Rocket League Review: 1 Year Later (2016)

By
in Games
Published August 13, 2016 at 8:30 am

With a full year under its belt, we thought it'd be time to revisit Rocket League for a "One Year Later" review. GN tester Mike Gaglione has been playing Rocket League unrelentingly since its launch, and put together this gameplay footage and analysis for video publication. We've also got the transcript below the video, if you prefer.

We're looking at the game's history, its developer support, competitive play support, and gameplay mechanics. For folks who haven't yet tried Rocket League, you haven't "missed the boat," so to speak; the game is constantly evolving, and follows a more modern model of constant patch shipments.

Video below:

Quadrilateral Cowboy Review & Gameplay

By
in Games
Published July 31, 2016 at 8:30 am

Quadrilateral Cowboy is the latest release from Blendo Games, a company which usually consists solely of developer Brendon Chung, but in this case includes team members Tynan Wales and Aaron Melcher. Cowboy is vaguely connected to previous titles Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving by the fictional city of Nuevos Aires, but explores an entirely different style of gameplay.

The player character is known as Poncho, one of a three-person crew of hackers selling services to the highest bidder. The core premise, according to Blendo Games, was “a first-person sneaking game, but all of your equipment is outdated and heavy and clunky.” An array of gadgets is used to plan ten heists in “alt-future 1980-something” (don’t worry too much about that).

Benchmarking in Vulkan or Dx12 is still a bit of a pain in the NAS, but PresentMon makes it possible to conduct accurate FPS and frametime tests without reliance upon FRAPS. July 11 marks DOOM's introduction of the Vulkan API in addition to its existing OpenGL 4.3/4.5 programming interfaces. Between the nVidia and AMD press events the last few months, we've seen id Software surface a few times to talk big about their Vulkan integration – but it's taken a while to finalize.

As we're in the midst of GTX 1060 benchmarking and other ongoing hardware reviews, this article is being kept short. Our test passes look only at the RX 480, GTX 1080, and GTX 970, so we're strictly looking at scalability on the new Polaris and Pascal architectures. The GTX 970 was thrown-in to see if there are noteworthy improvements for Vulkan when moving from Maxwell to Pascal.

This test is not meant to show if one video card is “better” than another (as our original Doom benchmark did), but is instead meant to show OpenGL → Vulkan scaling within a single card and architecture. Note that, as with any game, Doom is indicative only of performance and scaling within Doom. The results in other Vulkan games, like the Talos Principle, will not necessarily mirror these. The new APIs are complex enough that developers must carefully implement them (Vulkan or Dx12) to best exploit the low-level access. We spoke about this with Chris Roberts a while back, who offered up this relevant quote:

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is EA’s reboot of their 2009 first-person parkour game. The first Mirror’s Edge was well-received for its advanced visuals and intuitive, mechanical gameplay. For some of those who played the first ME, time has only sweetened memories of the innovative parkour-style gameplay. When EA and DICE announced the sequel, we were immediately interested -- we liked the first game most for its time trials and 3D platforming, somewhat unique in execution with Mirror’s Edge.

Like its predecessor, gameplay in ME Catalyst is deceptively simple. You run, you jump, you slide, and sometimes, you kick. We pick-up playing as Faith, a young woman who makes her living as an aptly titled ‘runner.’ If you couldn’t guess, that means she runs items and information from point-to-point, like a courier -- but in a dystopian future where private security companies routinely invade the privacy of citizens. Runners allow data to be moved about more discreetly. As a runner, you traverse the rooftops of Glass -- the city ME Catalyst takes place in -- almost entirely made of a white concrete that stays freakishly clean. Those rooftops also host a lot of ventilation, piping, and fences, all of which are used to the advantage of our parkour-trained runner. Navigation of the rooftops is left largely up to player, but certain obstacles light-up red to guide the player towards the objective.

Mirror's Edge – the first game – had some of the most intensive graphics of its time. Just enabling PhysX alone was enough to bring most systems to their knees, particularly when choppers unloaded their miniguns into glass to create infinitesimal shards. The new game just came out, and aims to bring optimized, high-fidelity visuals to the series.

Our Mirror's Edge Catalyst graphics card benchmark tests FPS performance on the GTX 1080, 1070, 970, 960, AMD R9 Fury X, 390X, 380X, and more. We're trying to add more cards as we continue to circumvent the DRM activation restrictions – which we're mostly doing by purchasing the game on multiple accounts (update: we were able to get around the limitations with two codes, and it seems that the activation limitation expires after just 24 hours). The video card benchmark looks at performance scaling between High, Ultra, and “Hyper” settings, and runs the tests for 1080p (Ultra), 1440p (Ultra), and 4K (High), with a splash of 1080p/Hyper tests.

