Unreal Engine 5 and The Matrix Awakens available to download now
After its groundbreaking reveal on PlayStation 5 and after a period of early access, Unreal Engine 5 is finally available for general download. In conjunction with the release, Epic is releasing a scaled-down, Keanu-free version of the remarkable The Matrix Awakens demo, as well as a sample game project for you to experience, called Lyra. The release of UE5 takes center stage in today’s virtual State of Unreal event, and we’re told to expect a range of deep tech dives surrounding the tech alongside the launch of the engine itself. .
UE5 takes the established Unreal Engine 4.27 and adds full support for a number of key next-gen technologies. We’ve seen them in action before, of course. Lumen is Epic’s take on a fully real-time global lighting solution, eliminating the need to rely on static, pre-computed “baked” lighting, relying on hardware-accelerated ray tracing , if applicable. Nanite is UE5’s virtualized micro-polygon technology, delivering incredibly granular detail from cinematic-quality assets and the elimination of “pop-in” geometry.
The requirements of these systems are such that native rendering at 4K resolution is not achievable on today’s game consoles and this ties into another key feature: super temporal resolution. Recently seen for the first time in a non-UE5 title – Ghostwire: Tokyo – TSR is the best time-scaling software solution we’ve seen to date. When upscaling from native 1080p to 4K – a 2x resolution increase on both axes – the quality is comparable (if not quite as good) to Nvidia’s DLSS.
Another exciting new feature is a fully procedural audio engine, dubbed MetaSounds, which Epic describes as “analogous to a fully programmable hardware and rendering pipeline, bringing all the benefits of procedural content creation to audio that the Material Editor brings shaders: dynamic data-driven assets, the ability to map game parameters to audio playback, huge workflow improvements, and much more.”
The December launch of The Matrix Awakens effectively showcased the features Epic is talking about today – including other technologies including a world partition system for optimized open-world streaming, data layers for different world variations, as well as procedural generation tools to help build these environments in more resources. – constrained environments, a continuation of Epic’s stated mission to democratize premium triple-A features and make them accessible to all developers. Animation and editing options are also enhanced in UE5, while the Quixel Bridge feature allows easy integration of the full range of assets from the Quixel Megascans library.
Epic is promising a range of UE5 content coming to its market, but it will be the arrival of the Lyra and The Matrix Awakens sample game that will be the focus of Digital Foundry as we take a look at Unreal Engine 5 in the future. days. However, for the end user looking to download UE5 and compile the demo, we have to point out that it’s not the full experience as seen on consoles. As expected, all Warner Bros Matrix assets have been removed, meaning we are left with the procedurally generated city at the end of the console release.
There’s no guarantee on this, but we’re also hoping to revisit the older UE5 demo – Valley of the Ancient – in hopes of getting some visibility into the UE5 Early Access optimization improvements by compared to this new version. The demo had widespread stuttering issues due to CPU issues in processing large chunks of Nanite geometry – an area much improved in The Matrix Awakens.
Another point to highlight is that although this is the first full release of Unreal Engine 5 (with games already in development), the engine itself remains in a continuous state of evolution and there is still key challenges to be resolved. As discussed in a recent post about CD Projekt RED’s move to UE5, it’s clear that the next Witcher game will benefit from workflow and features – so, for example, Nanite and Lumen could revolutionize the open world. However, Nanite’s support for non-opaque objects – e.g. foliage – and skin geometry are still high on the to-do list. The building blocks are there to make creating phenomenal game worlds easier, but we’re still a long way from the finished article.
Despite this, Epic still deserves kudos – UE5 remains the first mainstream engine to deliver a holistic view of the future of “next-gen” graphics, backing core rendering technology with deep workflow improvements – games are getting bigger and more complex. Epic’s vision is not only to democratize triple-A features and make them available to all developers, but also to provide underlying assets and procedural generation techniques to accelerate the creation of worlds of game. For full games leveraging Lumen and Nanite, we have to be patient – emerging technologies are slow to arrive in big budget games. However, in the shorter term, we could see smaller projects based on the Matrix Awakens city and the Lyra sample game, which the developers are free to customize. Expect our more in-depth review of the UE5 to arrive soon.