The People Can Fly developed Gears of War: Judgment promises to be a visual swan-song for the Xbox 360, delivering more enemies on screen, improved lighting and much more destruction, Epic's lead level designer Jim Brown and People Can Fly art director Waylon Brinck have told OXM.
"I'm trying to remember if it was the transition between Gears 1 and Gears 2 or the transition between Gears 2 and Gears 3, there was like a million different changes to Unreal Engine 3 to get to that point," explained Brown. "When we first released Gears of War, the first one, people were like 'woah, they're pushing the Xbox to its limits, they're doing crazy things' - and every single time we've been able to step it up and find some corner of the 360 that no one was aware of and more areas for us to push."
Brinck explained that all engine optimisation focussed on supporting more enemies on screen and coping with an environment which is being destroyed.
"Right off the bat there were two pillars of the game that we had to support by optimising like crazy," Brinck said. "We wanted this to be the most intense game ever. More enemies on screen, more action, more dense action, less of that sort of downtime in between. We had to get those enemies in there, we had to stream them fast."
He added: "Then also, the other Gears games were post apocalyptic. It was all about the destroyed beauty. In this game, it is the apocalypse. The beauty is being destroyed. There's a lot more fire, smoke, collapsing buildings, just a much more active environment. Once you go down that path, you've got to find some tricks.
"We're pushing way more enemies, way more particles, the environments are a lot more dense than on previous games. Our rendering engine, we've even added a few new features that allow us to do richer lighting, more dynamic lighting, darker darks, brighter brights."
He concluded: "It was all hands on deck optimising this thing, we squeezed a lot more out of it," but believes "there'll always be something more we can figure out, do better".
Gears of War: Judgment will be released March 22.