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Foreshadowed PS5 Performance Review – IGN

What do you get when you cross Alice in Wonderland with Iron Man? Square Enix’s latest action RPG Forspoken aims to answer that question with a fish-out-of-water plot as protagonist Frey is thrust into a world of dragons and sorcery. Built on the same luminous engine that powered the team’s last game, Final Fantasy XV, it features a similar open world design with animation, art, creature design and more that will feel familiar.

Resolution Modes

The game has three resolution modes, Quality, Ray Tracing and Performance, each of which also has a 120Hz mode. Quality targets 3840x2160p with Dynamic Resolution Scaling (DRS) enabled, which can be scaled by 75% overall down to a low of 1920×1080. Ray Tracing mode reduces the ceiling to 2880x1620p and scales to a low of 1440×810. Both of these modes use FSR2 reconstruction to get back to a 4K output when it’s not at that level, which is always the case in Ray Tracing mode and often in Quality. Finally, performance targets 2560x1440p in both ceiling and FSR2 reconstruction, and can also drop 75% to a low of 1280×720. This mode boosts performance to 60 fps over the previous two, which are limited to 30 fps.

The impact on image quality in Performance mode is noticeable, but small enough compared to the gains it offers. That said, there is a perfect compromise in that 120Hz mode, at least in theory if you have such a screen. With 120Hz mode enabled, both Ray Tracing and Quality mode run at 40fps, meaning effects and setting are identical to non-120Hz modes, but DRS is often lower in the range in heavy sequences due to the 25% reduction in frame time. In reality, this makes less of an impact on the image for an improvement in fluidity and control, which can be crucial with such a fast-paced, action-centric game.

The engine has high input latency and running it at 30fps means we get median times of 225ms with Quality mode and 221ms in Ray Tracing mode, whereas the 60fps Performance mode offers a significantly faster median of 115ms. This is where having a 120Hz screen provides the biggest boost, cutting those Quality and Ray Tracing mode times by around 30%, down to 163ms and 154ms respectively. This is due to the 25% less frame time as well as the fact that it can now flip into the next 8ms refresh when a frame is dropped, bringing the median input time down by around 60ms. The 60fps Performance mode gains something from the 120Hz mode, but only the expected 8ms frame-time peak, giving a small 7.2% improvement in fluidity.

As such, without even getting into framerates, I suggest using the 120Hz mode for all modes if possible. If not, I recommend using the Performance mode as the camera, movement and combat are all severely hampered in the 30fps modes as shown here.

Performance

In theory, these settings should cover all our bases. Unfortunately, in practice, all targets are missed – and not just occasionally, but often enough to be below par. Starting with the Performance mode, we “target” 60 fps, but in bandwidth-heavy sections of foliage, the opaque or semi-translucent alpha effects can all cause a 25-30% frame rate reduction, causing long sections in the mid to low 40s. The game supports Variable Rate Refresh (VRR), but these rates are below the active range of VRR on PS5, and you can still see and feel the drops.

When you turn on the 120Hz setting, Performance mode is still limited to 60fps, but when drops happen you can at least flip to 8ms, meaning this is still the fastest and most responsive mode to play. Ray Tracing mode is next with it being between 8-14% faster than Quality mode when running on a 120Hz monitor, but even then it can dip back into the low 30s often enough to feel the same . This doesn’t mean all the time, with many sections of quiet exploration or cutscenes hitting a high 40fps, but assume that heavy combat will take place somewhere in the middle ground.

The game doesn’t feel like it’s taking advantage of any of the key aspects of current generation consoles, but instead feels much more like a cross-generational game.


You might ask why not run an unlocked option for 60Hz displays, but this causes frame times to jump between 16ms and 33ms when forced into a 60Hz bin. However, on a 120Hz screen they adjust to the 40fps rate at 25ms, which is why it feels smoother as the frame times are closer together and even. The quality mode is unfortunately worse than the Ray Tracing mode, and at 40fps it’s more often than not below that and can even dip into the mid-20s – again, dense opaque pixel fill rate seems to be the main reason. As such, the 40fps mode is great in theory, but in practice the quality mode suffers the most for not being worth it, and the Ray Tracing mode, while better, still isn’t close enough to the mark to be called a true middle ground option.

Image quality and effects

Visually, the game is a mix of new and old: world geometry, lighting, shadows, global lighting, specular, and more look great with high polygon counts on characters, good materials, and general facial and skeleton animation. Compared to Final Fantasy XV, it is superior, specifically in terms of resolution and image stability, even compared to the PS4 Pro version of the game, but not by any generational appearance aside from improved assets and resolution. However, it does offer some increases in the current generation, with Quality offering a full 4K output and Ray Tracing adding hybrid shadows with a soft penumbra, with accurate contact hardening enhanced by more objects casting shadows.

Quality mode increases LoD over Performance and Ray Tracing mode with additional shadow cascades and increased dirt in certain areas. Ray Tracing has the best quality, with shadow cascades mixed with ray-traced shadows within the first cascade, closest to the camera. These provide softer shadows and better ambient occlusion, but outside of a side-by-side comparison, they’re not significant enough to stand out to most gamers. The quality mode is slightly sharper, helped by the contrast-adaptive sharpening pass inside the engine, but in reality both modes are similar enough that you won’t notice much of a difference after a few minutes of play. The Ray Tracing mode improves the most on the self-shadowing of characters in cutscenes, which are quite abundant throughout the game.

Character models are well constructed and realized, but often suffer in the cutscenes due to lower bone rigs than many modern games, especially in the mouth, eyes and nose. The game relies on a mix of performance capture and keyframe animation. This, along with the jump in some movies over others, means you can have big gaps in model quality, lighting, materials and animation between scenes and even from model to model. Textures are definitely one aspect where mip-maps often run below par assets in cutscenes, highlighting that the engine/game still needs some refinement here as textures can load quite late, leaving you with something blurry and last gen . see details on PS5.

Loading

Loading highlights the game’s cross-generational roots, despite being a PS5 and PC only game. Resuming a game takes less than 2 seconds, making excellent use of the SSD and I/O design of the PS5. Loading into a game is slower, at just over 5 seconds. The main issue though is the constant fade to black and loading you will see during your game. Granted, most take 2 to 3 seconds at most, but the constant fade-out-in, stop-start nature of opening a door, leaving a fort, fighting an enemy, or even within a cutscene can create a disconnect from the game . This is reinforced by many sections that lock you in place until the UI, dialog or messages are loaded. This was frustrating as it felt unnecessary and restrictive, meaning the game doesn’t feel like it’s taking advantage of some of the most important aspects of current generation consoles, but instead feels much more like a cross-generational game.

Which mode would you prefer to play on, given the option?

Sound production and mixing

Effects are okay, with decent mixing and production. Music, while far from bad, is repetitive and horribly mixed, with the music clumsily fading out or just stopping, and new tunes starting at certain points in the gameplay or cinematic. This is compounded by poor mixing, which can make voices fight with the music, and the dialogue is far from top notch.

Summary

The Luminous Engine was a revelation just seven years ago with FFXV, offering character models, fabric physics and hair that rivaled the best in the business. Forerunner improves on that game in almost every aspect, but the gaming industry has moved on since then and the engine hasn’t kept up. What it offers is a wide open country, high graphic quality and a wide variety of modes. Unfortunately, none of them hit the expected mark both in terms of quality and consistency, and I hope that patches can fix some of the performance and quality issues mentioned here.

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