Today’s surprise launch of a Switch version of the popular free-to-play first-person military shooter war face marks a major milestone for the system’s growing list of ports: the first Switch game to use Crytek’s CryEngine. Like many other high-end Switch ports, squeezing the game to run on the Switch’s Nvidia Tegra-based hardware has some significant drawbacks.
As publisher My.Games points out in a press release, getting war face on Switch meant “using a heavily modified version of CryEngine…running at 30fps/720p in TV mode and 540p in handheld and tabletop mode, for an optimal balance of picture clarity and performance.”
Those are relatively low resolution numbers, even for the Switch, where a wide range of games manage to reach 1080p or 900p resolution when docked and 720p in portable mode. However, there have been some notable exceptions, including Switch ports like disaster and The Witcher 3, where the portable mode has to drop noticeably below the HD resolution to ensure a playable game. You can see what that resolution downgrade looks like for yourself in the screenshots above and the trailer below for the Switch version of the game.
Feeling the CrySqueeze
As CryEngine based games go, war face is also not exactly the most recent release that can be used as a Switch proof-of-concept. The game originally launched on PC in 2012 as a free-to-play demonstration of the now-defunct CryEngine 3. Even then, Digital Foundry noted that the title was “an intriguing curiosity: a state-of-the-art engine deliberately run on less-than-optimum settings.” turning to accommodate a wide church of PC owners, lacking many of the key features we find in the latest AAA console shooters, but still looking pretty good overall.”
However, the game and its underlying code have undergone constant refinements in the meantime, to the point where the Xbox One X and PS4 versions now support 4K resolutions and HDR color spaces. The success of those ports has helped war face reach a reported 80 million registered players worldwide, with about 2,000 of them likely playing on the Steam version at the same time.
Alexey Izotov, Head of Global Publishing at My.Games, elaborated on the compromises needed to convert the existing 4K versions of the game into a Switch build in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz:
When we talk about PvP content, we rely on the following principles: stable frame rate, debugged network code and fixed resolution. The look of the game should not change depending on the amount of on-screen action. We believe that we have succeeded in this. Of course we used some heavy optimizations, but we always made sure that this affected the final image quality at a minimal level.
Resolution aside, running a CryEngine game on the Switch is still a major achievement for the in-house Allods team at My.Games. It also speaks well of the potential for even more visually degraded Switch ports, even as upcoming consoles threaten to widen the power gap between Nintendo’s hybrid and state-of-the-art in TV-based gaming platforms.