Updated: Jan 6
Last week at The Game Awards (the “Oscars” of gaming) we were given a glimpse into a playable demo of Unreal Engine 5. The Unreal engine has always been one of the gamings leading graphics engines, showcasing the latest boundaries that technology can push. Better yet, it is open source so anyone can grab the code and start creating. From Epic, (recently better known as the creators of Fortnite) Unreal has pushed gamings’ standards from generation to generation and the new Unreal Engine 5 might be their biggest leap yet.
First unveiled in 2020, Epic showed a brief tech demo of the power of their new engine. Showcasing billions of pixels and realistic-looking animations that stream seamlessly to the player. It was jaw-dropping for sure, and was an exciting look into the future of what games could be. But with all tech demos, it was purely visual. We’ve rarely been able to play the technical marvels that we see at tech shows. And with video compression through streaming services, seeing isn’t always believing. In order to get a true glimpse of its power, we would need to get our hands on it personally. Well, The Game Awards gave us just that.
The Matrix Awakens both a playable tech demo for Unreal Engine 5 and an advertisement for the new Matrix sequel gave players a chance to experience the power of Unreal Engine first hand. While the first half of the demo is a jaw-dropping car chase sequence in which you fight off hordes of “Agent Smith” (a villain from the movie franchise), the real star of the show is the city landscape, through which you get to explore following the primary part of the demo. The city is stunning, with many scenes looking so life-like you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference even after staring at it for a while. The only moment you know it’s not real is when it’s in motion, and even then it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate. The city is fully explorable and seamless, there is no loading or waiting to get to the next area. Every moment feels like you truly have stepped into The Matrix
Unreal isn’t only used for gaming though; many shows use its animation to showcase beautiful vistas. Probably the most popular use of it is in The Mandalorian. All the backgrounds were crafted using Unreal Engine 4. One’s imagination can run wild with the possibilities they will now have with the new iteration. As they can be much cheaper than the expensive CG that is currently used, and as gaming continues to look better, we will no doubt witness more television studios use gaming engines to render their shows.
Thanks to The Matrix and Epic, we’ve finally been given the ability to play what seems to be the future of gaming and even television. Gaming graphics have been slowly getting better the last few years. As the last generation of consoles has held on longer than previously thought, many needed to keep graphics engines a little less powerful so they could continue to run on that hardware. However, with Unreal Engine 5, we seem to have finally broken those chains and are full steam ahead into the future of CG.