Behold: An Unreal Engine 4 Demo Reel

You know what to expect, I should imagine: a camera pans across a world of raw graphics. Look, there they are, all over the place. It’s the showcase that Wired got a demo of the other week, with a big old demon being all fiery and stuff. And now you get to see it, too.

Thanks, GameTrailers.

Updated with dev walkthrough:


  1. Akatsuki says:

    I still liked Square Enix’s Luminous Engine demo better. High fidelity beards are the future, I tell you that.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Beards yes. Beardtech or walk, I say.

    • Grargh says:

      But running lava is coming pretty close, to be fair.

    • Njordsk says:

      It’s clearly a step above for me too. Not “that” impressed with this UE4.

      • LeiterJakab says:

        The logo alone is underwhelming. I actually like unreal tech, Tim Sweany is a cool dude pushing things forward techwise.

      • phylum sinter says:

        The coolest part for me is the way that lights blend and the particle stuff – i do this kind of thing post-process for design work and to see it happening and so interactive i think really opens a lot of possibilities up. Those particles don’t need to be dust-like either, they can be foggy, animated, magnetic, all sorts of physics can be given to them so this demo just shows the beginning in a lot of ways.

        Overall yes, the demo was way less of a spectacle than Square Enix’s was – but i have a feeling Square’s motives are way beyond “hey here’s our new tech!”, further evidenced by the questionnaire they had about it afterwards. Though Epic might be willing to make something out of these bits, the focus was clearly more on just showing off the standards that have, i think time will tell, improved hugely with this update. I’m going to get the SDK as soon as its’ released just to see how it handles on my Radeon 5850 with all the switches lit. But it will be a good year or two before we see anyone really pushing it.

    • Metonymy says:

      I always laugh, I mean I just laugh out loud at this stuff.

      The implication here, that a group of people spent thousands, tens of thousands of hours rendering this “generic scene of awesomeness” with this ultimate rendering engine, and its never impressive at all. If you can notice anything whatsoever, you notice that games made with this engine will need even more man-hours to finish, and will have an even more insipid thematic design, and an even more bankrupt, wonderbread gameplay style.

      The original Doom, PS1 era graphics, quake era graphics, crysis whatever, it’s all the same thing. It’s a way to present an idea. A way to visualize something else. Logical people like for elements to be in order. Creative people like a creative presentation. Neither group gives a single **** about how many pixels are moving around, or how much it resembles movie CG. People who actually enjoy games like calladoody are also entertained by colorful facebook sprites.

      The sheer idiotic waste of it all makes me laugh. Not one person involved with this demo is working towards anything worthwhile.

      • Grargh says:

        Wow. So, you never looked at a scene in a game and thought “Well, that looks stupidly wrong”? Because I had a lot of those moments, especially when beards or lava (or any fluid at all) were concerned.

        They can either drop photorealism altogether and only do artsy games from now on, or they fix all the remaining problems with it as partially shown here, is my opinion.

      • Tridae says:

        The thing is that with the increase in tech there’s also an increase in how intuitive your tools become. Creating a model like that demon thing is about 10 times easier today than it was 2 years ago. The terrain at the end can be generated from simple guidelines and then tweaked to their liking. The particle effects are nothing special and take no time at all to setup. Overall the creative labour put into the clip is not as crazy as you may think.

        The only labour intensive part is the development of the tools, after that the process flows faster.
        None of what was done here is a waste – they’re opening doors to artists to make better games, to be able to convey their ideas better and to provide a more immersive experience.

      • Unaco says:

        So… Where would you have stopped? If you were controlling the industry, where would you have made graphics advances stop? Doom? PS1 Era? Quake era? Where would you have said “Stop! No more improvements in graphics! This level of graphics is sufficient, anything after is an idiotic waste!”?

        The tech used in this Demo will likely be used in actual projects in the next 2-3 years. The lessons learned will be put to use probably across that artist/engineers career. The people working on it are doing plenty worthwhile.

      • grundus says:

        Graphics are the means to an end, the end being the art style. Not all art styles require maximum graphics to be engaged.

