The original Thief was released way back in late 1998, and was widely regarded to be one of the best PC games of its time, spawning several sequels. Fast-forward to 2014, and we have the reboot of sorts hitting both Next Generation consoles and its spiritual home, the PC.
Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 powers Thief 2014, which was a surprising decision by many to opt for UE3 rather than the newer UE4. The games produce Stephane Roy cited UE4 was still early in development when the team were in development with Thief, and UE4 wouldn’t have been ready for the games time frame. The team however did make numerous modifications to the Unreal Engine 3, particularly with how the game renders lighting. This is obviously fairly crucial with Thief being so much about Shadows.
The Playstation 4 version of Thief runs at 1080P 30FPS (although there are some drops to the mid 20’s in some areas, which we’ll touch on soon). Anti-Aliasing is handled by post-processing FXAA (Fast Approximate Anti Aliasing). As we’ve discussed several times over, the usage of FXAA is pretty standard for console titles. It’s low resource usage means that its performance hit is minimal compared to that of MSAA or SSAA. If you’d like more info on FXAA and other Anti-Aliasing techniques checkout our Killzone 3 vs Shadow Fall technology article. The basic problem with FXAA is that despite removal of ‘jaggies’ there is a definite blurring to edges. Thief doesn’t escape this unfortunate side effect.
Eidos Montreal were adamant throughout the development of Thief 2014 that the PC version wouldn’t just be a ‘port’ of the consoles, rather it’d be a stand alone version that would do the PC justice. For our PC testing, we’re using 1920×1080, with a custom preset. We set all of the graphics options in the game to their highest settings, with Very High Texture Quality, Shadow Quality, and of course turning on the pretty Contact Hardening Shadows (CHS), Tessellation and more. Anti-Aliasing is taken care of by both SSAA (Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing) along with FXAA for good measure. FOV is set slightly above default, to 95.
Our test system for Thief was an Intel Haswell I7-4770K (running a mild overclock, to 4.4GHZ). 16GB of DDR3 RAM for memory, and for graphics we tie everything up with a GeForce GTX 780 Ti. The graphics settings for Nvidia are all set application controlled, aside from “Gamma Correction” and other such options which are set to off.
While we’re on the subject of FOV (Field of View) we did some testing to figure out what the Playstation 4’s version of Thief has for its FoV setting. Using a section at the very start of the game, we positioned Garrett to the exact same section of ledge on both the PS4 and PC. Using the PS4 version for a reference point and adjusting the FoV slider on the PC we found that the Playstation 4 version of Thief seemed to be running an FoV of 90. Just for reference, we’re able to push the FoV slider of the PC all the way up to 110.
Texture Filtering is certainly given the edge on the PC thanks to the turning the Anisotropic Filtering to 16x (the max). The PS4 textures are slightly lower resolution by default, but it would appear that Eidos have substituted the 16xAF with Trilinear Filtering. Since the PS4 runs at 1080P, this has a fairly profound affect due to the quality of the filtering being that much more noticeable. As you’d expect, larger and sharper displays further make this problem worse. The purpose of Trilinear Filter is fairly simple, reducing GPU time and memory usage. It’s an unfortunate trade off however.
It would appear that for the most part, the PS4 and PC versions of the game are pretty similar. Lighting is taken care of in a similar way, with Contact Hardening Shadows present in the PS4 build, and of course is an option for the PC. Interestingly enough, unlike Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, Tessellation makes an appearance. It’s worth remembering that in the case of Tomb Raider, the title often ran well above 50FPS, often closer to hte 60 range. Reflections in puddles, lighting and various mists and fog for the most part remain in place.
During my initial first impressions of Thief I was surprised with how sharply “LoD pop in” can occur. In other words, certain environmental details literally just appear within a few steps, and extra detail appears on the guards clothing for example. This is also present in the PS4 version, and actually appears slightly harsher due to the greater reliance of texture streaming. It’s worth noting that there are some tweaks for the PC version of Thief which can help to reduce this (they are effectively Ini tweaks) but for the sake of ‘fairness’ we’ve left all of the settings as default for this. Should you choose to mess around with these tweaks, you’ll be able to improve texture streaming, mess around with motion blur, mouse smoothing and more.
The added benefit of SSAA which works alongside the FXAA does help to sharpen up edges. You’ll notice that the environment (such as cobblestones) benefit from this. Parallax Occlusion Mapping [POM] help to give a nice 3d effect.
High quality version of the video download here
High quality tiff screenshot download here