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Will the latest iteration of the classic herald a new era in first-person shooter esports?

Two decades ago, the first-person shooter genre helped propel esports into one of its most successful eras, launching competitive leagues and the careers for some of the scene's biggest stars. But it’s been years since competitive gaming fans have had a great classic shooter to cheer about.

Unreal Tournament, one of the most storied franchises in esports history, is coming back to change that.

Epic Games announced today that it will be developing a new, totally free Unreal title with the Unreal Engine 4 development community, for the PC, Mac, and Linux. This is the first new title in the franchise since the relatively unpopular Unreal Tournament 3 was released in 2009 and marks a major departure in the way the game is made.

“We see a unique opportunity to re-invent the competitive FPS," project lead Steve Polge said in a presentation on Twitch. The new game is being developed by a "small team of Unreal Tournament veterans," he added

The title will rely on “crowdsourced development," with fan-built modifications playing a key role in extending the life of the game for years after launch. A marketplace will allow developers to sell their own content, and Epic will take an unknown percentage of those sales to pay for the game itself.

In the 1990s, franchises like Doom, Quake, and Unreal helped launch the deathmatch genre that brought online gaming to the Western world. Counter-Strike, a slower and more tactical title, ended up eclipsing them all and remains the most popular FPS esport in the Europe and North America. Quake Live was the last surviving esport of the genre but has faded closer and closer to oblivion in recent years as major tournaments have made the decision to drop the classic.

The release of a new, free Unreal Tournament may mark the return to prominence of the fast-paced shooter, a renaissance that esports fans have long hoped for.

Photo via Epic Games

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