Traditionally, the cross-gen duration – the uncomfortable shift from one set of consoles to the next – hasn’t actually exercised. There’s the sense that the next-gen variations aren’t always whatever they might be, while the software application provided to owners of the older consoles frequently bordered on the unplayable. But as relocation from PS4 to PS5, from Xbox One to Xbox Series, it’s clear that we’re seeing something extremely various this time around. IO Interactive’s Hitman 3 programs that cross-gen can in fact exercise simply great, and there’s the sensation that prior generation consoles are being pressed closer to their supreme limitations, while concurrently, enormous gains are accomplished when using PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Of course, Hitman 3 is a video game with extra interest for us, since IO’s exceptional Glacier Engine has actually developed, bringing excellent brand-new functions into the innovation – while at the very same time back-porting those developments to the whole of the Hitman trilogy. It’s to IO’s credit that with each Hitman release, and with each version of Glacier, existing material has actually been ported to the current video game, gaining from the engine upgrades. It’s two times as helpful for Hitman 3 used a next-gen console since the standard enhancements are so extensive, it’s successfully both a brand-new video game and a next-gen remaster of the older releases.
So how has Glacier proceeded? The brand-new maps are really reliable displays for a few of the brand-new innovation and the preliminary Dubai objective is a gorgeous launching for a variety of results – primary among them the arrival of an exceptional application of screen-space reflections. The environment is loaded with reflective surface areas consisting of metal and glass, provided in a vibrantly lit way that would make flaws apparent, while Hitman continues to look beautiful. Of course, there are limitations to SSR – off-screen information can never ever be shown – however Glacier has some intriguing techniques up its sleeve for boosting the impact. So, for instance, the video game’s signature crowds are shown too, however it appears that these are 2D-sprite like ‘imposters’ to minimize processing resources, while still looking extremely reliable.
All of this is accomplished by building on the existing Glacier tech, so SSR is boosted with pleasing cubemaps (fixed light probes with textured surface areas that can be utilized to imitate reflections) together with the render-to-texture function that debuted in Hitman 2. Here, the scene is successfully rendered two times, the secondary perspective mapped to a texture to provide a ‘correct’ reflection. It’s heavy on resources, it requires to be used moderately and normally it just deals with flat, mirror-like surface areas – however most importantly, it looks excellent. In time we had actually want to see complete ray tracing options, however for now, it works – and it deals with all supported consoles.
If we avoid ahead to a later objective, we’re dealt with to another aesthetically striking situation – a rainy Chinese city during the night. This map showcases another brand-new string to Glacier’s bow through the simulation of rain and damp surface areas. Raindrops reasonably play off 47’s coat while a great bead impact is crafted to represent puddles. When you make your method to the phase’s primary street, the mix of reflections and neon indications provides a dark environment not unlike Hitman Contracts – the initial 3rd Hitman video game. It’s dark, stunning and actually showcases the engine in a brand-new light.
It’s likewise intriguing to see how the brand-new additions to the Glacier Engine feed back into the tradition Hitman material. The traditional Paris phase from the initial Hitman still looks terrific to this day, however the marble floor covering impact now gains from the brand-new SSR pass – and the material handles to run much better than the initial video game on Series X running under in reverse compatibility. It likewise looks as though IO has actually reviewed the manner in which trees and foliage are rendered. I’m not exactly sure there’s in fact much in the method of enhancement as such (a minimum of on the older maps) however it’s certainly a modification there. Other distinctions are less extensive, however reveal an eye for information – a fixed drape might now have fabric physics animation, for instance.
Overall though, it’s the retrofitting of screen-space reflections that shows the biggest change – that, and performance of course. On the vanilla last-gen machines, Hitman titles could be run capped to 30fps or unlocked, while Xbox One X also benefitted from 4K quality and 1440p performance modes. In the shift to Hitman 3, all last-gen machines are capped at 30fps and there are no quality and performance modes (bar one exception, which I’ll address shortly). On the one hand, Hitman 3 possesses engine upgrades and ambitions in the content that justify the limitations. On the other, Xbox One X owners in particular may prefer to retain Hitman 2 for its ability to access legacy missions at frame-rates above 30fps.
The outlier here is PS4 Pro, which curiously offers both 1440p30 and 1080p60 modes. We tried the latter on the initial Dubai stage and found that while it wasn’t as smooth and consistent as Xbox Series S’s 1080p60 output (though curiously, shadow quality is higher), it was close enough to 60fps to make it the preferable way to play on last-gen PS4 systems. PlayStation owners also get the chance to play every mission from the entire trilogy in VR too. The compromises are self-evident, however it works. It’s just a shame that to access VR on PlayStation 5, you need to run the PS4 code, doubling up on installs. It’s unfortunate but it’s the way that Sony chooses to set up the system, and there’s nothing IO could really do here.
All of which leads us on to the actual next-gen difference – why we prefer to play Hitman 3 on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. First of all, the bump up to full 4K (or 1800p, in the case of PS5) definitely plays a role. In the past we’ve talked about how image reconstruction techniques and dynamic resolution scaling make the need to deliver 8.3m pixels per frame less of a necessity, and that’s definitely the case – especially in the age of temporal anti-aliasing. However, the Glacier Engine concentrates on delivering a pristine presentation that does not rely so heavily on heavy post-processing or temporal accumulation techniques to achieve its goals. Hitman 3 focuses on clean lines and well-defined spaces, where a higher resolution definitely helps. This requires brute force horsepower and that’s what the new consoles deliver. Then there’s the 60 frames per second update rate, and the way that a nigh-on unwavering 60fps adds further to the pristine presentation.
Beyond that, Hitman 3 focuses on refinement. Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 have access to more system memory that any of their last-gen counterparts, so the equivalent of PC’s ultra level textures are deployed. This is supplemented with a move to 8x anisotropic filtering, which is a nice step up from the 4x seen on the last-gen versions of the game. Shadow quality is also improved, specifically on Xbox Series X, which stands alone from all the console versions in matching PC’s high preset.
And in summary, that’s why Hitman 3 works as a cross-gen title. Unlike the messy transition periods we’ve seen in the past, there are still enhancements delivered for the last-gen consoles and while we’ve lost the unlocked frame-rate on most of the older systems, efficiency is still consistent overall. I am baffled as to why Xbox One X owners don’t get access to an opened frame-rate mode (on paper, it should run even better than PS4 Pro) but ultimately I don’t feel like last-gen users get shortchanged. Meanwhile, it’s clear that next-gen consoles get a more refined, smoother and prettier experience – even if there is the sense that Hitman 3 isn’t specifically targeting the capabilities of the new hardware. But when a game looks as good as this, runs as well as this and features some superb new missions, it’s difficult to complain.
And there is one more aspect I’d like to highlight – loading times. We talked about this a touch in our platform comparison piece, but we’re looking at sub-ten second loading times for all missions. In one specific case, a circa ten second mission load on Series X can take around 59 seconds on One X – and in terms of overall quality of life, that’s an extreme upgrade that’s well worth having, especially when it comes to reloading after death. It’s the final coat of polish on what is already a gleaming package for next-gen users. Hitman 3 works for me on all the consoles I tested it on, but Series X and PS5 in specific are a class apart by practically every quantifiable metric.