Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Graphics Analysis- The Pristine Image Quality From E3’s Teaser Is Missing

Although Uncharted 4 looks fantastic, Naughty Dog has a lot of work ahead if they want to achieve the quality seen in the E3 teaser.

Posted By | On 07th, Dec. 2014 Under Article, Graphics Analysis | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet


Naughty Dog is one of Sony’s leading first party studios. Although the company has been around for a long time, Naughty Dog shot to an almost unbelievable level of fame when they revealed an intriguing demo of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves during E3 2009. Among Thieves turned out to be one best Uncharted games if not the best game available back then on the PlayStation 3.

When you think back, it’s quite remarkable to see what Naughty Dog achieved with the PlayStation 3 so it’s obvious that they will be able to do more with a hardware that has a decent amount of horsepower. Our first look at Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End came in the form of a short teaser shown during E3 2014. The short footage created a controversy  across gaming boards and forums with many claiming it was not running in real time on the PlayStation 4. However, GamingBolt were able to confirm with Naughty Dog that the trailer was indeed running in real time and was a part of an in-game level.

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The footage showcased incredible anti-aliasing and one of the best simulation of hair we have seen in a video game. However all of those features have not made the transition into the gameplay video that was released yesterday. After analyzing the footage for several hours, we observed that Drake has a rather low quality shadow. It seems that shadow quality are becoming a resource nuisance for some game developers, something which we saw in the case of Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Another feature missing is tesselation. It’s puzzling to us that both the PS4 and Xbox One are DX11 capable and yet, it is not being implemented in modern games. Several objects such as tree bark and stones have no tessellation whatsoever. The anti-aliasing also does seem to match the quality we saw in the reveal trailer. It seems that the demo was using post processing anti-aliasing and we saw a few instances of jaggies here and there. The PlayStation 4 is completely capable of rendering 4 X MSAA, something which we have seen utilized in The Order: 1886, so it will be interesting to see whether the final game will have an expensive anti-aliasing solution.

The almost flawless hair rendering from the reveal trailer seems to be missing here. We understand that hair rendering is one of the most resource intensive process out there but we have already seen Assassin’s Creed Unity utilize some advanced techniques in this regard. Another thing that baffled us was some of the ground textures looked bland like they were lifted directly from the previous games. We understand that this is a minor thing but in our opinion, all such little things add to the experience.

Despite a few shortcomings, we observed interesting graphical additions in Uncharted 4: A Thieves End. The game is utilizing an ambient occlusion solution which seems to be closer to HBAO, resulting into a smoother picture quality and shadow effects [this is not to be confused with the quality  of the shadows]. The gameplay took place in a mountainous area which was densely populated by flora and fauna which made sure the environment looked and felt lively.

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Image courtesy Neogaf.

We saw usage of Global Illumination in several areas, resulting into spectacular lighting effects and perfect light bounces on surfaces. From the footage it’s clear that the game is using an advanced level of animation techniques, giving rise to almost CG level character models. We are very excited to see that more and more games are now utilizing advanced global illumination and physical based rendering techniques, so hopefully this will become a norm in the development industry.

We also observed terrain deformation during some scenes and surface scratching when Drake survived a fall while climbing. Whether these are dynamic elements is something that remains to be seen, however the technology seems to be similar to the ones we saw in the case of snow and sand in Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 respectively.  During shooting we saw heavy usage of motion blur and depth of field giving the game a cinematic feel and look. All of this comes together with the fantastic draw distance and art style.

The demonstration ran at 1080 at a stable 30 frames per second. We witnessed no visible stuttering or frame rate drops in our analysis, suggesting that Naughty Dog are prioritizing performance over 60 frames per second. They are indeed targeting 60 frames per second but given the scale, we doubt that will happen. However it must be noted that other first party games such as inFamous: Second Son employed an unlocked frame rate but since the game was fast paced, it actually benefited the title rather than the opposite. In case of Uncharted, a game which jumps between slow and fast set pieces, an unlocked frame rate simply won’t work. We’d rather see Naughty Dog go for a solid 1080p and 30 fps with all effects turned up as high as possible.

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In the end, it must be noted that the game is in pre-alpha so the gameplay video was in no way the final representation of Uncharted 4. But we are disappointed that the image quality does not quite match up with the one we saw during E3 2014. The almost flawless anti-aliasing and hair rendering is completely missing in the latest build which makes us wonder whether there is going to be a difference in the way cutscene and the actual gameplay are going to be rendered in the game. We saw a similar case in The Last of Us on the PlayStation 3, wherein the quality would shot up when a cut scene kicked in and it seems like Naughty Dog will be going for a similar solution in Uncharted 4.

The game is currently deep into development so there is a lot of work ahead for Naughty Dog. Performance wise, the game seems to be hitting the right zones and it looks spectacular already, but whether they will be able to achieve the quality seen in the E3 teaser is something we have to wait and watch.


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  • Reason Freeman

    Downgrade Confirmed. Even if you watch the uncompressed footage, the game can’t handle 30FPS. ND is full of CHIT acting like this game will hit 60fps. Going to be just like Bloodborn & Planetside 2 where devs talk a big game about wanting to hit 1080P 60FPS but can’t

    • ShadowLink_28

      I agree but devs need to stop releasing footage and pretending it’s actual gameplay when it’s clearly not.

