Any gamer worth his salt will recognize the name Epic Games. Not only are they famous for creating the wildly successful Unreal and Gears of War franchises, but they created the Unreal Engine, a library of code that forms the basis of many other grade A games. So naturally when I came across Epic Citadel in the iTunes App Store, I was intrigued. And now I have seen it in action, I'm downright excited.
Epic Citadel is not a game, it's a technology demo. The Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) typically runs on high-powered hardware (think PC, XBOX 360, or PlayStation 3) to create the high-fidelity needed for nearly photorealistic games. But it seems that the engineers at Epic have ported UE3 to iOS devices. Epic Citadel allows you to stoll around a virtual medieval town and bazaar. And it looks stunning.
I've seen writers compare games on the iPhone/iPod to those on the DS or the PSP and often wondered what the heck they were thinking. Despite having a higher resolution screen, games on iOS devices have seldom had the complexity or fluidity of games on dedicated handheld systems. But UE3 on iOS may change that. Not only is the animation smooth and fluid, but the sharpness and detail are beyond the capabilities of the PSP, especially on the high-resolution screens of the iPad and iPhone 4. It's like looking at something off an XBOX 360 on a handheld screen.
These high-end graphics don't come without a cost however. Epic Citadel only runs on later devices. That means that the iPhone and iPhone 3G and corresponding iPods won't be able to run them. I guess that's the threshold at which Epic decided that UE3 was worth porting.
Even with those restrictions, I remain excited about the prospects that UE3 will bring to iOS gaming. Epic Citadel was just designed to whet the appetite. It will be interesting to see what games developers can bring to the portable using Epic's latest tech.