        • Salt says:

          That said, art style and graphics tech can often inspire one-another.

          I have a pet theory that Mirror’s Edge’s striking use of bold colours was at least partially so that the baked-in global illumination freshly added to the engine (when a red box is next to a white wall, the wall looks a bit red too) could be showed off.

          UE4 has dynamic global illumination, and anyone wanting to show it off will also want to use bold colours. This technology advancement genuinely could spell the end of the brown-and-grey aesthetic. Probably in favour of the blue-and-cyan aesthetic, but at least it’ll be a little more colourful.

      • neolith says:

        “If you can notice anything whatsoever, you notice that games made with this engine will need even more man-hours to finish […]”

        I’d say you couldn’t be more wrong.

        After all I’ve seen UE4 tech is more about the creation tools than about new sets of graphical features.
        The graphics in the trailer are not a quantum leap, that’s right. That is not the point of the software though. The setting and the models are generic as fuck, I agree. That’s not the point either though.

        This is about how easy they are making it for designers to build a scene like that. UE4 gives you tools that mimic production tools for moviemakers and SFX guys. They don’t have to break their necks any more to set up this stuff. Add the new features for landscapes, particles and fluids and you’ve got every leveldesigner’s wet dream.

        • phylum sinter says:

          Agreed, the biggest update in UE4 is at the developer’s end and the Particle/lighting updates. Having no gap between editor and game could mean amazing things in the right hands. It’ll mean no excuse NOT to fix things merely by grabbing them and moving them about when they can be optimized and debugged in realtime – hopefully bigger environments, more varied and interactive geography and worlds with less repetition or ‘stamp+dominoes’ style levelmaking.

          Give it 2-3 years and the right combination of budget and imagination though, the focus wasn’t on trying to wow gamers here at all really.

      • scatterbrainless says:

        I read that the impressive thing regarding the demo was that it was running in the open engine editor, and that it took very little time to make. The engine creators were primarily putting it forward as a labour saver in making AAA games by drastically reducing the time required to make graphically intesive games. So, basically, the opposite of everything you just said.

    • Valvarexart says:

      Agreed. Squeenix’s demo did look way better. And it also had an interesting setting/things going on.

      • Ultra Superior says:


        SE demo – silliness & clichés & kitsch
        U4 demo – uberunoriginal genericness

        Great tech both!

    • golem09 says:

      Yes, definitely needed for the sequel to Daedly Premonition. High End Beard Tech growing in real time.

    • MiKHEILL says:

      Yeah, but the graphics shown in the Luminous demo have already been passed off as better than those that will be in actual games using the tech, by the people actually building the tech.

      The UE4 demo on the other hand actually represents the graphics of games that will utilise it (based on Epic’s history of demoing it’s graphics tech).

    • MordeaniisChaos says:

      Word on the web from peopel who could know, say that it’s the very same engine. Certainly LOOKS Unreal-esque.

    • LostViking says:

      The demo was better, but I don’t think the engine is the reason, they simply made more interesting content.

    • PopeJamal says:

      I wasn’t very impressed until I saw the developer video. Even as a dabbler in game development,I can see that the changes to the editing environment are probably enough to be excited about, let alone all the graphics improvement.

      I don’t know about Crytek, but UnrealED beats the pants off of something like Valve’s Hammer editor.

      I’m sure the youtube cleavage girls would agree.

      • DrGonzo says:

        This really. It looks like it makes it a lot easier to actually make the games, much like cryengine.

        Hammer is indeed a pain in the arse to use. But you have to remember that Valve seem to develop their tools for their games. They aren’t designing a product that they want to sell to as many other game devs as they can.

  2. c-Row says:

    Overlord 3.

  3. Davie says:

    The lava looks impressive; it’s rare you see video game lava that looks like the real thing.

    I’m resisting the urge to make smart remarks about the originality of that sequence.

    • maninahat says:

      You and me both. I was so hoping the big guy would get up and do some spring cleaning or something. It would be just as effective a way to show of the engine too – lava pushed by brooms, tap water across obsidian crockery etc.

  4. kikito says:

    For a moment I thought he was just going to close the door, say “DAMN WIND” and go back to his seat.

