Welcome to BeyondUnreal’s Best of 2006. It’s been an eventful year for the Unreal Engine and we’ll look back to recap the good and the bad. Here are the awards that are up for grabs this year:

  • Story of the Year
  • Unreal Engine Game of the Year
  • Biggest Controversy
  • Most Disappointing (Unreal Engine) Title
  • Most Surprising Title
  • Most Anticipated 2007 Title
  • UT 2004 Level of the Year
  • Forum Awards: Forumer of the Year
  • Forum Awards: Thread of the Year

Story of the Year

Gears of War

There’s no denying that the year 2006 belonged to Gears of War. Not only was it the most hyped game of the year, but it actually managed to live up to everyone’s lofty expectations. The official website launched in May 2005 (story) as a simple placeholder and then upgraded in April of this year (story) to include plenty of media, only to re-launch in October (story) on the heels of a guerilla marketing campaign by Microsoft. The boys from Redmond continued to pour on the PR with a massive party in a Hollywood, California cemetery (story) and a new trailer (story) that set the internet abuzz, spawning countless numbers of fan-made trailers.

All that hype would be for naught, if Gears turned out to be a bust, but thanks to a little Epic wizardry, the game turned out to actually be the Holy Grail of gaming (story) that was promised. Indeed, Gears went on to sell a million copies (story) and has since eclipsed the two million mark (story) and driven Xbox LIVE traffic by 80% (story). In November, Microsoft announced an Xbox 360/Gears of War bundle for the UK (story).

Unreal Engine Game of the Year

Gears of War

What else can possibly be said about Gears that hasn’t already been said? From the day we first got wind of the game way back in January of 2005 (story) the gaming world has paid close attention to Epic’s first non-Unreal title this decade, showering it with E3 Awards (story) and X06 Awards (story). As previews, and later reviews, rolled in, it became apparent that this was the game that everyone had been waiting for (story). Now talk of a Gears trilogy has begun… (story).

You know you’ve done something successfully when people begin taking potshots at you - Gears of War is no exception. No sooner had the DVD presses begun to cool than industry execs began playing it down. EA exec Alain Tascan used the occasion of the Montréal Games Summit to blast Gears for lack of innovation (story) while GRAW2 producer Olivier Dauba granted it only 10 minutes of fun.

Whether you’re an avid Xbox 360 gamer or a staunch PC games supporter (or both!) there’s no denying that Gears of War is the game of 2006.

Biggest Controversy

Mark Rein

Epic Games’ outspoken VP was a magnet for headline quotes this year, that is to say more than usual. In July, at England’s Develop Conference, Rein sent flak grenades flying in all directions during his keynote speech by blasting episodic content (story), a trend recently popularized by Valve’s Steam, sparking contrary outcries from the audience. The conference was also the launching pad for his attack on integrated graphics chips and Intel specifically “killing the PC Games market”, a trend continued at October’s GDC London, where he derided Intel’s “crappy [graphics] chips” (story). Watchful readers could see that storm brewing starting way back in a March interview with FiringSquad (story) and later an interview with ShackNews (story) where the topic of Epic’s partnership with Dell was discussed.

Okay, okay, so this year’s comments are nowhere near as explosive as those from the October ’05 IGN Live Panel (story) in which he rips EA’s business management, Nintendo’s Revolution (Wii), and N64 and Dreamcast controllers. Nevertheless, Rein delivers the goods and no one else came close this year. Admittedly, most of this year’s controversial comments are probably accurate and it’s his ability to speak his mind that has him in demand for interviews and speaking engagements. But if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s a damn duck. And Mark Rein was the Anatidae of the Unreal Engine for 2006.

