Epic Games reveals Unreal Engine 5 with a PlayStation 5 tech demo

By Heidi Nicholas,
Epic Games has revealed Unreal Engine 5 with a demo running on PlayStation 5, showing the first in-depth look at gameplay on the next generation of PlayStation.

Technical Director of Graphics Brian Karis and Special Projects Art Director Jerome Platteaux go into more detail on the demo, called "Lumen in the Land of Nanite", as does the most recent post on the Unreal Engine blog. The demo shows two of the "core technologies" of Unreal Engine 5: Nanite and Lumen. Nanite is "virtualized micropolygon geometry, which frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see". Commenting on the demo, Karis says "Nanite can render an insane amount of triangles very quickly": there are "over a billion triangles of source geometry in each frame", which Nanite "crunches down losslessly to around 20 million drawn triangles".

Lumen, meanwhile, is "a fully dynamic global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes." Karis says it allows for "beautiful bounce lighting instantaneously", with the blog post elaborating that "the system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments." As such, Lumen allows for "more dynamic scenes": for instance, changing the angle of the sun "or blowing a hole in the ceiling" will have the "indirect lighting... adapt accordingly." The Unreal Engine team add that all of the lighting in the demo is completely dynamic and that "with the power of Lumen," dynamic lighting "even includes multi-bounce global illumination".

Unreal Engine 5

The demo also shows other next-gen features: Niagara VFX (the system which created the bats in the demo) improvements, Chaos physics (which they used for the motion of the character's scarf), and other enhancements. Karis and Platteaux comment on several of these features, saying Convolution Reverb, for instance, allows them to "measure reverberation characteristics of real spaces, like actual caves that we sampled, and reproduce them in virtual spaces", while sound field rendering allows them "to record, and play back, spatialized audio". The Unreal Engine team says most of the demo was built with Quixel Megascsans assets, which, instead of game versions, allows them to use cinematic versions which would "typically only be used in film".

All of this, they say, adds up to a "more immersive experience". Many of the features shown, such as the Niagara VFX improvements and Chaos physics and destruction, are already available in Unreal Engine 4.25 — which "also includes support for next-gen consoles." The team says Unreal Engine 5 will be available in preview early next year, with a full release following later in 2021.

Unreal Engine 5

The demo ran on the PS5, with the Unreal Engine team saying that "to support vastly larger and more detailed scenes than previous generations, PlayStation 5 provides a dramatic increase in storage bandwidth." Although the demo mostly focuses on the technical capabilities of Unreal Engine 5 it also gives the first proper look at PS5 gameplay we've yet had. What do you think of "Lumen in the Land of Nanite"? Let us know in the comments!
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've just finished studying a Masters in English Literature, but I've been obsessed with gaming since long before then. I began on the PS2 with Spyro, before graduating to the Xbox 360 and disappearing into Skyrim. I'm now a loyal RPG fan, but I still like to explore other genres — when I'm not playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or being lured back into Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3!