If you haven’t heard (not that we get tired of telling you), Microsoft had a rather excellent presentation at Gamescom. This was the presser headlined by three top exclusives for the Xbox One including Platinum Games’ Scalebound; Remedy Entertainment’s long-in-development Quantum Break; and of course, Crackdown 3 developed by Reagent and Cloudgine. Though opinions are somewhat mixed on which game properly stole the show – with many agreeing on Crackdown 3 – there’s no denying that each title showcased an entirely new graphical benchmark for the Xbox One.
While Scalebound showed off the potential of the console in handling a full-fledged Unreal Engine 4 title, Quantum Break showcased the power of Remedy’s Northlight Engine and the sheer attention to detail paid to its lighting and presentation. Then there was Crackdown 3, which is an entirely different matter. Let’s break down each game and see how they set standards in their own ways.
It’s hard to believe that so many Unreal Engine 4 games are on the horizon, especially since we’ve seen what the engine can do for games like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter on PS4 (which essentially kept the same assets but managed to look so much better). We weren’t expecting all that much from Scalebound but wow, did it create an impression. From the open world setting and boss battles to the action RPG combat mechanics and dragon commands, topping it all off with four player co-op, Scalebound truly shows off what the Xbox One would be capable of.
In many ways, Scalebound reminded us of fantasy rpgs which are characterized by large open areas, armoured soldiers and general art direction. As of now, it seems that the game is running at 1080p resolution though we can’t 100 percent confirm this until raw footage is made available but it definitely seems to be targeting 30 frames per second. The cut-scenes run in real-time, which is impressive, but it was the dragon that caught our eye. Platinum has implemented a good number of skeletal points, allowing it to move realistically, and when you factor in physically based rendering for characters to allow for details like skin and scales, it looks all the more compelling. As stated earlier, we honestly didn’t expect this much when Scalebound was first teased at E3 2014.
Thankfully, Scalebound is as much about the finer details as well. Blades of grass would shift realistically as the dragon rummaged through them and lighting effects and draw distance looked good. There seem to be some performance issues with regards to the frame rate dropping below 30 FPS with very slight screen tearing. It’s to be expected when there are so many characters on-screen and a dragon which supposedly has a massive resource budget, along with everything else. We’ll see how that pans out for Scalebound when it’s showcased next.
Remedy Entertainment’s Quantum Break has afforded several different opportunities to study its visuals due to the number of times it’s been showcased in recent years. This year’s Gamescom presentation is quite different from what we’ve seen before and perfectly reflects the finer tuning Remedy has done on the title. Quantum Break’s gameplay appears to have made the leap into the cinematic presentation that its developer has been hyping up for so long.
The Northlight Engine, a new engine created especially for Quantum Break, capably handled the game’s slow motion, bullet time sequences, dynamic physics and unique aesthetic. It was the real-time lighting which looked absolutely gorgeous especially when viewing the time lapse shots near the end of demo. Along with high quality depth of field and heavy bloom and perhaps the best volumetric lighting effects we’ve seen in a while all come together in a fascinating manner.
The overall performance itself is also noteworthy since Quantum Break ran smoothly at 30 frames per second with V Sync and showed very little screen tearing. Of special note is Remedy’s use of Umbra seems to have helped improve occlusion methods, along with different effects which perfectly highlight its appeal. Again, we’ll be paying close attention to the final product to see just how good it looks compared to this demo. For now though, we’re pretty stoked.
What can we say that hasn’t been said till now? As far as technology goes, Crackdown 3 is simply insane, outstripping what’s possible on any console, much less what any single mega PC is capable of. The scale of destruction and the intensity displayed is unlike anything seen thus far. This is perhaps the first game we’ve seen this console generation that isn’t just a simple upgrade, making it absolutely impossible on previous gen platforms.
Crackdown 3 essentially makes a case for cloud computing with the game engine rendering the on-screen action while the complex physics calculations needed for the destruction are done on off-shore servers. This makes Crackdown 3’s multiplayer, where the full extent of the destruction can be experienced, dependent on the cloud. Since Gamescom, Microsoft has released some more information regarding the player’s Internet connection and how gameplay can vary depending on how your ISP works. Nonetheless, enough effort is being put in to ensure that your world state is properly in sync with other players in this mode.
Any skepticism we may have regarding the cloud’s working and just how reliable it will be is somewhat assuaged by Cloudgine developing the core engine while Reagent Games handles the art assets and overall gameplay. There are plenty of other questions though. How good of an internet connection will one need for the multiplayer? How much is it costing Microsoft in terms of resources? What will the level of destruction be in the single-player mode? Crackdown 3’s multiplayer mode is set to launch in summer 2016 so more information will eventually be coming.