The Role of Unreal Engine 5 in Crafting Next-Gen Horror Games

Mahad Kazmi

15 May, 2024


7 min read

Unreal Engine 5

If you summed up the gaming industry trends in 2023, all you’d get is “Horror Games.” What is the factor behind the rise of horror games?

Horror games are not just trending now; they have been leaders in the gaming industry for decades since the first Resident Evil launched in 1996. Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space remakes, which are top-selling games of the genre in 2023, just show that gamers have not had enough horror games and are screaming for more. 

From the pixelated chills of titles like “Alone in the Dark” to games like “Silent Hill,” the cinematic scares these games are able to provide have constantly relied on innovation to deliver experiences like no other game. The best part is that this is just the beginning of something beautiful.

With the release of Unreal Engine 5 (UE5), developers around the world have gotten a taste of what it’s like to create magic. With a revolutionary tool kit at their disposal, creating true horror experiences in games has never been more inviting. In this blog, you’ll learn about how UE5 promises to create next-gen horror games, exploring the process behind the art of spine-chilling gaming experiences with inspiration from titles like Resident Evil and Alan Wake. 

Let’s start with the major challenges of horror game development:

What are the Major Challenges of Horror Game Development?

Adventure, action, puzzle-solving, etc. Different genres all rely on either action or exploration and require a good storyline. However, horror games stand out as they rely on atmospheric immersion to evoke fear. Although it makes horror games unique, developers often find themselves struggling with challenges like these:

  • Creating a Sense of Dread and Unease:  If you think of horror, you’ll think of the human instinct to be afraid of the unknown or the feeling of vulnerability that takes over them. To cover this element in a horror game, a professional Horror Game Development company has the skills to create environments that give off an unsettling vibe, whether it’s through using flickering lights, creatively eerie sound design, or a consistent sense of danger.
    They can’t just make a room dark. Give the player a flashlight and let them navigate it with jumpscares here and there. From floorboard creaks to pipe groans, the main focus of the gameplay is on heightening the player’s anxiety, making them always be on the edge of their seat.
  • Balancing Jump Scares with Narrative: Jumpscares are fan favorites in horror games. There are several compilations of gamers jumping off their seats through a jumpscare and even making “jumpscare tier lists.” While they can be effective in giving an adrenaline boost to the players, it’s not all a horror game has to have to create “the horror experience.” The players have to be emotionally invested in the suspense to keep them playing, making scares out of different phobias, whether its spiders, bugs, or even the supernatural.
    Each discovery needs to be accompanied by more suspense, giving the horror game more continuity. The Resident Evil franchise perfectly incorporates that. It’s the emotional weight of the jumpscares that makes them worthy of being titled “jump scares.” It’s not just things popping up out of nowhere.
  • Designing Effective Sound Design and Lighting: Popular AAA titles like God of War and GTA V can be played without sound and still be enjoyed. Many people play these games with music on to “vibe,” whereas, in a horror game, sound and lighting play an extremely important role. Professional horror game developers use sound and lighting to manipulate emotions, and create fear out of solely these elements. Without the proper use of these tools, a horror game is just another adventure game.
    Although a perfectly equipped and reputable horror game development agency wouldn’t struggle with these challenges because of their experience, they still often lead to a higher developmental cost, which can be covered if you simply look at the revenue generated from horror games. 

The high-selling rate of horror games isn’t even limited to consoles or computers, Identity V, a mobile game, has over $500 million in all-time revenue from player spending! 

You might be thinking existing horror games can’t be topped and that your concept will be overshadowed by titles that have an increasing player base every day. But this new technology is going to revolutionize the horror game market, and it’s every Horror game development company’s dream come true.

The Rise of Unreal Engine 5 – What’s New?

Unreal Engine 5, the latest update to the Unreal Engine system developed by Epic Games, is a game-changer. Game developers of different genres are already exploring their potential. Let’s take a look at some of the features of UE5 and how they will address the challenges developers face when creating horror games, as mentioned above:

  • Lumen: Think of a hundred-year-old mansion that is decaying under the moonlight, several broken windows casting a ray of light on the creaky floor with dust all over it. Now, think of your character walking through the mansion and the ray of light interacting with it and the environment realistically, allowing for a renowned sense of depth and unprecedented realism that has never been seen. This is all possible thanks to Unreal Engine 5’s real-time ray tracing technology, an accomplishment not done before by any game engine. No retro tech stack would be able to do it for you.
  • Nanite: Whenever gamers think of next-gen horror game titles, they always think of low-performance, high-quality games that their devices won’t be able to support. With UE5’s geometric virtualization tool, this completely revolutionalizes that problem. Your concept can now be as detailed as you want it and still target audiences that don’t have top-of-the-line consoles or computers.
    Nanite allows developers to create huge worlds without it taking a hit on the performance, so your idea won’t be minimized. It’ll be maximized. Count on a reputable Unreal Engine 5 game development company to ensure a smooth gameplay experience, even in the most creepy environments.
  • MetaSounds: MetaSounds is another exemplary piece of technology that UE5 offers, allowing horror game developers to create immersive and creepy sound effects and soundtracks in real-time. Hearing creaks according to the character’s weight and hearing doors opening and closing from a distance according to where you are; MetaSounds allows environmental sounds to be in accordance with the actions of the player and the environment. This is the perfect tool for horror games, adding layers of fear and suspense through amplifying sound scares. 