  5. Mr. Mister says:

    Why no 1080p?

  6. Shantara says:

    Technically impressive, but overall design is bland and uninspired. SE demo at least had some style (and beards).

    • thegooseking says:

      The design brief was probably, “Hey, Diablo and Skyrim are big right now, aren’t they?”

      It does kind of make sense to couch a tech demo in concepts that are current because it provides a basis for comparison. But other demos are being more impressive by showing stuff that’s never been done before.

      I suppose it’s a good job they went for something fantastical rather than a modern military manshoot (to which I wonder why the abbreviation MMM hasn’t caught on yet) design.

      • jthmmdom says:

        Take it to the next step and call it an M4.

        Modern Military Multiplayer Manshoot.

    • grundus says:

      Technically impressive tech demo = Mission accomplished. Just saying.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Why do people keep talking about the design and setting? You know this isn’t an actual game, right? Setting and art design are completely meaningless.

    • 2late2die says:

      Did you guys even bother watching the second video??
      The real power of this engine is not in the graphics but rather the tools. Editing the scene in real time while it’s live. Putting break-points on behavior and debugging it right from the scene editor. The ability to jump in as a “the player” at any moment. I mean FFS(!) he demonstrated the ability to edit source code, run the scene while the code is compiling and then see the effects of the new code take place in the scene in freaking real time! I can’t even begin to comprehend the engineering behind the ability to inject new version of compiled code into a live running code – that is straight up magic.

      I’m sorry if you guys weren’t impressed with the graphics but this shit is straight up, mind-blowingly amazing. Period.

      (erm, this wasn’t suppose to be a reply, sorry about that)

      • medwards says:

        The second trailer is fucking mindblowing, with a full-on reveal and everything: blah blah blah heres some shit you might barely notice in actual gameplay and it all looks sure pretty BUT ACTUALLY I WAS IN THE EDITOR THE ENTIRE TIME MWAHAHAH. Then the rest of the demo is super fucking impressive.

      • aq119 says:

        You could live-edit in CryEngine 2

        Just Sayin’

  7. Fuzzball says:

    They really went all out on those embery magick sparky things, didn’t they? Is that their main selling point over competing ember generators? Because, seriously, they’re orange.

    • hjd_uk says:

      Its because the GPU-Particles tech (that they are trying to show off) have quite limited visual range and are ideally (only) suited to those many-little-dots-swirling-about kind of effect – so they have to PUT THEM EVERYWHERE TO THE MAX.

  8. Tridae says:

    The particles they’re making such a fuss about are actually nothing special here. There’s no actual particle simulation happening. From a 3d artists perspective I can tell you those whispy embers are the simplest things to do and also not very CPU/GPU intensive either. Also – the lava people think are so impressive is a very low res fluid simulation, physx tech demos have shown far more impressive results especially the new Kepler tech demos with raytracing.

    Yes the engine is kinda cool but it’s not the magic tech wizardry people make it out to be. For me the use of tesselation and light scattering is far more impressive in this.

    But what about animation? My main interest would be seeing some great facial animation. . .something the Luminous engine has demonstrated quite well already. . LET THE GFX WARS BEGIN

    • othello says:

      On the contrary, it’s quite impressive. They are doing some interesting simulations on the GPU. These are obviously going to be lower resolution, since this is an actual game engine and not a tech demo coded to show off a new feature.

      Interestingly, the light scattering is the least impressive part of the demo from a technical standpoint; the lense flare can be done using a threshold and a bit of radial blur (sorry, it’s a bit of a simplification).

      Tessellation is also something that is relatively easy to implement on modern GPUs.

      The really impressive part comes from the approximate global illumination calculations. Those are quite difficult to get working at a high frame rate. Additionally, glossy specular reflections are very difficult to get running fast (since they are much higher frequency and require more sampling).

      I agree that animation is a really important part of the engine. I didn’t see much wrong with it, but I’m not an artist.

      • Tridae says:

        The lava is a thick viscous fluid – thereby needing less detail and making is simpler to simulate – I was pointing out that the thing people find the most impressive is actually much easier to do than the water renderings we’ve seen in the past.