Most Disappointing (Unreal Engine) Title

Unreal Anthology

This award was originally going to go to the Unreal Engine 2.5 powered Red Steel (Wii), but the more we thought about it the more we agreed that it looked pretty crappy right from the beginning anyway. That makes it the worst Unreal Engine title of 2006… but not the most disappointing.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about what makes Unreal Anthology (BU Review) a better, but more disappointing title. With absolutely classic titles like Unreal, Unreal Tournament, and Unreal Tournament 2004 packaged inside, you’d think this would be a shoe-in for game of the year, right? Well, as it turns out, not quite. For starters, despite having the Tux (Linux) logo right on the box, there’s no Linux installer. No problem, you’re a Windows user, you say? The DVD apparently has issues with some common DVD drives and will refuse to even be recognized.

A compilation release would seem like a good occasion to clean up any outstanding issues with the game or offer a token improvement of some sort, but Anthology actually breaks a few things and even leaves out content from previous boxed versions. The removal of former publisher logos has changed the size of two critical files and has created incompatibilities with all previously existing copies of Unreal. The alternate high resolution S3TC textures that made Unreal Tournament such an eye-popper have been left out entirely. Bonus Pack 4 for Unreal Tournament is missing, as is Unreal 2's XMP official mutliplayer add-on, along with 14 included modifications from UT GOTY and UT 2004 ECE. To be fair, all of the modifications and the bonus pack are available for download if you care (or know) to hunt them down.

Unreal Anthology could have been a great opportunity to amaze newcomers to the Unreal Universe, bolster the ranks of the die-hard communities of these legacy titles, and fix up a few outstanding problems. But as it is, it stands as the most disappointing Unreal Engine title of 2006. It’s not too late to fix this, Epic/Midway!

Most Anticipated 2007 Title

Unreal Tournament 2007 / runner up: Bioshock

If 2006 was the year of Gears of War, then 2007 may well be the year of Unreal Tournament. Ever since we first brought you news of the announcement of the new UT back in 2005 (story), the UT community has scrambled to get as much information as it could on the newest installment of the classic series. With a revamped set of gametypes, including a massive update to vehicular combat in the new Warfare" gametype (story), Unreal Tournament 2007 looks to have enough fresh new content to keep the new players happy. But what about the veterans? It seems like they're in for a treat as well, as Epic seems determined to return the game to it's roots when it comes to the core, deathmatch gameplay that made the original Unreal Tournament such a force. With a leaner map list (story), and more "grounded" movement system (story), it seems as if Epic are heading in the right direction.

The biggest question now is whether Epic can pull it all together. They have the engine, the experience, and they have the drive to make UT2007 the game of the New Year, but keeping the die-hard fans of both the original UT and UT2004, while at the same time attracting a whole new generation of gamers to the UT series will be a tall order.

There's not been a whole lot of information up until now, but now that the media fury around Gears of War has settled, we should be getting much more information in the new year. The only question now is when UT2007 is likely to be released. The answer as always is "when it's done", but you can be sure that when it is done, the results will be well worth the wait.

From the moment it was announced back in 2004 (story), Bioshock looked to be something pretty special, but then again, a game labeled as a "spiritual successor to System Shock 2" was always going to be worth watching. Interestingly for a 'Shock game, Bioshock takes place in the past (the late 1940's to be precise), in a fully underwater context, and has genetic manipulation as a core dynamic of the game. That alone would be enough to get pulses racing, but Irrational Games have and even bigger ace up their selves: emergent AI. With a fully free-form game environment (story), and an "AI ecosystem" whereby different NPCs will not only react differently to the player, but also to other NPCs, the game focuses on the player's moral choices throughout the game's progression (story). It's up to the player to see how far they are willing to take themselves, and the game gives the player every means to get there. That alone is worth the price of the game. Bioshock looks to be one of the most involving - and possibly one of the most disturbing (story)- Unreal Engine games for many years.

With an enthusiastic development team, the power of a massively improved Unreal Engine 2.5, a raft of awards already (story) and over 5 years of development (and counting), it seems inconceivable that Irrational will fail to create one of the best RPG games of recent times. The only question is have they over-reached themselves?

