How Matrix Awakens teases the potential of Unreal Engine 5

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I think this is the first time I’ve ever had to make a call with PR to ask “So… which intro sections were real and which were in Unreal Engine?” What followed was a conversation where we went shot by shot and described what is real and what is ‘unreal’. That scene from Neo’s bedroom in the first movie? Unreal. Some intro photos with Keanu? Real.

The visual results are ultimately a mixture. Most of the time you can tell the demo was done in Unreal Engine 5. But in the first few moments of questioning everything, it’s clear that Epic is showing up. It’s a testament to what they’ve been able to accomplish that I even had to have this calling. But while the intro probably features some of the hardest parts to tell apart, from the moment Carrie Anne Moss appears onscreen, everything is clearly Unreal Engine 5.

The Matrix Awakens Unreal Engine 5 Images

The entire demo goes into that weird valley feeling from there. I think the cynics are going to say how, yeah, things look a little plastic, but the “thing” the Unreal team is pulling here is pretty cheeky. They’ve already shown you the engine and reality mixed in for the first 2 minutes of the experience.

Matrix Awakens isn’t just a visual teaser, however. There’s a playable component as well, but what you “play” is more of a proof of concept than what you should expect from a final product. Really, it’s a chance for the team to say, “Yeah. You absolutely can make an open world game in Unreal. ‘

The demo opens with what amounts to a trailer where Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss talk about the ideas of The Matrix and what the Unreal 5 Engine can create. You are then transported to a rail game experience where you play as a new character with the ability to shoot cars and helicopters as you are chased by officers on the highway. Of course, it all ends with a massive explosion. Finally, you are allowed to explore the city at your leisure and play with some of the engine tools.

Looking at what has been created, I can’t help but compare it to Insomniac’s Spider-Man Miles Morales. Their New York City recreation had ray tracing, high crowd density, as well as procedurally generated traffic similar to the Matrix demo. A difference ? Similar to how they made the Valley of the Ancient demo publicly available this year, the Matrix version will be going free next spring for you to tinker with in the Unreal 5 engine. And I can’t wait to see what. the Unreal community will. If anyone could make a certain flying man in blue and red, I would definitely love to see him.

“It’s a tech demo, it’s not a game. There is a bit of gameplay, a bit of exploration. But… it’s a glimpse into the future.” says Jérôme Plattteaux, artistic director at Unreal as he talks about the technology. “Basically we’re the little swat team trying to find” Okay, how are we going to show the [Unreal] the best engine? ‘… How do you show that the engine can do more than just pebbles? referring to the Lumen demo from last year.

The end goal is to inspire other creators to use the Unreal Engine 5, so Jerome notes that Matrix Awakens was created by a small team after shipping their Unreal Engine 5 demo last year. Because they had to work fast, the entire city was made with a procedural generation. They would rebuild the city every week, resulting in 52 unique cities which they would create, demolish, and then quickly recreate with a little help from tools like SideFX’s Houdini for said procedural generation. They showed us how to quickly paint roads on the map, add large sections of “buildings” that they quickly decide the height of, and then create a whole new world in what seems to only take a few moments.

In this new world, you can fly to any location on the street, switch between night and day, or move the sun or moon around the world while watching the dynamic light-powered shadows spread across the globe. the streets in real time. You can drive cars and crash into any of the 17,000 simulated and destructible vehicles. Or just hover over and admire the architecture from the air while switching to the different views to see exactly what goes into creating a city made up of 10 million unique and duplicated assets.

When you add in that all this space has hardware ray tracing enabled, as well as ray tracing shadows in the cutscenes, it’s hard not to be a little impressed. Especially if you peek behind the menu and take a look at the in-motor controller as it scrambles to load all the assets in the background while you push it to its limits.

The entire experience is campy, and even has one of those “look straight at camera and wink” moments, but the technology on display is truly impressive. I think some people may criticize the Matrix experience in the end, but my big takeaway? Excitation. Once you realize that this is the technology that will power our games for years to come, it’s hard not to be blown away by the potential displayed. It’s very clear that they’re not trying to impress everyone with a great “game” here, but rather show off a wide variety of tools that are sure to push the games we have a few years down the line. to their limits. And for that… I will see how far the rabbit hole goes each day.

Destin Legarie is Director of Content Strategy at IGN. You can follow it on Twitter if you want, but he might be busy playing Halo.

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