Ever since the hype campaigns started for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, we’ve been getting obvious teasing of real-time next-gen gameplay, enough to convince us that these systems are powerful enough. But the full performance of what “only on PlayStation 5” can look like first crystallized out on Thursday. It came in the form of six uninterrupted minutes of live gameplay from Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apartwhich debuts on the PS5 during the console’s “launch window”, we learned today.
Sony couldn’t have painted a better, more compelling picture of what the next-gen gaming architecture can offer from head to toe than this shiny, explosive, SSD-powered range – and so far it’s more stunning than anything we’ve seen from Xbox. Series X-exclusive rate.
Portals far beyond Portal
The first selling point of the new Sony console is illustrated in the top gallery, although just looking at the images misses a key part of the equation: minuscule loading times between insanely complicated sequences.
We’d already seen teasing of the game’s rift-jumping mechanic, with the series’ run-and-gun heroes regularly scrambling from one dimension to another. In action, this plays out with two types of portals. Yellow portals can be activated with an apparent lasso, which whips your character from one side of the room to the other, while rendering the nearby geometry in duplicate, rather than just serving as a generic grappling hook. In comparison: Valve’s classic puzzle series Portal was careful not to duplicate its geometry through its warping portals, but instead cleverly hiding the content you were scrambling through.
Although this new lasso mechanic is going for visual overkill to achieve the same mechanical result as the older one Portal games, but hey, it looks sick in action.
But the other half of R&C:RA‘s warping mechanic, through purple portals, is an absolute jaw-dropper in action. The demo sees the player fall through purple portals and float through a multidimensional chasm for up to 1.5 seconds at a time, after which a whole new level appears, complete with ridiculous draw distances, insane amounts of geometry and a dizzying number of animated characters. This content largely relies on the PlayStation 5’s solid-state drive technology, which Sony previously championed in terms of high levels of bandwidth.
The effect isn’t lightning fast, mind you, with those 1 or 1.5 second pauses between dimensions, but compared to the previous generation’s emphasis on hiding techniques like waiting in elevators, cornering or ducking-and-crawling through tight spaces. spaces, the result is an absolute generational leap. No, wait, that doesn’t sound big enough. It’s a generation rocket forward. I am absolutely impressed with how it looks in action (which you can see in an embedded video at the end of the article).
Clank your nail polish looks good buddy
The other PS5 difference comes in the form of two specific visual effects: ray tracing and particle effects. Rather than describe everything in detail here in this section, I suggest you read the captions above, which set out how each scene is rich in the kind of visual detail that can only work by leveraging next-gen console architecture. .
We’ll of course have to go hands-on with the game and analyze various moments, particularly zooming in on characters outside of the cutscenes, to see how often ray tracing is skipped in favor of cheaper tricks like screen space reflections and cube maps. But in one inner sequence in particular, we see the PS5 deliver a solid, albeit low-resolution version of apparent ray tracing, and it seems to pick up the geometry outside the screen to deliver a compelling reflection pipeline.
The obvious concession at this point is the demo’s inability to lock in at a 30fps refresh rate; after all, these kinds of effects are computationally expensive to render on high-end GPUs, even if they have ray tracing built into their architecture. [Update, August 28: After I originally suggested that “60fps is off the table,” Insomniac told R&C fans to expect an optional 60fps mode at a lower pixel resolution.] We’ll have to wait and see how Insomniac brings so much visual quality to the finish line, or if it offers fans options like resolution reduction or disabling ray tracing altogether. But if the developer can lock these effects down to at least a 30fps refresh, I agree that I’m accepting so much detail at the expense of animation speeds, as the results already look stunning.
Honestly, the whole thing makes me pray even harder that my PS5 pre-order registration was successful. And while we know the Xbox Series X is equipped to deliver similar effects (click here to learn more about XSX’s Velocity Architecture, for starters), we’d love to see similarly stunning results from that console’s upcoming games.
List image by Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment