Why Epic Games Needs a New Unreal Tournament

It’s time to bring back Unreal Tournament.

Those who think I’m an idiot are probably wondering, “What’s the point when Cliff Bleszinski is no longer at Epic Games?” “Does Epic need UT when it’s got Gears of War?” “Isn’t the FPS market too saturated for a new UT to succeed?”

Call me crazy, but I believe there’s still a place for Unreal Tournament. And I’m sure a majority of the frag-mented community would agree with me. Here are the key reasons why:

Epic needs something accessible for PC audiences.

Epic Games built a strong following from the late 1990s into the mid-2000s, but it has since become a more console-focused studio. With the questionable future of consoles and a re-emerging PC audience, Epic needs to do more than just release a new graphics engine. They need to re-establish an identity within their market by getting back into FPS development, and such a game doesn’t have to be new IP. Currently, Epic has its eyes set on Fortnite, but that’s a far cry from Epic’s gory, gritty successes like Gears of War, Infinity Blade, and Shadow Complex. With companies like NVIDIA and Valve finding new ways to support PC gaming, Epic can easily capitalize on what should be a growing market while reconnecting with its fan base.

FPSs can succeed without being serious.

Despite being as competitive as it was, the Unreal Tournament franchise was really for a casual audience. There was nothing fancy about its controls or game modes, making UT easy for someone to pick up and enjoy. The environments were diverse and vibrant, and the sweet sounds of cyborg carnage burst into headphones and LAN rooms. As much as games like Shootmania and Tribes Ascend have borrowed elements from UT, no other game has created a successful union of fast-paced firefighting and over-the-top, but rewarding theatrics like Unreal Tournament.

For further proof, we give you this clip below:

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DxapRqH8c8FY img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/xapRqH8c8FY/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false /]

Realizing this, Epic tried to replicate a similar gameplay approach with People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm, which was received fairly well by critics. However, Bulletstorm’s repetitive gameplay and uninspiring multiplayer did not result in the longevity of an Unreal title. This time around, Epic needs a product it can pour its soul into.

There’s always the F2P route.

As Valve did with Team Fortress 2, Epic could seriously benefit from making a free-to-play Unreal. Essentially, they could take UT 2003 or 2004, slap a new coat of paint on it, make it free-to-play, and profit through weapon upgrades, customized loadouts, and character skins. Sci-Fi F2P shooters like Blacklight Retribution and Tribes Ascend are faring well in the market — one of the key reasons being their departure from mainstream PC shooters like CoD and Battlefield. If you’re still not convinced, look at how the Team Fortress and Tribes brands found a new space to successfully re-conceive themselves. Clearly, gamers could get back into UT.

Unreal Tournament
Facing Worlds: a classic Unreal map and a camper’s paradise.

Multiplayer thrives in its simplest form.

When I think of the best multiplayer shooters, I immediately think of GoldenEye 007. It may be a 15 year old game, but how come the industry has tried to replicate GoldenEye time and time again? It’s because the formula of fast, firearms-focused gameplay applied to a simple set of multiplayer modes works perfectly. When we look at Halo, a series that understood this, it’s hard to not see why it became a runaway hit with its multiplayer. Unreal Tournament presented a second-wave equivalent with the advent of online gaming, but it essentially represented a carry-over from the single player. In today’s player progression multiplayer model, gamers face the challenge of earning each new unlockable, and while this method prompts most gamers to continue their achievement-based progression, it looks silly when compared to Goldeneye, Unreal, and Halo. Here’s a concept: Why not offer all the good stuff from the start?

Looking back at Unreal Tournament, I see a clear example of how gaming often loses site of what has made it successful. That’s not to say that Epic Games isn’t doing an outstanding job with perfecting cover-based shooters (Gears of War) or introducing side-scrolling stealth combat (Shadow Complex), but it makes me wonder how sincerely gamers and developers want their playing experiences to evolve. The direction of gaming is shifting quickly, but perhaps if we acknowledge what we fundamentally love about games, we won’t find ourselves missing out on what was once great to play.

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