After months of technical speak, PR-vetted buzz words, and oblique promises of a generational leap, the true, unclouded potential of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X consoles came to light today.
And from an unlikely source.
Rather than Microsoft or Sony using the pomp of a reveal event, it was none other than Epic Games that produced the first genuine look at what’s in store.
The Fortnite developer not only revealed Unreal Engine 5 but produced a dazzling accompanying tech demo, dubbed “Lumen in the Land of Nanite,” to show off the engine’s capabilities.
And, more pertinent to the next-gen, Epic captured the tech demo running in real-time on a PlayStation 5 development kit. No post-production wizardry, no pre-rendering – just raw output from a PS5.
Sadly, Lumen in the Land of Nanite isn’t a game in development, but Epic Games CEO Tom Sweeney did remark that it was playable with full control over the titular character.
In the demo, Lumen traverses a rocky canyon. The scene is depicted in stunning detail, thanks to the new Unreal Engine 5’s lighting and geometry tools – dubbed Lumens and Nanite, respectively.
The dynamism, density, and visual fidelity on display are hard to describe in terms that do the demo justice. But Lumen in the Land of Nanite lives up to expectations of the next generation harbored by many.
At one point, the demo highlights the high-poly assets on a statue with 33 million triangles. With a near-photo realistic visual fidelity, the statue itself impresses.
Moments later, Epic unveils the same statue replicated nearly 500 times. At the same level of detail, for a total of 16 billion triangles – without even factoring the surrounding dynamic environment. The demo reveals the sea of identical statues in real-time with stunning smoothness.
All this, without even a hint that the engine is struggling to create the scene.
And this is just one example of a dozen or so similarly jaw-dropping moments.
From the lighting reacting dynamically to crumbling rocks as they collide with the surrounding geometry, to the detail of what Epic calls full fidelity “film-quality assets” flooding each new location, Epic flaunts the next-gen vision in style.
After last week’s underwhelming, CGI-heavy Xbox Series X gameplay reveal, there was a sense that platform holders may have oversold the next-gen dream.
Have we hit the point of diminishing graphical returns? Are Sony and Microsoft reigning in specifications out of concern for hardware costs? What exactly will the promised “generational leap” equate to in demonstrable terms?
If the Lumen in the Land of Nanite demo is anything to go by, then untold visual delights and bewilderingly dynamic environments are on the cards.
Broadcast as part of the Summer Game Fest, the Unreal Engine 5 reveal was teased by Geoff Keighley as one of this summer’s most momentous gaming moments. After taking a moment to recuperate from what we’ve seen today, we’d be hard-pressed to disagree.
The next-gen is here, and we’d all do well to get very, very excited.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.