Cliff Bleszinski may be the face of Epic Games but Mark Rein is the voice. No tight jeans, diamond earrings or chainsaw-waving japes for him - just a wardrobe full of polo shirts and a great big bundle of opinions.
Until today, very little was known about the first major expansion pack for Unreal Tournament 3. So put on your tinted infogoggles, or prepare to be lightly fact-dazzled. It's free. It's a 800MB-1GB download. It's due for a simultaneous release on 5th March, for PS3 and PC. The PS3 version will introduce the split-screen action that literally dozens of Xbox 360 owners enjoyed, and a new mod-browser for PS3 will pipe-feed users with a convenient barrage of Epic-approved tweaks and mods that have been a fundamental part of the game's history for nearly twenty years.
It may have been out on PC and PS3 for a while now, but the Xbox 360 release of Unreal Tournament 3 is still in development at Epic Games, and at publisher Midway's recent Gamers Day ubiquitous vice president Mark Rein was in attendance helping people get to grips. We sat down with him to talk about the 360 version and what Epic's up to in general.
When we booked our GDC interview slot with Mark Rein, Gears of War 2 was just an inevitability. By the time we sat down with him on the Thursday, Cliff Bleszinski had carved up the stage with a Lancer chainsaw bayonet and we knew it would be "more badass". With that in mind, we tried to prise some more details out of Mark and also talked about the new technology Tim Sweeney demonstrated for Unreal Engine 3 on 360, Unreal Tournament III's reception and Epic's future plans, and what exactly the PC Gaming Alliance - of which Epic is a member - is going to do for PC gamers.
Interviewing Mark Rein is kind of like riding a runaway train. He's bursting at the seams with enthusiasm and energy, so the second you ask him a question he'll never stop talking, leaving you to try and interrupt and steer him from one topic to the next. Fail at this and you face the death-like situation of telling Kristan you only got 15 minutes of him saying how much he loves EDGE magazine or something.
Stop clowning around; it really is bastardly cold out there. Still, it's good for one thing: keeping my PC from overheating. All I have to do is wrap up warm and open my window, then pop in one of these festively fantastic frolics and laugh away merrily - probably with a vat of mulled wine close-by to ensure I am well and truly smashed. I'm only giving it serious consideration because there are some games worth seriously considering.
Another good thing about Christmas is that you can kiss people by holding a twig with leaves above their heads, made all the more likely by the enormous vat of incredibly pungent mulled wine stewing in the kitchen. Similarly smile-worthy is that yes there are games on PS3 to buy this year, despite what James with his rival console says in the comments section while picking his nose and flicking it at his equally spotty friend.
Last year was "quite big" for Epic. Gears of War is, as Mark Rein gleefully tells us, the number one game of the generation so far. Unreal became the engine of choice for next-gen developers. There's no Gears sequel this year, but 2007 will still be big - if not bigger - for the little developer from North Carolina. Unreal Tournament 3 is set to launch in November on PS3 and PC. Gears of War is coming to PC with new content. The games that Unreal powers are starting to arrive in droves - headlined by the likes of BioShock. So Mark Rein, Epic's vice president and chief evangelist, is as giddy as ever. When we run into him in Leipzig, it takes us 15 minutes to drag him into the interview room - he just wants to shoot the breeze. Fortunately he saved some good bits for the tape. Read on for the latest on UT3, Gears PC, the Gears film and Unreal Engine 3.
What do you do for a living? Butcher, baker, candle-stick maker? Some write words, some read laws, some sell goods, some build roads, some drive lorries...
Of all PlayStation 3's forthcoming releases, the most interesting and significant is neither a game nor for sale. Home, Sony's more structured, sanitised and solid attempt at a Second Life world might seem innocuous enough but with the screenshots of its cinema space and the implied possibility of fully downloadable movies, there's the chance it might eventually outgrow even its host platform in significance.
Unreal Tournament 3's most eye-catching new feature is a two-metre-square block of pink gelatinous wibble that Epic is currently calling the "slow bubble". Once deployed, it slows the pace of anything that passes through it to a crawl. You can fire a rocket into one end and then run round the side and watch it slowly carve through the centre, before resuming its breakneck pace as it exits. More usefully, you can also dump it in a corridor that chokes your enemy's progress and use it like a flytrap, snaring the opposition and then blasting them at will. And, brilliantly, anybody stuck inside also gets to watch your bullets seep towards them at the same gradual pace that prevents them getting out of the way. Surely this is the best deployable since Armed & Dangerous' rarely mentioned shark that leaps out of the ground and eats you when you walk over it, if not the can of Red Bull I just found in my desk drawer.