Far Cry has a history of being visually impressive, from the original title released on PC over 10 years ago, to Far Cry 3 which pushed previous generation consoles to their limit, we’ve yet to be disappointed. After AC Unity’s release, there were concerns over FC4’s quality; is it possible it’d suffer from the same fate? Fortunately not, Far Cry 4 looks every bit as visually impressive as we’d hoped, across both next generation consoles.
Starting off with the Playstation 4, Ubisoft confirmed that the title would run at a native resolution of 1080P, and through pixel counting, it would appear that this is indeed the case. The Xbox One version appears to not be running at native 1080P however, but rather 1400×1080. Prior to us starting our tests, news popped up on Beyond3d Forums that the native resolution wasn’t true 1080P. Sure enough, our own pixel counting appears to backup their results. This means the PS4 version of the game runs at a native total of 2,073,600 pixels, while the Xbox One manages 1,555,200 (assuming 1440×10800). This is still a massive increase in pixels over say 900P, and frankly still looks rather stunning.
The previous generation consoles had really struggled with Far Cry 3’s dense vegetation – particularly when factoring in the rather large map size. Using the camera to zoom into a specific area of the world, hang-gliding from a hill top and zip-lining from a tower at speed no longer produces rather obvious pop-in of tress and grass on either version of the game. It helps breath life into the world of Kyrat, allowing you to feel that you can really climb that mountain in the distance. It isn’t perfect – areas with dense vegetation and complex shading can occasionally have a little pop-in, but all in in all it’s a league above what we were used to. For the record, it would appear to happen a little more often on the Xbox One version than the Playstation 4. But, that’s not to say that it’s a frequent occurrence.
Textures then – character models appear pretty much interchangeable across both console versions. Looking above the image above, careful examination of the textures, facial and hair details demonstrates very little difference between either version. Looking at edges will demonstrate the difference in the internally rendered resolution of both consoles, with the X1 appearing a little more ‘jagged’ and aliased.
The texture details are impressive – wood, rocks, clothing and the rest of the world appears to ‘pop’ compared to last generation. Since both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 were only given 512MB RAM (actually less, if you factor in OS reserves) textures naturally had to suffer. Muddy, blurry looking textures (particularly on trees, rocks and the ground) were evident throughout your trek over Rook Island.
Setting the world alight (say… through liberal use of molotov cocktail’s) will certainly produce a rather large scorched area of ground, as trees and grass catch alight. Similarly, certain objects (such as thin wooden slats) can be destroyed by a burst of an assault rifle, and naturally a vehicle doesn’t do so well when hit with an RPG. With all of that said, it still doesn’t quite live up to the levels of damage one would expect. Shoot a small, spindly tree with that same RPG and watch it laugh in your face, proclaiming itself immune to such shenanigans. It might seem a petty complaint, but the ability to cut downs trees with AK47 fire, or create a creator with a grenade is sorely lacking. The original Crysis, released in 2007, featured this, and it’s a shame we’re not seeing it implemented.
On the subject of image quality, special mention must be made to the Anti-Aliasing technique. Typically, console ports run with FXAA, which is a less than ideal method of dealing with jaggies. The benefit of FXAA is that it’s kind on GPU and memory bandwidth, creating a much smaller footprint and rendering time compared to a more traditional technique, such as MSAA. Earlier this year, Ubisoft presented Hybrid Reconstruction Anti-Aliasing at Siggrapth. They market HRAA as a High Quality Edge Anti-Aliasing technique, with a performance penalty of only 1ms on either PS4 / X1 at the native resolution of 1920x1080p. 1ms is tiny, accounting for just a tiny fraction of the 33.3ms budget of rendering time each frame has at the target frame rate of 30FPS.
In practice, static images (particularly foliage) can look rather ropey with FXAA, but don’t look quite so bad in motion. Now, with this new temporal AA, it uses the data from the previous frame to help create a smoother image. This means that in still images, HRAA looks quite nice – but in motion, it also serves to improve geometry. This is particularly important when considering the fact you’re effectively dealing with ‘organic’ matter, and nature typically has a lot of high contrast.
