343 Industries' Frank O'Connor has revealed that the company is pushing the console hardware to the limit with the upcoming Halo 4.
"We're out of space, we're out of horsepower, we're out of everything," he told us at Microsoft's Spring Showcase event in San Francisco. "If you're doing your best work that machine should be exhausted when you're done, and we're getting there."
"I think the clever thing to do is make your trade-offs early and then go over what you intend to do, and that's where we are now."
The results are undeniably spectacular. Our brief glimpse of Halo 4 multiplayer at the showcase, including a trailer that's arriving on Halo Waypoint very soon, showed visuals that look noticeably superior to 2010's Halo Reach, following a comprehensive retooling of the game's engine.
The graphics in particular have been "really rearchitected" according to amazingly-named executive producer Kiki Wolfkill. "Obviously we have people on the team, particuarly on the programming team, who've done a ton of 360 development, who've been there since the beginning, and we're just really lucky to have giant brains working on it."
Principal engine programmer Corrine Yu tweeted over the weekend that Halo 4 is "the best looking game on Xbox and any other consoles we ever made and we're all from AAA studios." Steady now.
Other developers presently in the act of pushing Xbox 360's limits include Epic, which claims Xbox 720 needs 10 times the power to run the new Unreal Engine, and Crytek, which asserts that CryEngine 3 will dazzle "no matter what next gen consoles come up with". Leave the poor thing alone, you monsters.