What’s the best game on the PlayStation 4 right now? If you said Horizon: Zero Dawn, then I’d happily nod, wait for you to turn your back and then introduce you to the business end of my oversized Fortress Maximus Transformer before ranting and raving about Resogun. Simplistic, daring and the best damn launch game ever made, Resogun is developer Housemarque at their most addictive hour.
And if you happen to own a PS4 Pro and 4K TV combo, then the game looks blisteringly fantastic right now thanks to a recent update that added all manner of visual extras to the frenetic gameplay. It’s the same game through and through, but with a proper native 4K resolution running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second at any time, using all manner of technical tricks and skills to deliver on the hectic schmupping.
“If by native 4K you mean 3840×2160 frame buffer – yes, that is the case. We used PS4 Pro’s checkerboard rendering,” Housemarque’s engine architect Seppo Halonen said to Eurogamer, describing numerous technical terms that made my head explode several times because I’m a massive idiot.
It was the second approach we tried and everything seemed to run fine with it so there was no need to try anything more after that. On top of this, there is our ultimate post-processing pass that is done at full 4K that processes enemy outlines and chroma split and a little bit extra on top of that, giving the game that final look.
Checkerboard rendering drops [a 4K presentation] to 2x the pixels, but that is of course not the whole truth – 4K and HDR both require additional post-processing which must be done in full 4K so all in all we had around 1.5ms less to work with.
First things first, our voxel rendering was speed-limited by PS4’s triangle throughput, and Pro has twice the oomph for that. Also, we are now using async compute extensively for particle effects and lighting to keep the GPU busy at all times. Furthermore we converted almost all of our textures to use BC7 texture compression to conserve memory bandwidth now that our toolchain has support for that, post-Alienation.
And finally – let’s face it, we have years more experience on PS4 now and both our own and Sony’s tools have improved since the launch of PS4. Resogun had the best game tech we could make at the time. Now we can do much better.
But to get to that HDR display point, Housemarque had to put in some considerable effort. “We even had to go as far as to reverse-engineer our own shader code from disassembly to make 100 per cent sure that we knew exactly what it did,” Halonen explained.
As such we had to retain the inverse-gamma lighting and count on our transparent and particle effects to put the real capital H in HDR,” he says. “Also HDR requires higher colour precision, which translates into more memory used in colour buffers, so we had some memory issues, but using BC7 format for textures solved that – another win-win. It even improved texture quality in some cases, so that makes it a win-win-win.
…I understand none of this, but holiest of cows does the game look pretty on a PS4 Pro. Also, now I know how Geoff feels when I begin talking about the differences in Stand powers between the Stardust Crusaders and Stone Ocean arcs in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and blahlblahblah…