We've also looked briefly into VRAM consumption (further below) and have defined some of the core game graphics settings.

AMD was first-to-market with Doom-ready drivers, but exhibited exceptionally poor performance with a few of its cards. The R9 390X was one of those, being outperformed massively (~40%) by the GTX 970, and nearly matched by the GTX 960 at 1080p. If it's not apparent by the price difference between the two, that's unacceptable; the hardware of the R9 390X should effortlessly outperform the GTX 960, a budget-class card, and it just wasn't happening. Shortly after the game launched and AMD posted its initial driver set (16.5.2), a hotfix (16.5.2.1) was released to resolve performance issues on the R9 390 series cards.

We had a moment to re-benchmark DOOM using the latest drivers between our GTX 1080 Hybrid experiment and current travel to Asia. The good news: AMD's R9 390X has improved performance substantially – about 26% in some tests – and seem to be doing better. Other cards were unaffected by this hot fix (though we did test), so don't expect a performance gain out of your 380X, Fury X, or similar non-390-series device.

Note: These charts now include the GTX 1080 and its overclocked performance.

DOOM Review & Gameplay - Fusing Old and New

By
in Games
Published May 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Doom is one of PC gaming’s most celebrated titles. A flagship title and pioneer of the FPS genre, Doom established first-person shooters as one of the most prolific genres in gaming. Despite this, the franchise is almost 23 years old -- and that age bears with it a need to update. A whole generation of gamers weren’t even born when the first and second games were released (1993 and 1994). The third title was fairly well-received, but didn’t seem to have the same impact and staying power as its older brothers. Now, eleven years after the eponymous film, the fourth installment has been launched, simply named “DOOM” (caps optional). This is effectively Doom 4.

Doom carries a lot of stature with its name, but it’s being launched into crowded waters. Id Software has always put an emphasis on singleplayer when it comes to the Doom titles; the focus on multiplayer was left to their Quake titles. If it was Doom that made FPS games popular, it was Quake that made competitive gaming and online twitch play popular. The most popular FPS games around today are vastly different than the twitch shooters of old. Like classic twitch shooters, games like Call of Duty still place a heavy emphasis on mobility, speed, and reflexes; unlike the older games, however, games like CoD put more emphasis on what happens in-between games. Building a loadout/class and unlocking weapons plays significantly into how progression and staying power are managed. Regenerating health means encounters with other players are more likely to be fair, and the wondrous world of pickups has been all but abandoned.

Like most games, id Software's Doom greeted launch day with its share of bugs and crash-to-desktop issues. To some extent, it's permissible – games are hard to make, there's a million hardware configurations (we benchmarked Doom on several GPU configs over here), and developers are under serious deadline pressure lest they risk missing the market timing. But that doesn't make it easier for gamers to deal with – particularly after spending $60 on a dysfunctional product.

Having put Doom through the ringer with several hardware configurations, we've seen the most common issues and have found the solutions. This quick guide contains Doom 4 crash fixes, FPS drops, and FPS locks.

Following our GTX 1080 coverage of DOOM – and preempting the eventual review – we spent the time to execute GPU benchmarks of id Software's DOOM. The new FPS boasts high-fidelity visuals and fast-paced, Quake-era gameplay mechanics. Histrionic explosions dot Doom's hellscape, overblown only by its omnipresent red tint and magma flows. The game is heavy on particle effects and post-processing, performing much of its crunching toward the back of the GPU pipeline (after geometry and rasterization).

Geometry isn't particularly complex, with the game's indoor settings comprised almost entirely of labyrinthine corridors and rooms. Framerate fluctuates heavily; the more lighting effects and particle simulation in the camera frustum, the greater the swings in FPS as players emerge into or depart from lava-filled chambers and other areas of post-FX interest.

In this Doom graphics card benchmark, we test the framerate (FPS) of various GPUs in the new Doom “4” game, including the GTX 980 Ti, 980, 970, Fury X, 390X, 380X, and more. We'll briefly define game graphics settings first; game graphics definitions include brief discussion on TSSAA, directional occlusion quality, shadows, and more.

Note: Doom will soon add support for Vulkan. It's not here yet, but we've been told to expect Vulkan support within a few weeks of launch. All current tests were executed with OpenGL. We will revisit for Vulkan once the API is enabled.

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