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RAGE 2 Graphics Deep Dive – The Best Looking Open World Shooter This Gen?

RAGE 2 Review – Walker, Wasteland Ranger

When RAGE launched almost a decade in the past, John Carmack’s imaginative and prescient had been simple: The person who coded Quake—the primary mainstream 3D FPS—needed to push the visible boundaries method on the market yet one more time. Whereas id Tech’s engine’s haven’t seen widespread business use because the id Tech three days (and certain gained’t after the Bethesda buyout), every new iteration of their engine is one thing to look ahead to, showcasing as they do nearly all of the technical highlights of their specific era: You simply have to have one take a look at 2016’s DOOM to know what we’re speaking about: GPU particles, high-poly fashions, bodily based mostly rendering, and extra—the whole gamut of Eighth-gen AAA visible results is served on a platter right here.

RAGE 2 is a wierd case. It’s id Software program IP, however wasn’t developed by id. It borrows closely from the DOOM reboot’s gameplay oeuvre, however was constructed on the identical engine as Simply Trigger four, a title that’s the polar reverse of DOOM when it comes to hardware optimization. And its color palette is so far as attainable from the “brown shooter” aesthetic id is notorious for. With id Tech 5 and RAGE, John Carmack and co tried to revolutionize the business with a singular tech—Megatexturing—that finally didn’t pan out as meant. A scarcity of focus elsewhere—within the lighting division, for example, meant that at launch, RAGE was within the peculiar place of wanting each higher and worse than its AAA counterparts on the similar time. RAGE 2, actually, has ditched the id Tech engine completely, having been constructed on Avalanche’s Apex engine of Simply Trigger fame. Why the large change, and particularly with an IP id had developed particularly to showcase a brand new engine again in 2011? And what makes RAGE 2 tick at a technical degree? Let’s discover out right here. However first, let’s return in historical past and take a look on the technical highlights of 2011’s RAGE.


RAGE and id Tech 5: What Went Fallacious?

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Eight years in the past, id Software program wasn’t precisely in a very good place. 2009’s Wolfenstein reboot had been a business failure. Bethesda took over the studio shortly thereafter. id Tech four was a comparatively adaptable engine, with delicate shadows, higher physics, and the bespoke Megatexture know-how added in over time by newer titles. However, it was, at its core, the identical decrepit tech that powered DOOM three in 2004 and, because the years glided by, it confirmed.  Wolfenstein each appeared and ran worse than the competitors. Ranges have been claustrophobic in measurement and set items have been, nicely, “meh.” The FPS area id had virtually created within the 90s was saturated with competing titles that have been merely higher at a technical degree.  After half a decade of stagnation, of constructing incrementally on what was primarily late sixth-gen tech, id wanted one thing that’d propel it again to the helm of AAA improvement. That one thing was id Tech 5, and RAGE was to be its showcase.

id’s key goal with id Tech 5 was to drive 60 FPS experiences that didn’t skimp on visuals—twitch shooters handed in a 60 FPS replace on console, however featured unappealing visuals and subnative resolutions. However, extra technically formidable titles typically struggled to take care of a 30 FPS replace. Reminiscence restrictions have been additionally a serious constraint on the time—the consoles had simply 512 MB of system and video reminiscence, which means that texture element was typically the very first thing to be compromised in nearly each title. id Tech 5, as seen in RAGE, tried to rectify all these points however ended up introducing its personal compromises, probably the most notorious of which was Megatexturing. Having debuted in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Megatexturing was seen as a solution to remedy the problem of insufficient console video reminiscence. As an alternative of storing quite a few textures for every merchandise—which must be low res and tiled (reused) throughout belongings like flooring—all texture knowledge was saved in a single big texture which might be streamed in on demand.

This meant that as an alternative of tiling the identical texture on, as an example each wall, artists might add distinctive particulars. This meant that, at the very least at a distance, texture work in RAGE was typically beautiful, merely due to how bespoke and crafted the textures appeared. The thought was to stream in elements of the Megatexture as wanted, however console reminiscence restrictions reared there head once more right here: restricted VRAM meant that particular person slices of the Megatexture have been nonetheless of a low high quality, making a peculiar state of affairs the place textures have been, nicely, good and horrible on the similar time. Hearth up RAGE and also you’ll see what we imply: At average distances, the paintings holds up properly even right now. However get near any wall and it’ll flip right into a blurry mess.

