Who hasn’t heard of Unreal, the trilogy of shooters from Epic Games that took the world by storm back in the late 90’s and finally gave ID Software, then leader and front-runner of the still maturing shooter genre, something to be worried about? Since then, Epic Games has gone to release two additional Unreal games, and the underlining game engine has been licensed to a dozen top-tier gaming companies.

Start Screen

In fact, these days, Epic is perhaps better known for the wide success of its Unreal game engines, which includes a full suite of graphic rendering, gaming physics, and sound processing. By licensing an Unreal engine, developers can then focus on gaming content rather than the underlining functions that make a first-person or even a third-person game function. The Unreal Engine 3 has gone on to be the most widely licensed engine of the three and is used in both Epic’s own games, such as Gears of War, as well as other blockbuster hits. Perhaps you didn’t know it, but Mass Effect, Borderlands, All Points Bulletin, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mirror’s Edge, and a number of the Tom Clancy games all license and use Epic’s gaming engine.

So as you can imagine, I was absolutely shocked when I heard that Epic Games has ported the Unreal Engine 3 to the iPhone 4. I thought for certain that this had to be some sort of stripped down version of what we see on the current generation of gaming platforms, but I was wrong. It was an absolute jaw-dropper to watch Epic Game’s new Epic Citadel load up on my iPhone 4.

Epic Citadel

While this demonstration will load on an iPhone 3GS and a jailbroken 3G, it is really recommended that you use an iPhone 4 for the full experience. Anything less lacks the horsepower required to view the Unreal Engine 3. If you just noticed, I did say “demonstration”. Epic Citadel is not a full-fledged game, it is merely a proof of concept demonstration that will be used to sell licenses no doubt to Epic Game’s Unreal Engine 3 to make what will be kick-ass games for the iPhone 4 and beyond. That does not make the download experience any less awesome, so if you are ready, fire up the App Store on your iPhone 4 to begin.

Download iTunes

You will need to search for “Epic Citadel”. After entering your iTune’s password for the free App, you will need to wait for an 82.2 MB download that will only work over wifi. It is worth it – trust me. The demonstration begins with a choice between an automated tour and a self-guided one. I recommend choosing the self-guided version so you can really experience how a game using the Unreal Engine 3 on an iPhone will feel. You are able to tap the screen to move your “character” around, and swiping allows you to perform what is typically referred to as the “mouse look”. The movement has a really fluid feel to it and goes along naturally with the iPhone’s touch screen interface.

Street View

After running around the demonstration citadel, crossing the bridge, and viewing vista shots of the shoreline below, one can’t help but want to play a full game. There are a few hinted at on the horizon, but as far as I can tell, nothing has been officially announced. This demonstration took two weeks to develop, so a complete game will take a few months at least. With a powerful engine like this, it is hard to say what might be available first. Perhaps someone will create a really cool handheld RPG or shooter. There are a number of decent shooters available already for the iPhone, but nothing quite like this. Someone could even create the first MMORPG for the iPhone that uses a 3D persistent world, or we could just end up with another award winning Call of Duty game to digest. We will just have to wait and see.