Games

Epic Games shows off hyper-realistic new Unreal Engine 5

Epic Games shows off hyper-rea...
The 5th-generation engine can render the effects of multiple moving light sources in real time
The 5th-generation engine can render the effects of multiple moving light sources in real time
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OK, some bits are less hyper-realistic
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OK, some bits are less hyper-realistic
The 5th-generation engine can render the effects of multiple moving light sources in real time
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The 5th-generation engine can render the effects of multiple moving light sources in real time
Each of these statues, and there are almost 500 of them in the room, is a Zbrush import with more than 33 million triangles
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Each of these statues, and there are almost 500 of them in the room, is a Zbrush import with more than 33 million triangles
The next generation of Unreal Engine games will be incredible to look at
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The next generation of Unreal Engine games will be incredible to look at
The majority of the objects and textures used to build this demo set are available for download and instant import on Quixel
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The majority of the objects and textures used to build this demo set are available for download and instant import on Quixel
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Unreal, by Epic Games, was a pretty great video game back in 1998, but the impact of the game engine built to make it has been extraordinary. Currently in its fourth generation, the Unreal Engine is responsible for the graphics, physics, lighting, sound, animation, artificial intelligence, networking, streaming, memory management and general development of a huge range of games.

Developers use it in return for five percent of the revenues they make off their games, and you've encountered Unreal Engine version 4 if you've played Fortnite, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the Batman: Arkham games or many others across Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and mobile platforms.

It's so good that it's starting to show up in Hollywood as a next-level CGI system, responsible for the lion's share of the dynamic backgrounds and lighting in The Mandalorian series, among other things.

Yesterday, the Unreal Engine team released an extraordinary demo video showing off the capabilities of the next-gen Unreal Engine 5, due to launch in 2021, running on a pre-production PlayStation 5. Titled "Lumen in the Land of Nanite," the demo video focuses on two improved aspects of the 5th-gen engine.

The majority of the objects and textures used to build this demo set are available for download and instant import on Quixel
The majority of the objects and textures used to build this demo set are available for download and instant import on Quixel

Its Lumen dynamic lighting system can react to scene, object and light source changes in real time, including reflected light from multiple dynamically moving sources as it bounces off irregular surfaces, creating some very subtle and beautifully realistic illumination effects. Being able to do this stuff in real time means developers can instantly see exactly how things will look as they create motion sequences.

And its Nanite "virtualized micropolygon geometry" system should be a huge leap forward for detailed graphics. It allows developers to import highly detailed photogrammetric models of real-world objects during game development, handling the time-consuming process of turning these things into dynamic game objects. If an object has been built in pretty much any 3D system, including the ones used for movie visual effects, it can be super-quickly dropped into Unreal Engine 5. That's going to speed up development hugely.

It also allows developers to import objects from the world's largest photogrammetry library, Quixel, which Epic Games acquired last year. You can pop over to the Quixel website and scroll through thousands upon thousands of fully scanned objects, textures and overlays, including a collection of the very limestone rocks and textures used to build the demo video.

There is a new "Niagra" fluid and particle dynamics system, a new Chaos physics engine, and plenty of upgrades to the sound engine too. But without delving too far into the technology, let's take a look at the video.

Each of these statues, and there are almost 500 of them in the room, is a Zbrush import with more than 33 million triangles
Each of these statues, and there are almost 500 of them in the room, is a Zbrush import with more than 33 million triangles

All the elements in the above image combine to create an unnervingly realistic setting for our mystery protagonist as she explores a Tomb Raider-like series of caves and ancient mechanisms. The immersiveness of just this small demo level is incredible, particularly when the developers claim it's running in real time on effectively the same PlayStation 5 that'll be released at the end of this year.

It feels like a privilege to have grown up through the infancy of video gaming. I played Space Invaders on the Atari 2600, Donkey Kong on clamshell Nintendos, Karateka on an Apple IIe, Impossible Mission on the Commodore 64, the King's Quest on PCs with CGA, EGA and then the mighty VGA graphics cards. By the time Doom 2 came along, I was in university, and my friends and I would edit the sound files to make the monsters swear at us. I've had every generation of PlayStation, a few Xboxes, a smattering of Nintendo consoles, and I've watched gaming grow up from the childlike simplicity of the 80s to the deeply adult photo-realism and complex hundred-plus-hour storytelling today's games are capable of. At its best, it's a genuinely moving and involving art form, and it's great to see it beginning to merge with cinema.

With each generation of gaming, I've been thrilled to see how things have advanced, and watching the video below I can't help but imagine how it would blow the mind of a ten-year-old Loz if he'd seen it. Incredible stuff. Enjoy it on a big screen if you can.

Unreal Engine 5 Revealed! | Next-Gen Real-Time Demo Running on PlayStation 5

Source: Epic Games

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5 comments
RobertMinter
It is extraordinary what they've achieved. However, human figures, for me, still look dated, or at least don't match the beauty and realism of the surroundings. Seeing as you spend most of your time in this game staring at or through the character, and after the initial wow of the scenery, I'm still looking at a slightly awkward human. I suppose it goes to show just how hard it is to re-create a human relative to a wall.
Captain Danger
Thanks to MAME I can play Missile Command, Galaga and Pac Man. 8 Bits is good enough for me.
nick101
I dunno, sure, the environments look amazing and the special effects are mind-blowing, but that won't make the games any better. If the gameplay is too hard or too easy, it won't matter how the games look.
Jim E
That character's parkour skills are top-notch.
guzmanchinky
I'm a 1970 model, so I also grew up through Activision and Atari. I simply cannot wait for this to become commonplace in VR, where you can explore any world in 3D and have it look so real as to be almost impossible to differentiate from reality...