    • Guest

      It’s hilarious that people keep yelling “it’s pre-alpha”. The E3 build was pre-alpha and was apparently real time on the PS4 too, according to ND themselves. It’s downgraded since then and at half the promised performance no less, there’s no spinning on that clear fact.

    • Kavilesh R Panicker
    • John Doe

      I see that the Xbox fanboys have been following PS4 exclusives news. Jealous Xbox fanboys CONFIRMED. Not a single game on the Xbox One comes close to Uncharted 4. Xbox fanboys care more about PlayStation exclusives than they do the exclusives on Xbox One.

      Bloodborne and Planetside 2 would look even worse on the Xbox One.

    • TheWayItsMeantToBePlayed

      Or people just noticed ND tried to pull a fast one.

      If you are so paranoid you should see a health professional. Especially since you seem to be in every article trolling the xbone and PC yet crying and playing victim every time someone points out Sony lied again.

  • Batnut1992

    It still looks great to me, and like ND said, this was just the pre-alpha stage. I have no doubt they can hit their target while crafting an excellent looking game.

  • Guest

    No sh*t? Of course it’s downgraded. That supercharged PC with 1080p ad 60fps statement is crumbling around Sony with every passing minute. It’s low end PC hardware for crying out loud and even Bloodborne’s developers are saying they are running into limitations now. The PS4 can’t handle such graphical quality with that performance. It’s just another lie that’s being exposed.

  • Michael Clanton

    who in there right mind thought the game would look like it did at e3? ps fanboys…probably the same fanboys who think this game is revolutionary, instead of just a evolution of the same formula like almost every game on the 3rd or 4th part

  • rudero

    looks better. things that are being missed in comparison. on the edge of a mountain vs right out of water i.e. more shine. look at the leather in the two. one has more detail. the shirt. that is dry. the gameplay was better character model. sony loves the bokeh effect on their images for a sense of depth of which will blur the background. but as far as character detail, its right there in your images. gameplay is better.

    • d0x360

      That isn’t leather in the new screen. The old version has about 10x the detail in the model.

    • Mark

      Wow. Some people won’t let go. The game still looks great, but it seems like, if Sony makes a move, their fans feel the obligation to support and damage control it. Personally tho, they may be losing some sleep over that lol. Like they ask “what’s so different from the E3 demo”? U andwer it, then they start damage controlling ur response. Man the E3 demo was pre-rendered, period. And wow, The Order has taken a hit too imo.

    • d0x360

      Yes some won’t let go..like yourself.. Its a downgrade. I don’t care either way but to deny it is crazy.

    • Mark

      No I’m saying those who thought the E3 reveal was in-game, won’t let go of wishful thinking that it was just that……..I’m hyped for what Tomb Raider will look like.

    • d0x360

      OK I got you I apologize for misunderstanding.

      The best part of all of this is the game still looks visually fantastic. I’ll never understand the argument. Some people act like a visual downgrade is personally insulting. Its been happening since the SNES/genesis days. A development team makes a target that they shown off and then once they start building the game they find its not possible.
      A game having downgraded visuals by no means implies it now looks bad. The best part is Sony does this with almost every single first party game they ever make and yet people still find it shocking.

      Anyone remember the original killzone 2 trailer? How about that intense motorstorm one and even though infamous looks great (if not too static) it still doesn’t come anywhere near the unveil.

    • Mark

      I hear u. My issue is that Corrine Yu was tryna pass it off as “In-game”……..that I forgive those who don’t understand what these studios do, because it is presented in such a way; “Captured directly from a PS4”. I’d rather they do what Remedy does. They’ve been straight up since last year’s E3, cutscenes and real time. Anyway, Uncharted looks great. I only feel that developers set their game up to be cherry picked and targetted for the “downgrade” treatment. And then u get the disillusioned fanboys, tearing into someone else’s console………..

  • rudero

    I wish there were articles for every xbox game that came out. not one ever meets the same standard as what is advertised. guess that is why there are so many sony fanboys in the comment sections… fighting the power of financial influenced fanboys vs true fans.

    • Vance

      can you look up some comparison pics of e3 reveal and released games? that way you can prove your point much better.

    • rudero

      That is the infamous one this gen. Ryse, forza 5, titanfall, all were downgraded this gen. Halo 2 was buffed at e3. gears of war 2. These are all article that you can find. But as I stated, the press does not pick apart Microsoft so finding the vs articles can not be done. All above was user found and brought to light.

    • Vance

      halo 2 and gears of war 2? weren’t those games released 10 years ago?

      ryse and titanfall was not downgraded, because if you’re going to call it downgraded then would you call the PC version downgraded too? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61ghToAZKGk
      with forza 5 yes the spectators were downgraded. but those are at the launch games.
      can you find any other that you’ve noticed OTHER than launch games? thanks.

