Update [June 10, 6:30 p.m. ET]: A representative for Epic Games clarifies that the original in-engine trailer for Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 was not made using Unreal 5, and says it's accurate to say Ninja Theory can expect to start working with the new tech at around the same time as other outside developers. Unreal 5 goes into preview for developers early next year.
The original story follows:
Ninja Theory's Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 was the first game we saw an in-engine peek at for Xbox Series X last year, and today Microsoft has announced that the full game will be built with Epic's Unreal Engine 5. This may tell us a bit about how far along Hellblade 2 is in its development, and implies that it won't be coming out near the Series X's launch.
News of Hellblade 2's adoption of Unreal 5 comes via a new official blog post from Xbox that runs down a list of "everything you need to know about Xbox Series X and the future of Xbox... so far." Epic itself confirmed Hellblade 2 as an Unreal Engine title after its reveal at The Game Awards 2019, but this is the first we've heard of plans from Ninja Theory to use Unreal 5. Here's what the new post has to say:
The power of Xbox Series X was first demonstrated with the unveiling of Senua's Saga: Hellblade II. The team will be building the game on Unreal 5 and leveraging the power of Xbox Series X to bring the Hellblade franchise to levels never before seen. The footage shown was captured in-engine and reflects the power of Xbox Series X available to developers to deliver new universes, experiences and games in ways you have never imagined.
This raises a few questions. Unreal Engine 5 was formally unveiled last month with an Epic-made tech demo running on PlayStation 5. Along with that reveal, Epic clarified that Unreal 5 will go into preview in early 2021, with a full launch scheduled for later in the year. Given that Hellblade 2's debut trailer was captured in-engine, that suggests it was built on a version of Unreal 4 and that its development will continue with Unreal 5 next year. USG has reached out to Microsoft and Epic for clarification, and will update this post if we receive a response.
Already, Epic's Unreal Engine 4.25 has early support for publishing on next-gen consoles. While Epic's CEO Tim Sweeney was effusive in his praise for the PS5's architecture and the "Lumen in the Land of Nanite" demo was specially built for Sony's console, Unreal 5 is being developed without being tailored to a particular platform.
Ninja Theory is the second Xbox Game Studios developer confirmed to be using Unreal 5. Wasteland 3 developers inXile recently disclosed that it will use Unreal 5 for its next unannounced project. Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 is also being developed for PC.