Epic Games' Mark Rein disappointed fans a few weeks back when he told Joystiq that the 3DS isn't capable of running the Unreal Engine. So it was quite the surprise when Ubisoft's Fabrice Cuny revealed in an interview with GameSpot that Splinter Cell 3D will use the Unreal Engine when it releases April 10 on the 3DS.
So what exactly is going on here, did Ubisoft discover some magic that Epic couldn't with their own engine? No, it turns out that they're both right. Some backstory is necessary. You see, Splinter Cell 3D is a remake of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, which used a modified version of Unreal Engine 2.5. Though Splinter Cell 3D is an enhanced remake, with 3DS-specific features, it is entirely likely that it is still based on the same core technology as the original.
Technically, both Epic and Ubisoft are correct in this case. Epic is currently putting their focus on Unreal Engine 3, so it's a pretty safe assumption that whenever Rein speaks about the Unreal Engine he is really only talking about the latest edition. And so far, no developer has refuted that the 3DS is incompatible with Unreal Engine 3. On the other hand, Unreal Engine 2 (or modified Unreal Engine 2.5 as is more likely the case) is still a version of the Unreal Engine. It's a slick PR move on Ubisoft's part to just say Unreal and not mention a version, but still, technically true.
But what matters isn't the politics of it, and stirring up developer drama: what matters are the games. And the news that Ubisoft is working with Unreal Engine 2.5 on 3DS is certainly good news in that regard. Unreal Engine 2 is a familiar tool to many developers, which could help to smooth the development process on Nintendo's unique handheld.
At the time of this writing, Epic has confirmed that Splinter Cell 3D is not using Unreal Engine 3. Ubisoft has not yet responded whether Splinter Cell 3D uses the same modified Unreal Engine 2.5 as Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, or a newly modified Unreal Engine 2.