If you haven’t tried The Matrix Awakens: Unreal Engine 5 Experience yet – which is free to download on Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, and PS5 – it’s something you really need to see for yourself.
It’s a breathtaking showcase of what Microsoft and Sony’s current-gen consoles can achieve and a fascinating glimpse into what the future holds for video games in general.
The Matrix Awakens demo rivals the cinematic presentation values that have previously been reserved for big-budget Hollywood films. We see incredible virtual recreations of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as Neo and Trinity, the likes of which are often difficult to distinguish between their real-life counterparts.
The game’s interactive shooting section, where you blow the tires off incoming vehicles and shoot down a helicopter, is also astonishing to behold – we’re treated to a suite of mesmerizing particle effects, groundbreaking physics, and some of the best explosions you’ll ever see in a video game to date.
The Matrix Awakens demo is a far cry from the type of cross-gen experiences that have made up the vast majority of game releases on both Sony and Microsoft’s systems. The type of visual fidelity and technology present simply isn't possible on last-gen hardware which, with the exception of a few PS5 exclusives like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Demon's Souls, hasn't really been the case for most next-gen games.
Even though it's a technical demo first and foremost, then, with limited player agency in the gameplay sections, it’s rare to get an interactive proof of concept like this running natively on consoles. The fact it’s running, mostly in real-time, on an Xbox Series S no less – a console that costs $299 / £249 is an even more phenomenal feat, especially as Microsoft’s svelte white box has had its doubters ever since its release.
The little box that can
The Xbox Series S has struggled to shake off its rather unfair reputation of being underpowered. Some believe (opens in new tab) it’s unable to offer a true generational leap over the likes of the Xbox One X due to the fact it mainly targets 1440p and 1080p resolutions. But pixel counts aside, it’s already shown after a year on sale that it’s more than a competent machine.
It’s home to more 120Hz games than PS5 for starters, capable of next-gen exclusive tech like ray tracing, and is able to run graphically intensive Gen 9 games that simply aren’t possible on older hardware, like Microsoft Flight Simulator and The Medium.
Admittedly, there have been instances where ray tracing has been disabled on Xbox Series S or developers have opted for a lower resolution or framerate compared to the Xbox Series X and PS5 versions. Yes, there are downgrades present in the Xbox Series S version of the Matrix Awakens. The resolution is lower, with more visual artifacts present, slightly more shimmering, and less impressive draw distances. But it’s still fundamentally able to deliver the same core experience on a box that costs significantly less than the more powerful Xbox Series X and PS5.
The Matrix Awakens demo is yet another example that good things do come in small packages, and it serves as irrefutable proof, if more were needed, that the Xbox Series S is clearly a next-gen console.
More to come from the current-gen consoles
Sadly, it won’t stop the doubters from dismissing Microsoft’s affordable Xbox as being nothing more than a next-gen lite experience. Many believe that the Xbox Series S will also hold the Xbox Series X back (opens in new tab) in some way and, as the generation progresses, it may not be capable of running the latest games. I don’t think anyone could have ever thought we’d get something like the quality of the Matrix Awakens demo, at least not so soon. Judging from that, I think it’ll cope just fine.
- Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S: which is right for you?