If you don't have a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S, you won't be able to try out the new Unreal Engine 5 tech demo, called The Matrix Awakens. It's available to preload now on the consoles, but won't release on PC, an Epic Games representative confirmed to PC Gamer. No virtual Keanu Reeves for us, at least outside of Cyberpunk 2077.
I'm not expecting anything as significant as Kojima horror demo PT—it'll be an ad for The Matrix Resurrections to some degree—but you never know, and it's a little surprising that this “glimpse into the future of interactive storytelling” won't be on PC given how strongly I associate PCs with both The Matrix and the Unreal Engine.
The Matrix Online was supposed to make PC gamers the inheritors of the Matrix story, after all. And the very first scene in The Matrix features Trinity bashing away at a laptop, while Neo is a sullen coder who skulks around a romanticized version of the '90s computer hacking scene by moonlight. (Romanticized in that I don't think Kevin Mitnick was going to lots of clubs with leather-only dress codes, though I could be mistaken). The Unreal Engine was another child of the '90s personal computing scene, debuting a year before The Matrix in 1998 PC shooter Unreal. (I could see Epic CEO Tim Sweeney nodding his head to Dragula in a leather trench coat, actually.)
Here in 2021, a high-end PC seems like the best platform on which to explore Neo's question in the teaser embedded above—”How do we know what is real?”—but alas, the consoleless among us (like me) will have to settle for watching a YouTube video of The Matrix Awakens. It'll be “revealed” at The Game Awards this Thursday, December 9, though presumably it can't be fully experienced as a video. Epic's “glimpse into the future of interactive storytelling and entertainment” description suggests it's a hands-on experience.
The Xbox store page for the demo goes into a little more detail: “Created by members of the original movie team including Lana Wachowski along with Epic Games and partners, The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience is a wild ride into the reality-bending universe of The Matrix that features performances by Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss.”
It's not totally shocking that the PC is left out here, as Epic has been pretty focused on showing off Unreal Engine 5's console capabilities so far. The engine's “Nanite” rendering was first shown off on the PS5. The consoles do give Epic finer control over the experience, since it doesn't have to account for lots of different specs. The question “How do we know what is real?” might not have the desired effect if spoken through potato-settings Keanu on a 10-year-old PC.
Still, it's disappointing. I want to mess with the free marketing thing, too, even if it's not needed: I was already going to watch The Matrix Resurrections (out December 22 on HBO Max and in theaters), and I trust that Unreal Engine 5 can render Reeves' well-conditioned locks. Other than this Unreal demo, there's sadly no new Matrix game announced to go along with the movie, but that doesn't mean we won't ever get our inheritance back.