Jaw-dropping PS5 demo puts Xbox Series X on notice

Unreal Engine 5 shows off what PS5 will be capable of, as Xbox Series X is slammed for lack of gameplay

PS5 gameplay
(Image credit: Epic Games)

Finally! Some actual, concrete PS5 news. During the Summer Game Fest live stream on May 13, Epic Games unveiled the capabilities of its new Unreal Engine 5, running live on a PS5 console. 

The tech demo, created for the Games Developer Conference before it was cancelled due to the global health crisis, showed off the engine's new Nanite geometry system and Lumen lighting graphics systems, as the demo's heroine navigated a rocky canyon, an ancient tomb and a sunlit desert town in a series of stunning sequences. 

However, although it's a tech demo, Epic Games' VP of Engineering Nick Penwarden insists this is real gameplay, rather than a glorified cinematic. Games built with Unreal Engine 5 won't be available until 2021, but we can't believe how good this PS5-run gameplay demo looks. 

The new Nanite geometry system allows for "sub-pixel geometry", providing incredible detail to be rendered almost imperceptible to the human eye. Just like real life. "We wanted to empower creators to create photorealistic scenes indistinguishable from reality" says Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games.

The sub-zero pixel detail means fine detail is imperceptible until your avatar moves closer in real-time, with the PS5's massive solid-state drive able to provide all that information straight away rather than loading it separately. The "Lumen" system, whcih is said to create accurate bounce lighting, also creates an additional element of realism. Without further ado, check out the gameplay demo below:

"There are tens of billions of triangles [graphical points] in that scene," says Penwarden. "We simply couldn't have them all in memory at once, so we stream those triangles as the characters move about the environment... The PS5 allows for that level of realism."

From the details in which the heroine interacts with the environment, such as the physics involved in climbing a wall, to the easy transition between gameplay and cut-scene with no load times, the PS5 looks simply incredible. The combination of hyper-realistic lighting, super-detailed environments and seamless transition from sequence to sequence is every bit as exciting as we'd hoped.

In contrast, Xbox Series X, which started out so strong with regular reveals, has been lambasted by the gaming community as a result of its third-party gameplay stream. In particular, games like Assassin's Creed: Valhalla advertised actual gameplay and presented an in-engine cinematic instead, angering fans who wanted more. 

This Unreal Engine 5 reveal is a warning shot to Microsoft. The message is clear: don't get complacent.

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans now works for T3.com sister brand TechRadar, covering all things relating to fitness and wellness. He came to T3.com as staff writer before moving on, and was previously on Men's Health, and slightly counterintuitively, a website devoted to the consumption of Scotch whiskey. In his free time, he could often be found with his nose in a book until he discovered the Kindle.