With a whole lot of new technology that we’ve never heard of, Unreal Engine 5 looks absolutely spectacular in every way. The closest thing to genuine photo-realism in a purely animated medium, Epic Games’ latest offering was shown off using the PlayStation 5’s hardware, which managed to run it without a single hitch.
If you have any doubts on the power of the next-generation game consoles, then we’ve got the clip to convince you otherwise. Unveiled yesterday by Sony and Epic Games, the tech demo for the newest version of Unreal Engine 5 was shown off on the PlayStation 5 and… well, it looks unbelievable. We’re not ones to usually be blown away by graphical fidelity but it’s absolutely undeniable that Epic Game’s newest engine is a truly impressive step forward for the industry. All made possible by Sony’s storage tech and the SSDs installed in the PlayStation 5.
As for the more technical information, UE5 has two new features that set it far ahead of competing engines, namely the Lumen and Nanite features. The tech demo, titled rather obviously as Lumen in the Land of Nanite, makes extensive use of this new technology and considering that most people might not know why they’re significant, let’s break them down separately, eh?
Firstly, Lumen is “a fully dynamic global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes”, reads the description on the official Unreal Engine website. What this means is that light and light source rendering is about to become a lot more sophisticated. Capable of calculating the light distance and dynamics down to the in-game millimetre in real-time, UE5 is capable of generating the most realistic depiction of light rays ever seen in an animation engine.
Secondly, Nanite is a little more complicated. To quote the official blog post, “Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Nanite virtualized geometry means that film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine—anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans to CAD data—and it just works.”
Which is a lot, we know. What it basically means is that game developers and digital artists no longer have to worry about the number of polygons being used in the rendering process due to the engine automatically processing all those added details without any hitches. Previous engines have often restricted polygon counts to a set limit to ensure the image renders properly but with UE5, the limitation on polygon count is, well, “millions and billions”. You can’t get many more than that.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney spoke to the benefits of Nanite a bit more in a statement to Engadget, saying, “Nanite frees developers from having to worry about polygon count and levels of detail. It enables you to author all the content in the game at its full, movie quality level of resolution and then rely on the game engine to scale it down so it runs in real-time on every device.”
Unreal Engine 5 is still a little way off, with Epic Games saying preview builds should be available in early 2021 and full access is given by the end of the same year. Still, it’s pretty impressive that such wildly powerful technology is only a year away. We can’t wait to see what developers are able to do with it.