As a seasoned veteran of video games, console launches and the bloody war waged between fans as they measure their digital dongs in an endless battle for hardware (very hard) supremacy, I can honestly look to the future and make a completely accurate prediction of what the next-gen holds in store for gamers: Man, those games are going to look well good.
But how will they sound?
In the run-up to the launch of the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5, audio seems to have taken a backseat to the stories of solid-state drives and graphical processing units that’ll power these devices for years to come. Visuals are only half of the gaming equation, as audio can make a game when done right and absolutely break it when mishandled.
With the release date of the Xbox Series X drawing closer, Microsoft’s message at the upcoming Game Developer’s Conference is one of how they’ve invested a ton of time and money into not just the design of the console and its ability to drop visual left hooks on your jaw, but also follow up with right jab to the ears as well.
Titled “Building Audio Gateways Into Immersive Worlds With Spatial Sound (Presented by Microsoft)”, the GDC tease is focused on explaining the next-gen mechanics behind sound according to its synopsis:
Learn from the audio designers of Borderlands 3 and Gears of War 5 around how a collaboration between Microsoft, Dolby, and our middleware partners kicked off a revolution with spatial sound that turns any pair of headphones into a multi-dimensional gateway to another world. Attendees will dive deep into the audio design pipeline (Project Acoustics) and the relationship to dedicated hardware-acceleration on newer generation Xbox consoles.
If you look at current consoles, they’re relying on their CPUs to drive sound to your ears, ditching even the most svelte of sound cards in favour of a less dedicated hardware option. It’s not exactly a bad design choice (You can even access Dolby Atmos support on Xbox One) and many a game does indeed sound absolutely fantastic on the aging architecture. Just look I mean listen to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as an example! How that game makes war sound even more realistic than ever before, is a hell of an achievement.
That being said, having proper hardware acceleration just for audio is going to mean that own a proper surround sound system is a must for really immersing yourself within a game, something that you can expect Microsoft to trumpet about with when the marketing push begins on the Xbox Series X. They’ll still have some competition on their hands though, as PS5 architect Mark Cerny explained last year April via Games Radar that the PS5 chipset will support 3D audio in an effort to “make you feel more immersed in the game as sounds come at you from above, from behind, and from the side”.
Long story short, gaming next year is going to look and sound absolutely amazing.
Last Updated: February 20, 2020