If you've loved the look of a big-budget game in the recent years, there's a really good chance that it was built on Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3. Titles from Batman: Arkham City to Infinity Blade II all relied on the software suite to create astounding visuals.
As good as current-generation Unreal 3 games look, the ones that follow them are going to make them look like kindergarten drawing. The first look at images created by Unreal 4 show up in a Wired article that features Epic mastermind Tim Sweeney talking about the power he wants to see in the next generation of gaming machines:
As early as last March, Epic was making the case for more power with a demo screened at the 2011 GDC. Called Samaritan and built in Unreal Engine 3 with a new set of specialised plug-ins, the video showcased the rendering power of current high-end hardware, displaying an impressive array of effects, like realistic clothing, lifelike lighting, and highly detailed facial expressions. It took three high-end graphics cards to handle the demand, but it grabbed people's attention. "We used it as an opportunity to make a point to the developers," Sweeney says. "‘We want 10 times more power; here's what we can do with it.
And that was merely for a souped-up version of Unreal 3. For Unreal 4, yet another quantum leap in hardware has to happen. Creating a game that operates on a level of fidelity comparable to human vision, Sweeney says, will require hardware at least 2,000 times as powerful as today's highest-end graphics processors. That kind of super-hi-def experience may be only two or three console generations away, but it hinges on manufacturers moving toward the power levels Sweeney is looking for today. He needs the next generation of consoles to be good.
The article goes on to say that some of what was shown in Epic's Samaritan demo last year — made with a modified Unreal 3 foundation — will be baked into Unreal 4. That includes next-level particle effects that, according to Cliff Bleszinski, "are going to be whored by developers." Nice mouth, Cliff.