Most Surprising Title


2006 was full of vicissitude, but the Most Surprising Unreal Engine Title award has to go to RoboBlitz. It was the first game released on PC using the Unreal Engine 3 and we all certainly had high hopes for it. It started off under the name RoboHordes as a simple Intel Tech Demo in 2005 (story) and went on to become a fully fledged title distributed via Xbox LIVE and Valve’s Steam (story). Interestingly, RoboBlitz is a fully physics driven game – no canned animations whatsoever and to keep to the tiny 50 MB download footprint required by Xbox LIVE Arcade, the game employs the use of procedural textures.

Not only did it show off these nifty little tricks but it also supplied the PC gamers the means to practice their mapping skills using the highly coveted Unreal Editor 4. Oh yeah, and it was pretty fun too! At a budget price of $14.99, the game - and undeniably the editor - turned out to be quite a surprising deal.

UT 2004 Level of the Year

DM-UCMP3-Glorian (Slainchild) / runner up: DM-2019-XS-2006 (Angelheart)

These two maps couldn’t be more different, but both are amazing in their own way. Starting with the runner up, DM-2019-XS-2006 (story), a map that wasn’t really created or initially released in 2006, it first saw light of day in 2003 in a more unfinished state. Since then, it been little more than a part time venture for professional level designer Angelheart. Through a little bit of community cajoling, we were treated to a final release this year.

What’s 2019 all about? Pure and simple, it has nothing to do with deathmatching (though you can frag away if you choose), it is a tribute to the classic 1982 Ridley Scott/Harrison Ford Bladerunner movie. You can literally walk (or fly) about this level for hours exploring the intricately detailed buildings, underground passageways, and numerous locales from the movie. It’s art.

Taking slightly less time to build (2 weeks), DM-UCMP3-Glorian hails from up and coming level designer Slainchild. Known for his 1-on-1 and hardcore mapping style, Glorian is, simply put, his best. It delivers on gameplay and style and it was the gem of the very solid UCMP3 map pack (story). There are were definitely more complex level designs this year, but none of them were quite this fun to play, and that’s why this is the 2006 UT 2004 Level of the Year.

Forum Awards: Forumer of the Year

Hyrulian Hero / runner up: EQ2

We put this one up to a vote in our forums with the required characteristics being that the nominee be one or more of the following: helpful, informative, funny, thought-provoking, talkative. We think they've nominated someone who qualifies across the board. Hyrulian first joind up in 2001 and has been one of the most positive and helpful posters since. He has been host to a community Unreal co-op and UT server and is always helpful in BeyondUnreal's #fragbu IRC channel where his Hyrulian 9000 bot entertains nightly.

In fact, we like Hyrulian so well, we've offered him a BeyondUnreal news writing account where he has agreed to begin offering a little assistance on our front page! Welcome, Hyru, and thanks for the many years of cheer.

The tiny, but loyal, Unreal 2: XMP community would be lightyears behind the times without help developing tools from the likes of EQ2. And in the words of the Unreal 2 forum moderator:

He has done so much work for U2XMP, and he really loves the game. He is constantly kind and curtious to everyone, and always helps them out. Overall a great guy.

Forum Awards: Thread of the Year

"whats jail brake and how can I get it"

This trainwreck of a thread began in our Jailbreak forum, where sgt_lazy_crash asked "whats jailbreak and how can I get it". That's a bit like showing up in a library asking where you can find a book, but there's more. This Scotland native's sublime command of the English language instantly made him a forum favorite, with literary gems such as:

so let me get this in a perfct line (i say that becuase u r complaing about my grammer and i don't know how 2 spell starght. as in a perfect line) u dont want me 2 tpye like msn exp. soz,plz,thx have 2 go 2 the shops,yeah iz be just 1 min, all that stuff u want me 2 change. lol

Later in the thread, he solidifies his nomination by posting directions for installing a mod and then asking... how to install the mod. sgt_lazy_crash epitomizes the run-of-the-mill lobotomized internet kiddie and, as such, is uniquely qualified to lay claim to "Thread of the Year". Thanks sarge. Sorry you were banned and won't be around to enjoy your newfound status!

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