The Xbox 360 is now in it's 5th year on the year on the market. And Unreal Engine 3 has been at the forefront of the technical capabilities of the Xbox 360. Lets face it, the top 3 games on 360 for technical reasons are without a doubt Gears Of War, Mass Effect and Bioshock. However you'd be gobsmacked to see just how many top 360 games all use Unreal Engine 3. This may not be a problem you say. But the treal point is Unreal Engine 3 is not designed around getting the most out of 360 hardware. Tim Sweeney from Epic Games is quoted saying " Unreal Engine 3 is not optimized as a 360 engine. We do not utilize the specialized EDRam chip on the Xbox 360 for example at 'ALL'. This is evident in Gears of War series where the first game on recieved no AA whatsoever, and the 2nd game recieved 2xMSAA on just static objects.
Gears Of War 1 had no AA at all!
Further apparent is UE3's multiplatform design looking at both ME1 and Mass Effect 2. The former recieveing no AA and the later recieveing 2xMSAA on all except transperencies and effects. IT's this that has held the 360 back. Although in 2006 UE3 did wonders for the 360 putting it well out in front with Gears Of War, since then Sony have had numerous First and Second parties working solely on Engines for the PS3 hardware. Using all it's capabilities.
However 2010 onwards looks like the 360 is about to get what it deserves. Purpose built engines pushing 'ALL' it's limits. First and foremost it's hard to miss the E3 technology award winning game Alan Wake. Basic info is the game runs native at 720p and is locked at 30fps. Most impressively though is that the game runs with 4XMSAA on the entire picture, including shadows. MSAA can be extremely taxing on any systems resources ( those of you who use PC's will often see 10 FPS drops when upping AA). The fact that the EDRam has been able to give this free on 360 is 'HUGE'. IT frees up all the normal resources to spend on better detail animation etc. One thing for sure is Alan Wake will be the clearest crispest game yet on game consoles.
Alan Wake utilizing EDRam Chip. Every image for last 4 years confirmed by Remedy as 360 screens!
Then theres the 2nd to utilize EDRam this year. Reach boasts 720p, 30 FPS and 4xMSAA on entire image. But more impressively is what that free chip allows the devs to add to the rest of the game, 60+AI + Vehicles + flying = most impressive fights in an FPS on consoles.
In effect UE3 has helped the 360 initially to wow audiences but also hindered it's progression. All the top games apart from 1 ( Forza 3 ) use UE3 which means there is a wealth of games not using 360 to it's potential. Even Splinter Cell Conviction is running on Unreal Engine 3.5. It's time we have devs really pushing 360 like Remedy and Bungie. Every game should utiliz EDRam chip as it saves huge resources for other things and allows the crispest games ever seen on a console. Remedy state EDRam chip essentially gives them 5 free alpha blends. They have full 4XMSAA on everything including foliage ( which is the most taxing on a system ). 5 years in, and we are only just seeing it's potential. Heres to the next 2 years of Xbox 360 technical capabilities. I dont know whether to thank UE3 or curse it now.
Possibly the most technically advanced game your going to see in at least 2 years! Halo Reach.