    • rudero

      E3 vs Xbox release http://youtu.be/J6DjCHXFxoU
      In the picture I posted, that does not even have people in it. Showing that it has been done. Two links. Goal post now is that it can not be a console release game? Asked to prove that it was done or, like stated above, “Microsoft never has”. And the forza was days before release not months. Lying about the retail looks.
      Microsoft has done it for every major release at e3. To deny and say link and then the two most recent ones that were compared you move goal post? Why even try. You are obviously blind.
      Shall I post the kinect bull crap staged videos as well? Milo?

    • Vance

      I posted the ryse pc comparison at 1080p vs xbox one. if the console version was downgraded wouldn’t it be outshined by the PC version at higher quality setting?

      what I see is that you keep showing launch game then turn around saying all game at e3.
      the thing is you claim all games, but then are only showing 2. where’s the rest?

      if you want to go back 10 years and post whatever you want be my guest.

    • d0x360

      The ryse that launched looked better than the e3 showing. Different doesn’t mean worse. They improved the lighting, the animation and detail in the maps. The only thing they changed was the design of the armor. That doesn’t make it worse. Especially not when overall the entire game looks better than it previously did due to higher quality lighting, shadows and meshes.

    • d0x360

      There hasn’t been a single Xbox exclusive so far that has looked worse than its unveil. Sony is notorious for using bullshots and always have been. They do it for every single game they make.

      Killzone, infamous, uncharted, last of us, motorstorm…the list goes on and on. Sony does this EVERY SINGLE TIME and every single time people fall for it. It’s hilarious

    • rudero

      You were saying.
      And to add, I said I wish, then I could link all the actual downgrades.
      To add, this was used days Pryor to release on the jimmy Fallon show. Not months earlier at an e3. Deliberate in your face false promise.

    • d0x360

      Nope sorry forza 5 does not look as bad as the image on the right. Not even close.

    • AndyB

      Infamous looks gorgeous… just see the photo mode.. and the particle effects are amazing… Driveclub is another one that hits the sweet spot graphically… it (sometimes) looks like real cars under their lighting engine… again check the in-game photomode that adds nothing other than aliasing… also they have improved the aliasing in-game as well… I cannot however, say anything about the other games…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Or2JJi5piA&index=41&list=PL4jr2tYZCM5Pc6Mhj04oHBW-takPRZVdj

    • AndyB

      Another thing Forza Horizon looks good because of the lighting that is pre-baked at the sweet 4pm golden hour (think national geographic safari photos)…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlYDI41ERq4&list=PL4jr2tYZCM5Pc6Mhj04oHBW-takPRZVdj&index=12

    • TheWayItsMeantToBePlayed

      You missed 2013. Keep up, kiddo.

    • rudero

      Blind is blind. What is really funny, obviously not for you kids, but as I searched, it is funny how my point was made. Outside of the fact there were so little exclusives to even look for, no one ever compres Microsofts crap vs their reveals yet they do it to Sony. The other stuff was that Sony usually beat the reveals. Outside of the PS3 fluff they did do with kz2. But according to you all, you can’t bring those up too far back and since Microsoft hasn’t released anything big or new in the last five years… Kind of not worth looking for. Not that if I posted all my facts that you all would just keep moving the goal posts. Like the Ryse argument idiot was making. “That’s a launch game, that doesn’t count.” And “we compare what was on the Xbox one then ported to pc so the reveal doesn’t count”. Bunch of idiotic goal post toy defending babies

  • brotherlymoses

    Budget cuts have hit naughtydog, so the graphics will have a slight visual downgrade. Sorry.

  • Spencer

    Lol at people thinking final quality assets and effects will be present in a pre alpha build of the game

    • d0x360

      Why are you laughing? Unless a company is outright lying the alpha art assets so always look worse than release not better. You are riding that high and mighty horse backwards Mr smug.

    • Spencer

      That doesn’t make any sense. Pre alpha gameplay of course looks worse than a small near finished slice of cutscene that they showed at E3

  • d0x360

    What you are calling tesselation is actually paralax occlusion mapping…so. Yea.

    • SpartanWarrior2099

      I get tesseractation confused with parasail octopussion all the time too, it’s not that big of a deal

    • d0x360

      Considering they do completely different things yes it is a big deal. Its like mixing up anisotropic filtering and anti aliasing or pixel shaders and vertex shaders or textures and normal maps.

      If you are going to report on something at the very LEAST you should understand the terminology. Its pretty basic stuff.

  • Kaleb Taylor

    People seem to forget that the E3 2014 Reveal was in-engine & not actual gameplay. Just more click-bait I guess.

  • Toni D

    I didn’t believe Ryse would define the graphics this gen.
    Still the best looking game out on consoles and it was a launch game.

    • Clearly you haven’t seen Drive Club with the weather update…

    • Vance

      did they improve the anti aliasing or it’s the same mess OR you just love jaggies?

    • AndyB

      Actually they did… it looks and plays amazing now… you should try it…

    • Vance

      oh ok, i’ll probably head over to my friends place this weekend and give it a try.

  • Seventizz .

    Caution: if you go to Dualshockers and say anything bad about the obvious downgraded visuals of this game – they’ll give you a permaban.

    It’s Killzone 2 all over again! Pre-rendered for E3 – but not the final product!


 

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