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The emphasis on 60 FPS meant that id compromised elsewhere. Dynamic lighting is nearly utterly absent in RAGE, with most shadows baked into the Megatexture. To ensure that precomputed shadows to work, objects need to be…properly static. RAGE options a few of the least spectacular physics we’ve seen in a seventh-gen title: Since almost all objects function baked shadows, few in-game objects are interactable. The general impact is of a title that appears good in motion, however turns right into a muddy, static mess should you take a better take a look at something. Efficiency was good on console and the visuals have been higher than these within the overwhelming majority of 60 FPS console shooters.

As we’ve talked about, the engine was crafted with a selected goal in thoughts: 60 FPS experiences on the memory-constrained seventh gen consoles. Quite a bit was compromised with a view to get there, from lighting high quality, to physics, to fantastic texture element. When the Eighth gen consoles arrived a surfeit of VRAM, id Tech 5 merely turned redundant. A handful of different Bethesda-published titles—together with Dishonored 2 and The Evil Inside—made use of the engine, however this was extra on account of the truth that id Tech 6 wasn’t prepared till 2016.

id Tech 6 had the identical objective as id Tech 5—hand in great-looking 60 FPS experiences on console—however the goal hardware was a lot totally different—and far nearer to PC than the seventh gen consoles have been. id Tech 6 ditched megatexturing totally: the a lot bigger pool of VRAM out there on PS4 and Xbox One made reminiscence constraints a factor of the previous. Higher emphasis was positioned on lighting—a clustered ahead rendering strategy allowed for numerous dynamic lights onscreen with out compromising efficiency. Supplies additionally acquired a lift in high quality with using bodily based mostly rendering. id Tech performed to the strengths of the eighth-gen consoles right here. As a result of they’re so just like PCs, this meant that DOOM—and Wolfenstein II—ran nice on a variety of hardware. Even the modest RX 560 can hand in a locked 1080p/60 FPS expertise with some settings pared again. When it was first introduced a yr in the past, we anticipated RAGE 2 to additionally make use of Id Tech 6—it was the right match for a DOOM-inspired shooter. The engine had a monitor document of fantastic efficiency scaling and the IP was owned by Bethesda. It was one thing of a shock, then, when Avalanche introduced that they’d be utilizing Simply Trigger’s Apex engine.


Apex Engine: Efficiency Implications

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The choice to utilize Apex has quite a lot of penalties. Among the many most notable of those is when it comes to efficiency. id Tech 6 is likely one of the most well-optimized engines of this console era. It reliably palms in 60 FPS experiences with higher visuals than many 30 FPS console titles. And ever since RAGE, id Tech and Carmack made it their said goal to get their video games operating at 60 FPS throughout platforms. Using Apex modifications issues right here. Avalanche’s Simply Trigger video games aren’t well-known for performing nicely. We’re at present going by way of Simply Trigger four on an RX 480—equal to the Xbox One X’s GPU—at roughly 45 FPS. Apex’s forte is elsewhere—when it comes to physics—however we’ll get there shortly.

To get to the purpose, RAGE 2 simply doesn’t run that properly, at the very least at excessive settings. After the CPU-bottlenecking debacle with Simply Trigger three, Avalanche tweaked Apex to do extra GPGPU—operating extra of the physics on the graphics hardware versus the processor.  Whereas which means Simply Trigger four and RAGE 2 extra reliably hit their goal framerates on console, it makes Apex video games extra demanding when it comes to GPU assets, with out essentially wanting higher than the competitors. Consequently, you’ll want a GTX 1070 or thereabouts to reliably hit 60 FPS—and that is simply at 1080p, thoughts you.

This makes RAGE 2 a ache to run on mid-tier hardware. Playing cards just like the GTX 1060 and RX 480/580, designed to hit 60 FPS at 1080p, can solely handle this with lowered settings. To place issues in perspective, a GTX 1060 can run the unique RAGE at a locked 4K/60 FPS. However the place Apex taketh—when it comes to efficiency—it giveth when it comes to an entire host of visible and physics options which are nicely past what we’ve seen in id Tech 6 video games until date.


