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Digital Foundry: Project Cars Face-Off

bombshell

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Oct 23, 2013
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Full face-off is published.

Resolution:

As confirmed by the team itself, Sony's machine continues to push out a native 1920x1080 image, while Microsoft's hardware musters an upscaled 1600x900. The results are unfortunately not always flattering for Xbox One's final image, even with the team's choice of EQAA in place (also in effect on PS4).
AA:

On PS4 this works well with the native 1080p framebuffer, and the final picture is much better presented. Geometric lines are mostly clear, though it's still vulnerable to other forms of artefacting we'll cover shortly. Xbox One doesn't fare as well, producing more visual noise on metal barriers, while chrome highlights on cars in the garage suffer from glaring saw-tooth artefacts. Motion blur is in effect on both, which helps to hide most of the flickering during a drive. Even so, the black contours in cockpit view are a constant reminder of Xbox One's lower resolution base image.

By comparison, the PC's image is set to 1920x1080 for our tests, and we're offered a huge range of in-menu options to treat aliasing. Slightly Mad provides the full toolkit: multiple levels of FXAA, SMAA, and MSAA are all present and correct.
There's no way consoles can compete with that, but the PS4 edition has an interesting workaround. In addition to EQAA, a 'temporal aliasing' pass is added to the Sony release, blending the previous frame with the current one to reduce flicker on moving objects. During gameplay this works surprisingly well in minimising pixel crawl, but the implementation here is a divisive one. The downside is simple: it creates a ghost image that's very easy to spot in static images, and the effect is noticeable in motion too.
AF:

Unfortunately, texture filtering isn't a high point for Project Cars. Ground textures on console make use of what appears a match for PC's 4x anisotropic filtering mode, though PS4 produces blurrier results than Xbox One overall. It's not a concern when a race kicks off, but waiting at a starting grid shows these crisp textures tailing off sharply in quality within a few metres - especially on Sony's console. PC surges forward here with its top-end 16x setting, and circuits like Willow Springs International Raceway benefit hugely from an ultra grass setting, increasing the range at which small foliage is rendered (where consoles use the PC's low setting).
Shadows:

However, as spotted in the hands-on build, Xbox One produces aliased shadows while in cockpit view that aren't noticed on PS4.
Performance:

As established in our earlier analysis, PS4 does also have an advantage in performance. To re-cap quickly, Project Cars' read-out is typically 60fps in its career mode, with tearing and drops below 50fps once rain kicks in. Stress-tests also show a PS4 advantage once 30+ cars are engaged, while Microsoft's platform takes a bigger hit on hectic races with heavy alpha effects. Tearing is constant in these 30-40fps stress-test scenarios, but in the interest of keeping render times as close as possible to the 16.67ms target, dropping v-sync helps to keep the visual update as rapid as possible - if at a cost to image quality.
With regards PC optimisation, the state of performance is uneven between the two major GPU vendors right now. As it stands, there is a trend of AMD cards falling short of their Nvidia's equivalents; even the top-tier R9 290X reportedly struggling against a lowly GTX 760 at 1080p and high settings. We carried out a very quick replay test using the R9 290X and the GTX 970 - two pretty closely matched cards - finding that the Nvidia advantage in one specific scene was a mammoth 77 per cent, with generally poor performance on the Radeon card overall. Based on the results Slightly Mad has achieved with AMD hardware on console, clearly the codebase isn't badly optimised for GCN hardware, suggesting a driver issue is to blame.
Verdict:

Slightly Mad Studios' racer leaves a high watermark for Polyphony Digital and Turn 10 to match in the coming years. Crucially, both console versions get the attention they deserve, and between the huge car count, dynamic weather and use of PhysX, both PS4 and Xbox One retain many of the PC's version's best features. They aren't perfect; 60fps isn't a lock and bouts of tearing flare up in both - but Project Cars' ambition still vaults it ahead of most racers in the console space. And between the two, though many settings are matched Sony's platform is the easy pick due to its sturdier frame-rate and its native 1080p resolution.

