Tag Archives: graphics

Tactical Strategy Game Mutant Year Zero Looks Like A PS2 Game On Switch

Screenshot: Funcom Oslo (Mutant Year Zero)

What the duck am I looking at?

Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden was one of last year’s surprise delights. Now it’s out on Switch, which should be a great thing. There’s just one problem: It looks really bad.

A brooding, grid-based strategy game inspired by a Swedish tabletop series, Mutant Year Zero accomplished a lot with very little when it came out last December. It squeezes post-apocalyptic world building and anthropomorphized-animal wit into a series of levels fraught with violent ghouls, human survivors driven mad by the fall of civilization. The visuals never struck me as especially noteworthy on PC, but they got the job done. Playing the game now on Switch, I realize just how helpful that extra bit of polish was for making the environments and stealth gameplay click into place.

Everything’s darker on Switch, including the moon light.
Screenshot: Mutant Year Zero (Switch)

I’m only a few hours into the Switch version, and already I’ve seen more than my fair share of textures that look straight out of the PS2 era. Flat rocks, shallow puddles, and jagged fauna abound in the opening levels. A thick haze permeates everything, making almost anything that’s not in the foreground slightly blurry. These phenomena are especially noticeable in portable mode, where objects and menus all have a slight halo of rough, white pixels, as if coated in a thin layer of digital chalk dust. 

These visual downgrades aren’t the end of the world. Despite a few frame-rate hiccups and one instance of my game freezing, which may or may not have been caused by my Switch being docked and on for most of the day, the overall experience of the game remains intact. I did find it harder to lose myself in the world, though, which is one of the bigger successes of Mutant Year Zero’s hybrid real-time system: It’s possible to explore areas freely before switching to combat mode to ambush enemies in traditional, XCOM-style encounters. The nuts and bolts of scavenging for scrap, chipping away at enemy mobs, and finding map exits as fast as possible feel much more exposed while the small details of environmental degradation and rebirth get lost in the hazy mess that appears on screen.

Screenshot: Mutant Year Zero (PC)
Screenshot: Mutant Year Zero (Switch)

It’s a shame because the game is an otherwise perfect late-summer addition to the Switch. The console has Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and now Fire Emblem: Three Houses but is otherwise not swimming in great tactical strategy games. In lieu of an actual XCOM game on Switch (even the Vita has one), Mutant Year Zero is a good substitute. I actually prefer how it controls on Switch compared to PC, and being able to think through its combat puzzles from anywhere I please is great. The Switch version also comes with the new DLC expansion Seed of Evil, which I haven’t had time to try yet but expands the end of the game, adding new areas and an additional party member.

If only it didn’t look so terrible. 

Source: Kotaku.com

Another Glimpse At The Future Of Video Game Visuals

Quixel is a company that sells textures and other assets (similar to the way games like Battlefront are able to achieve almost photo-realistic visuals). That’s amazing work for the present, but the future is obviously going to look even better.

Rebirth is a short film made by Quixel that shows where we’re at in 2019. It’s “a real-time cinematic” running in Unreal Engine 4, and while it’s just an animation and not something playable, it is using technology that games today are using, so playing something looking like this might not be that far off into the future.

If you think the landscape looks like Iceland, that’s because it is, in a roundabout kinda way. The natural environment here is comprised of enormous scans of actual Icelandic terrain.

Source: Kotaku.com

Players Debate Whether Red Dead Redemption 2’s New Patches Downgraded The Game’s Graphics

Screenshot: 2K Games (Red Dead Redemption 2)

Post-launch updates are supposed to make a game better, but some players now believe Red Dead Redemption 2’s graphics have been slightly downgraded following the release of the most recent patch. They have been sharing before and after screenshots to try and prove it.

Rockstar Games released Title Update 1.06 on February 26. It introduced new items and tinkered with stuff in the online mode, like adding new daily challenges and making it easier to identify players that were potentially griefing other people. The single-player campaign was seemingly left unchanged, but some players are now saying they see less detail and poorer lighting in some areas of the campaign. Other players think that’s wrong and are countering with their own before-and-after shots.

On March 13, a player going by Darealbandicoot‏ on Twitter tweeted an alleged comparison of the inside of a saloon between when the game launched and now. The first image is clearer and has a more striking contrast between the shadows and highlights on objects, while the latter looks a bit foggier over all. There are also some things missing in the post-1.06 screenshot, including one of the non-playable character’s pocket squares.

Other players have argued that the changes can be accounted for by differences in the time of day between the two shots, and that the second shot was potentially doctored to look worse. In response, Darealbandicoot shared a second comparison shot involving customizing protagonist Arthur Morgan’s clothes. There are still noticeable differences that wouldn’t be caused by the time of day, like fewer shadows on the folds in Morgan’s clothes and the floorboards in the cabin he’s in.

In an email, Darealbandicoot told Kotaku the screenshots were did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the shots.

Another comparison point has been the game’s street cars. A handful of shots comparing them pre- and post-patch show similar differences in the lighting, with supposedly fewer and more shallow shading effects on the side of the cars in the current version of the game. There’s also a before and after shot of a hallway which looks practically identical at first. Upon closer inspection though it’s clear the lamps lining the walls in the first shot shine more brightly and warmly on the parts of the wall immediately behind them.

How a hallway appears in version 1.0 (left), compared to version 1.06 (right).
Screenshot: Marcoshmg (Red Dead Redemption 2 )

Other players have come forward with shots that appear to show that some of the changes in the lighting effects might go back even further to the Title Update 1.03 from November 29. In a thread posted on the GTA Forums that same day, some players mentioned differences and talked about trying to re-download the original version of the game to revert back to the earlier graphics.

Rockstar Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

These lighting effects in games tend to be associated with ambient occlusion rendering. In PC games there’s usually an option to turn it off in order to run a game more smoothly on a less powerful graphics card. Some players have speculated that the visual downgrades are an attempt to make Red Dead Redemption 2 run more smoothly on base PS4 and Xbox One models. It’s also possible that the visual changes are simply a bug.

The 1.06 patch notes list dozens upon dozens of bug fixes, some aimed at things like lighting effects. “Fixed an issue that resulted in incorrect textures and lighting effects on some combinations of player clothing,” reads one.

It’s possible that there’s no problem at all, and the differences in screenshots can be accounted for in differences in the time of day or weather, both of which are associated with lots of nuanced, visual changes in the game. The act of compressing images down to share them online could also be partly responsible for at least some of the apparent changes.

Whatever the cause, it hasn’t made Red Dead Redemption 2 look ugly by any means. The game remains a technical marvel. It has, however, led to a new contingent of the game’s most diehard fans committing themselves to going back to the 1.0 version of the game and not installing any future updates.

Source: Kotaku.com