Two years after Epic Games revealed Unreal Engine 5 with a gorgeous tech demo, the next-gen games engine is officially available. It’s been released alongside a playable shooter, Lyra.
Unreal Engine 5 is Epic’s latest in the line of game engines available to game developers big and small. While the release of a new game engine isn’t typically news that excites folks until, well, video games start getting made with them, Epic first revealed Unreal Engine 5 with a blockbuster tech demo.
Called Lumen in the Land of Nanite, the tech demo was made to specifically demonstrate two of the marquis features of Unreal Engine 5. Lumen is a dynamic illumination tool where the light adapts to the world naturally and easily.
Nanite, meanwhile, lets developers import film-quality visual assets into the game while maintaining a real-time frame rate and without dips in fidelity.
Unreal Engine 5 – Official Release Images
While tech demos are a nice early glimpse at what a new engine is capable of, Lumen in the Land of Nanite shared an early look at the power of next-gen consoles and made its heroine, Lumen, popular enough to guest in Fortnite.
Since then Epic has shown off several other features designed to streamline the process of building highly-detailed games. One particular genre Epic Games is looking to improve is open-world games. Unreal Engine 5’s advancements in this genre can be seen first-hand with The Matrix Awakens, an open-world experience designed in Unreal Engine 5.
Unreal Engine 5 Will Keep Evolving
Developers known for open-world games are already lining up as CD Projekt Red recently announced that the next Witcher game will be developed on Unreal Engine 5. And according to Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri, the relationship between Epic and developers means that if CDPR finds areas for improvement for Unreal Engine 5, these can find their way back to Epic and be used by other developers.
“We’re gonna learn so much about how to take open-world type games to the next level,” Libreri says. “I’m sure the whole community is going to benefit from that relationship.”
This back-and-forth between developers and Unreal Engine 5 has already been put into use. Libreri says The Coalition, another AAA studio that announced it is working with UE5 for its next game, has already added contributions and improvements to UE5 that were implemented into the Matrix Awakens.
“It makes us very proud. The Coalition they have a special place in our hearts when it comes to UE5. They’ve actually added functionality to the engine that we brought back into the engine, ”Libreri says.
These include high-level lighting techniques that were previously only available on high-end computers that, thanks to The Coalition, can run on modern consoles in a cost-effective way, as well as optimization techniques that allow things like The Matrix Awakens to run on lower-powered consoles like the Xbox Series S.
“Because there’s such a great community we love the idea that a great developer – no matter how big or small they are – if they have an awesome idea that makes the workflows better, the visual better, the gameplay truly next-gen we’ll take that stuff back. ”
New Sample Shooter: Lyra
To help developers get started, Epic Games released several sample projects for free that are available to play with, tinker with, and iterate on.
First, there’s Lyra, a shooter that’s playable right now. But more than that, for developers thinking of creating a shooter on Unreal Engine 5, Lyra is customizable and a solid basis for your next project.
There’s also City Sample, which is the full city, buildings, vehicles, and crowds from The Matrix Awakens. This sample project is perfect for anyone looking to see how far they can take their open-world game project.
Several developers are already working with Unreal Engine 5. CD Projekt Red, The Coalition, and Epic Games are all developing games on the new engine, some of which were teased during today’s State of Unreal presentation.
Check out the full presentation for every detail about Unreal Engine 5 from today’s State of Unreal presentation.
MattTM Kim is IGN’s News Editor. You can reach him @lawoftd.