It's something of a cliché to put PC in pole position, but in this case it needs extra emphasis. The higher grade particle effects, reflections and superior car models bring an obvious difference over what PS4 and Xbox One achieve. By comparison it's one of the starker contrasts next to current-gen releases - though the hardware needs to be there to back it.
More here: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2015-project-cars-face-off

See previous performance analysis thread here: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1041640
 

GHG

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Nov 9, 2006
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So basically as expected here:

PC >> PS4 >> XB1

Would be good if they can offer some kind of alternate AA solution for the PS4 for those who are sensitive to the ghosting and wouldn't mind sacrificing some IQ.
 

Summer Haze

Banned
Jun 10, 2014
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I was wondering, how big of a performance increase do you think the PS4 would get if temporal AA was disabled? I thought that type of AA was pretty demanding? If they were to give us the option, I'd definitely take the hit to IQ if it meant less tearing/framerate drops.
 

Durante

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Oct 1, 2006
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I'm pretty sad to hear about such big Nvidia advantage on PC. That's unacceptable.
Complain to AMD.

I was wondering, how big of a performance increase do you think the PS4 would get if temporal AA was disabled? I thought that type of AA was pretty demanding? If they were to give us the option, I'd definitely take the hit to IQ if it meant less tearing/framerate drops.
Temporal SMAA doesn't really have a significantly higher performance impact than normal SMAA (which is quite low on modern HW).
 

Kama_1082

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Feb 16, 2015
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I'm pretty sad to hear about such big Nvidia advantage on PC. That's unacceptable.
WMD says they haven't received a cent from Nvidia for this game, but seeing the billboards and signs on every track makes me think otherwise.


On topic: On my i5 4690, GTX 970 and 8GB ram, with nvidia optimized settings, I get 45-50 FPS with rain and 20 cars. If I didn't have FRAPS on, I don't think I would have noticed.
 

Summer Haze

Banned
Jun 10, 2014
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Complain to AMD.

Temporal SMAA doesn't really have a significantly higher performance impact than normal SMAA (which is quite low on modern HW).
I see. Thanks for the info.

They have, but maybe pCARS was in too much crunch mode when that AF bulletin went out to devs. Was it 2 months ago we heard of it?
Yeah, this is what I was thinking too. Hopefully we start to see a decent level of AF as standard for PS4 games soon.
 

Cidd

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Jan 14, 2013
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They have, but maybe pCARS was in too much crunch mode when that AF bulletin went out to devs. Was it 2 months ago we heard of it?
Ah ok Thanks, Glad to hear it's finally being addressed.

Any idea if it's a bug with SDK or was it just Devs slacking to implement it?
 

_machine

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Oct 12, 2011
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In case someone missed it, AMD is working together with SMS to fix the issues with the drivers. Also SMS has acknowledged the ghosting from the Temporal AA and as mentioned in the article might provide a way to lower the ghosting at the cost of more aliasing.

Ah ok Thanks, Glad to hear it's finally being addressed.

Any idea if it's a bug with SDK or was it just Devs slacking to implement it?
It's hard to say, but given that they have gone through the trouble of implementing various of levels of AF throughout the textures it might actually have something to do with optimization, but there's no word on it and developers can't really officially comment on matters of SDK/Tech.
 

nib95

Banned
Feb 26, 2007
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I'd like an alternative option to the temporal AA. I've gotten used to it now, but it's making a right meal of my screen grabs, and looking around the car. Otherwise I think it's a solid effort overall. Haven't had any issues with the frame rate yet, and the overall image is surprisingly clean. Don't notice any lack of AF in motion either. It does suffer from the graphical drawbacks that other sim racers also do though, that is somewhat static looking backgrounds, tree's etc, but given the game runs at 60fps, I suppose that isn't all too surprising.
 

danowat

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Aug 30, 2014
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Don't notice any lack of AF in motion either.
There is one huge issue of AF I've noticed, on Willow Springs, there is a corner with a large billboard on the outside, the AF on that billboard is extremely jarring.
 

