Unreal Engine 5 Announced, Impressive Graphics Showcased In PS5 Tech Demo

Epic has announced the latest iteration of the Unreal Engine, and it looks impressive.

43 Comments

In addition to Fortnite, Epic Games is known for creating the Unreal Engine that is used by studios worldwide to create games, while Disney uses it to help film The Mandalorian. Epic has now announced the next version, Unreal Engine 5, and it has bold ambitions. Unreal Engine 5 looks like a major improvement over Epic's previous engine, with technology that promises to eliminate texture pop-in, assets that can be easily transferred between film and video games, and brilliant fidelity. The footage shown during the demonstration is based on a fully-playable PS5 demo, despite not representing a full game. That has expectations very high for what Unreal Engine 5 is capable of.

Unreal Engine 5 promises to deliver "photorealism on par with movie CG and real life." To showcase the power of the new engine, Epic created a tech demo called "Lumen in the Land of Nanite." The real-time demo, which you can see below, is running on the PlayStation 5.

Two of the "core" technologies in Unreal Engine 5 are showcased in the video, including Nanite and Lumen. The full descriptions for these new technologies is below.

Nanite

"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. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time so there are no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets; there is no need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs; and there is no loss in quality."

Lumen

"Lumen is a fully dynamic global Illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists and designers can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly. Lumen erases the need to wait for lightmap bakes to finish and to author light map UVs--a huge time savings when an artist can move a light inside the Unreal Editor and lighting looks the same as when the game is run on console."

Unreal Engine 5 uses the Quixel Megascans library, which includes "film-quality objects" that are rendered with "up to hundreds of millions of polygons." The PS5 tech demo trailer also shows off new physics and destruction elements, as well as what's known as "convolution reverb and ambisonics rendering."

The engine will be available, in a preview state, starting in early 2021 with the full release scheduled for later that year. In addition to the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the engine will support development on PS4 and Xbox One, as well as PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.

While developers wait, they can make use of the recent Unreal Engine 4.25 update, which introduced support for the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Epic said development teams will be able to move from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5 without issues thanks to the next-gen engine's "forward compatibility" design.

Epic's own development teams are going to use Unreal Engine 5 for their games, including Fortnite. The battle royale game will be a launch game for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, with the game set to shift to Unreal Engine 5 in mid-2021. The studio did not say what kinds of graphical upgrades will be available thanks to the new technology, however.

Another key part of Unreal Engine 5 is how Epic is making the engine even more attractive to developers. Starting right now, Epic won't require developers to pay royalties on games made using the Unreal Engine until their game sales pass $1 million in gross revenue. This is a gigantic change because the threshold was previously $3,000 per quarter. The change is retroactive from January 1, 2020, and developers can find more details about this at the official FAQ.

This is just the latest developer-friendly push from Epic. The company's Epic Games Store pays developers a greater share of revenue, giving out 88 percent to game-makers. This move has attracted developers big and small to release their games on the Epic Games Store, the latest example being Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 remasters.

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Thanatos2k

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Real life huh. Well, when I open a door in real life it doesn't take 0.5 seconds for the textures to load in the new room I see.

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Thelostscribe

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@Thanatos2k: Nice

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videogameninja

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Sweet mother of…

That looked amazing!!!

So this is the engine that some of those big CGI movies have been using, huh? I can see why.

Looks like the days where we as gamers were looking for graphics on par with those old Pixar movies might be here.

-BUZZ LIGHTYEAR & WOODY APPROVED-

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HesamB

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Unreal 4 looked impressive too, and we're still a long way for games to even look like those demos, let alone Unreal 5 demo.

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TehMasterer2

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@HesamB: This is true, though more automation on the part of the engine (with regards to dynamic quality streaming/tessellation/nanite/whatever buzzword they decide to call it next, and realistic illumination instead of multiple developer-placed light source variants) is always a good thing.

That being said, tech demos will always look better than a full-featured game using the same technology, because a tech demo is entirely tailored to showcasing that tech. It isn't concerned about tracking a thousand different game state variables and NPC routines and random events and everything else that modern games do in the background.

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TyrantT316

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@HesamB said:

Unreal 4 looked impressive too, and we're still a long way for games to even look like those demos, let alone Unreal 5 demo.

