Matrix The Awakening is a first, true time for next-gen graphics

An “experience” demo based on Unreal Engine 5, tested in preview, reveals what PS5 and Xbox Series X will (hopefully) be capable of very soon.

Paolo Sirio

December 10, 2021

The owners of the PS5 and Xbox Series X | S, a little dumbfounded, had resigned themselves to the idea that the next-gen would be what they saw in the first two years of life of these consoles: a small leap forward, more what else in terms of performance, where titles with 120fps frame rates and larger, more refined environments have entered the market. But 2021 is not over yet and reserves one last surprise, precisely in terms of graphics. Matrix The Awakening (The Matrix Awakens, in original language) is in fact just what technology lovers needed, to see their hopes for a better gaming future suddenly rekindle.

Fact or fantasy? Matrix –

Matrix Il Risveglio is not a real video game, but an “experience” made in Unreal Engine 5, the new graphics engine from Epic Games (the creators of Fortnite). This experience was produced in collaboration with Warner Bros. and the cast of Matrix Resurrections, to promote the film in theaters in December, and is totally free for PS5 and Xbox Series X | S (the most powerful model X is the console on which was able to try out the preview demo).

The demo part con Keanu Reeves which looks at the past and present of the saga, articulating a discourse on how the fusion between digital and real worlds has been a main theme of the Matrix from the beginning. In discussing such high themes, Reeves goes back and forth with his cinematic alter ego Neo, but above all with his digital rendering (in Unreal Engine 5, in fact) and live.

It is a way to make fun of the user, who at some point struggles to distinguish what is real and what is virtual, proving the level of graphic fidelity reached by the new engine: taking a sequence of Reeves-Neo’s speech, you would struggle to understand whether it is a videogame reproduction or a scene from a film. Putting them one in front of the other, however minimal and absolutely desirable for the next video games, the detachment is still perceptible, in particular as regards the rendering of the slightly jerky movements of the eyes and hair.

The pursuit –

Once inside the Matrix, the ball passes to Niobe, another well-known face of the series who plays the protagonist here. The playable portion of the demo begins with Niobe busy getting rid of a handful of pursuers in the car, while Trinity juggles driving. Players can aim first with a pistol, then with a heavy machine gun, at scripted parts (ie decided by the developer and not freely) of the cars at their heels. Between blurs, explosions and overturns, readers over the years will find the sensations aroused by Eight Days, the game presented at E3 2006 and then canceled for PS3.

Particularly impressive here are the lighting effects resulting from the shots, and from the impact of the bullets with the cars chasing Niobe and Trinity. The facial expressions of the characters are of a high standard, but above all they amaze the level of care placed in them damage to cars, which react in real time and in a truly believable way to the blows inflicted (with bumpers that puncture and bend according to where you shoot), and in the particle effects, which can be seen by shattering a windshield or the disappearance in Matrix style of objects, where vehicles and people are dissolved into green cubes like strings of code.

The open world and technologies –

After the chase with an effect scene, players are taken to a small open world where they can activate and deactivate the main technologies of the Unreal Engine 5 as they wish. This is where the magic happens. Users have the option to drive around the city (15.79 km², 7,000 buildings), simply walk, or fly in its skies to appreciate the views from above (something typical in the tools of the developers and in the photographic modes).

The density of pedestrians (35,000, simulated with MetaHuman technology for more realistic faces) and the amount of cars lined up in traffic is unprecedented (45,073 parked, 17,000 on the move), even more than seen in the “original” Cyberpunk 2077, and that’s probably what next-generation open worlds will be aiming for.

The fact that the world is now open does not mean a drop in quality compared to the chase scene. The physics of accidents is also extremely credible in this case and the cars suffer damage in real time, with the individual parts deforming according to the impact. The lighting it also changes in real time based on the position of the sun, which can be changed on the fly in the settings, along with the density of traffic and pedestrians or the textures of the entire game.

About that, a “playful” partBeyond this, there is: users can search for small monuments scattered around the city, with which to learn more about the features of the new graphics engine. Unless you want to go back and come back several times, it will still take half an hour to get a consistent taste of next-gen.

The performances of Matrix The Awakening –

All of this, however, came at a very high cost. Epic Games clearly wanted to push the aesthetic, pumping the Matrix Awakening beyond belief to showcase what an Unreal Engine 5 based video game will be capable of in the best scenario. fluidity of frame rate has profound dips both on foot and by car, getting into trouble when the camera is moved from one corner of the screen to the other but also shooting in the chase scene and driving around the city.

It is not said that this level of detail cannot be maintained even in a finished video game, in the future, perhaps with more time, more experience and more refinement under development. However, it is likely that – at least for console releases, as happened in the aforementioned Cyberpunk 2077 case – developers will want to take advantage of the graphics engine’s scalability to deliver versions of their titles with a higher degree of stability.

Conclusions –

Matrix Il Risveglio (The Matrix Awakens) is the first, true look at the next-gen and the capabilities of the new consoles in combination with the Unreal Engine 5. The new graphics engine, which was also inaugurated with Chapter 3 of Fortnite, will take PS5 and Xbox Series X to their limits, delivering an impressive level of detail that is on par with both indoor and open world scenes. If all this has been on paper so far, now every player equipped with a new generation console can take note of it for free and start playing dream of a better future.

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Matrix The Awakening is a first, true time for next-gen graphics

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