Ubisoft’ s The Division on consoles is an interesting proposition for a couple of different reasons. The first is that in many ways it’s a perfect opportunity for us to test whether The Division pushes the PS4 and Xbox One to their absolute limits. The second is how closely do they match the PC version or in other words, what the PS4 and Xbox One versions offer in terms of visual settings compared to the game running at Ultra Settings on PC at 1080p.
As we noted during our beta analysis, the PS4 version runs at 1080p native resolution whereas the Xbox One opts for a dynamic 1080p resolution, a solution that we have seen used quite a lot in several Xbox One games. So in terms of image quality you may observe that the game on Xbox One feels a bit softer. Both versions employ a target render of 30 frames per second and albeit a few frame rate drops during heavy shooting scenes, we are most looking at the same level of performance that we witnessed during the beta. So it’s fair to conclude that performance and image quality wise, both of them have faithfully carried over their beta performance to final build which to be honest should come as good news for console gamers.
So what are the core differences between the PS4 and Xbox One versions? Before we jump into that let us talk about the similarities. Like the PC version, both console versions utilize a full physical based rendering pipeline and as such lighting plays a big role in the game. Both versions employ similar lighting effects, volumetric and alpha effects and there is very little choose between the implementation of skin shaders on both platforms. Both also utilize a post processing anti-aliasing solution in the form of SMAA x 1 for removing unwanted jaggies resulting in surprisingly crisp image quality and just like the PC build, this solution goes through a temporal AA pass which then improves AA even further. Furthermore, TAA also keeps flickering of objects at a minimum when the player pans the camera around quickly, thereby keeping the AA solution intact when the game is in motion. It’s a smart solution but also an expensive one hence the developers decided to use the lower variant of SMAA on console versions. It’s also interesting to note that post processing effects such as depth of field, lens flare and motion blur are also one to one across the two consoles along with screen space reflections and global illumination methodology with light bouncing off surfaces remaining consistent as well.
Surprisingly the differences between the console versions are minimal but when compared to a high end PC, the differences become more apparent. Right off the bat, you will notice higher quality shadows on the PC compared to the PS4. Further differences include better ambient occlusion and self shadows on the PC build whereas on the PS4 and Xbox One, shadows are self casted but they come at the cost of dithering. Draw distance is similar across both versions but with the PC build you can adjust it even more thanks to the Extra Streaming Distance parameter. Level of detail is generally similar on both versions but the PC version takes the lead here with superior object detailing. This is one area where The Division on PC really differentiates itself compared to the PS4 and Xbox One. Pop-in is somewhat minimal on the PS4 and it seems that the Xbox One version suffers from texture streaming issues at times. If we have to state an estimate, the console versions range from medium to high settings of the PC build which is quite decent given Ubisoft’s ambition with the game.
I also wanted to briefly talk about the graphical options in the console versions. If you remember the beta was supposed to be a taste of the graphical parameters that the final build will have. The PS4 and Xbox One beta versions allowed players to change the sharpness along with chromatic aberration. But then a week or two later, we reported that a Ubisoft developer confirmed that the final build will have more options such as improving frame rate performance by playing with the lighting settings. At the time, the statement was quite confusing because there was no way that this game was going to run automatically at 60 fps on consoles by just changing a few parameters. Secondly, the game itself is locked to run at a target 30fps. So either this is something that was dropped earlier in development or this is merely a case of miscommunication or Ubisoft are going to patch it later on. Technically speaking we no see no reason to have such options since the game’s target is not to render the image at 60fps. This is different in the case of Project CARS because the target renderer in that game was 60fps which is not the case with here. But we will be pleasantly surprised if Ubisoft brings it back and it affects performance on consoles in a big way. The possibility of this happening, however, is minimal.
So which version is superior? The answer is pretty obvious. If you have high end hardware which surpasses the recommended requirements then the PC version is the way to go. Superior draw distance, excellent level of detail, better AA solution and support for 60fps put it beyond what consoles can offer. On the console front, there is very little to choose from. Yes, there are differences between them but those are so minuscule that an average player won’t even notice them.
The SnowDrop Engine is off to a great start and it will be interesting to see how Ubisoft develops it and makes it even better. Ubisoft have expressed interest in using this engine for their other titles and there is massive potential here. The engine supports physically based rendering pipeline, dynamic weathers with heavy snow, day/night cycles along with a stream of impressive post processing effects.
We can’t wait to see what Ubisoft builds on SnowDrop Engine in the future.