Behold, the Video Game Graphics of the Future! [Updated with Video]

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UPDATE:

Epic’s finally released video of the Samaritan demo in all of its 1080p glory. And would-be programmers, take note: the fancy-pants features seen in the demo here have just gone live in the current Unreal Development Kit update. So, if you’ve got a burly enough gaming rig, you can start trying to craft the games of the future today.

 

[Original report]

Epic Games does more than just make first-class titles like Bulletstorm and Gears of War. They also make the Unreal Engine technology that powers not only those titles but also hits like BioShock and Borderlands.  As good as the games made with the current Unreal Engine 3 look, the ones that follow will be even more stunning. (“Bulletstorm” Review: A Rain of Pain That Feels Pretty Good)

Epic unveiled a tech demo this week at GDC that demonstrates the incredible capabilities of what their next game engine will do. Running off well-specced but still attainable PC hardware, the six-minute Samaritan session took place in a rain-slick, cyberpunk future version of Washington, D.C. The camera swoops up from the nighttime streets to find trenchcoat-clad character trying to break into a rooftop entrance. A loud mugging on the street below grabs his attention and he jumps down to stop a group of armored thugs from beating up an old lady. The main character–lets call him Samaritan–demonstrated an ability to armor up his skin to a grey, stone-like material and used brutal melee attacks and gunplay to stop the mugging. He was then set upon by a massive gun-mech robot and the demo ended just as they were about to face off.

The look of the Samaritan demo exceeds what we’re seeing in even the best cutscenes in games today. Lighting bounced off wet surfaces with amazing clarity and verisimilitude, looking just like it would in the real world. Level of detail allowed indivial wrinkle lines to be clearly seen on Samaritan’s face and when glass shattered, each shard seem to respond to physics and lighting in dramatically accurate fashion. Epic asserted that what was shown was real-time footage and broke down images to show off the wireframe underneath all the shiny textures. Several new technologies make the retina-sizzling look possible. Bokeh depth-of-field mimicking imitates the deep-focus function of real high-end camera lenses and true-to-world reflection data creates mirror images that shift in real time according to camera angle and lighting. Finally, the sub-specular scattering replicates the way light get absorbed into deeper levels of material like human skin. (Hold On To Your PS3: Sony Not Developing PS4 Yet)

After I viewed the demo, I told Epic design director Cliff Bleszinski that I flat-out didn’t believe him when he said that the Samaritan reel was just a tech demo and not a game concept. After all, Epic pulled a similar move with Infinity Blade, when they showed it off at an Apple event as “Epic Citadel.” A few months later, Infinity Blade debuted on the App Store to much acclaim. I hereby predict that Samaritan’s a game that’s already being made, one that shows a radical change in direction from the gun-centric, gritty Euro feel of Epic’s hit Gears franchise.  For now, the only hold-up may be getting console hardware fast enough and powerful enough to run it.

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