The year 2006 is finally upon us, and the main Unreal Engine event of the year is undoubtedly the release of Epic's shiny new Unreal Tournament 2007. Promising a return to the feel of the original UT, as well as strides forward in the fields of MMO gameplay and vehicular combat, is UT2007 simply too good to be true? In this article, we're looking at the top factors that could possibly turn the next Unreal title into a Pariah-esque flop.

And so, in ascending order, we have...

You might not know that "Spam" is also the name of a popular luncheon meat.
8 - Spamine

"Spamine" is a very clever play on the words "spam" and "famine", meaning a lack of spam.

With Epic claiming to be going back to its UT'99 roots with Unreal Tournament 2007, they need to remember that spam isn't all that bad. UT2003's gameplay changes removed the spammy elements of UT'99 favorites such as the Rocket Launcher (limited to three shots) and the Flak Cannon (pumping out less hot bouncing metal shards of death). Fans of the original were also shocked to find that spammy favorites like the Minigun or Ripper had been "nerfed" or culled completely.

Part of the fun of the original UT was spam -- the fact that a newbie can jump onto a public server and get a couple of kills with the Flak Cannon. While UT2003/4 may have pleased the pro-gaming crowd by putting greater emphasis on accuracy, in the end it's the opinion of the average gamer and not the hardcore pro that will make or break Unreal Tournament 2007.

"Community". Doesn't it make you feel all warm and fuzzy?
7 - Online Internet Computer Video Gaming Community Portal of Doom 2007

Epic has decided that for Unreal Tournament 2007 it is going to Empower The Community™. Plans range from in-game lobbies, to automatic matching based on your own skill (or lack thereof), and in-game clan functionality. Of course, all this will be great if it can actually be made to work. The track record of UT2004's community area, master server and stats system however predicts quite a different outcome.

For most of the first year of UT2004's release, the promised UT2004 Stats system was inoperable. Even after that, there were periods of days where the UT2004 master server was down or only partially functional. Epic has to remember that these kinds of community features are only worth having if they're available.

Whether or not Unreal Warfare comes to fruition, Tribes 2 style community features such as integrated player rankings, clan functionality and news will only work if they're available all of the time, if it's simple enough for the average gamer to use and if it's actually updated. UT2004's community section for example featured the seldom-updated "community news", and "0wnage" sections.

Community integration is a great idea, but only if it's done right and works right, offering services that gamers want without stepping on the toes of the existing fan community.

They have a plan.
6 - The Bots Were Created By Man...

With UT2007's advanced AI, you have to wonder wonder whether in-game has reached the point where playing against bots is actually more fun than playing against the masses of taunt-spamming, team-killing smacktards you're likely to find on your local public CTF server. The game's AI is tied into speech-recognition, meaning you can tell them exactly what point in the map to attack, defend or patrol. In turn, they'll tell you exactly what they see, be it a sniper on the hill or a flag carrier driving a Manta.

Could UT2007's bots be simply too good? Could they be the death of the humble public UT server? When bots become this intelligent, just who is playing with who?

Nazis killed Star Trek: Enterprise. Could they do the same to UT2007?
5 - Nazis

Nazis are the kiss of death for anything and everything. While they may seem a great representation of Ultimate Evil, such creative remortgaging comes at a price. Regular Nazis are bad enough... Galactica 1980 featured regular Nazis in its series opener and paid heavily. And the less said about the time travelling alien variety the better.

While we must admit that the liklihood of any Nazi presence in Unreal Tournament 2007 is limited at best, if we have learnt anything from fiction it's that Nazis are shifty little buggers that tend to rear their heads when you least expect them.

Nazis in games have been known to cause random computer malfunctions and even loss of data, as they are able to escape from their individual hard drive sectors and wreak havoc with your data and internets. Due to Nazis' highly organized command structure and hive mind, it is possible for them to orchestrate an organized breakout. Once released from the computer environment, Nazis have been known to cause itching, hair loss and impotence.

Dear Mr. Crow,
Please fall in a well and die.
4 - Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmiiiiiiiissssstttterrrrrr Crrrrrrroooooooooooooooowwwwww!!!!!!!

You have to wonder what sort of Digital Extremes brainstorming session ended with the decision to include an anorexic undead-alien-cyborg-clown from space with a hat made out of human faces in Unreal Champsionship and Unreal Tournament 2003.

