There are some who would argue that the PlayStation 5 has yet to have its true next-gen moment. Exclusives like Demon’s Souls and even Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart look phenomenal, of course, but are they really a significant step-up from the PS4? Sony, in many ways, made a rod for its own back with its generational transition: the latter days of its last-gen console played host to titles like The Last of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima, two of the best-looking games ever created. How much better can it possibly get?
The Matrix Awakens, a free PS5 tech demo designed to showcase the power of the Unreal Engine 5 technology demonstrates that we’re not at the point of diminishing returns just yet. This is a staggering real-time illustration of what Sony’s new console can do, and collectively our jaw’s on the floor. It starts out with a recreated scene from The Matrix, before Keanu Reeves introduces the demo as himself. The fidelity is unparalleled – if not for a few awkward animation transitions you’d be forgiven for thinking this is FMV, but it’s not.
You then end up in a car chase where you have limited input. You can fire a weapon at car tires and things explode all around you. The framerate isn’t perfect – it’s targeting 30 frames-per-second and routinely dips – but it looks lightyears ahead of anything released on a console before. It transitions in and out of cut-scenes, culminating in one final shootout where you bring down a helicopter with a hefty machine gun. The camera zooms in and out, showing the details of its facial animations and the sheer scale of its city.
Then it concludes with a show-reel of the engine’s best features: the sheer number of AI vehicles on screen at once; the lighting system which enables dynamic time of day; Epic Games’ ridiculous Nanite technology which delivers an unparalleled level of geometric detail. If this was the end of the demo we’d be salivating for sure, but then you’re given the freedom to explore the urban sandbox either on foot or as a drone, and you can manipulate the sun’s position to change the time of day.
You can also get into any of the cars and drive around, and it’s hard not to imagine what a modern Grand Theft Auto game could look like with this kind of technology. Driving at high-speed, there’s no real discernible pop-in despite the sheer complexity of the scenes on display. Civilians go about their business, while computer-controlled cars drive organically within the city laid out in front of them. Every person is generated by Epic’s futuristic MetaHuman technology, by the way.
According to official data from the Fortnite maker, there are some 7,000 buildings in this map, as well as a surface area of just under 16km2. This isn’t a game, of course, it’s not intended to be – it’s a demonstration of what’s to come. And if you’re yet to be wowed by a game’s presentation on the PS5, then we’ll be flabbergasted if this doesn’t leave you starry-eyed. The future is bright, folks.
Have you tried The Matrix Awakens tech demo on your PS5 yet? Were you as impressed as we are? Pick your tongue up in the comments section below.