‘Matrix’ Stars Discuss Free ‘Matrix Awakens’ Demo Showing Off Epic’s Unreal Engine 5

This year's Game Awards also saw the premiere of The Matrix Awakens, a new in-world "tech demonstrator" written by Lana Wachowski, the co-writer/director of the original Matrix trilogy and director of the upcoming sequel. It's available free on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, reports the Verge, and they also scored a sit-down video interview with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss about the new playable experience — and the new Matrix movie: Reeves also revealed that he thinks there should be a modern Matrix video game, that he's flattered by Cyberpunk 2077 players modding the game to have sex with his character, and why he thinks Facebook shouldn't co-opt the metaverse. Apart from serving as a clever promotion vehicle for the new Matrix movie premiering December 22nd, The Matrix Awakens is designed to showcase what's possible with the next major version of Epic's Unreal Engine coming next year. It's structured as a scripted intro by Wachowski, followed by a playable car chase scene and then an open-world sandbox experience you can navigate as one of Epic's metahuman characters. A big reason for doing the demo is to demonstrate how Epic thinks its technology can be used to blend scripted storytelling with games and much more, according to Epic CTO Kim Libreri, who worked on the special effects for the original Matrix trilogy... Everything in the virtual city is fully loaded no matter where your character is located (rather than rendered only when the character gets near), down to the detail of a chain link fence in an alley. All of the moving vehicles, people, and lighting in the city are generated by AI, the latter of which Libreri describes as a breakthrough that means lighting is no longer "this sort of niche art form." Thanks to updates coming to Unreal Engine, which powers everything from Fortnite to special effects in Disney's The Mandalorian, developers will be able to use the same, hyper-realistic virtual assets across different experiences. It's part of Epic's goal to help build the metaverse. Elsewhere the site writes that The Matrix Awakens "single-handedly proves next-gen graphics are within reach of Sony and Microsoft's new game consoles." It's unlike any tech demo you've ever tried before. When we said the next generation of gaming didn't actually arrive with Xbox Series X and PS5, this is the kind of push that has the potential to turn that around.... Just don't expect it to make you question your reality — the uncanny valley is still alive and well.... But from a "is it time for photorealistic video game cities?" perspective, The Matrix Awakens is seriously convincing. It's head-and-shoulders above the most photorealistic video game cities we've seen so far, including those in the Spider-Man, Grand Theft Auto and Watch Dogs series... Despite glitches and an occasionally choppy framerate, The Matrix Awakens city feels more real, thanks to Unreal Engine's incredible global illumination and real-time raytracing ("The entire world is lit by only the sun, sky and emissive materials on meshes," claims Epic), the detail of the procedurally generated buildings, and how dense it all is in terms of cars and foot traffic. And the most convincing part is that it's not just a scripted sequence running in real-time on your PS5 or Xbox like practically every other tech demo you've seen — you get to run, drive, and fly through it, manipulate the angle of the sun, turn on filters, and dive into a full photo mode, as soon as the scripted and on-rails shooter parts of the demo are done. Not that there's a lot to do in The Matrix Awakens except finding different ways to take in the view. You can't land on buildings, there's no car chases except for the scripted one, no bullets to dodge. You can crash any one of the game's 38,146 drivable cars into any of the other cars or walls, I guess. I did a bunch of that before I got bored, though, just taking in the world.... Almost 10 million unique and duplicated assets were created to make the city.... Epic Games' pitch is that Unreal Engine 5 developers can do this or better with its ready-made tools at their disposal, and I can't wait to see them try.

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