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Epic has just unveiled screens of Unreal Engine 4 to the general public, and they're pretty dang stunning. Judging from the screens above (some of which look like a billion wireframe spiderwebs), this engine could put in-game graphics at the same level as CG cinematics - and that's a prospect we're welcoming with open arms. 

Wired's Stu Horvath got the inside look at UE4, chatting with Epic’s Tim Sweeney and the ever-popular Cliff Bleszinski about the technical aspects to their biggest project on the horizon. The changes coming with UE4 could very well shape what next-gen consoles will operate on – this kind of graphical power isn’t easily executed, to say the least.

While it might not be at the level of “real life” just yet (Sweeney states that the available hardware will need to be 2,000 times as powerful as it is now for that to happen), UE4 is a massive leap forward for particle effects and environment rendering. Those lava embers and “evil eye” beams you see in the above stills would cripple current engines, but UE4’s capable of generating millions of these light particles without a performance hit. 

The lightning tech magic doesn’t end there – instead of the “pre-rendered” light sources of the past, which devopers had to hand-place in each level, UE4 enables “dynamic lightning.” Essentially, this feature will make light sources “aware” of their surroundings: light will bounce off reflective surfaces, water will correctly refract your vision, and shadows will be generated in real-time instead of requiring individual placement. It also removes “bake time,” which is the duration current engines need to process and parse through light sources before it could render them in-game. 

UE4 will bring with it Kismet 2, the enhanced version of Unreal Engine 3’s graphics scripting tool. This tool will make programming even easier for novices and more robust for experts – instead of constructing lines upon lines of complicated code, the interface lets you manipulate visual elements using simplified drop-down menus. Now level designers should be able to hand-craft their own visions, instead of relying on programmers to correctly interpret their ideas. 

We’re already chomping at the bit to see the UE4 engine in motion, and trying to visualize games using this technology is like candy to the imagination. We’ll have to wait until E3 to see more of UE4, but Horvath summed up his predictions for the engine’s debut nicely: “Fanboys will wet their pants, contrarian analysts will wring their hands, [and] message boards will explode in either fury or collective orgasm…Epic has redefined gaming before, and with Unreal 4 the company is doing it again.”

12 comments

  • RedOutlive. - May 22, 2012 9:23 p.m.

    Lol... models still have that extremely unnatural "glow" on them.
  • nelly24 - May 19, 2012 2:12 p.m.

    What's the point doing an article about some super high res pictures and the actual pics on the article being shitty grainy lo-res images? Also your videos need to have an option for high or low res, not just the grainy stuff we usually get.
  • ThundaGawd - May 17, 2012 9:44 p.m.

    I hope this version of the Unreal Engine won't stream the textures as you play, this hit my performance pretty badly when I tried to play BulletStorm on my laptop, until I tweaked the .ini files, that is >:D
  • Imgema - May 17, 2012 5:48 p.m.

    And just like a typical Unreal engine, the textures will be more shiny than they should and they will probably load to late, popping up when you get close to them. No, thanks, i'm still waiting for Source 3 engine.
  • bboyd - May 17, 2012 2:35 p.m.

    Nothing too mindblowing in the screens, all though the third image is quite lovely. I'm sure it looks great in motion.
  • bebl09 - May 17, 2012 2:32 p.m.

    The demon-thing's face/mask still looks a bit soft/vaseliney/shiny, you'd think they could fix that at least with the new Unreal Engine!
  • Unoriginal - May 17, 2012 1:18 p.m.

    The screens don't really show anything mindblowing, at least not to the casual eye. I look forward to see this in motion.
  • comaqi - May 17, 2012 1:16 p.m.

    All I care about is fixing shiny textures.
  • usmovers_02 - May 17, 2012 1:10 p.m.

    UT3 is a fine game IMO (at least on PC). Gears 1 is also a pretty fun game even to this day. It redefined the TPS genera. So many games use that cover system now. Can't wait to see a true UT4 game. To this date, there is STILL no game that has beat Crysis 1. Pretty amazing.
  • usmovers_02 - May 17, 2012 1:11 p.m.

    a true "UE4" game... not "UT4" lol.
  • DaGreenFungus - May 17, 2012 1:08 p.m.

    This really meh, after all that hype, am i the only one whent omg omg omg "click" oh.... okay
  • gazzc - May 17, 2012 12:48 p.m.

    The last good game they made was UT99. I wish they had done a CoD with that engine and just built upon it and improved it because gameplay wise it was perfect. The later versions never really felt the same to me.

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