At the 2011 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week, Epic Games unveiled a tech demo for what they are saying is what next-generation console hardware should look like. As you can see, despite the hyper-realistic visuals already achievable by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Epic is determined to prove that console hardware has yet to reach a graphical peak. Epic's President, Mark Rein, stressed that the tech unveiled today is not Unreal Engine 4.0, which has been under development for years, but rather what he would call "Unreal 3.975"--despite his claim that this jump is greater than that from Unreal 2 to Unreal 3.
Though only images are currently available, all accounts claim that the in-motion footage looks even better and is comparable to a carefully-orchestrated CGI scene. According to VG247, the tech demo was running in real time on three Nvidia GeForce GTX 580s; if you aren't up to date on PC graphics cards, the GTX 580 is currently the top dog in Nvidia's lineup. In other words, it takes 3 of the most powerful graphics card currently available to power this thing. Next-gen indeed. Though this new tech is obviously designed with an eye toward the future, Rein claims that Epic has made it scalable to work on devices as "weak" as the iPhone 3GS, which is already currently capable of handling scaled-down version of the current Unreal Engine 3.
While its likely that it will still be several years before Microsoft and Sony are ready to bring out new high-end machines, Epic has shown us that there is indeed something to look forward to. With a new benchmark now set, its up to other developers to create some advanced middleware tools, otherwise all that power is only going to mean a lot more work (read: higher costs).
Check out the full gallery of images from the GDC presentation here.