Epic Games is giving the gaming public a taste of what the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will be capable of — and the demo did not disappoint. In a 9-minute clip released on Wednesday, the company showed how the next-generation consoles will be able to render the most realistic-looking video games yet.
The demo itself concerns the company’s upcoming Unreal Engine 5, which is designed to power the graphics in both console and PC games. To show off the technology, the company created an Unreal Engine 5 demo running in real time on a PlayStation 5.
“One of our goals in this next generation is to achieve photorealism on par with movie CG and real life,” Epic Games said in today’s announcement.
Based on what we saw, the company has pulled this off. At first glance, the graphics seem achievable on current hardware. But as you watch the demo, which revolves around a Tomb Raider-like character, you’ll notice the environments have been rendered with a realism never seen before in video games. For instance, rocks look like actual rocks taken from real life.
A temple in the demo. (Credit: Epic Games)
In fact, the engine is capable of using 3D images shot in the real world, and transferring them over into a game environment with no loss in quality. The technology can do this through Unreal Engine 5’s “Nanite” feature, which can produce a stunning level of detail at an 8K resolution for each texture. “There are over a billion triangles of source geometry in each frame that Nanite crunches down losslessly to around 20 million drawn triangles,” Epic Games explains in the clip.
The demo showing a cave scene. (Credit: Epic Games)
The other big advancement in Unreal Engine 5 focuses on producing realistic lighting and shadow effects. You’ll notice the sunlight accurately shines through the cave while the shadows ominously linger in the background. Other features in the game engine can render a character kicking up water, the flowing cloth of a scarf, and the way rocks fall over a cliffside all with realistic physics effects.
The demo showing a statue. (Credit: Epic Games)
The demo culminates with the character moving into a tomb filled with 500 ancient statues, each of which take 33 million polygons to render. “Over this entire demo, there are hundreds of billions of (3D) triangles,” Epic Games says. However, not once does the demo stutter. The real-time gameplay is completely smooth.
More statues (Credit: Epic Games)
Unfortunately, Unreal Engine 5 will only begin previewing to developers in early 2021 with a full release date later in the year. So you won’t find the technology in the first crop of games arriving to the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, which launch this holiday season. Still, the demo shown today gets us excited for the future of gaming graphics.
We’ll also have to see if game developers can easily incorporate Unreal Engine 5 into their games, or if it’s marred by technical challenges. The game industry is a bit notorious for showing off awe-inspiring 3D demos only for the actual games to come up short. Still, the footage shown today gets us excited for the future of gaming graphics.