        The global illumination is what I meant by light scattering/bouncing (maybe I should have been a bit clearer on this), Frostbite2 has managed this but here it looks a lot more dynamic which is nice. That and like I mentioned the reflections and glossy effects are the impressive parts. In early screens of the engine these realtime glossy reflections are what caught my attention.

        (no one seems to mention the dynamic fracturing of the rocks which is a new thing yet I’m not completely sure how difficult that is, physx handles this pretty well but it’s nice to see it in a scene)

        Rockstar seems to be the one to watch for animation systems (full body at least) and hopefully they can sell their tech to be used in these engines.

    • byteCrunch says:

      I am with you there Tridae, if you know what your looking at it really isn’t all that impressive, especially when you consider that all they are doing is pushing the graphics in the demo and it still isn’t amazing.

      When you start factoring all the other things that an engine needs to do every 1/60th of a second or less, the fact that they only demo the graphics is meaningless.

      In terms of facial animation, I think companies are still behind even the Source engine, which is now 8 years old, apparently rough fluid sims and particle sims or shader effects are all you need to impress people now.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Who ever said that this engine was the absolute best in every aspect? What’s the point of bringing up PhysX? It’s never going to be in more than a couple of games a year, and tacked on at that, due to its proprietary nature.

  9. misterT0AST says:

    Jim, I think this was already posted.
    I know it because I’ve already seen that video, and I wouldn’t search for such a thing myself.
    Plus I remember the people commenting on how “generic” the showcase was.

    Better safe than sorry I guess. Melius abundare quam deficere.

    It was from Nathan Grayson.
    link to

    hmm this article doesn’t have an embedded video… But I saw that damn video somewhere near here, I swear.

  10. tomeoftom says:

    What’s the point of a non-playable demo?

    • ahluka says:

      To drool on your keyboard and lick your monitor? I don’t know, I’m not watching it, but I think that’s the intended outcome.

    • tomeoftom says:

      It’s super-daft. You can’t really assess how good the physics are – and more importantly how well you think they’d be used for various game scenarios – unless you can directly interact with the materials. The liquid looks very shit, for instance.

    • Salt says:

      Hm, I wonder if they’ll release an executable version so we can overheat our graphics cards in excitement?

      These things always seem more interesting and/or impressive when they’re running live on your own computer. Plus within half an hour someone will have released tools to make it at least a little interactive, then we can work out how much of it was “cheating” pre-calculated stuff.

      • tomeoftom says:

        Exactly – it’s all about what you can actually recreate. The Subsurface Scattering .exe, with the bald guy with realistic skin lighting, was just a total revelation. That was like “oh my god, they’re really doing everything light does in real life. This is indistinguishable from a live human being at a small distance” I mean, UE3 had good soft-body, destruction, and even liquid physics with PhysX. Not sure what they’ve actually done new here.

        • Smashbox says:


        • Deadly Sinner says:

          And who cares about PhysX? It’s a proprietary technology, which means it will never see widespread use in future consoles or pc games.

          If you know of a widely used engine that does fluid dynamics better, why don’t you show us?

    • SirKicksalot says:

      The demo is actually playable, the dev can take control of the demon after this cutscene and run around.

    • oyog says:

      Go ask the demoscene.

    • tomeoftom says:

      Okay, watched the walkthrough now. Tooooootally changed my tune. Fucking amazing.

  11. Steven Hutton says:

    Why does every character created in the unreal engine look like they’re covered in vasaline?

    • Chris D says:

      Because the designers spend so much time in those kind of parties that’s what they think everyone looks like?

    • hjd_uk says:

      Because Sublety is not EPIC’s bag baby, and yes i also hate it … MAX SPECULAR! SHINY FTW!

    • Nickless_One says:

      it ‘does’ seem rather unreal, right? :)

  12. Jerricho says:

    Still no staring (burning?) eyes tag?

  13. tsmike says:

    Not that impressed.

    Even though it’s a new engine, they’ve still managed to bring over the awful specular effects. Seriously, the rocks and metal all have this plastic shine to them.

