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No You Can’t Build a PC capable of Rendering PS4 Level Graphics

By William Countiss

If I had a dollar for every time I read a comment from a PC gamer that extols the virtues of their thousand dollar rig, and how Sony is stupid for launching a system that is barely considered mid-range by today’s standards, I’d be a very rich man. Let us set the record straight right here and right now. No you cannot build a PC gaming rig which can do what the PS4 is shown doing with Killzone: Shadow Fall.

So lets compare PS4′s system specs to a mid range PC for a moment. 8 Gigabytes of DDR5 RAM may not sound like a lot to a PC gamer but considering most dedicated Graphics Cards currently don’t offer more than 6GB of DDR5 RAM should be telling. This shouldn’t be confused with system RAM which currently isn’t offered at a higher speed than DDR3. Fast Ram is nothing without a processor to take advantage of it. Many PC gamers like to focus on how the PS4 AMD processor’s 8 cores are slow with each clocking in at 1.6 GHZ. They completely ignore the fact that while processing speed is paramount to smooth frame rate and high resolution, it is the system architecture that ultimately will define the experience. The PS4 uses a custom SoC APU which PC gamers cannot even purchase. SoC means System on Chip and APU mean Advanced Processing Unit. A very simple explanation of how this new type of processor functions is that an APU is a combination of a GPU and a CPU put together on one chip. The CPU handles large complex tasks in order one after another while the GPU is adept at handling many smaller tasks simultaneously. By combining the two on one chip, the PS4 is capable of addressing that 8GB memory pool much quicker than even a high end PC can. Most PC gamers are unwilling to admit or simply don’t know that their rigs are not optimized to take advantage of 16 GB of system RAM and 6GB of GPU RAM that they proudly proclaim makes their machine superior for gaming. So much power is under utilized and rendered useless since PC games must be developed for the lowest common denominator. It seems to defy logic that a PC gamer can spend over $1,000 on a machine that essentially relies on brute force computing to achieve what the PS4 will be easily capable of with proper optimization and at a much lower price.

Since I mentioned Killzone: Shadow Fall earlier, lets have a look at what the PS4 is rendering in real-time. The first thing I noticed is the incredible draw distance. In the opening screen although we are seeing a fair amount of instanced geometry, you can’t help but marvel at how well the art direction works. The building reflectivity although faked looks fantastic. The distance fog is appropriately used and doesn’t appear to hide much for the sake of saving processor power.

I’ve read complaints that Killzone: SF looks blurry. A cinematic effect known as depth of field is being applied to the screen. This mimics the way the human eye focuses in on things directly in front of it while softening the focus of everything else. This effect combined with per object motion blur when a character or vehicle moves quickly past the frame and you can get a stylized somewhat blurry yet realistic looking game. Personally I think it looks fantastic.

The next thing I noticed were the beautiful volumetric clouds and (later on) explosion smoke plumes. The PS4 finally makes what was shown back in 2005 as the Killzone target render a reality.

In fact I was kind of hoping they would recreate that entire target render scene as a demonstration but in real-time just to show off the power of the PS4 since it would surely be indistinguishable from the original. You have to marvel at character geometry detail on display in this scene which shows every strap and cloth fold modeled and textured with incredible detail.

Lastly you I was blown away by the cracked pavement and rubble details throughout the playable portions of the game. You simply could not render this level of detail on the PS3 folks.

What is truly mind blowing is that rumor has it Guerrilla Games was unaware of the fact the PS4 would have its RAM capacity increased to 8 GB’s. Supposedly the Killzone: Shadow Fall demo maxes out at 1.5 GB of RAM. If that is in fact true then you can expect that if the amount of RAM GG is ultimately allowed to use doubles or even triples that number then we are in for even higher resolution textures, smooth gameplay, more particle simulations and geometry. I can’t wait to see what KZ: SF looks like at E3 this year. If this is Alpha gameplay then I can only imagine what the final game will look and play like.

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