Monday, 7 September 2015

Performance Analysis: Mad Max


Mad Max takes Avalanche Studios in a new direction: focusing strongly on vehicular combat and exploration of a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland, the developers successfully translate the bleak and unrelenting vision of George Miller's iconic series into a challenging action title. From a technological perspective, Mad Max also impresses with the studio's use of complex lighting and extensive post-processing to bring the wasteland to life. Physically-based lighting and clustered shading allow for a large number of simultaneous light sources without heavily impacting on performance, while materials such as sand, metals, and fabrics are accurately rendered with a suitably run-down aesthetic.
In terms of multi-platform comparisons, both console versions of Mad Max operate natively at full 1080p, with the Xbox One game matching the PS4 in the resolution stakes pixel-for-pixel - a pleasant surprise considering the resolution differential in many top-tier games. Edge-smoothing looks impressive, most likely handled by a custom anti-aliasing algorithm (Avalanche has a history of experimenting with its own techniques in this area). While the details on the actual AA implementation remain unknown right now, the technique in play here works well in tackling jaggies when exploring the vast wasteland, with rocky canyons and sand tunes appearing suitable smooth. That said, sub-pixel details aren't handled quite as successfully and shimmering across small objects and more intricate structures is noticeable when exploring outposts scattered across the post-apocalyptic landscape.
An initial gaze across the rest of the game's graphically rich visuals reveals a welcome level of parity across both consoles, with the same core art and effects work deployed equally in almost every area between the two formats. Texture filtering, depth of field, motion blur, and shadow quality all match up nicely to the point where differences you may see in our media are mostly a product of a dynamic time of time system, where slightly variances in shadow position and lighting occur depending on how quickly we complete certain missions.
Performance analysis reveals a very solid 30fps in play on both versions of Mad Max - not bad considering the parity in resolution and effects-work between the two platforms.
So far we are looking at a match between the two consoles in pretty much every area, although in a few scenes some unexpected differences do crop up. The appearance of lower resolution normal maps on some parts of Max's character model on the PS4 is a curious anomaly, with tears in his shirt and dog tags appearing sharper on Xbox One. The lighting in the opening cut-scene scene also appears harsher and more washed out on PS4. When gameplay finally begins, the lighting model equalises, suggesting that the initial difference in the opening scene is nothing more than a small platform-specific anomaly. Likewise the normal map/texture issue on PS4 also seems like a small technical glitch, as this aspect of the game appears consistently identical everywhere else.
Avalanche Studios is on cue to deliver a technically solid multi-platform release with both consoles receiving the same core level of visual quality. Impressively, the decision to target native 1080p on Xbox One also comes without any repercussions in terms of performance. In fact, frame-rates are slightly more stable on the Microsoft platform during gameplay, suggesting that the developers have taken great care in optimising the game. 30fps is the target on both platforms and for the most part we are looking at frame-rates locked at that level for the duration on both systems, with very little in the way of disruptions to distract from the experience.
Ramming into other vehicles or blowing them up during combat on the roads plays out smoothly, and often we see no interruptions from the desired 30fps target, bar perhaps the odd single frame drop or solitary tear. Similarly, fist-fights against multiple enemies also come across as smooth and fluid. Indeed, across a multitude of different scenarios Mad Max frequently offers up a solid 30fps experience with no tangible impact on gameplay.

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