We’ve seen an eye-popping gorgeous tech demo for a not-real game that I totally wish was real. We’ve seen Keanu Reeves (‘90s edition) alongside Keanu Reeves (modern-day edition). We’ve seen…a beard. But today, Epic Games presented by far the biggest look into its Unreal 5 3D creation engine, which can render visuals that look pretty damn real.
Oh, yeah, and there’s apparently a new Tomb Raider in the works.
Yes, Epic’s “State of Unreal” livestream was, against all expectations you may have about a marketing event, actually kinda cool if you’re a visually-oriented person. Ostensibly, the showcase was meant to promote the full release of Unreal 5, out today. Throughout the stream, Epic lifted the hood on how the engine works and what, exactly, it can do. It’s all very impressive, if you’re into the fidelity horse race that makes up next-gen graphics. You can watch it for yourself below:
Some of the biggest game studios on the planet have already announced a commitment to make games in Unreal 5. CD Projekt Red said it’ll make the next Witcher game, which is currently light on details and absent a formal title, in Unreal 5. (It is not, they stress, The Witcher 4, however.) Crystal Dynamics, the studio behind Marvel’s Avengers and the recent Tomb Raider reboots, said it’s making another Tomb Raider — a kernel of news that’s been teased for some time but was formally announced during today’s livestream.
We’ve already seen Unreal 5 in action. Last year, at the height of Matrix Resurrections fervor, Epic released a free Matrix tie-in on PlayStation 5. Called The Matrix Awakens, it was essentially a cinematic tech demo paired with some QTE elements and a taste of open-world exploration in a metropolitan setting. But few things were more impressive than how real everything, and almost everyone, looked. Here’s Kotaku’s Zack Zwiezen:
I’ll admit, at times it was hard to tell if I was looking at real people or fake people. Other times it was very obvious, like when it digitally morphed Keanu into a younger version of himself or changed between him and dozens of other characters, including Trinity actress Carrie-Anne Moss. The overall effect might not be breathtaking, but on a big 4K TV it’s definitely “whoa” worthy.
Today’s livestream opened with a deep dive into how that demo came about, what with all the cinematics impressively rendered in real time. “We wanted to show that a player could be immersed in an exciting, cinematic scene that normally would only be possible in a blockbuster,” said Epic chief technology officer Kim Libreri. Staff from The Coalition, a Microsoft in-house studio best known for recent Gears games, showed off cutscenes from tech demos the studio has been working on (though stamped every frame with a watermark clarifying that footage seen “[does] not represent a game project”).
Now, I’m not saying we’re out of the uncanny valley just yet — by no means do I have the technical expertise nor the authority to make such a bold proclamation — but I couldn’t get one quote, from Reeves, out of my head: “How do we know what is real?”