Sunday, 12 December 2010

Infinity Blade Leads iPhone Graphics Tech

When the iPhone 3GS was first released it’s graphical capabilities generally impressed for a potable device, with various visual effects normally home to regular gaming consoles showcasing the system’s potential for high-end like graphical prowess. However, outside of Doom Resurrection and a cut down, shortened version of Resident Evil 4, there were very few titles that demonstrated this fact, with many looking like enhanced PSP games with better visuals.

Moving on, and Epic Games with their Project Sword demo changed everything. Epic Citadel – as the demo finally became known – showcased the raw grunt contained inside Apple’s portable powerhouse, featuring various traditional GPU based effects such as normal mapping, specular highlighting, and real-time dynamic lighting. The game also used a baked global illumination system to give the impression of having a basic global lighting system, even if was admittedly non real-time.

As impressive as the technical demo was, it was indeed just that. With no enemies, characters, or even missions, it was simply designed to show how when used correctly, the kind of graphical potential the iPhone had within silicon confines. Recently, id software’s Rage expanded on this concept by delivering a similarly advanced looking game-come-demo in the form of a short on-rails shooter. It was pretty good for the most part. But now Epic Games has returned with their Epic Citadel/Project Sword demo in a finished game called Infinity Blade, once again raising the bar for iPhone related visuals.

As you can see in the trailer above (powered by the iPhone 4), Infinity Blade looks quite simply stunning. Running at around 30fps with what looks like a similarly almost on-rails design as seen in many iPhone titles, the game displays command of a small range of beautifully implemented advanced graphical effects along with current-gen console standard characters, which make it stand out more than any other iPhone game or demo seen so far. It’s looks incredible for something running on a handheld device.

By the looks of things, we’re talking about visuals and image quality that on an artistic level, and on some technical levels, stand above the best titles displayed on the 3DS thus far – approaching first gen, and even some second gen 360 and PS3 titles. Here we have detailed characters with decent amounts of geometry and a high level of normal mapping, crisp and clear use of texture mapping, plus good use of what looks like a mainly pre-baked lighting and shadowing system with some real-time elements.

While we won’t go into any further details into the technical side of the production just yet – if we have time, look out for a future tech analysis – the game as a whole looks to be significantly more impressive than any other handheld title on the market. And from initial reports, also looks like providing more replay value than the likes of id software’s Rage, in terms of being a proper game for the iPhone.

The actual game itself appears to be a weapon-based fighting game with limited movement – ala Punch Out – with the ability for you to dodge incoming attacks, and repel with your own strikes by moving your finger across the touch screen. Movement around the environment is largely automated, with you pointing and clicking where you want to go. And there is no real storyline in game either, other than what is uttered to you by the God King.

Infinity Blade looks rather interesting, not just down to its own technical merits – of we have no doubt are as solidly implemented as they are visually alluring – but because of how it supposedly manages to keep you immersed in its world without needing to give you any real depth to do so - word has it you simply replay the game over and over levelling up and upgrading weaponry until the God King can be killed. And that could make it a surprising success, as well as being more than just a hybrid game/fancy tech demo.

Infinity Blade is already available for download, with versions on both iPhone 4 and the older iPhone 3GS. The 3GS version has seen some graphical downgrades compared to tne title running on the iPhone 4, something we shall investigate at a later date.

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