The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Visual Analysis: PS4 vs. PC

The re-build of Ethan Carter looks great and the PS4 work well in showcasing this.

Posted By | On 26th, Aug. 2015 Under Article, Graphics Analysis

The Astronauts’ The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was one of those unusual but special adventure titles which the PS4 has become known for. Unlike Everybody Goes to the Rapture however, Ethan Carter first released in September 2014 for PC and was developed on Unreal Engine 3. The game saw quite the amount of praise of its visual quality and art style. However, it took a good ten months or so before it finally made its way to the PS4. Why the delay? It was eventually revealed that The Astronauts was working on rebuilding the game on Unreal Engine 4. Despite the great work some developers have been doing on current gen consoles with the previous gen engine, the decision to update The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was a wise one. Though the PC version will eventually re-release in Unreal Engine 4, there’s plenty of incentive now for fans to check out the PS4 version.

Given the fact that Unreal Engine 3 was built primarily for the Xbox 360 and PS3, Unreal Engine 4 is targeted primarily for the Xbox One and PS4. A jump in visual quality is expected but just how revolutionary is the leap here? We took a closer look at the PS4 and the PC Unreal Engine 3 build of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter to find out.

Let us get one caveat out of the way. The base assets of the game haven’t be modified in any manner. For all intents and purposes, these are the same assets present in the PC version. In terms of resolution, Ethan Carter runs at 1920×1080 with fast approximate anti-aliasing (FXAA) applied. Visuals are crisper and object edges are sharper but there may some inconsistencies while the player moves with the world being streamed in the foreground.

The developers have used a unique solution titled photogrammetry which allows them to extract finer details via high quality photographs of objects from different angles. This gives the artist every possible points in a 3d space resulting into an accurate representation of the object in the virtual world.

Head to head comparison: PC followed by PS4. [left to right]

While the frame rate tends to remain above 30 frames per second and this may result into an inconsistent experience. A noticeable judder can be noticed at times but overall, the PC and PS4 version look fairly similar on the surface. However, the difference in engines results in various subtle visual changes. Unreal Engine 4 is meant to be an update over Unreal Engine 3 after all.

One of the biggest updates in Unreal Engine 4 is how it handles lighting and the difference is immediately visible in the latest build. Rays of Sun glowing over surfaces gives a more a realistic look and feel. Another big addition ia Motion Blur, a pleasant surprise whose effect is clearly visible when the player moves through the lush and green environments. There are also changes in the way in which the sky is rendered, it’s nothing ground breaking but it manages to produce a more visually appealing level of surrealism than before.

Unlike many another PS4 games, first party and third party, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter features a strong level of anisotropic filtering. This gives texture a crisper look when viewed from long distances or random angles.

Enhanced ambient glow produced thanks to higher intensity lights is clearly noticeable in the Unreal Engine 4 build and it’s a sight to behold when sun rays penetrate through small holes or windows. All of this comes along to deliver a soothing and a calm visual experience, unlike anything we have seen before.

Despite the positive, there are some unfortunate negatives as well. Texture filtering is obviously higher on the PC compared to the PS4 build but we also observed some level of shadow dithering and the way light reflects from surface to surface. It really is a minor issue and most players won’t even notice it.

Head to head comparison: PC followed by PS4. [left to right]

Further differences between the two versions are further extended by contrast in image quality. There is a slight difference in the way the PS4 version is rendered, going for a slightly darker tone compared to the PC version which has a more muted variation.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter looked gorgeous when it first released on the PC and it’s amazing to see just what The Astronauts could be capable of on PS4. While many of the visual improvements are the result of shifting to Unreal Engine 4, the hardware is no slouch when it comes to the various effects and details. It’s almost like looking at an entire different game but one with more intrinsic visual changes that help enhance the creepy atmosphere in the process.

If you haven’t experienced The Vanishing of Ethan Carter on PC, it’s worth taking a look at it on the PS4. Though PC owners can probably wait until the re-build arrives later, there’s really nothing to stop PS4 players from experiencing this adventure. Hopefully The Astronauts can provide an option to cap the  frame rate at 30 FPS and eliminate the visual judder that can pop up from time to time. In the end, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter on PS4 is a great example of how re-builds should be done.

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