As much as I believe what they say, you have a great point. Not that it can't happen, but we can only go by history. History says, games look very good, Unreal demos look great, and the explanation is that demos require less resources than fully programmed games with AI/multiple characters, scenarios, etc. So what is to make us believe it's not the same issue this time around.

I hope they are right, but only have history to go by. I wonder if "real-time" gaming on Unreal 5 will look like Unreal 4 tech demos.

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JSprunk

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Edited By JSprunk

It’s a fact that most people in real life are ugly. Hopefully, Epic is referring to the “real life” that’s rare and beautiful.

But in all seriousness, I can’t wait to play a really good horror game on the Microsoft Hololens technology which is really what Epic is trying to push here with UE 5.

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HesamB

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@jsprunk: you clearly haven't been to for example Norway or Iran, most people are not ugly

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JSprunk

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Edited By JSprunk

@HesamB: Beauty is a rare trait, by definition. Therefore, whether you agree or not, ugly is by definition, common.

(Not sure if serious about Iran)

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idakooz

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Edited By idakooz

Just another tech demo. Once finally used in real life to make games, no doubt it will look great but nothing exactly like what is in the tech demo. it has and always be like that in game engine previews.

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Phooey442

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Edited By Phooey442

Coming to a playable game near you in 2026

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Crazy_sahara

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Unreal 4 free for peasants, and unreal 5 for corporate shills with money, how much money who knows.

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JeremyAlexander

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Edited By JeremyAlexander

I'll believe it when I see it. We still don't have games that look as good as Unreal tech demos from a decade or more ago. And all the progress in the world won't matter until we get more realistic looking faces, and get serious about AI and npc behavior. I don't mind a little geometry popping in, I want to interact with AI controlled NPC's in real time, with voice. I want the era of the 5 line character to be over.

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bababooey12

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@jeremyalexander: I agree with you on the AI and NPC behavior, however I think both have come a long way. As for faces I'm quite happy with them too, at least with certain games, because it also comes down to the developer. Take RDR2 for instance, feel its one of the best looking games this generation, the face detail for instance look pretty realistic as is.

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Spartan_418

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Edited By Spartan_418

Everything looks great but noticed how they hide the player character's face from view.

As if they're aware that human faces still don't look convincingly close to real life and that showing her face would have brought down the overall impression of the demo

edit: the embedded 2 minute video in the article doesn't show her face, but other longer videos actually do show it up close, and as expected it looks like something out of a high quality Pixar movie, not like live action.

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Gaming-Planet

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@Spartan_418: Probably no facial expressions were added. At least, not convincing ones. LOD of the face is probably pretty good.

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texastitan123

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@Spartan_418: I think that is why the hell blade preview was freaky. They got the face model down.

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Spartan_418

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@texastitan123: Senua's face in that trailer is impressive, though feel like it might be less convincing without the face paint and lit by the sun instead of fire

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warmblur

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looks good but I'm just not blown away by it. "shrugs"

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texastitan123

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@warmblur: I agree. Its like adding more pixels to a phone display.

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nintendians

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Edited By nintendians

it look great, as long live up near that promise.

i'm sure unreal engine 5 would work on nintendo switch too, just not to graphic intense like ps5 and xbox series x would do.

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Wahsobe

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Edited By Wahsobe

Every Unreal engine release has brought a noteworthy improvement to graphics. It's great to see that things are still alive and well over there, most likely thanks in no small part to the massive influx of cash coming in from Fortnights monstrous success. The UE editor was one of the first game editors that I fussed around with. Imanged to create my old IT office in there and it relieved a lot of stress for the staff running around and shooting the crap out of each other in UT99.

I love what the future of game graphics and audio has in store for us. The next big thing I look forward to is the addition of using cloud driven AI dialogue and speech. Sure it's great that Dev's can pre record hundreds of hours of audio content but it's costly and is next to impossible to record for entire cities without abrupt endings or repetition. You take something like Google Duplex and suddenly you can create a randomized world of content without the need or cost of hiring countless voice actors to fill the pointless non quest driven chatter.

