Doom Highlights Console Shortfalls
I can’t say I was one of the ones who picked that Doom would be as good as it is. Not that I gave it any real thought; I was pretty nonchalant about it in the lead-up to release. But after a few hours with the Xbox version, I feel that it’s one of the strongest shooters I’ve played in years. There is one thing about it I’m not liking all that much, though, and that’s the look.
Now before you go and all excited and call me out for saying Doom is a bad looking game, it’s not, and I’m not saying that. Doom is an excellent looking game. However, the current generation of consoles simply aren’t up to the task of showing this, and other games, in their best light. Doom, in particular, looks bland, washed out and lacking in finer details on the Xbox. Whilst the PS4 looks better, it’s still not on par with what a mid-level PC can output in terms of details.
Xbox, in particular, has failed to land a punch when it comes to presenting games in the expected 1080P resolution at 60 frames per second. This is why both Phil Spencer, head of Xbox Division, and Sony, thanks to a host of post-GDC leaks, have plans in the works for versions of these consoles with upgraded internal components.
I’ll get to more on that later. As for Doom, Digital Foundry seems to agree, as you can hear in their latest tech analysis video that focuses on the technology that drives iD Software’s latest hit. Thanks to some pretty neat resolution scaling technology in Doom’s engine, iD tech 6, both the PS4 and Xbox One versions run at a near consistent 60 fps with the Xbox version occasionally dipping in moments of heavy action. Meanwhile, the PS4 version holds station pretty much the whole way through, very rarely dropping below the target frame rate.
This is achieved by adjusting the x and y values in the rendering resolution dynamically, based on the load being placed on the system. It’s similar to the technology that was used by 343 Industries in Halo 5, the first Halo game to target the 60 fps benchmark. Interestingly, the video also points out the difference between how the PS4 and Xbox One versions actually use this technology.
Even with the resolution scaling being applied aggressively across both console versions, according to iD’s lead renderer programmer, Tiago Souza, Digital Foundry discovered that the PS4 version almost never drops the vertical resolution below 1080P, giving a reasonably solid 1080P @ 60 fps experience throughout. That’s bloody impressive.
What’s less than impressive is how the Xbox One version requires almost constant adjustments to its resolution to retain a smooth feel, instead sitting more often at 900P, and sometimes dropping as low as 720P in some more extreme cases. In an effort to hide the jagged edges that altering resolutions in this manner can produce, iD uses a form of super-sampled anti-aliasing to smooth everything out. It works in the sense that everything does indeed appear smoother and softer, but not necessarily in a way that’s appealing to the eye. The lighting and animations and such look fantastic, but the geometry of the world, and the demons within it, not so much.
That’s why I’m all for the idea of Microsoft and Sony exploring faster versions of their consoles. I want to my console to be able to play a game at the expected level of detail and framerate that the wider community seemed to have settled on. But I can’t help but feel like we need them to also acknowledge that console players want a little bit more shelf life from their consoles. We need to let them know that we don’t want to be screwed around. The previous generation lasted eight years, and whilst the gap between the PC’s and consoles was significant at the end of that life cycle, it’s feeling like that even more so now.
Whether that acknowledgement comes in the form of some kind of customer loyalty program – which I very much doubt would ever be the case, but we can dream – or even at all, I know I am still willing to trade in the old for the new, if these plans do come to fruition. I like the ease of console gaming. I leave my PC for my racing sims and strategy games, but for most I like to sit on the couch, in front of the TV, and not have to mess about with a keyboard or mouse. And because of that, I want to see these upgraded consoles, as well as Nintendo’s NX, take us to where we really ought to be.
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.