A reader analyses the Unreal Engine 5 tech demo and looks at Microsoft and Sony’s differing approaches to marketing their next gen consoles.
The gaming industry has a history of being dishonest about graphics. Watch Dogs’ graphical downgrade still looms large in most gamers’ memories and there is rightfully a healthy dose of cynicism surrounding pre-release footage.
As Microsoft’s recent next gen gameplay reveal shows, companies now plaster any footage that is not running on the intended hardware with disclaimers, so no lies are told. But even with those disclaimers it’s mind-bogglingly inept of Microsoft not to understand the climate surrounding dishonest reveals and to not have anticipated the negative reaction to their event. They utterly didn’t show what they promised.
Then Sony allow Epic Games to show a tech demo for its upcoming Unreal Engine 5 running on PlayStation 5 and, surprisingly along with some negativity, there’s also a big dollop of positivity. Even though it was a tech demo, which always look amazing, I think there’s good reasons for that positivity. More specifically that Sony first party exclusives like the next God Of War could look almost on par with the tech demo. I believe God Of War uses an in-house game engine [it does – GC] and not Unreal so hopefully that will be even more optimised for PlayStation 5 hardware.
Epic was very complimentary about the PlayStation 5 hardware, which is a hell of endorsement to have for your machine. They pointed out that the level of graphics in the demo represents what’s possible on the very best hardware out this year, suggesting this will be PlayStation 5. They said key to the demo’s visual quality was the PlayStation 5’s class-leading SSD, that allowed for the use of cinema quality assets.
As most other devices won’t have such a fast SSD it suggests that PlayStation 5 games will always be able to make use of highest quality assets possible ,with less capable devices scaling back the quality. A big part of Epic’s reveal was scalability, so a game could look its very best on the most powerful hardware but still be scaled back to run on less powerful hardware. The goal being to try and unify as much as possible PC, console, and mobile gamers.
Sony don’t have an unblemished record of delivering on their promises but their recent history for first party exclusives has been very good. Both the 2015 E3 Horizon Zero Dawn world premiere and the 2016 E3 God Of War gameplay trailer were representative of the final product. They both still look better than the final product but there’s not much in it. More importantly, they really captured what it would feel like to play those games.
Taking down my first Thunderjaw in Horizon Zero Dawn 100% gave me that same awesome feeling I felt watching the reveal. It gives Sony credibility that what was shown in the tech demo is close to what final build results on PlayStation 5 could be for their first party games.
Graphics have been a focus for Sony and their Sony formula first party games this gen, pitching for Hollywood blockbuster quality. The recent PlayStation Studios logo animation resembling the Marvel one encapsulates what they want to achieve. Epic bringing up cinema quality assets suggests it was always Sony’s goal to build the PlayStation 5 to deliver this vision for their exclusives. I think they will achieve it, they’re close on the current gen.
It was savvy of Sony to follow up the tech demo with an, I assume, final build, extended gameplay demo of Ghost Of Tsushima running on a PS4 Pro. It looked beautiful and gives credibility to what’s achievable on PlayStation 5 if Ghosts of Tsushima is what’s currently achievable on PS4 Pro. Sony might of had a PR fail by repackaging a GDC talk as a sort of consumer event (it wasn’t but most believed, rightly or wrongly, it was going to be), due to pressure not to let Microsoft totally dictate the early next gen dialogue. But generally, they are better at PR than Microsoft, which sometimes seems to be on par with Ratner.
The next gen hardware has many exciting implication beyond better graphics. Big, interactive, friction-less, densely-packed open worlds. Transitioning from detailed indoor and outdoor areas without the need to load each. The Medium’s developers teased that the Xbox Series X’s SSD enables them to do something regarding its two worlds that’s not possible on current gen. Maybe it’s switching between the two game worlds at the drop of a hat with no need to spend time loading each up or putting in the currently popular load hiders like a cramped crevice to shuffle through.
Sony also did a good job of showing how having access to higher frame rates can benefit fast-moving games with the Marvel’s Spider-Man demo. For lots of games 30 fps is just fine but if you want a more responsive feeling game that conveys speed then higher frame rates are a must. It’s the reason the Doom Eternal developers want it for their games.
But in regard to graphics I believe there is reason to be excited by the Unreal Engine 5 PlayStation 5 tech demo given Sony’s recent track record in this area. I think the next gen will be a real mixed bag graphically. Games that could eventually look like the tech demo will probably be a small percentage. But if any of them could then it’s the Sony first party exclusives.
The tech demo has provided a nice shot of excitement and positivity around the next gen talk. The wariness about anything other than a final product is completely warranted given the industry’s history but I look at what Sony are achieving now graphically and then the Unreal Engine 5 PlayStation 5 tech demo and I think, yeah I can see it happening.
By reader Simundo
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