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Unreal Engine 5 Preview Released

Users can now access the software with all features intended for final release, and are encouraged to experiment with new tools and workflows and otherwise put the program through its paces to help identify any remaining glitches.

Unreal Engine 5 Preview is here! As detailed in an Epic Games post, the eagerly awaited new version of the company’s real-time content creation toolset is headed towards its final shipping version, and users are now encouraged to access and test the software to their hearts’ content!

Since releasing Early Access last year, the Unreal Engine group has created its technical demo The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience with the code.  Fortnite is now built on Unreal Engine 5 as well, part of the company’s efforts to make Unreal Engine 5 more production-ready, stable, and optimized.

As the company moves towards final version release, they’re looking for the UE user community to experiment with the new tools and workflows, and help test and debug the software. In addition to many improvements to previously exposed tools like Nanite, Lumen, One File Per Actor, World Partition, and MetaSounds, users will find some exciting new animation tools, groundwork support for Large World Coordinates, and much more.

The company stressed that Preview releases will still have instabilities and other issues, and should not be used for production. It is suggested that users make a copy of existing projects if they wish to use them to experiment with the new tools and workflows.

Unreal Engine 5 Early Access was focused on exposing new features for next-gen game development. With this Preview release, creators from all industries are invited to take it for a test-drive. In announcing the UE5 Preview release, the company noted one caveat: while users should be able work in UE5 much the same way as they have in UE4, with existing workflows supported, some of the major new features such as Lumen and Nanite have not yet been validated with non-games workflows.

What’s new since UE5 Early Access?

Though the full list of new features and improvements is extensive, here are some key highlights:



Nanite is UE5’s new virtualized geometry system that enables you to create games and worlds with massive amounts of geometric detail.

  • In this release, there have been many improvements to stability, quality, performance, and tools, including:
  • Improved performance and memory usage of Nanite streaming in editor
  • New error-based metric for Fallback Mesh creation (previously called Proxy Mesh)
  • UX to batch convert assets to or from Nanite and perform on-disk data trimming
  • Support for all view modes and usage flags, e.g., Shader Complexity view mode
  • Per-instance selection
  • Per-instance/Actor custom data


Lumen is UE5's new fully dynamic global illumination and reflections system, designed for next-generation consoles.

Since the Early Access release, there have been many stability, quality, and performance improvements, including:

  • Full hardware ray tracing support, which doesn’t require distance fields or any other software tracing, and scales up to large worlds
  • Improved Final Gather quality, especially visible on foliage
  • Glossy reflections on translucency
  • Translucency Final Gather, which improves global illumination quality on translucency
  • Landscape support

Virtual shadow maps

This new shadow mapping method delivers consistent, high-resolution shadowing. Virtual Shadow Maps are specifically designed to work well with highly detailed film-quality Nanite assets and large, dynamically lit open worlds.

  • Enhancements in this release include:
  • Overall stability and performance improvements
  • Improved handling of shadow invalidation due to moving/deforming meshes
  • Support for more non-Nanite mesh types
  • Support for more material types for foliage (two-sided, subsurface)

Path Tracer

Introduced in Unreal Engine 4.27, the Path Tracer is a DXR-accelerated, physically accurate progressive rendering mode that requires no additional setup, enabling you to produce offline renderer-quality imagery right from Unreal Engine.

Preview 1 offers improvements in stability, performance, and feature completeness, including:

  • Support for hair primitives
  • Support for the eye shader model
  • Improvements in sampling, BRDF models, light transport, supported geometries, and more

World building

World Partition

World Partition is a distance-based streaming solution. It greatly simplifies the large-world creation process by changing how levels are managed and streamed, automatically dividing the world into a grid and streaming the necessary cells.

Since Early Access, there have been a large number of improvements in stability, performance, and feature completeness, including:

  • Landscape support
  • Sequencer support
  • New streaming source shapes
  • VT support in Minimap
  • Hierarchical support in Data Layers and a new UX


Control Rig

Control Rig enables you to create custom controls on your imported skeletal mesh; using these, you can generate new animations or modify existing ones within the Unreal Editor.

This release offers considerable performance improvements and many new features, including:

  • Graph debugging tools that let you easily find and fix issues
  • Dynamic Hierarchy and Space Switching, enabling you to attach rig controls together
  • Spline tools for manipulating curves inside Control Rig
  • The ability to create Functions that can be shared between Control Rigs

NEW! Distance Matching and Pose Warping

New in Preview 1, these two features combine to allow a small set of animations to work with a wide range of motions.

  • Distance Matching controls the play rate of an animation so that it matches the motion of the in-game character.
  • Pose Warping dynamically adjusts the pose of the animation to better match the motion of the in-game character.

NEW! Anim Blueprint Templates

This new feature enables you to create reusable animation graphs, as well as enabling engine features to be shipped as animation graph assets. With it, you can create animation Blueprint logic that isn’t bound to specific skeletons or assets. These assets cannot directly reference animation assets but instead can be reused in the context of other animation Blueprints.

NEW! IK Rig and IK Retargeter

These two new features make it easier and more efficient to animate skeletal characters in the Unreal Editor.

IK Rig enables you to interactively create solvers and goals that perform pose editing for your skeletal meshes. A common use case is to adjust a character additively while maintaining the existing animation, such as a moving character looking at a target.

IK Retargeter enables you to rapidly and robustly transfer animations between characters of different proportions across different skeletons. The retargeting can be done either at runtime or for offline creation of new animation assets.

For the complete list of features, visit the Unreal Engine site.

Source: Epic Games

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.