Today, Unreal Engine released an extremely short teaser trailer for its own “boundary-pushing cinematic and real-time tech demo,” The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience. The teaser featured an existential Keanu Reeves looking into the camera and asking a real stumper of a question: “How do we know what is real?” This has prompted many to debate whether the man himself, as glimpsed in the trailer, is real, or merely an incredibly impressive digital facsimile.
“Get ready for a glimpse into the future of interactive storytelling and entertainment with UE5,” touts language on the Unreal website’s promotional page for The Matrix Awakens. While no detailed information has been given on what the Unreal Matrix experience entails, the website has free pre-download links to both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S|X versions, as well as a countdown timer to The Game Awards this Thursday, where it promises that the “experience will be revealed.”
Since the brief glimpse of Keanu Reeves was the only tangible bit of information from Unreal Engine’s teaser, and since he looks so real while calling the very nature of reality into question, naturally a debate emerged on Twitter over whether the Keanu Reeves shown in the trailer is the genuine article or just an impressive CGI rendering of “The One” via the Unreal Engine 5.
Those who weren’t stunlocked at the philosophical question of “what is real” took to posting whether they were on #TeamReal or #TeamCGI, with TeamReal being in the minority. Folks representing #TeamReal took to Twitter and joked that the Keanu Reeves variant couldn’t be the dashing action movie star because it was clearly Johnny Silverhand from Cyberpunk 2077. Some sharp detractors went so far as to say that developer CD Projekt wishes its digital version of Keanu Reeves looked as good as the supposed Unreal Engine 5’s rendering. A gamer scorned never forgets.
I too often ponder if the immortal creature known as Keanu Reeves is real or a simulation in a dream I don’t ever want to wake up from. From his puppy dog demeanor, wholesome outlook on life, likeably wooden acting, and his breathtaking beard and long hair combo, Keanu Reeves is too good for this world. But looking at the clip, I would have to side with #TeamCGI.
Although the clip doesn’t have the uncanny valley effect common in CGI showcases where characters are shown pantomiming more than a normal human being would, the fine porous detail on Keanu’s cheeks and eyelids, along with how the lighting in the room is reflecting off of him, has a CGI video game quality. A quality that is progressively looking better than real-life people.
The question of whether Keanu is real or CGI, or if the collaboration between Unreal and the creative forces behind the upcoming film The Matrix Resurrections may also lead to a new full-fledged Matrix game, will have to wait at least until Unreal Engine 5’s showcase at The Game Awards. Whether he’s real or CGI, I think we can all agree that any version of Keanu Reeves is breathtaking.