Today, we got a one-two punch of next-gen news with both the reveal of Unreal Engine 5, and a tech demo of the new engine, running live on the PlayStation 5.
In a tech demo called "Lumen in the Land of Nanite," Epic showed off the new Unreal Engine and what it could mean for next-gen consoles. The technology isn't expected to hit full support until later in 2021, but what was shown in the tech demo was already fairly impressive.
One major point is the Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry. Essentially, Unreal Engine 5 will aim to allow artists to directly import high-quality source art into the engine, without having to deal with issues like polygonal budgets. This means potentially higher fidelity art assets being brought into games, with fewer details cut or lost.
Lighting has also been a major pillar of next-gen aesthetics, and Epic spotlighted the dynamic scenes possible with Lumen lighting. More adaptable and adjustable light sources can potentially lead to incredible contrasts and moods on-screen.
Unreal Engine 4.25 already supports next-gen platforms, and some next-gen games will continue to be built on Unreal Engine 4. The fifth Unreal Engine will go into preview in early 2021, with a full launch scheduled later in 2021. Epic says it is designing for forward compatibility in mind, so UE4 projects should be able to move to UE5.
Fortnite is also expected to make the next-gen jump, with the popular battle royale being playable on next-gen consoles upon launch and the whole game migrating to Unreal Engine 5 in mid-2021.
The PlayStation 5, meanwhile, is still set for a holiday launch this year.