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Photo-realistic hyper games on the horizon

Huge leaps on console processing power could lead to realistic looks for in-game characters like Lara Croft

Video games with ultra-realistic graphics are less than two years away, according to a report on the BBC . In an interview with games developers, it was revealed that before the end of 2008 it will be possible to generate virtual human faces which look photo-realistic.

"People are doing motion capture very well, getting the 'exactly right' facial expressions - eyes moving correctly, every little crease, wrinkle and nod - really coming across," said David Nunkler at Obsidian Entertainment .

"That's when we're going to be able to fool the player into thinking, 'this is a real actor' - and that's when we're going to move to emotional content in games."

He said that the problem games developers have been facing is that graphics are in a bit of an 'in-between' stage: they are so good that human faces look "close to real, but not quite real", making the games look odd and unsatisfying.

But apparently this gap phase is set to be conquered within two years, after which most titles will come with photo-realistic graphics, the holy grail of the games industry.

Once this level of realism has been achieved, developers will move on to accurately simulate the subtleties of human movements such as body language. When this time comes, it's thought that gamers will be unable to ascertain whether characters in games are computer generated or being played by real actors.

The whole photo-realism debate has been tossed around inside the magic circle of games programmers for a long time, but maybe now with the power of next generation consoles being harnessed and combined to drive software technology forward, the ultimate goal of the developers could finally be realised.

James Rivington

James has been working with TechRadar for over 12 years and is now the Global Editor-in-Chief of eCommerce at TR and its sister sites including PC Gamer and That means he looks after buying guides and deals pages as well as all of the nifty price comparison tools we use to help readers find the best deals on the coolest products.