The same goes for the ridiculous Egyptian characters and locales that plagued UT2003, which would've looked more at home in Serious Sam. Even the beloved CTF-Face didn't escape the Egyptification that was rampant in UT's first sequel. That's not Unreal, and it certainly isn't UT. So far we haven't seen too much of UT2007's characters, however it's reported that while Mr. Crow + Co. have been put out of their misery, the Egyptians (Nakhti) are back again.

Another common gripe with previous UT sequels that looks like it'll be alive and well in 2k7 is the frankly bizarre player model scale. Take a look at the guy with the Shock Rifle in this shot. That thing has to be at least 8 feet tall.

Throw it away in frustration and it comes flying back to you - INNOVATION!
3 - Pee Ess Three

The plan was simple - two shooter franchises - Unreal Tournament for the PC, Unreal Championship for the consoles.

Now, we have nothing against consoles, much less the PS3 (which if we are to believe Sony comes with its own personal jetpack, allows you to lose weight while playing and doubles the size of your penis). However, after the hideous abortion that was Unreal Championship 1, you'll forgive us for being a tad worried to hear that UT2007 will be coming to the Sony's next-gen box of tricks as well as the PC.

In order for UT2007 to be done right, it needs to be first and foremost a PC title. Hopefully Epic won't lose sight of this while developing UT2007 for PS3 alongside the PC version.

Thankfully, it's likely that the two versions won't be network compatible, meaning there'll be no PS3 players on PC servers, or vice versa.

Bloom lighting gives you eye cancer.
2 - Same Shit, Different Engine

We can all agree that eye candy is one thing that UT2007 will have in abundance, however we all remember what happened to Unreal II. Great graphics never make up for shoddy gameplay, and U2 paid a heavy price in reviews as a result.

Things are however looking decidedly rosier in this department however, with Epic building levels out of basic BSP and then decorating later, once the gameplay has been sorted out. Hopefully this new design process should help avoid any more abominations like UT2003's "Curse 3" - maps which for the time looked gorgeous, but offered little in terms of gameplay.

Gameplay lasts, graphics don't.

It's also important that Epic does away, as much as possible with much of the floaty, bouncy, quad-jumping bomb-running that was present in UT2003 and UT2004. It's almost universally accepted in the Unreal community that UT2003/4 was a step in the wrong direction. Epic started UT2007 by bringing UT2004 up to Unreal Engine 3. Now they must look back at what the original UT brought that was absent in its sequels, and show a step in the right direction with UT2007.

Unreal Warfare? He's never heard of it.
1 - Warfare Art Thou...

And so we arrive at the greatest threat to UT2007's success - the Unreal Warfare gametype.

In the first weeks and months following UT2007's announcement, the Unreal Warfare (then called "Conquest") gametype emerged as one of the game's major selling points, allowing a whole host of revolutionary features seldom seen outside of an MMO.

Unreal Warfare maps are set to be potentially as large as three Onslaught maps, with 'Assault'-like sub-objectives and even a limited form of resource management. Players will join one of the eight teams, each with its own unique armour, and wage war across huge territories which change visually depending on which team is in control.

With Unreal Warfare, it's clear that Epic intends to offer something for the more tactical gamer, with the Warfare mode focussing more on strategy, resource management and teamwork. The gameplay sequence at the end of this CG 2005 presentation shows what a Warfare sub-objective might look like.

Sounds great, doesn't it. Unfortunately it seems this new gametype has been swept under the carpet by Epic, as revealed in a recent issue of PC Gamer. A quote from the magazine explains:

Producer Jeff Morris tells us: "Unreal Warfare mode now consists of a series of Onslaught matches in which your performance on one map will influence the next map. These [effects] can be subtle - such as changing the vehicles available in the next map - or major, where the next map itself will be determined by the current match."

If accurate, this represents a major cutback for what could have been UT2007's crowning jewel. While the original Unreal Warfare idea would've been a significant undertaking, it's a shame to see the tactical elements of the gametype stripped out in favor of what many will play as Deathmatch with vehicles.

We've contacted Epic twice requesting confirmation in the month and a half since this information was revealed. As yet no comment has been given.

Unreal Warfare mode could represent a quantum leap for Unreal Tournament in terms of depth of gameplay and what is possible within a stand-alone FPS game. We can only hope that in the time before the release this baffling decision is reversed, and we get to see this much-talked-about game mode.

(If not, a bonus pack would be nice.)

And That's It...

Be sure to hit the comments links below if you think we've missed anything, or want to add anything to these eight points.