So, after mysteriously dropping onto the stores of the Xbox Series X/S and PS5 earlier this week – as covered in my news article – the mysterious The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience has now run down its countdown clock and is now open to explore. Warning: spoilers abound for the experience – if you do want to be surprised by what happens, just go try it out!
It’s not a game. Then again, it’s not not a game. It opens with Keanu Reeves narrating over one of the first sequences of the very first film, from 1999, but blurs the line between fantasy and reality with him appearing to be both his character and the actor who portrays him, in discussion with Carrie-Anne Moss’s Trinity – who does the same thing. The lines between artifice and actual actors is frequently blurred and – though it’s sometimes pretty easy to tell which is which, despite what the actors are claiming as they talk, there’s still some seriously impressive tech on display here.
A chase soon ensues – and it’s a brilliantly choreographed sequence that is absolutely stunning from a technical perspective. It really shows off what Unreal Engine 5 is capable of; not only is it genuinely impressive, but it really feels as if it’s a sequence from an actual Matrix film. Partway through this, there’s a short on-rails shooting section and Quick Time Event; though very basic from a gameplay point of view, it’s so thrilling technically – both in terms of its audio and visuals – that it does make you wish as though it went on for longer.
It must be noted that there’s some genuinely funny, pretty meta dialogue too; there’s a sense of humour on display that stops the experience as a whole from feeling too much like a dry technical demo.
The city simulation can also be messed around with – a variety of settings showing off how things are rendered as well as giving you a little peek behind the curtain as to how things are put together. The changes that can be made included the time of day, density of traffic and people in the city and more.
Lastly, you can actually explore the city on foot and in the air, changing settings as you ‘play’.
As a showcase for what Unreal Engine 5 can do, it’s pretty jaw-dropping, but it’s clear from the odd judder when exploring that we’re not going to see longer-form games at anywhere this level of detail for some time yet. Still, it’s a tantalising glimpse into the future – and also, a fantastic, crowd-pleasing appetiser for the upcoming The Matrix Resurrections, which is itself looking to be a stunning return to form for the film series.
The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience is out now for Xbox Series S, X and PlayStation 5.
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