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theduckofdeath

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@wahsobe: Oh, man. More jobs lost to automation. ;)

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Wahsobe

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@theduckofdeath said:

@wahsobe: Oh, man. More jobs lost to automation. ;)

Not really, it's highly unlikely they would have ever hired enough people to properly do thousands of voices.

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Thelostscribe

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Fascinating look at what could be. Odds of early next gen games coming close to that are very slim, but I could see by mid next gen games looking closer to that. I'm not sure a next gen game at any point will look exactly that good at any point, but it shows what the capability of next gen in the least.

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Furwings

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All I do know is that if THIS is indicative of what "next-gen" on the PS5 and Series X will be like, the Switch isn't getting ANY more ports of 3rd party titles EVER!

Time for Nintendo to announce the Switch Pro soon I'm thinking...

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Thelostscribe

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@Furwings: This might actually be a real problem for them. They have received some decent third party support these last few years, but downgrading next gen games to run on Switch may prove to be much more of a challenge. It could probably still be done, but the degradation of product may be worse.

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tsunami2311

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I am still amazed how ever time there tech demo they so it " looks" as good as real life when not even close never has been we are long way off from still

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desert_thief

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I have a feeling that it'll eat up a chunk of data storage. Even 2TB of SSD may not be enough one day.

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tsunami2311

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Edited By tsunami2311

@desert_thief:

2 TB should be min next gen consoles have which isnt happening both are using "specialty" versions of drives too so that isnt gona help cost to space ratio of such drives that such as it is

I have 1TB im ps4 which really more like 850gb after formatted and OS installed and I have no spaceleft with only 16 games installed of the 16 games installed quiet few of them are 100+gb most of them 50gbs + and that just counting the game I have own on DISC that i can freely uninstall and installed, for get about how many how many digitial I have or how many PS+ game I have I will never play most them cause require deleting and downloading of games drive are to small and game size keep getting bigger. which why I still perfer disc copies.

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Wahsobe

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@tsunami2311: Unless you want an upfront cost $700USD or a standard HDD you're going to have to give a little slack somewhere.

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BryanWeary

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@tsunami2311: Slapped a 2TB in my PS4. Still not nearly enough room for all my games. 🤣

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Thelostscribe

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@bryanweary: I've got a 10 TB drive and that's about half used now, but never have to uninstall a game haha.

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BryanWeary

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Edited By BryanWeary

@thelostscribe: Fortunately, the games I don't have installed are either completed and not going to revisit any time soon, or just not for me, after a bit of play. Still got room left for Cyberpunk 2077 though and that's the important part. 🤣

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Rufus_the_rat

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This looks amazing, but saying there's no more polygon budgets in game development is a complete lie. There's always limits to graphical rendering imposed by the engine not to mention the thermal tolerance of the console/PC itself.

I think it's also time to develop a new control method. Fundamentally the gameplay in this demo amounts to push forward on the analog stick while occasionally pressing x. We need some sort of interface that uses more of the muscles in our hands (rather than just our thumb) for much greater control.

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Jimminyfixit

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Sigh another "console tech demo" which will in no way resemble the end product. I remember watching Samaritan, the UE3 tech demo and games have never looked close to that detailed on the PS4/XBOX. It was just a pre-rendered lie to get you buying a sponsored console they know is in no way capable of delivering such detail. After the Watch Dogs demo fiasco for PS4 I thought GS would have wisened up by now.

It's bollocks.

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WarFox89

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@Jimminyfixit: 100%

take a look at the UE4 reveal demo. UE4 games never looked even close to that even after 6 years post release. It's just a pre-rendered ad.

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Rufus_the_rat

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@Jimminyfixit: Yeah it seems like real in-game graphics are always two tech demos behind. So what we're seeing is actually more like normal PS6 gameplay which we won't have until 2030ish.

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lonesamurai00

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Edited By lonesamurai00

"the engine will support development on PS4 and Xbox One, as well as PC, Mac, iOS, and Android."

Gamespot as a site is just so console centric that it is sickening. The first Unreal engine, and the games were on the PC before any of those other platforms, and Gamespot says, oh yeah it's on the PC as well. These guys are beautiful. They never fail to entertain.

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DancingCactus

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Hey guys, look!

A PS5 Tech demo!

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TJDMHEM

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@dancingcactus: nice

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