Gears of War: Judgment kicks back against the recent trend for linearity and low difficulty, promises series creator Cliff Bleszinski.
Speaking at E3 earlier today, Epic's design director explained that he's got tired of games not offering a proper challenge.
"It feels like in this gen we've taken a lot of steps to grow the audience," he mused.
"What I think has then happened is that games have become a lot more linear and easy - it feels like just a lot of hallways and QTE's. The more I play games like that the more I'm turned off them and want to get back to just systems interacting with systems.
"When was the last time a game really challenged you or asked something of you? There's a reason why games like Dark Souls have taken off recently - they ask you to really try."
Bleszinski promised that although Judgment's Casual Mode will still allow thin-skinned gamers to cruise through and just take in the sights, every other mode will be rock hard.
"You will die," he promised. "When I play this in four player co-op I really have to hunker down and focus. If this game doesn't make you sweat we're not doing our jobs right."
Elsewhere in the backstage presentation he also discussed how Bulletstorm developer People Can Fly - making its franchise debut - has shaken things up.
"I wouldn't say we're handing it over, it's more like we're partnering up," he explained, when Eurogamer asked if it was tough handing his series over to an external studio.
"Look at the latest Call of Duty - there are guys from Infinity Ward working on it, and Sledgehammer, and even Raven doing DLC. I like to think of this as more of a partnership.
"PCF is doing a tonne of lifting but Epic has plenty of bodies working on it on a daily basis too, all the way down to the playtest labs. Gears is our baby - it's more like two parents working to raise their kid."
People Can Fly boss Adrian Chmielarz then chimed in, insisting that the Polish studio's involvement offers its majority stakeholder Epic an opportunity to refresh its series.
"The best thing about this at PCF is that we can initiate new things. We're a pair of fresh eyes."
He went to assure fans of the series that Judgment will be very much a Gears game, and that it won't be injecting too many of Bulletstorm's more OTT flourishes into the series' well-worn template.
"There is some DNA of our previous games in this, especially in the intensity of combat. We've got more enemies on screen, and we really had to work hard on the engine to achieve that. But when it comes to the discipline of the story, we are very disciplined. We've treated this seriously."
Judgment is due on shelves some time in early 2013. Considering Gears of War 3 isn't even a year old, isn't Epic running the risk of franchise fatigue?
"Judging from the fan reaction, no," replied Bleszinski.
"But I think you've got to be careful. We're not annualising right now or any time soon, but we figure that there's room for a great prequel that has a great future parity with previous Gears games. Sooner or later it will be time to move on the next console so we wanted to make sure we got one last great Gears on there."