will really translate well to teh console. It’s actually one case where console controller is actually better suited for gameplay.” (No, Epic Games doesn’t have a PS3 boomerang controller – no one does – we controlled the dev kit with a stock dual shock 2).

Big guns are good. Big vehicles with bigger guns are better. There will be 18 in all, up from the six that debuted in UT2004. Executive Producer Jeff Morris landed an Axxon Cicada in front of us, giving us our first look at the detail achievable by pairing UE 3 with great artists. With its vertical wings, belly turrent, and nose art, it looked like the offspring of an aircraft from WWII and WWXXII. It was also difficult to look at it and not think that it would look perfectly at home in a big-budget Hollywood movie without needing to be pre-rendered.

Next up, we got to see the returning, but improved, Scorpion. This all-terrain vehicle nove becomes a self-destructing projectile if the player uses its newly added boost to rush enemies and then ejects before impact. It’s also great for showing off how the game’s ground vechicles have evolved from “floating boxes” to heavy feeling, realistically handling terrors of the terrain.

In fact, the vehicles have evolved to the point that entire battles can be played out using them. It’s something that Morris had no problem with. “Where is the ‘Twisted Metal Championship”‘, he wondered aloud. “There’s no real leader of the vehicular combat genre on consoles. In fact, the genre has really evaporated over the years,” he observed. “We see a real oppurtunity to bring that type of gameplay back in Unreal Tournament 2007.”

The men (and women) behind the machines

We can’t disagree with that, but this is a FPS, right? You’re not just a car — you’re a man, woman, alien – a being packing some major firepower. Fear not, the foot soldier has not been forgotten.

At this point in development, the Onslaught mode is the major focus of the UT2007 team. The battlefields feature many elements well known to players of UTs past. capture nodes, turrents, and the like… but there are, of course, some new twists.

“We’re tyring to give the level designers a lot more freedom to experiment with doing all new types of Onslaught levels,” expalined Polge. ‘We have special objectives now that can be mixed into the mode. We have low-key objectives like blow up this bridge, but they can also be very elaborate.”

Morris is especially excited about this new aspect. “Even though you’re still palying Onslaught, you know that if you complete this one special objective, for example, you’re going to start out the next match in a really cool vehicle.” He loves his vehicles.

How does all this cause and effect gameplay fit into the whole picture? “The other big thing we’re adding in Ut2007 is a campaign called Warfare,” explained Polge. “The outcome of one battle will realistically affect the next one. It gives a more story-driven aspect to the game, offline or online.”

The design team is also very big on giving the player the freedom to change their role on the battlefield at any point. Polge explains: “We’re not going to have classes. What we’re tyring to do, though, is encourage people to take on roles.” His example: “You can go and grab a sniper rifle and be a sniper for a while, but if you decide you’re tired of doing that, you can play as an engineer by picking up some deployables, which are something els we’re adding to UT 2007.”

“Mines, energy barriers – we have a lot of ideas,” he teased.

Blurring the off/online

“Even though it’s an online-oriented title, a staggering number of people play UT2004 offline,? Morris revealed to our amazement. “We always take the single player very seriously,? he continued. “One of the ways we’re doing that in UT2007 is by giving the characters lots of personality.? According to Morris, offline bots will interact with the player and each other much more realistically now. The game is set to incorporate Epic’s voice recognition technology for communicating with bots as well. “My goal is to be able to use natural words to banter with the bots,? Morris explained. “I want to say ‘Go take this point!’ to the bot and have him say ‘Nah, I don’t’ want to,’? taking it a step farther, Morris adds: “Then I’ll say ‘You WILL take that point!’ and then he goes ahead and does it. And that’s just that one guy’s personality.?

UT2007 is also set to include a deeper create-a-character feature than the previous games, enabling you to customize nearly every aspect of your character’s physique and battle gear.

Oh, the eye candy

Gameplay explained, the entire team want to regale us with details about the technology and art that makes UT2007 look so damn amazing. And hey, we were just as eager to listen. As the game’s executive producer explained to us in words and on the screen, the real time level we were in originally “looked too clean. Too sci-fi.? So the team decided to base it more in reality and give a grungier look to everything. “The cool thing is, every little grungy bit we added caught the light and gave the game an even more amazing look,? Morris explained as he pointed out the remarkably crisp floor and wall textures on the 720p display, light glinting off the floor’s diamond plate as the camera moved.

Yes, the game is targeted to run at 1280×720, a.k.a. 720p resolution if you have a high-definition display. We asked Epic Games vice president Mark Rein, who was also present at the demo, about the target frame rate. “It’s simply too early to say, but we’re aiming for it to be as high as possible,? he responded. For the record, the 720p, totally un-optimized build running on hardware less powerful than the final PS3 spec was clipping along at 49fps.

We asked Rein about the now famous E3 demo of UE3. How difficult was it, really, to get it up and running? “The only trick we did to make sure that the lighting looked right and shadows looked right when we were doing our E3 demo was to change the mode in the game engine from Direct X to Open GL,? he confirmed, adding: “There’s no difference in what you see running of this test bed PC [a high-end system with a $500+ NVIDIA 7800GTX videocard] and the PS3, which is really amazing.?

“People are going to be totally blown away when the get a PS3 and play it,? Rein continued. “PC gamers are used to having the absolute cutting edge graphics – console players are just going to say ‘Wow!’? As for how PS3 will ultimately run the game? “When you see the [final] game running on PS3, it’s going to be smoother [than on the PC]. You’re not going to have the operating system in the way and all the other things that can make a PC game look ‘poppy,’? he said. Driving home the point, he added: “People ask me what the next generation is going to offer other than better graphics, and I say ‘Stop! Go back and look at the graphics!’ Don’t downplay that. People spend $600 on a video card to get this kind of performance on their PC, and this is a potentially sub- $500 console!?

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