Elephants, Tiger’s, Lions, Eagle’s and other beasts have one thing in common: they’re difficult for a game to render. In graphics technology, fur, hair and foliage are notoriously difficult to render, because they’re rather expensive to render. Generally speaking, Far Cry 4’s wild life looks great from a distance, but careful inspection of the fur (particularly on the animals outer edge) can look a little off. Fur can look blurry, and overall doesn’t quite match up to the quality of the rest of the title.
In regards to shadows and lighting – the game can look downright stunning. The world is dynamic – and that means sunlight and shadows are too. Based on the time of day, it can either be a case where shadows will be short and soft, or you’ll have huge cast shadows which fall over a lake. A wire that runs over a lake – for example, will cast a shadow, and fairly accurately match the direction of the light source. It’s all pretty damn impressive, and up close, shadows can look down right impressive. Soft, fairly accurate shadows will fall from trees and other features of the games world, and bend over hilltops, cliffs and be cast against other surfaces. The lighting – the shadows, it’s getting much closer to high end HBAO techniques, and quite frankly looks rather impressive. From a personal stand point, compared to the ‘fake’ SSAO that was implemented in FC3, the difference is night and day.
Tessellation appears to be used on both versions of the game game, which helps the geometry of the rocks, trees and so on come alive. But, there’s a difference between the two. The Xbox One version uses tessellation more sparingly than the Playstation 4 – it’s not a night and day difference, but it is a difference, and helps explain what’s happening to some of the additional GPU reserves of the PS4, that the difference in resolution alone doesn’t account for.
There are some other subtle differences in the world – the PS4 does have a little more foliage, and in fact – the occasional shrub, clump and grass and so on can well be totally missing in the Xbox One. This is a similar issue to what’s happening in GTA 5 right now, and something else we’re investigating. Unfortunately, there’s also a level of black crush which happens on the Xbox One that’s not seen on the PS4. For clarification, Crushed Blacks are where very dark shades of grey (near the black spectrum) aren’t correctly rendered, and thus simply made ‘black’ by default. Old LCD TV’s were notorious for this. and the Xbox One, despite being set to full gamma output, is still doing it, which is a bit of a shame.
There are still a few issues regarding the physics of the games world – with odd ragdoll physics occurring if an animal is in motion and shot for instance. You’ll see the creature start rolling down the hill in a rather limp and unrealistic way – and quite honestly looks rather amusing – not at all realistic or what you’d expect.
Other ‘usual’ effects are in place, including motion blur – – which can be a little much for my own personal tastes, but the per object detail does look pretty impressive. One slight complaint – nights don’t look quite dark enough across either version. This is a similar complaint leveled at say Skyrim,and the choice is likely made primarily from a gameplay perspective, but it would have been nice to make the environment just a little darker.
While we’re complaining about smaller and trivial matters, while side mirrors in vehicles offer a very simple reflection. In fact, it’s more a splodge of colors which roughly represents what’s at your rear. It’s a bit of a shame, but mirrors in games are notoriously expensive to render, and it’s little surprise this is a sacrifice that was made.
We’ll have a more in-depth look at frame-rate across both platforms, but early testing (on both the Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4) appears pretty damn stable. While there are a few dropped frames, compared to the terrible experience that was Assassin’s Creed Unity. While it’s not up to the 60FPS (or whatever your PC can manage) that you’d enjoy with a good gaming rig, controls feel response and latency isn’t frustrating. Both versions natively are pushing for 30FPS, and considering the jaw dropping amount of details that the GPU is being asked to render each frame, all of it is extremely impressive.
Far Cry 4 – The Judgement
Clearly, the PS4 has the resolution advantage over the Xbox One – and that’s certainly enough to sway some people into purchasing the Sony version of the title. For the most part, it’s not like the frankly awful AC Unity ports, where the X1 version had a rather clear frame rate advantage. Similarly, neither port is using reduced textures quality, model details or anything else.
Clearly, in a completely dynamic world, obtaining completely like for like images is difficult – but there seems to be little in it that separates either version of the game. Minor differences aside, the real difference is the resolution that the game is natively running in. Of course, if you’re interested in say, playing Far Cry 4 online with friends, then that may well make a much larger impact onto your purchasing decision than resolution.