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Epic releases Unreal Engine 5 in early access

Epic's next-generation game engine is now available to developers.

A screen captured render showing a woman, with her back to the camera, facing an enormous robotic creature

An image from Valley of the Ancient, a sample project included in the early access build of Unreal Engine 5.

Image: Epic Games

Epic Games is releasing its next-generation game engine, Unreal Engine 5 (UE5), in early access starting Wednesday, the company said. The updated engine, used as the foundation for creating high-fidelity video games and other animation and 3D graphics work, was first unveiled roughly one year ago. Epic now says it expects the full version of the engine to launch for everyone in 2022.

Epic says the early access version of UE5 has only been tested for game development, so it's not yet ready to be used by other industries such as the auto and film production sectors that have in the past relied on such software for 3D rendering and CGI effects. The company has launched an official page for the platform, from which interested developers can gain access to it early. Unreal Engine is free to use, but operates on a royalty system in which Epic collects 5% of proceeds after the first $1 million earned from products built using the software .

UE5 promises a number of significant enhancements for games that take advantage of newer graphics chips and next-generation console hardware from Microsoft and Sony. Its new tools include Nanite, a system for creating high levels of geometric detail for environmental objects like rock surfaces and in-game objects, and Lumen, a dynamic global illumination tool for creating photorealistic in-game lighting. Both features were on display in a stunning UE5 demo released last year showing off the full capabilities of the engine if it were used to create a next-generation PlayStation 5 game.

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