Ryse didn’t exactly set the world alight when it was released as one of the Xbox One’s exclusive launch titles. It had solid combat with some wonderfully fluid animations, but it was also criticised for featuring too much repetition and those quick time events that could landmark each kill didn’t seem to grab too many peoples’ imaginations. Yet it did often look fantastic, even though it was held back from running at 1080p on the Xbox One’s hardware. For the PC release, which has just been announced for release on 10th October, Crytek are taking those shackles off. Completely. They’re gunning for 4K.
Now I’m sure that many of you are thinking why a game needs to be specifically engineered for 4K support on PC, just as I did when I went in to see the game in action, but in order to get the very best results, it really does. While there are countless games that I could reference when talking about poor ports from console to PC over the last generation, a much better set of examples would actually be the recent phenomenon of HD re-releases on console, both PS3 and now on PS4.
Simply increasing the resolution from 720p to 1080p can do a lot to reveal the true quality of the assets on show, but at the same time it can reveal certain weaknesses too. You will never mistake the God of War Collection for a native PS3 game, for instance, and it’s very often true that games with strongly stylised graphics will hold up best over time. Something like Okami and The Legend of Zelda; Wind Waker, both of which stray far away from any semblance of realism, are perfect for HD re-releases, especially when you consider the extra efforts that Nintendo went to for Wind Waker HD.
However, what we’re now seeing on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is that the vast majority of these HD re-releases are actually using already enhanced PC versions of the game as their basis. Metro Redux, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and the upcoming Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition have all taken the higher resolution assets and set them loose on the newer generation of hardware, making use of the larger amount of memory these new consoles have. Without that step up in asset quality, the visual leap would not have been so great.
Thankfully, for Ryse, when Crytek created their artwork and assets, it was already being made at a level of quality that they were happy with for 4K. In the move to PC hardware, it’s a case that this gets to come out into the open, but this comes alongside a large amount of optimisation to help ensure that getting a reasonable performance above the 30 frames per second mark on cards like the Radeon R9 290X.
Playing the game itself on PC was admittedly quite weird, thanks to trying to get to grips with the hack & slash combat on mouse and keyboard. Fending off enemies with blocks, counters and so on isn’t all that tricky against the invading barbarians of the game’s opening, but switching to a later section, I was really tested by an enemy with a shield that could go toe to toe with Marius. By and large, once you get a hang of the controls, you should be fine, but the roots on the Xbox One do show through during the execution moves.
Once an enemy has been sufficiently weakened, these execution moves let you enter a little quicktime event as Marius brutally slaughters his foe(s), trying to hit the right buttons in time with the coloured highlights that briefly flash on the soon to be departed. Time them right and you’ll get a little reward to refill your health, boost damage and so on, but the only problem when trying to do this on a keyboard and mouse is that I have no point of reference to look down at as I try to learn the game, no controller in my hands with brightly coloured buttons that match those flashes on the screen. With just a couple of colours to learn, you’ll pick it up eventually, but this will be a game that’s best played with a controller plugged in (and an Xbox one at that).
Admittedly, half the problem was that I wasn’t really all that interested in keeping up with the action on screen, but rather found myself just getting lost in the environment on this 4K screen. I didn’t really want to be fighting, but rather wanted to stick my face as close to the screen as possible and look at some trees a few hundred meters off in the distance, check out the sharpness of the foliage at Marius’ feet and admire the finely detailed textures on Marius’ battle worn armour and the thick red crest atop his helmet.
The jump to 4K is hugely impressive though, along the lines of the jumps in resolution we’ve seen on smartphone and tablet in the last four years. However, while a phone or tablet can happily render your Twitter feed without breaking a sweat, for Ryse to be chugging along at 4K and about 30 frames per second requires a huge amount of power from your CPU and GPU. While you’ll be able to step the settings down for mid-ranged machines to play it well, in order to handle 4K you really do need top of the line components, as was revealed last week. Even then, in a repeat of Crytek history, don’t expect to be playing the game without compromises of one sort or another for a good few years.
In truth, all of this is going to be a pipe dream for almost all of us. 4K screens are coming down in price at a rate of knots, but many of them have certain compromises, as the technology and manufacturing processes struggle to keep up, and then you have to think about all of the money you’ll need to spend on a PC to handle it. If you do, Crytek’s goal with Ryse is really to do as they have done several times in the past, to set a new graphical benchmark for others to strive to match for years to come.