‘Unreal Engine’ is just that

Last week, a demo was released for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles to show off the newest version of the most popular graphics engine for games, Unreal Engine 5.

When you start it up, you see a scene from the beginning of the movie The Matrix from 1999. But shortly, it transitions to current-day Keanu Reeves. But it isn’t actually Keanu Reeves. It’s a 3D model, a scan of Keanu. Then it transforms into a younger Keanu, as he was in 1999. And then, it transforms into his Matrix co-star Carrie-Anne Moss. Some of this is filmed, but most of it is rendered in real time by the game console. And it can be really hard to tell the difference.

Before long, it moves to an action scene – a car chase, with Keanu, Carrie-Anne, and another unnamed protagonist. This, too, is all done by the console in real-time, and looks nearly as good as any CGI you might see in a movie. And after some banter and action, something happens that I didn’t expect at all – it gave me control. I’m used to games changing to something less good-looking when it’s time to actually play the game, but here, it was a seamless transition, and still basically looked like a movie.

And Unreal Engine isn’t just used in games – TV shows like The Mandalorian and Star Trek: Discovery use it for real-time backgrounds in their filming spaces, and they’ll also benefit from the improvements of the new engine.

If you can, I absolutely recommend you download the demo, called The Matrix Awakens, on your Xbox or PS5. But if you can’t experience it on one of those, you can still watch it on YouTube.

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