Physics: The Apex… of Apex

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There are solely a pair explanation why average-looking video games don’t carry out nicely: they’re both poorly coded or they produce other hardware-intensive options, aside from shiny lighting. Sadly, all too typically, it’s the previous. Ever performed a Ubisoft recreation that each appeared and carried out like junk (and in addition usually was junk)? Or gritted your tooth to get via the stutter-fest that was Dishonored 2 as a result of the sport did every part proper besides run properly? The unhappy fact is that poor coding is what makes video games run dangerous normally. There are some situations, although, the place efficiency and visuals are sacrificed for revolutionary gameplay: simply take a look at the Purple Faction video games to see what we imply.

RAGE 2 doesn’t sail the insane physics boat out fairly that far. However, Avalanche’s knack for creating convincing, set piece-like spectacle on a moment-to-moment foundation, advanced over the span of the Simply Trigger collection, is on full show right here. Critiques of RAGE 2 have been fairly combined however one factor virtually everybody appears to agree about is that the fight feels unimaginable. The newer consoles are operating the sport at 60 FPS which helps fairly a bit however that’s not the entire story. Apex was designed across the wants of the Simply Trigger collection—specifically to stream in giant open worlds and permit for large-scale destructibility with a concentrate on particle results versus deformation-oriented destructibility a la Purple Faction. The latter is arguably extra practical—there’s actual heft to Purple Faction’s trademark sledgehammer.

Nevertheless, in relation to moment-to-moment thrills, Apex’s strategy to destructibility is the clear winner. As with Simply Trigger four, the surroundings in RAGE 2 isn’t arbitrarily destructible in the best way the Dangerous Firm 2’s was. As an alternative, Avalanche focuses on alpha-heavy particle results, post-processing, and making use of physics to incidental objects and muddle. This strategy signifies that as an alternative of making large-scale set items, the destruction right here is extra intimate—assume DOOM on steroids. This strategy lends lots of heft to common weapons, making gunfights remarkably satisfying: incidental objects are solely too able to explode in a particle-based fireballs, and muddle will get flung round, as if by a maniacal spring cleaner.


Fashions and Animation

Animation was one of many highlights of 2011’s RAGE. Ragdoll was utilized to character fashions however, alongside this, character fashions reacted realistically to positional injury: Shoot an enemy within the arm and scrabble desperately on the wound with their free hand. With RAGE 2, Avalanche builds on a strong basis. Due to the post-process and particle-heavy nature of RAGE 2’s spectacle, relative to the unique, it’s typically straightforward to overlook simply how nicely the sport is animated. Skeletal rigging is a transparent step up from the unique recreation. Enemy transfer organically, with mutants carrying themselves round with irregular shuffling motion. Since gunfire is now considerably extra over-the-top, the overall tendency is for enemies to blow up in a mist of gore. Nevertheless, enemies do reply realistically to positional injury, with clean transitions between common motion and wounded states.

Fashions obtain a transparent increase to general constancy. Whereas she’s aged significantly in RAGE 2, Loosum’s mannequin demonstrates the important thing variations between the 2 when it comes to modelling. A part of that is right down to the change in art-style. Whereas RAGE 2 goes wild when it comes to colors, the unique truly options extra stylized artwork design—character textures are clean and virtually painterly. Character fashions are additionally considerably low-poly. Loosum’s mannequin in RAGE 1 is nearly chunky, however, once more, due to the painterly look, this doesn’t detract an excessive amount of from the visible expertise. Whereas RAGE 2 definitely doesn’t goal for photorealism, fashions are considerably extra rounded out, with added polys the place it counts: Hair is infamous troublesome to render on lesser hardware and RAGE 1 opted for literal “hair helmets”—Loosum had bangs that caught out beneath her helmet.

RAGE 2 options polygonal, animated hair, as is commonplace now. Furthermore, clothes and incidental particulars on character our bodies—from knapsacks to weapons—obtain boosts to poly counts. This makes for our bodies, and objects hooked up to them, which might be formed rather more organically. Subsurface scattering can also be evident, with mild transport by way of pores and skin precisely modelled. Whereas RAGE 2’s character fashions are higher on a strictly technical degree, we now have to say right here that, no less than at an aesthetic degree, the unique’s painterly fashion is extra pleasing. The Uncanny Valley is a wierd place—growing constancy whereas retaining a stylized design may end up in characters that simply don’t look proper—creepy film Sonic, as an example.


