Right before this year's Game Developer's Conference, Epic Games made a huge announcement: the next edition of the Unreal Engine will be completely free to acquire. This is important, because the incredible power of the Unreal Engine was hard to obtain for indie developers, thanks to factors like the price. Now anyone and fire up the development tools and start on the path of making the next big game. Before you take up the call, though, check out this list of the best games made with the engine throughout its many iterations.
Unreal Tournament 2004
It would be disingenuous to write a piece about the Unreal Engine’s legacy and not include the game it was built for. Unreal Tournament was a breath of fresh air in 1999, and was the first reasonable competition to the PC FPS king at the time - Quake 3. Unreal Tournament 2004 was the product of years of iteration and trial and error, and perfectly represented what the franchise was about: fast paced, over the top, in your face action with some of the craziest guns in video games.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Ninja Theory’s follow up to the excellent Heavenly Sword, Enslaved was an action adventure game with a lot of heart, and even better graphics. The post apocalypse was uncharacteristically bright and teeming with life as nature reclaimed an abandoned post-modern world. It was also incredibly well acted and written, with talent from some of the best voice actors in the business.
“Diablo with guns” was an understatement by the time this sequel hit in 2012. Bigger, funnier, and more exciting was the goal, that 2k and Gearbox achieved completely. Running around the wasteland and interacting with its denizens (violently, if need be) with 3 friends is still the best way to play this instant classic.
Spec Ops: The Line
No one expected much from The Line, considering the Spec Ops brand had been long in hiatus from 2001 up until 2012 when this game hit shelves. Dressed up as a modern military shooter in the Middle East, it would be easy to mistake this game for the myriad games of its ilk. That would be a poor assumption, because Spec Ops: The Line could very well be the best military shooter not called Call of Duty this generation. It’s story is a dark and tricky one, and throws the glorification of war that games are want to do on its head.
Gears of War 3
Another Unreal poster child, Gears was the Xbox 360’s Unreal Tournament, in that it pushed Epic’s own software to the limit, and elevated the genre at the same time. Of the trilogy, Gears 3 is the most memorable. It learned from the first twos mistakes mechanically, and even though its story got off the rails, it never once made you feel like anything less than a Schwarzenegger-style badass.
Batman Arkham City
Rocksteady made Batman games cool again in 2009, making a simple yet intuitive combat system, mixing it with stealth elements, and giving you plenty of reasons to use it. In 2011, they took the madness out of Arkham and let it loose on Gotham proper, giving players an added level of freedom. The sheer size of Gotham, coupled with the amount of moving parts - gangs fighting each other over territory, sidequests, Riddler Trophies - all existing at once took the Unreal Engine 3 to new heights.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
A great, faithful reboot of the classic sc-ifi strategy game, XCOM does what most games should - challenge us. Resources are scarce, even more so as time goes one and more hands begin reaching out for your assistance. Your enemies want you dead, and the intelligent and unforgiving AI will make sure it’s trying its hardest to do so every turn.
The spiritual successor to System Shock 2, Bioshock plays with similar tropes: isolation, untrustworthy narrators/guides, and gobs of tension and intrigue. Rapture is one of the most fascinating worlds in gaming, and its fall (and how it relates to you) is one of the best stories told in this era.
Ironically, this the was a first person experience to swoop on to the scene to break up what would be the tireless monotony of FPS granted to us by games like Unreal Tournament and Quake. An action game where action wasn’t always necessary. An RPG that valued character development both in stat screens and narrative hooks. Lateral thinking and cleverness beyond pulling triggers was quite the mission statement back in 2000. We are all better for this games existence, even if you’ve never played it.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 is brilliant. The sci fi epic melds the best third person, cover based shooting last gen had to offer with some brilliant reimaginings of popular Roddenberry/Giger-esque futurist tropes. Sprinkled on top is poignant and clever character focused storytelling that keep you longing for your next play session every time you stepped back into the real world. It’s compelling, accessible, and you should not pass up any opportunity to play this game.
What’s your favorite Unreal Engine-powered game? Tweet @cursegamepedia or comment below!