A Deep Dive Into Crafting Terror with UE5

Oh, did you think that was it? These features aren’t just for show; they’re a game-changer because of all they entail. Let’s take a better look into how these features work and how they can create horrifying experiences:

The Art of Darkness

Real-time ray tracing stands out as it can create ultra-realistic shadows and light. From candles burning out in real-time, shadows that are distorted in an abandoned room, or the sun setting through a haunted forest, Lumen can create an entire system of light and shadows that are dynamic, meaning they constantly change as the player navigates the environment. Players will constantly be on the lookout for what lurks in the shadows, never knowing when the next jump scare is going to be. 

Lumen can likewise create photorealistic fire and smoke effects, making “flashlights” and “lamps” give off realistic light and shadows. As real as a horror game can look, it’ll be considered as good. 

Building Worlds of Unease

Horror subgenres rely on attention to detail. Is a framed picture just a framed picture or does it have a code on it? Is the bookshelf really a bookshelf or a secret door? The massive environments with attention to each little detail are what makes horror games worth buying. Nanite allows developers to do just that, create intricate spaces but can’t every game engine do that? Well, yes, it can, but at the cost of performance. Nanite allows developers to build horror games on huge concepts without having the performance of the game sacrificed. 

The meticulous potential of the detailed atmosphere of a horror game built with UE5 can creatively hide jump scares within the space. If it’s claustrophobic horror, Nanite can be utilized to create maze-like corridors and inescapable spaces, making the player feel trapped in real life. If the environment screams horror, just imagine what the gameplay will hold. 

The Orchestra of Fear

The best way to explain MetaSounds is by calling it “reactive audio.” To truly create an immersive experience where the player loses themselves, sound design is extremely important, and what better tool to build that with than Unreal Engine 5? Every little or big thing will have more of an impact on MetaSounds. 

MetaSounds allows reputable horror game developers to craft a game based on any type of horror game concept like yours! The dynamic soundtrack and sound effects crafted through MetaSounds can be used to create the fear of isolation perfectly, making the player feel one with the character as they navigate through the world. Imagine feeling somebody is watching you as you play the game through creative sound design; isn’t that exciting?

Is Using Unreal Engine 5 A Good Choice For Horror Games?

Unreal Engine 5 doesn’t come without additional benefits. Having been developed by Epic Games, UE5 has a huge asset store that is growing more and more with high-quality horror-themed presets and modules. Whether it’s 3D models of bloodied walls and floors or even sound libraries with knocks and terrifying screams, this reduces the overall developmental cost for an experienced game development company, saving you money as you launch your concept!

Apart from the cost, Unreal Engine 5 also promises a faster and more efficient development process, so you can beat your competitors to market at a better pace with a unique horror experience. Furthermore, Unreal Engine 5 also has a huge online fanbase that works together and shares their insights on the engine. The UE5 community is a brilliant one, and your trusted horror game developers will have no problem tackling any challenge your dream horror game presents. 

The Future of Horror – A Look Ahead

The future of Horror doesn’t stop with Unreal Engine 5. With the release of Resident Evil: Village on VR, one of the most high-grossing games of the horror subgenre and Resident Evil franchise, it’s safe to say that the potential of revolutionary horror games is as exciting as can be. Through UE5, VR integration has become more accessible than before. Imagine top-end graphics and environments, with creepy sounds, all in front of your eyes, making you one with your character. 

Additionally, AI advancements in Unreal Engine 5 can create more unpredictability when it comes to the behavior of enemies, and “the supernatural.” Imagine a boss fight that gets more and more adaptive, making it not only harder to beat, but more tactical. The level of unpredictability with AI integration in horror games can make up for one hell of an experience. 

Beyond the Tech – Leveraging UE5’s Ecosystem

If you take in all the features and possibilities offered by UE5, it’s a no-brainer to go for it when having your horror game concept developed by a respected horror game development company, like Cubix! Features like Lumen, Nanite, and Metasounds can all be combined to make the next-generation AAA horror game, catering to all the challenges previously faced by horror game developers. UE5 promises a new era of horror games, so whaddya’ say stranger? 

Cubix is passionate about the ever-growing trends in the gaming industry, and having a vast amount of resources that are more than capable of catering to every developmental need, your dream horror game will be in safe hands with you. Masters of creating art, contact us and learn more about how you can bring your idea to life using UE5. With over 15 years of experience working with reputable companies all over the world, work with us, and let’s get down to creating nightmares!


Mahad Kazmi

Mahad Kazmi, a 6+ year tech writer, tackles industry trends. Reader by day, a footballer, a bookworm & dad of four cats by night.

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