The Unreal Engine 5 Demo Matrix Awakens Looks Absolutely Amazing
Every year we get a little closer to being able to eat a steak that doesn’t exist. In 1999, The Matrix showed us a virtual world that seemed completely unreal, and that’s only in part because using humans as batteries is bananas impractical. A lot has changed in 22 years, and a virtual reality that looks and acts real is closer to possible than it’s ever been, and nothing shows that better than the Matrix Awakens Unreal Engine 5 demo.
The Unreal Engine 5 Demo Looks Incredible and So Does Matrix Awakens
Keanu Reeves asks the real questions in this 14-minute demo of Unreal 5 using an interactive experience called Matrix Awakens, which looks better than most cutscenes from the last 5 years. “How do we know what is real,” Keanu asks before another version of himself in a filthy mirror greets us with the chipper delivery of a guy who’s having a great time.
Image via IGN
Matrix Awakens is the perfect way to demo Unreal 5. As Keanu explains, the original Matrix movie was a pioneer for the “digital age.” and visual effects like bullet time. Now, Awakens is used to show how insanely far the technology has come. Keanu’s face slips away in that classic Matrix green code and is replaced by a near-perfect render of his face from the original movie. One second he’s John Wick, the next he looks like he could have just gotten back from a bogus journey. Carrie-Anne Moss pops in and does the exact same thing before the pair walk among an army of themselves. It’s beautiful and weird, and the most exciting footage hadn’t even begun yet.
Climbing Out of the Uncanny Valley in the Matrix Demo
The best thing this demo does is ask a question that would normally inspire years of discourse in philosophy classrooms, but then it answers it in the next 8 seconds. “What would reality mean when a world we can build feels as real as our own?” It would mean reality is lame because in perfect life sim games you can race through a massive city and shoot the tires out of evil computer programs chasing after you in a constantly exploding avalanche of metal and code and “sexy action.”
Image via IGN
Cypher may have been an asshole, but he got two things right. 1) The Matrix is undeniably cooler than real life. The food is better, the visuals are stunning. The birds may fly in a pattern, but sometimes one cat is actually two cats, and how can that possibly be a bad thing? 2) He killed Switch and gave us the “Not like this” meme. What do we do when the digital world looks just as good as the real one? Mess around and get real reckless in the digital world, obviously.
Image via Warner Bros. Entertainment
Pretty frequently, when a digital render looks too lifelike without having the actual life behind it, it looks wrong. The uncanny valley is the uneasy feeling when something artificial looks a little too organic, but The Matrix avoids it by having things both look incredibly lifelike and having them do that inside the Matrix. We know it’s supposed to be in a computer, so it doesn’t have that uneasiness when things are lifelike but not alive, and that’s just an awesome move that shows the meta comment about Marketing having the real creative control wasn’t an exaggeration.
What Can Unreal Engine 5 Do?
The gameplay footage for Matrix Awakens has a lot going on, in more ways than one. First, we’ve already established that it’s beautiful. The only thing that could make you feel more like you’re battling an endless horde of homogenous suits is lying on your taxes.
Image via IGN
But wait, there’s more! Throughout all this action, there are a lot of moving parts, literally. There are cars all over the place, people in crosswalks, a whole living city. The Mass AI is better than it’s ever been, and it shows because you aren’t driving through empty roads or seeing weird clusters of pedestrians that suddenly load when you get close. And the lighting! We’ve already mentioned the visuals, but the lighting is especially important in making a place feel like it follows its own rules. Very briefly they show a special night lighting that looks like the light comes from all visible sources, not that weird omnipresent light that lets you see a little even in the darkest spots in games. It looks amazing. We’re going to be saying that a lot about games from Unreal 5, but it’s just true. Matrix Awakens may not be a real game, but it does a fantastic job showing us what games are going to become.
Matrix Resurrections hits theaters and HBOMax December 22, 2021.
For more hype about everything to do with The Matrix, check out our other posts! What do you think of Unreal Engine 5 and The Matrix Awakens? Tell us in the comments below to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
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Jessica Kanzler is a freelance writer and editor who lives with her wife and cats. Jessica has bad taste in tv and an MA in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media studies. Talk to her about Frasier on Twitter @Jessicaakanzler