Reluctant to play host to any new console reveals, E3 2012 peered into the next generation regardless with Square Enix’s Luminous Engine tech demo, and gameplay previews for speculative next-gen titles like Star Wars 1313. But the week, contrary to the show, isn’t over yet.
Waiting until the lights went out on this year’s event, Epic Games pulled back the curtain on their model for future game design: Unreal Engine 4. The developer released a brand new trailer, rendered completely in real-time, entitled “Elemental,” and gamers can now get a glimpse at how almost 10 years of technological engineering is coming to fruition.
Though devoid of the human characteristics displayed in the Square Enix trailer, “Elemental” shares many similar themes in order to set up its cinematic splendor: There’s the suspenseful awakening of an ancient, mystic being (a demonic knight as opposed to a dragon); the finite particle effects as snow and fire and lava begin bathing the beautifully crumbling temple; and then the sweeping outdoor vista as we follow the knight outside, blinded at first, and zoom over the endlessly reaching terrain of snow-capped mountains.
Much like Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 Samaritan demo last year, “Elemental” doesn’t just convey the real-life illusion of a singular facial animation or gust of wind. Each and every setpiece demonstrates a new feature behind the technology: the dynamic lighting when sun and flame emit their brightness on a rock, per-pixel lens flare (the appearance of reflections on the lens itself) in every shot, particles as small as snowflakes possessing their own manipulable directions. Even in stills, the results are stunning:
Unreal Engine 3′s presence spreads far and wide across the industry’s current-gen titles (the same technology behind its own Gears of War also brought us Commander Shepard’s fight against the Reapers in Mass Effect and 50 Cent’s fight against terrorism in Blood in the Sand), and Epic wants Unreal Engine 4 to have the same ubiquitous underpinnings in the next generation as well. While the company confirmed that “Elemental” was run from a high-end, “off-the-shelf” PC build – and that PC games with UE 4 capability would be released as early as 2013 – we know from Epic’s Tim Sweeney that 2014 is the year they envision it spreading to multiple platforms (i.e: the Xbox 720 and PS4).
This isn’t the first time Unreal 4 has been seen by the public – “Elemental” screenshots leaked back in May – but the official unveiling of the teaser was also accompanied by an extensive behind-the-scenes breakdown of the technology’s own inner workings. It’s well worth a look for anyone curious see how the engine would handle truly dynamic gameplay sequences.
Ranters, by now we’ve all witnessed the visual heights games will be climbing to in the coming years. How well do you think engines like Unreal 4 will handle factors like gameplay at the same time? How does “Elemental” stack up against “Samaritan” or Square Enix’s Luminous Engine?
Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.