Last week, Epic Games unveiled “The Matrix Awakens”, a trailer+interactive demo set in the Matrix universe, and used to show off some of the features found in Unreal Engine 5. The demo could be downloaded on the latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles as well (no download for PC, apparently).
The demo starts with a shot of the original movie and then it cuts to “the white room” where you see Keanu Reeves, and then it cuts to a digital Keanu. Then, it does a few more nice transitions where you see a lot of MetaHuman characters (including a digital Trinity) and then the entire city materializes from “Matrix code”, where a car chase begins.
The car chase takes you to a scene similar to the Matrix Reloaded’s highway car chase (including jumping agents), and then it ends when you destroy a helicopter causing a big explosion. The last part of the demo is about taking you through some of the UE5 features you already know, like Nanite, Lumen, Niagara, etc.
As you can expect, the demo is visually impressive. The level of realism of the city, vehicles and all is pretty much the same level of realism you find in your major blockbuster movies.
However, unfortunately I can’t say the same about the characters. If you read my article about “realistic versus toon animation” then you know about animating digital doubles, and how motion capture is not the be and end of everything. Keanu Reeves is a very “robotic” guy (and now that he’s over 50, even more so), and I guess he performed his own motion capture because the digital Keanu looks even more robotic. Carrie Anne Moss doesn’t look that good either.
The problem is we’ve had other teams with less budget (and less people) do a more impressive job. If you compare Hellblade to The Matrix Awakens, the quality in the animation (including facial animation) is a lot better.
Based on what I know, I am inclined to think the animation in The Matrix Awakens could have been better if they had spent some time keyframe-animating the mocap data, and if they had made the actors go full Andy Serkis (if you see him perform facial capture, you will know what I mean).
However, animation aside, the demo is very impressive from a technical point of view. Rendering a full city, including seamless zoom ins-outs, and doing all those transitions in real time is not an easy thing, and UE5 can do all that in real time, using photorealistic graphics.
If you thought the previous demos were impressive, then this one is even more impressive when you consider all the technical aspects that went into creating it, and rendering it in real time. Even if the animation was lacking (not the engine’s fault), the rest is truly amazing.
If you have the latest Xbox or PlayStation consoles, you should download the demo right now and experience it by yourself. If you don’t then watch the video right now.