The reveal of Unreal Engine 5 by Epic Games will be remembered as a landmark moment in the years to come. It’s when millions of people saw what the next-generation of graphics technology would be capable of, how developers will learn to create larger, more ambitious worlds without past restrictions that once held them back.
It’s undeniably stunning, yet fails to define exactly what we can expect from PS5 and Xbox Series X in realistic terms. This is the magnum opus of visual potential, much like a number of technical demonstrations in years gone by. The true impact of Unreal Engine 5 won’t be felt for years to come, and with the consoles arriving in mere months, we need something more relatable to truly bring this generation forward.
The true success of PS5 and Xbox Series X and how fans take to them in the opening months will be determined by a number of factors, with exclusive games sitting at the forefront. New consoles are an expensive venture, and they need to offer experiences you can’t find anywhere else to justify a purchase. That, or improve our existing libraries by such a substantial amount that upgrading feels like an easy decision.
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At the time of writing, we’ve only seen exclusive titles for the coming consoles in the form of luscious CG trailers. In Sony’s case – we’ve seen nothing at all. Footage like this is all well and good, and I’ve found myself fawning over Halo Infinite more than most, but it’s sadly not representative of what we’ll see once the controller is finally in our hands. These moments are what will define the next generation of consoles.
The Unreal Engine 5 demo was positively gorgeous and represented something we’ll eventually be playing for ourselves once developers have spent years tinkering with the new set of tools. It will also make the act of forming these virtual worlds much easier, foregoing some of the time-consuming practices that have become commonplace in the industry. But what about the next few months? UE5 isn’t launching until 2021, and will only be a small part of the bigger picture.
Whether or not I decide to pick up a console at launch will largely be decided by its exclusive library. Microsoft has already confirmed that Xbox Series X will be foregoing traditional exclusives for a couple of years, opting instead to ensure that all of its platforms, including Xbox One, won’t be left behind. This is an admirable approach, but we hope it doesn’t hold back the likes of Halo Infinite and Hellblade 2 from their full potential.
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Fingers crossed, but if players know they can play the big titles on their existing hardware, they might be deterred from upgrading. PS5 won’t have this problem, with Sony already confirming that its new console will launch with games that won’t be available anywhere else. Demon’s Souls Remake and Horizon Zero Dawn 2 are amongst some of the rumoured big hitters, although nothing has been announced yet. Once again, we need to see these games in action before the pin finally drops.
With any luck, the coming months will be awash with major reveals that finally put PS5 and Xbox Series X into perspective, since right now too many announcements have been dominated by technical jargon or titles that will be readily available on existing platforms. The next generation of consoles will clearly be very different, which will be a challenge for all the companies involved, but as a result, spells some exciting opportunities for the medium we can’t wait to see realised.