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SEGA's nextgen Sonic boom

Demos of Sonic, Virtua Fighter, House of the Dead and more shown.

SEGA today unveiled a quartet of exciting next-generation technical demonstrations in its Next Level cinema on the E3 show floor, giving us a glimpse of how Virtua Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog, what we think was Afterburner and what plainly was House of the Dead will look like on future console systems.

The company also showed off From Software's Xbox Live-enabled mech combat title Chrome Hounds, which looks extraordinary, detailing mech units right down to the individual joint movements and sniper-style cannons poking through rubble. But more on that later. First, those tech demos.

SEGA's commitment to the next generation of gaming consoles isn't in any doubt, with Xbox 360 titles Condemned (Monolith) and Full Auto (Pseudo Interactive) built upon previously unseen levels of visual detail as well as enticing gameplay principles, but today at E3 the publisher took things a little further, showing off what it called real time "Next Level" technical demonstrations.

The Virtua Fighter demo featured a pair of characters simply showing off their moves in isolation through a variety of backdrops, and the level of detail was astounding. Completely lifelike, with legs and arms moving freely and believably, with clothing that caught and kept or reflected the lighting around them exquisitely.

The demo we've described as Afterburner (forgive us if we're wrong; your young correspondent isn't particularly "up" on that franchise) saw the player tagging up multiple enemies Rez-style then raking across them with missiles, and diving through highly detailed valleys, sun bouncing off the water and fuselage, and every last piece of foliage or wreckage on the ground articulated to a degree simply unseen on current generation machines.

Likewise House of the Dead, which featured enormous numbers of decrepit looking zombies lurching after the two main characters, looked more impressive than anything on current gen, and probably did more for us than Capcom's Dead Rising zombie-'em-up; untold zombie hordes clawing at the other side of cracking glass as anxious player faces reflected off it. It ended as an enormous towering beast stormed through an archway and dangled its oozing tongue in the player's face.

Saving its most popular character for the last, SEGA concluded on a Sonic demo, which the demonstration MC was keen to emphasise was being controlled in real time. The sense of speed and detail levels as Sonic raced through the foliage were reminiscent of the CG seen in past Sonic titles, and there were no shortcuts - you could really see the blue blur's legs spinning as he pelted along. The demo ended as an army of robotic adversaries descended upon Sonic and blew him away, only for the little hedgehog to spring into the air and go Super Sonic; the curtain falling as he propelled himself Neo-in-The-Matrix-like Superman-style toward them.

Although none of the demos were confirmed as full games in development, and a specific platform wasn't mentioned either, the implication was clear, and the visual quality on display was enough for us to rush out here and write it all up immediately.

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