    • Cytrom says:

      Completely art related. Its just how they are textured by the environmental artist.

    • Xardas Kane says:

      Because a tech demo is all about the art. Trolololo

      • Apples says:

        If you wanna show off the lighting in your new engine, you’d better make damn sure that you define the right textures/spec maps on objects so that the lighting works properly.

  14. Cytrom says:

    The lighting system (dynamic global illumination), the real time reflections, the material system, and the particle effects are very impressive. And the whole toolset look pretty intuitive and easy to work with.

    Not nearly as much of a leap as UE3 was to UE2, but I think we are at a theoretical peak now in graphics where the only limit is how much details the artists are willing or can afford to put in the game, and engine limitations are much less of a factor.

    • LeiterJakab says:

      Ater using UDK I must say the toolset looks amazing. They really improved that aspect.

  15. Moni says:

    There’s a developer walkthrough, talking through the new features:

    link to

    A lot of comments saying it isn’t revolutionary, but that seems like an unfair expectation. It looks like there’s plenty of new cool features for developers to play with in there.

    • sneetch says:

      That looks very impressive I must say, the actual explanations of what it can do as you see it is very well done.

    • Luke says:

      I think this is by far the more impressive of the vids.

      And I love the almost throwaway moment at the end. “Oh yeah, and you can recompile the game code while you’re playing.”

  16. jaypettitt says:

    No idea if they pulled the same stunt at E3, but when they showed the same stuff at GameDev the punch line was that this wasn’t running in the game engine – rather it was running live in the Unreal Editor and you could monkey about changing stuff and see the results in real time without long waits for map compiles.

    Anyways, looks like in the future particles will be the new bloom and games still won’t run on my laptop.

  17. sneetch says:

    I know how that lava guy feels, I make those noises every time I wake up and have to pry myself out of bed before going outside into the bleak wintersummer. Finally a tech demo I can relate to!

    This is pretty cool, the fact that it handles all this stuff in real time and out of the box has to be a boon to those who chose the engine.

  18. Xardas Kane says:

    I see a lot of people judging this demo not based on the actual tech, but the art style. This is a TECH DEMO, yes, the art isn’t the best ever, that’s not the point!

    This is times more exciting and impressive than the Squre Enix video, not only because of the tech involved, but also because it’s just stunning how easy to use, accessible and functional the actual tools are. The fact you can play the game while new code is compiling, then have it integrated in real time is nothing short of amazing. I didn’t see Square Enix showing off anything even remotely as impressive.

  19. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I was more impressed with they crytek one tbh.

  20. theodacourt says:

    That man is just like my father. He get’s so angry when I leave the door open.

  21. Theschiznits says:

    It looked good. And if it moves ahead gaming in ANY way then great.

    Whole lotta haters up in here.

  22. Spoof says:

    I can understand why people are underwhelmed by the demo, but from a developer perspective there’s a lot to be excited about if you watch the walk-through video.

    That entire demo is running live within the game editor. You can move around the world making changes and even re-compile the code while it’s running. Nothing is pre-baked any more.

    By comparison the SquareEnix demo is very well presented, but it’s difficult to assess the techniques and trickery used to achieve their real-time claim. The final shot is definitely a matte painting.

  23. reggiep says:

    Based on that impressive toolset, I’m betting Unreal will continue to be the most widely used engine around. It’s a beautiful engine with a very full set of tools. Cost for entry is relatively low.

  24. Hoaxfish says:

    All those particle effects, flame effects, lava… but can it make a good looking flamethrower?

  25. kyrieee says:

    They got me when he stepped outside

  26. cHeal says:

    The ability to work with unreal script and compile in realtime so to speak will make a massive difference to developers. All the rest is just tech porn and won’t have any serious impact on the end product or the look of games in the immediate future, but the updates to the editor are significant. Really epic need to start concentrating on streamlining the content creation process. If I was a publisher pushing out triple A product that would be the biggest selling point for any engine. I think the effects they are attempting to sell are pretty redundant, but if they can make serious inroads into development time then this engine is a winner.

  27. BathroomCitizen says:

    I came here for Unreal 4. Is this the right place?

