The past few days I’ve been under the weather, having caught a cold (but I’ll refer to it as the plague, since it’s more fitting to the style of the subject matter). But after just a short play session of the Evil Within, I really wanted to push out at least a preview of the graphics and performance on both machines.
Initially, as eagle eyed viewers and readers will know, I played the PC iteration. The RGT team had some doubts to the title before we’d loaded it up, concerned, like others, over news regarding the locked frame rate and the aspect ration. Fortunately, and we’ll get this out of the way first, there’s few ill effects from unlocking the PC frame rate of the Evil Within, and providing you’ve a rig to run the game, it’s really the only option.
Tango Gameworks’ are using the Id Tech 5 game engine to power the Evil Within – rather surprising considering the engine is really geared towards 60fps gameplay.
Just like Ready at Dawn’s Order 1886, The Evil Within uses pretty hefty borders. Indeed, the Playstation is rendering at only 1920×768 pixels, meaning only around 70 percent of the screen is being used. The Xbox One situation is even worse, as it operates at only 1600×640 pixels. Despite this being said to be artistic vision, it’s more likely from what we’re seeing that instead it’s for the purpose of trying to save the GPU from rendering work.
The aspect ratio of the PC is no different – despite offering console commands to remove the bars. Instead of being allowed to render to black bars (in other words, gain vertical pixels) you are forced to zoom in on the image. So yes, the borders at the top and bottom shrink, but in doing so you sacrifice real-estate at the sides of the screen. This is extremely disappointing, and more than a slight nudge of the borders can make the game rather difficult to play, since the Field of View (FOV) is already so damn narrow.
Overall the graphics look quite nice, but it doesn’t take a particularly eagle eye to spot low resolution textures popping up. The Xbox One version is worse – helped in part to the lower internally rendered resolution, but even on a high on PC textures aren’t stellar. In fact, you’ll notice texture pop-in in all three versions.
In terms of Anti-Aliasing, the best option with the PC (assuming you’re going to use the baked in AA options) is without question SMAA. You’ll experience more of a performance hit, but the edges of options in the game will look much smoother. The best option is to force MSAA on your control panel, but even this doesn’t completely resolve the issue. The console versions of the Evil Within seem to be using FXAA – and while it does an okay job in some areas, in others it looks pretty damn ugly. Producing quite obvious stepping, particularly on lines, rope and the other usual culprits.
All in all, it’s a fairly odd state of affairs. A googling around will bring up a myriad of different resources hinting Id Tech 5 was built for 60FPS. The two other titles which the engine is using, (Rage and Wolfenstein the new order) both achieve 60FPS. In fact, Andrewas Ojerfors, whom served as the senior gameplay designer on Wolfenstein had this to say about frame rate with his own game “It’s about creating an engine that is from the very bottom up built to scale,” he said. “I think from the beginning when we got our hands on id Tech, we realised it was an engine that was built to scale very well between different platforms.”
From a performance stand point (and we’re still running frame rate tests as we get later into the game), the PC version is considerably better when unlocked from 30FPS. Even the using the mouse on the menu screen feels ‘laggier’ than if you unlock it. Even pushing the frame rate up to the low 40’s makes a tangible difference in gameplay.
For the consoles, things get stranger still. In a lot of confined areas (for instance, most of chapter 1) the frame rate on both consoles holds firm at 30FPS. It’s only when the engine is required to be pushed harder, for instance wider outdoor scenes do you notice the frame rate start to take a pounding. From my very first gameplay of the PS4 and X1 I’d sworn that the Xbox One version was the lower frame rate, but from testing this appears to not be the case. Often times, the PS4 version is hitting the same type of frame rate as Microsoft’s system. But the controls feel shakier and even laggier on Microsoft’s console.
Swearing it was just my imagination, I’d passed the controller to a few other members of RGT and asked them to play the game… and they thought the same thing.
As it stands, the PC version looks and plays the best. The textures are more solid, you’ve more resolution options, can hit 60FPS and have access to more intense Anti-Aliasing modes. While the frankly insane 4GB VRAM requirement might put people off, I’m hearing great things from users with far less powerful cards (mid range AMD / Nvidia cards for instance).
For the most part, shadows on both console versions are pretty close to each other (aside from the lower resolution of the Xbox One version generally). Similarly, animation quality and general lighting are close, with the PS4 version certainly containing a little more pop in certain scenes.
Despite the additional lighting the Id Tech 5 engine is being asked to do (and let’s not beat about the bush, the engine is modded over the one in Wolfenstein), we do wonder what’s eating up a lot of the GPU time. The textures aren’t truly next generation, and as already hinted in this very article, the odd texture even appears to be very last generation in quality.
Dense grass areas look extremely good indeed, boasting greater detail than many titles of this generation. But this is offset by poorer textures on the bark of the trees, and the Xbox One version looks particularly ‘muddy’.
The game feels like it needs a patch to fix some of the present issues. The Evil Within strikes us as a fantastic title, but one that perhaps could have used another four weeks for optimization for all formats.
Another point of contention (although not strictly down to graphics) would be hit detection. In chapter two I decided to experiment a little. I stood behind a hence and melee at the enemy. Sure enough, my wild flailing missed completey. Only for the enemy to squarely punch me in the jaw. This happened a few times, before the enemy eventually grabbed me, pulled me through the fence to start choking the protagonist. After wrestling from the zombies clutches, I find myself right back in the starting position.
Enemy AI is also a little suspect at times – occasionally allowing you to ‘disappear’ from site by hiding behind a corner, even as the enemy sees you head that direction.
Overall, the Evil Within is a good game, and is as close as we’ve gotten to ‘real’ survival horror for some time now. But, the somewhat odd graphical decisions and glitches put a smear on the games quality. We’ll update soon with a larger article when we’ve finished our testing.