Lighting

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Lighting is an space of clear enchancment in RAGE 2 in comparison with the unique. id Tech 5’s important disadvantage was an over-reliance on Megatexturing. Common forward-rendered video games make the most of pre-baked shadowmaps but in addition make liberal use of dynamic lights the place they’re wanted. The Halo collection, and Killzone on the PS Vita are good last-gen examples of forward-renderers with strong dynamic lighting. In RAGE—almost all shadows have been prebaked into the Megatexture, aside from the compulsory dynamic shadows for onscreen characters. Regardless of using HDR and volumetrics, this led to RAGE wanting moderately flat more often than not. RAGE 2 makes use of Apex’s significantly extra completed lighting answer.

The lighting mannequin makes use of clustered ahead rendering—an answer with the efficiency of ahead rendering and the power to implement numerous mild sources, as with deferred rendering. International illumination, first seen within the Simply Trigger three iteration of Apex, is on show right here. That is paired with SSAO for an inexpensive approximation of oblique lighting. RAGE 2 additionally makes good use of volumetric results—the interaction of colored lighting with mud and smoke is a key facet of the sport’s gory-garish aesthetic. Display-space reflections are current however used sparingly—would you anticipate random puddles of water in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? The impact is current however and provides to the environment the place it’s employed.


Publish-Processing

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RAGE 2 has a fully-featured post-process pipeline. Whereas there are some that could be turned off by the liberal use of post-process results right here, they’re properly built-in into the scene, including oomph to explosions and fight and emphasizing the gritty, but stylized artwork design. DoF and Movement blur are each in play right here. Fortunately, neither is overdone. In-game, DoF provides a delicate blur to the far distance, whereas a shallower depth of area is utilized in cutscenes. Movement blur is of the per-object selection and, along with the graceful animations, helps to maintain fight feeling kinetic. Chromatic aberration is current right here as properly. There’s, fortunately, there’s easy toggle to show it off on PC should you aren’t that occupied with simulating the issues of a digital camera on the expense of GPU assets.


Anti-Aliasing

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As most up-to-date titles have achieved, RAGE 2 eschews hardware MSAA in favour of a post-process temporal AA answer. What we’re seeing right here is an evolution of the TAA implementation in Simply Trigger four and the output is simply nearly as good: protection is superb, with each transparencies and geometry getting AA. The “temporal” element is spot-on, with minimal shimmering in movement.

On PC, on the prime AA high quality setting, TAA is paired with FXAA—TAA irons out the extra apparent jaggies and FXAA provides an additional layer of protection on prime. There’s an influence on sharpness on account of this, however we really feel that the marginally softer output blends nicely with the post-effects heavy nature of the sport.


Dynamic Decision Scaling

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A staple in an period of anaemic console hardware, dynamic decision scaling is curiously omitted from the console variations of the sport however makes its approach onto PC. It’s fairly helpful whenever you’re in an edge-case state of affairs—as an example, RX 480-class hardware arms in framerates within the mid-50s when operating at 1080p. Slightly than simply dropping right down to 900p, the dynamic scaler drops decision solely as a lot as wanted. Due to the superb temporal antialiasing, and due to the sport’s mushy focus, submit effects-laden presentation, you’re not more likely to discover a huge effect to picture high quality.


Conclusion: An Fascinating Evolution of the Apex Engine

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We have been, admittedly, a bit apprehensive final yr once we acquired phrase that, not solely was RAGE 2 not being developed by id, however that it’d run on Avalanche’s Apex engine. We have been struggling to get Simply Trigger three to run one way or the other with out horrible stutter on the time. Apex didn’t make for an excellent impression on the time. We’re pleasantly stunned with RAGE 2, although. Whereas efficiency stays a problem, no less than on PC, the sport itself is a pleasure to play, and the perfect of each worlds: frenetic, DOOM-style capturing paired with Avalanche’s signature propensity in the direction of pyromania. Enjoying RAGE 2 concurrently Simply Trigger four, we had an fascinating expertise in seeing precisely how Avalanche tailored their engine for a comparatively extra targeted first-person expertise. A decade in the past, Carmack and id-developed the unique RAGE with the aim of making a fluid and handsome shooter. When you’ll undoubtedly want quicker hardware, Avalanche succeeded in doing a lot the identical with RAGE 2.

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