Hands-On With Unreal Engine On The iPhone, Nvidia Tegra

Epic Games VP Mark Rein brought with him the latest platforms on which the company's Unreal Engine 3 officially runs, iPhone 3GS hardware and Nvidia's Tegra 2 "system-on-a-chip" platform, giving us a chance to go hands-on with the tech demo.

Our demo was the same shown back in December of last year, a small, tightly contained room built from an existing Unreal Tournament level. The level spawned a single enemy for us to strafe about the room, avoiding enemy fire while trying to soak in the limited scenery. The demo moved at a good clip, with smooth sharp graphics, and not a whole lot happening on-screen.

But it was impressive, the best-looking 3D shooter I've seen on the iPhone platform. That's due in part to the fact that every iPhone game I've played has been compatible with all generations of Apple's phone. The current version of Unreal Engine 3 for the iPhone is only for iPhone 3GS, the third-generation iPod Touch and iPhone future hardware.

Also striking was the "strafe" mode control system, featuring a small analog stick-simulating area in the bottom left, a fire button in the bottom right. Holding one's finger on the screen controlled the camera, with screen taps (anywhere, really) firing rounds of some Unreal Tournament energy rifle. As touchscreen controls go, it worked like a charm.

Rein showed us the same demo running on Nvidia's newly announced next-generation Tegra platform, an identical experience displayed on a device about three times the size of the iPhone's screen. The visuals scaled nicely, giving us a chance to better study the details of the stained glass windows and ornate architecture of the level.

While the Tegra platform can be used in touchscreen tablet devices, Rein showed us a version using an Apple USB keyboard and mouse, controlling the Unreal Engine 3 demo like any other PC control set up. Again, the demo looked sharp, with Rein saying that Tegra 2 hardware was on part with three-year-old PC gaming hardware.

Gamers looking for a very portable Unreal Tournament experience should keep an eye on developers licensing Epic's engine, as the iPhone and Tegra demos were graphically impressive, despite their limited size and scope. It could be a viable and popular solution for tablet based gaming.

And if those rumors that the Tegra platform has been chosen as the hardware basis for Nintendo's next portable are true, expect to see Unreal Engine 3's portable version powering many of the future's on-the-go games.