This PS5 demo is the most impressive look at next gen so far

(Image credit: Epic)

Summer Game Fest host Geoff Keighley had promised a mind-blowing demo for its second showcase held on Wednesday, and what he delivered blew us away. 

Instead of showing a new game, the showcase offered us our first look at Unreal Engine 5, the new game development tool that will be used on the next-generation of console and PC games that was running on a PS5 dev kit. 

The demo, which was only a few minutes long, was our first real taste of PS5 gameplay and while it might not have the initial appeal of a marquee game announcement like GTA6 might, the Unreal Engine 5 demo is a never-before-seen peek at the PS5’s performance:

Some things to focus on, according to the developers who built it, are the reflective lighting that bounces off objects in a more realistic way and creates inky-black shadows and pixel-perfect textures on the ruins themselves. 

On the back-end, the falling rocks’ trajectories and realistic body positioning are calculated using the new Chaos Physics Engine to make games look and feel more realistic, all of which will be useful to developers making next-gen games.

It's not an experience you can play at home, unfortunately, but it's a sneak peek at what next-gen games can achieve on the console, which Epic CEO Tim Sweeney says is “more impressive than the highest end PC you can buy”. 

Unreal Engine 5: how the sausage is made

While the Unreal Engine 5 shows us what game developers can really do on the PS5, you probably shouldn't expect launch games to look like the demo above. 

According to a post on Epic's website, Unreal Engine 5 will be available in preview in early 2021, and in full release late in 2021, meaning developers will still be using Unreal Engine 4.25 for the first batch of next-gen games.

The silver lining to the delay is that it will allow developers to use the engine they already know and love for the first batch of PS5 and Xbox Series X games – allowing them to easily port games from the previous generation like Epic is doing with Fortnite – then tinker with Unreal Engine 5 for the second batch that will be available a year or two after the consoles launch.

  • What can we actually play on PS5? Here's every PS5 game confirmed on the next-gen console
Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.