Backfoggen

Banned
Jul 21, 2009
12,279
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Worse AF is a bummer but at least there is some there at all. I guess it was reduced for performance reasons.
I hope they'll allow us to turn off the temporal AA and bump up the motion blur a little. I prefer the XB1 version in that regard.
 

madmackem

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Jun 15, 2011
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PS4 AF issues again, Why haven't Sony address this yet?
Eh they have many gaes have been patched, and df said they both use 4x but they look blurrier on ps4, i dont know if this is such an issue in a racer ive never noticed it at all while driving.
 

nobodyshero

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Sep 17, 2014
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That AMD thing is a real piss off. Hopefully AMD does something about it (though I'm not expecting much)
 

lightchris

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Eh they have many gaes have been patched, and df said they both use 4x but they look blurrier on ps4, i dont know if this is such an issue in a racer ive never noticed it at all while driving.
I think it is very noticeable in a racer since you look at the road texture in front of you all the time.
 

The Cowboy

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Feb 14, 2013
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Planet Earth.
I just wonder, does the HUD being turned off in 3rd person or bumber view improve FPS on console like it does on PC? (i really hope SMS look into that).
 

SpecialAgentZ

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However, there's scalability here too if you need it - using approximate console quality settings, we achieved similar performance to our stress tests with a Core i3 4130 and GTX 750 Ti, the components we chose for our budget PC build.
As always.
 

stryke

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Oct 1, 2011
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Something's buggy(?) about the fences on PS4 as well, which was also in the preview a couple weeks back





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Also seems like devs have failed to deliver on their promise of 8x AF
 

Radec

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Something's buggy(?) about the fences on PS4 as well, which was also in the preview a couple weeks back





_______________

Also seems like devs have failed to deliver on their promise of 8x AF
Black Painted Fence ps4 exclusive.
 

Totobeni

An blind dancing ho
Nov 3, 2007
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so 4xAF on consoles for a game when you focus at the ground most of the time. weird.( this is just me but I think racing games should get 16x)
 

hesido

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May 23, 2013
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I was wondering, how big of a performance increase do you think the PS4 would get if temporal AA was disabled? I thought that type of AA was pretty demanding? If they were to give us the option, I'd definitely take the hit to IQ if it meant less tearing/framerate drops.
Since their temporal AA solution is simple as blending two frames together, I don't think it would benefit anything. That's why I'm wondering why they didn't add this ghosting to the Xbox One, if it's that much of an image quality improvement.

I'm also wondering why they are running motion blur at all on the PS4. It has close to 0 effect on the final image.

Also, screenshots comparisons when the car is standing still is not representative of the actual experience, you'd be moving 99% of the time in this game.
 

Pandy

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Sep 4, 2014
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Something's buggy(?) about the fences on PS4 as well, which was also in the preview a couple weeks back





_______________

Also seems like devs have failed to deliver on their promise of 8x AF
I like how they change their tops between races, but keep the same trousers on.
 

Stacey

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Feb 17, 2015
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PC >>>>> PS4 >> X1

Better resolution, AA solution, less tearing and better framerate on PS4.

If both consoles have x4 AF then why did DF state the PS4 version was blurrier, surely that points to another issue and not the filtering?
 

Three

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Oct 26, 2014
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Since their temporal AA solution is simple as blending two frames together, I don't think it would benefit anything. That's why I'm wondering why they didn't add this ghosting to the Xbox One, if it's that much of an image quality improvement.
Most likely because they couldn't. blending two frames together is ROP dependent and the XB1 may struggle with it.

I don't know if anyone has noticed but there is something wrong with specular reflections on the XB1 version. Like it is missing tone mapping or something.


 

Stacey

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Feb 17, 2015
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So many jaggies @1600x900 in those shots of the x1 version, the pagani looks shopped into the scene using paint.