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How Wolfenstein 2 scales across the console power ladder


Developed by Machine Games, Wolfenstein 2 The New Colossus is a true, generational leap in visual design over the franchise reboot in 2014. From the first frame of action, the standards are clearly kept high – in large part owed to the technologies included in its id Tech 6 engine. The physically-based materials, the dynamic lights, shadowing and GPU-accelerated particles all deliver a clear upgrade over what we’ve seen in the engine’s previous incarnation. Visually, the developers have handed in a masterclass on par with the recent Doom reboot, though it’s fascinating to see what another Bethesda studio is capable of producing with the same toolset.

It’s the upgrade over The New Order that stands out most however – which was based very much on the virtual texturing delights of the id Tech 5 engine that powered Rage. Fundamentally, the upgrade in technology marks a shift from the pre-baked lighting and shadows of the original to a beautiful, fully dynamic lighting model. On top of that is the use of a massively expanded post-process pipeline. Visual tricks like bokeh DOF, object and camera motion blur, HDR bloom, film grain and temporal anti-aliasing all make a return from Doom 2016. All of these elements combine to effectively create an almost filmic quality to each frame.

Despite its id Tech 6 underpinnings, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus takes it in its own unique visual direction. There’s a beautiful use of depth of field in particular, and those GPU-accelerated particles work well to lend the game’s futuristic weaponry a sense of heft. From the automatic machineguns, to the ‘Laserkraftwerk’ laser cannon, each spews out a burst of particle effects with properties for radiosity – impressing a great sense of impact on the world. Tying in to Wolfenstein’s dystopic setting, the volumetric lighting streaking across each metallic corridor works well for building atmosphere – something Doom’s 2016 reboot in 2016 pushed quite heavily as well. All combined, it creates a bright, but often dense and claustrophobic air to each of Wolfenstein 2’s levels.

With its heavy use of temporal anti-aliasing (the same 8x TSSA returns from Doom), it’s interesting to stack up each of the available console platforms in terms of image quality. Essentially, the higher up the console power strata you ascend, the the higher the resolution, the more refined the image, with less softness and blur overall. At the bottom of the pile sits Xbox One, handing in a 1440×810 presentation, while the base PlayStation 4 fares better, delivering full 1920×1080. Curiously, Machine Games doesn’t seem to have enabled Doom’s dynamic resolution scaling – based on testing so far at least – which is curious bearing in mind that an adaptive resolution option is available in the PC game.