The difference between Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) and Unreal Engine 5 (UE5), in short, is that the latter is an updated version with improvements that are explained in the article; both are game engines developed and maintained by Epic Games and are used for the creation of games, animation films, virtual reality applications and other forms of interactivity. UE5 represents a significant update compared to UE4, with numerous new features and improvements.
The main differences between UE4 and UE5 are the addition of the following systems to the latter:
- Nanite rendering engine, which allows importing and displaying high-fidelity 3D models without the need for polygon reduction.
- 3D audio “Audio Engine“, which offers greater flexibility and realism in the creation of real-time audio effects.
- Global lighting with Lumen, which allows creating realistic environments with a lower number of pre-calculated lights and shadows.
- “Hardware Profiling System“, which allows for optimizing the use of hardware resources during game execution.
- “Animation Modifiers“, which allow modifying animations in real-time without the need to create new animations.
In addition to this, it should be considered that the graphical interface is much more modern and intuitive on Unreal Engine 5.
Other important additions on Unreal Engine 5
- Shape modification “Shape Modifiers” allows modifying the shapes of 3D models in real time, without the need for creating new meshes.
- Clothing physics “Clothing Tool” allows creating and simulating realistic clothing and fabrics on characters.
- “Visual Effect Editor” allows creating advanced visual effects using a series of nodes and compositing tools.
- “Level Editor” offers greater flexibility and functionality for creating environments and game levels.
- Hair and fur physics system “Hair and Fur” allows creating and simulating realistic hair and fur on characters.
- “Cinematography Editor” offers greater flexibility and functionality for creating cinematic sequences and cutscenes.
- “Map Management System” allows managing and organizing maps and project content more efficiently.
- “Control Inversion System” allows creating inverted game controls and customizing the game’s response to player inputs.
- “Data Synchronization System” allows synchronizing data between clients and servers more efficiently.
- Facial expression recognition “Facial Animation System” allows detecting and animating facial expressions more realistically.
- “Augmented Reality Support” offers functionality for creating augmented reality experiences.
- “Live Link” allows real-time data synchronization between UE5 and other software, such as MotionBuilder.
- “Multithreaded Physics” allows physics simulation to be executed on multiple CPU cores, improving performance.
- “Procedural Geometry” allows generating geometry on the fly, reducing the need for pre-made assets.
- “Dynamic Shadows” allows creating shadows that are more realistic and respond to changing lighting conditions in real time.
- “Real-time Reflection Probes” allows creating realistic reflections that respond to changes in the environment in real time.
- “Virtual Texturing” allows using large textures without consuming a lot of memory or causing performance issues.
- “Dynamic Resolution” allows adjusting the resolution of the game in real time, depending on the performance of the hardware.
- “Subdivision Surface Support” allows using subdivision surfaces to create smooth, high-quality models.
As you can see, UE5 offers a number of significant improvements and new features compared to UE4, including new rendering and audio technologies, advanced lighting and physics systems, and improved tools for creating environments, characters, and visual effects. Depending on the project, these improvements may justify the switch to UE5 from UE4.
Why choose Unreal Engine 4 over Unreal Engine 5?
Unreal Engine 4 has been on the market for longer and has a larger user base, which means there are more resources and support available online, as well as being less prone to stability or bug issues compared to UE5, which is still in development, although this may change in the future when support for UE4 is discontinued.
Additionally, independent developers should consider that UE4 is less demanding in terms of hardware resources and may be more suitable for projects that require less computing power. It has been used to create many successful games, so the presence of a version with many new systems still retains its value and it is likely to be many years before UE5 becomes the default choice.
Should I switch from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5?
The decision to switch from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5 depends on the specific needs of the project and the personal preferences of the developer, as the only differences are the improvements mentioned above.
Therefore, it is not recommended to port an already completed project in UE4 to UE5, unless the use of systems only present on the latter is essential.
On the other hand, if you are starting a new project, take into account the computing power of your hardware and the systems added in UE5: if you have powerful enough hardware and Unreal Engine 5 can facilitate your work or improve the result, choose the latter.
The main reason why you should choose Unreal Engine 5 is not oriented to the present, but to the future: the new features will gradually increase the gap of difference between Unreal Engine 4 and Unreal Engine 5.