Epic has teamed up with The Matrix to show off their new Unreal Engine 5 playable demo. Last year we got a showcase of Unreal Engine 5, with a woman leaping, diving, and flying through what looked like a Tombraider-like environment. This time we have a playable demo, and it perfectly showcases not only the power of Unreal Engine 5, but also what real next-gen games could look and feel like. Today I’m going to jump into The Matrix Awakens Unreal Engine 5 demo and give you my first impressions.
First up, it’s worth saying that everyone with a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S can experience the demo. Head on over to your store on your platform of choice, and you can download the playable demo. It’s worth jumping in, as this is the first time that many of us have had the chance to experience Unreal Engine 5 in our hands.
The demo is split into a few distinct parts. You have the opening cinematic with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, who play Neo and Trinity in The Matrix, speaking the camera. Second, up is the car chase sequence, then finally we have a city to explore, which we can do either by walking around or by flying.
In the first sequence, it’s hard to tell what’s being rendered in the engine and what is actual footage. We have a couple of versions of Neo, with Keanu Reeves talking about the innovations of the first Matrix movie. Carrie-Anne Moss then walks in, duplicates into hundreds of similar character models, all walking in sequence.
We’re then thrown into the car chase sequence with Neo and Trinity in the front of the car, and Io in the back (you play as Io). She straps on a gun, and it’s time to start defending your car with a gun, shooting out the tires of oncoming vehicles. Agents are jumping onto the cars and trying desperately to get to you, so do your best to shoot out the tires or blow up the engines with a few well-placed shots.
Here’s some of the new tech on display. The character model for Io is created with something called MetaHuman. Epic released another playable demo of this character creation toolbox a while back, but seeing it here in action against the other character models of Neo and Trinity is impressive. In terms of gameplay itself, it’s all rather simple, it reminded me of something we would have seen in the arcades in the 90s, however, with updated state-of-the-art graphics. The highways, cars, characters, textures, and lighting are on a whole new level we haven’t seen before. The whole scene looks like it could have come from a movie. There’s a slight uncanny valley feeling to some of the dialogue moments, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
While the shooting sequence may feel like it’s ‘on rails’, this is actually being rendered in an open world. The cars flipping, the explosions, it’s all being calculated in real-time using Epic’s Chaos physics system. If you run through the demo multiple times, you will get slightly different results in the action, even if the outcome is relatively the same. It’s all very impressive, and the description here doesn’t really do it justice, it’s best to see with your own eyes if you can.
The final part of the demo is much more relaxing – walking or flying around a huge city. You can even jump into most vehicles and drive around. This part of the demo is rendered using something called Nanite. This is an extreme detail system created by Epic for use with Unreal Engine 5, which promises infinite levels of detail with no pop-in. The objective of the demo here is to show a densely populated open world. There are hundreds of buildings, pedestrians and cars.
Nanite works with another technology called Lumen. This is Unreal Engine 5’s real-time global illumination system. This takes advantage of the ray-tracing capabilities of the new consoles to deliver high-quality reflections and light shadows. Epic also uses something called TSR (Temporal super-resolution), which injects data from previous frames into the current one to improve quality. This helps with performance, given this is all very processor intensive.
Epic released some stats included with the demo for the PS5 and Xbox Series X Verison.
- The city is 4,138 km wide and 4.968 km long, slightly larger than the size of downtown Los Angeles
- The city surface is 15.79 km2
- The city perimeter is 14.519 km long
- There are 260 km of roads in the city
- There are 512 km of sidewalk in the city
- There are 1,248 intersections in the city
- There are 45,073 parked cars, of which 38,146 are drivable and destructible
- There are 17,000 simulated traffic vehicles on the road that are destructible
- 7,000 buildings
- 27,848 lamp posts on the street side only
- 12,422 sewer holes
- Almost 10 million unique and duplicated assets were created to make the city
- The entire world is lit by only the sun, sky and emissive materials on meshes. No light sources were placed for the tens of thousands of street lights and headlights. In night mode, nearly all lighting comes from the millions of emissive building windows
- 35,000 simulated MetaHuman pedestrians
- Average polygon count? 7000k buildings made of 1000s of assets and each asset could be up to millions of polygons so we have several billions of polygons to make up just the buildings of the city
The demo isn’t likely to become a game, sorry to all those Matrix fans out there. This is a proof of concept to demonstrate the power of Unreal Engine 5 in combination with the latest console hardware in the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles.
The Matrix Awakens is perhaps the most impressive demo of Unreal Engine 5 to date. The fact that it’s been released as a downloadable demo, and we can play with it this time is fantastic. I loved the videos of the demo last year but just wanted to get my hands on it. Now we can with this demo, and it’s super impressive.
Hardly any of the new titles for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 have been showcasing the true capabilities of the consoles. Demon Souls on the PlayStation 5 may be the best-looking game I’ve played in the last 12 months, but this is on another level. When you think about what could be created with this technology for true next-generation games, it gets me very excited. What we are seeing at the moment in games is the cross-over library of games. God of War Ragnorok, Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring, Halo Infinite… pick a game that’s come out recently. All these games are made for cross-generation purposes. Soon developers will start to release games backed by Unreal Engine 5 and that will be the true start to the next generation of gaming.