PS3 Unreal Tournament III golden, due December 10

[UPDATE] Following warnings of a 2008 delay, the console debut of Epic Games' latest fragfest heads for the factory--but won't hit Europe until next year.

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After yesterday's delay of Haze, it looked like the only third-party PlayStation 3 exclusive left on the 2007 release schedule was Namco Bandai's Time Crisis 4. Today, though, owners of Sony's recently discounted console got a welcome surprise: After being all but officially postponed to 2008 last month, the PS3 version of Unreal Tournament III is now confirmed as shipping this year.

"We got news last night that Unreal Tournament III has been approved by SCEA and has been released to North American manufacturing," said Epic Games Vice President Mark Rein in an e-mail to game journalists. Earlier this month, the outspoken executive said that, despite Midway's pessimism, he was "confident" the game would arrive in 2007. Sony also continued to list it as arriving this year in its release schedule.

Rein went on to say that UTIII publisher Midway Games was currently weighing its release strategy for the shooter, which arrived for the PC this week. (Check back later today for a full review.) However, since many in the US have already left for the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the company doesn't have an official release date for the game.

"My guess is that Midway will start shipping the title to North American retailers on Monday, December 10th," said Rein. "It could show up in stores as early as December 11th but more likely toward the middle of that week." [UPDATE2] On Monday, November 26, Sony Computer Entertainment America confirmed the PS3 UTIII would indeed ship in the US and Canada on December 10."It is expected to begin arriving in stores in limited quantities the following day, with a US suggested retail price of $59.95," said Sony.

Unfortunately, due to "localization-related tasks," Rein doesn't expect the PS3 UTIII to arrive in Europe until early next year. SCEA's announcement did not mention shipping information for territories outside the Western Hemisphere.

However, by arriving in North American stores this year, Unreal Tournament III will (barely) fulfill the 2007 console exclusivity promised at the E3 Media & Business Summit in July. However, it remains unclear how long the game will be available solely on PCs and PS3s, as Midway has announced plans to bring it to the Xbox 360 sometime in 2008.

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