Maker of such hit series as Unreal Tournament and Gears of War, Epic Games has released several screenshots of its upcoming Unreal Engine 4, leaving mixed reactions among fans and commenters.
The prequel, Unreal Engine 3 has been around for several years now, wowing gamers in the original Gears of War and continuing to be used throughout the industry for many years. Most recently it's been ported onto mobile handsets and has Flash support.
Now though everyone is looking towards the next generation and as usual, Epic is making claims that it's pushing the envelope. The original Xbox 360 was purportedly delayed due to an Epic plea for more RAM to make Gears of War possible. Perhaps that's happening with the next generation of hardware too.
Unreal Engine 4 has been teased for the past few months, with an early demo being shown at Games Developer Conference in March of this year to select journalists and developers. Since then an NDA has been in effect, but the shroud is starting to be lifted as we now have a few static screens of the demo in action, as well as journo reports.
The latter appears to be impressed. Apparently there are fancy new lighting effects, with “millions” of dust motes only appearing when light passes over them. Improvements to smoke and fire and new lighting effects that allow for, bending and wobbling illumination.
However contrast that with some of the consumer responses to the released screenshots and you have an entirely different picture. “Very unimpressed with these,” begins the tirade of negative comments on one site. “Can't say I'm being blown away either,” “this looks average at best,” “considerably less impressive than Frostbite 2 on the PC,” and most succinctly “WTF those scenes look like crap.”
Not everyone was quite so critical though. Some praised the particle lighting effects, while others said that it would come down to what this looks like in full motion. While the images themselves might not blow anyone away, some say that it'll be down to how smooth it all looks when animated that will show us how pretty the new engine really is.
They have a point too. Epic's previously released Unreal Engine 3.5 demo known as The Samaritan, looked far better when fully animated than when frozen by screen shots.
Epic's Cliff Blezinski has said the next generation of consoles needs to blow people away visually in order to draw a significant number of gamers over. With mobile gaming showing the most growth of any game related sector, he might not be far off. Whether Unreal Engine 4 will deliver that, remains to be seen.
For now we'll have to wait for the final verdict. E3 is the date when we'll get out first real, animated look at the next Unreal Engine, so for now we'll have to wait and see.