The Matrix Awakens dev says the switch from UE4 to UE5 was 'very smooth'

Neo and Trinity walking with a multiplicity of matrix characters.
(Image credit: UE5)

Gears 5 developer The Coalition came out with a demo for The Matrix Awakens at the State of Unreal event yesterday. It's one of the first examples of a game designed and built in Unreal Engine 5, and we have to say, UE5 games are looking stunning.

The team's Cavern Cinematic Tech Test touts 10 million poly, movie-quality assets, real time rendered in 100x more detail than in the previous engine.

But making the leap to the new engine couldn't have been a cake walk, right? There are so many new facets for aspiring UE5 devs to learn—the Nanite geometry system, World Partition, Lumen, and Meta Human, to name a few.

We've been learning about The Coalition's journey from UE4 to UE5 during the making of their Aplha point demo, and how their approach has evolved as The Matrix Awakens takes shape.

Xbox News spoke to Kate Rayner, The Coalition's studio technical director, who expresses her amazement at how easy the transition was for the team. "The biggest surprise to me was how finished the engine was, and how easy it was to bring UE4 content into UE5 seamlessly."

In discussing the switch, she recalls it as "very smooth, it only took us about two weeks to get the team switched over. As of now, our full studio has transitioned to UE5."

The team actually switched over to UE5 about a month into their Alpha Point demo build, which aired at GDC last year. They started building it in UE4 but, as Colin Penty explains in The Making of Alpha Point vid, "this demo was running really painfully slow in UE4. Right before we switched to UE4 the artists were all complaining."

Once we brought it into UE5 it snapped to life immediately.

Kate Rayner

Kate expands the point when speaking to Xbox News, "As we were building this demo in UE4 with next-gen content and adding more and more assets to it, it was really starting to bog down and run slowly, but once we brought it into UE5 it snapped to life immediately. We never looked back."

The real triumph, she says, is the modularity of the engine's architecture. Embracing plugins containing content, and not just code, extended the engine's functionality for the team, and gave them the flexibility they needed to create something pretty stunning.

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The team made use of UE5's Meta Human features, augmenting their current character designs with new skin, eyeballs and the like, and have actually done a fantastic job keeping it out of the uncanny valley... mostly.

Either way, The Matrix Awakens and the team's newest demo, The Cavern, are both a testament to how well the new engine has been adopted.

CD Projekt RED have moved on to UE5 for the upcoming Witcher game, rather than using a new iteration of their REDengine, which seems to be going well for them—at least when it comes to open world environment design.

We're looking forward to more projects making use of UE5, and here's hoping we start seeing some graphics cards in stock so we can actually play the next generation of games, without relegating ourselves to potato graphics.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.