  28. Ernesto says:

    The toolbox for this engine looks very impressive! And I liked the glowing metal effect.

  29. Brun says:

    The improvements to the editor (efficiency and workflow) are what the industry so desperately needs. Those are the kinds of changes that have to happen to curb the exploding cost of development.

  30. kaffis says:

    Dear Lord, the lens flare! It’s like J.J. Abrams: the Video Game Engine!

  31. Wut The Melon says:

    Meh… I was more impressed with Quantic Dreams Beyond: Two Souls. Not only because the studio is relatively small, or because the game looks probably better than anything I’ve seen so far due to fantastic motion capture, but mainly because they managed to get all of that to work on a 6-year-old console. I would so gladly buy that game on PC…

  32. D3xter says:

    For all the people that thought the Squeenix Engine wasn’t realtime, think again…: link to

  33. Greggh says:

    Imagine… Dwarf Fortress with those graphics…

    Actually, that’s pretty much what I do imagine when I’m playing Dorf Fortress :D
    So screw this Unreal Engine 4, I don’t need it! (not to play DF, at least)

  34. pilouuuu says:

    I was much more amazed by the developer’s walkthrough. Think of a Baldur’s Gate 3 with that engine!

  35. ffordesoon says:

    Yeah, the first video isn’t that impressive, because everything looks so great these days that people call things like Dark Souls “ugly” because they have eighty-five graphics instead of one hundred, but the second one is like watching a live demonstration of sorcery. The amount of time this thing is going to save is STAGGERING. Quicker implementation and iteration means way the hell more content can be created in way the hell less time.

    I’m not a developer, but I do mess around in editors and SDKs a lot, and I’ve never, ever, ever seen one that user-friendly. Hell, the gold standard for ease of use is the LittleBigPlanet one, as far as I’m concerned, and this looks both more user-friendly and more powerful than LBP2’s tools. Less accessible to people who don’t know how to program, but that’s to be expected. The reason games are so lineear now, as I understand it, is mainly because graphics engines are so monstrously inefficient. The inefficiency drives up costs and time spent on each asset, which leads to the “streamlining” of level design and gameplay. With these tools, the cost in money and time of implementing individual assets decreases dramatically, meaning that a ton more assets can be made for the same price. Imagine levels the size of Thief’s that look that good!

    Square’s engine, by contrast, was made by the same conpany that thought FFXIV’s UI was passable. It’s more impressive visually, sure, but who the hell outside of Square will be able to use it at all efficiently?

    • Mman says:

      Have you seen this video of the Square-Enix engine? link to

      While they haven’t shown anything in terms of coding etc, in terms of real-time editing of effects it looks just as impressive.

      Either way, I agree the huge increase in workflow intuitiveness/efficiency seems to be the most impressive part of these next-gen engines, especially as it seems to be the main thing that was screwed up for many engines this gen.

      • ffordesoon says:

        Wow, that actually does look damn intuitive, and there doesn’t seem to be any pre-baking involved.

        I’m more skeptical of Square’s ability to deliver than Epic’s, and Epic’s demo is apparently running on a single GeForce 680, which I doubt Square can claim.

        Still, I’m finally excited about videogames again. That’s a feat.

  36. dmoe says:

    I can’t wait until someone makes something cool-looking with it!

  37. yrrnn says:

    I’ll admit I let out a little gasp when he revealed he was running the demo in the editor.

  38. Bigdeal says:

    No one can contest the advanced technology that’s at work here, but if they want to get me excited and impressed, they should get some talented graphic designers. What we have here are the PC gaming and Unreal series basics, in extra high detail.

  39. jon_hill987 says:

    Lead them on, Aragorn. The bridge is near. Do as I say! Swords are no more use here!

  40. Beelzebud says:

    The developer video is quite impressive. Their editor tech is absolutely amazing.

  41. gshauger says:

    It’s almost comical the number of people who posted to hate on the video. I like this site a lot but man does it attract a large assortment of haters.

    The technology displayed here is clearly as good as it gets…it can only lead to better games. Otherwise the industry would have stopped at the Pong engine.