Was Hellblade II actually the first showing of Unreal Engine 5?

Xbox has today announced that the upcoming Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is being developed on Unreal Engine 5. That makes it the first major title known to be made entirely using the new technology – aside from Epic’s own announcement that Fortnite will be making the leap across from Unreal Engine 4.

The statement said: “The team will be building the game on Unreal 5 and leveraging the power of Xbox Series X to bring the Hellblade franchise to levels never before seen. The footage shown was captured in-engine and reflects the power of Xbox Series X available to developers to deliver new universes, experiences and games in ways you have never imagined.”

Which suggests that we saw Unreal Engine 5-derived footage months before Unreal’s own technical reveal – months both the recent PS5-based demo.

While Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is likely to be in the first wave of Unreal Engine 5 games. The fact that the team is using the engine, which won’t be available in preview until early 2021, and will not receive a full release until later the same year, means the game is not coming anytime soon. Though presumably Ninja Theory is working very closely with Epic on the title (and it may also be the case then that Xbox studio Rare’s Everwild may also be using Unreal Engine 5, as previous title Sea of Thieves used UE4)

If the game targets 2022 for release then it might even become among the first Xbox Series X exclusives, as that would be beyond the time period Microsoft indicated to us that it would continue to support current-gen consoles. Although Unreal Engine 5 would be perfectly capable of supporting those devices, depending on the design decisions taken by the developer.

UK developer Ninja Theory saw huge success with the first title, both critically and commercially. With the original game being well-known for achieving a triple-A finish despite it’s relatively small team and budget – in part thanks to its decision to use Unreal Engine 4 and to undertake its own performance and motion capture in house.

A release in 2022 would chim in well with Tim Sweeney’s recent statement that it will take a couple of years for developers to fully get to grips with the new generation: “If you look at the signature games of each previous generation, like on the Xbox 360 generation, it wasn’t until Gears and similar games began shipping in year two that the capabilities of the platform were fully demonstrated.”

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