Announced several months ago, the next generation upgrade for Marvel's Avengers lands today and Digital Foundry had the opportunity to check out the campaign element on PlayStation 5 in a near-final build - and the results are impressive. Developer Nixxes delivers a 60fps performance mode with improved graphics compared to PlayStation 4 Pro, upping the ante for the next-gen quality mode, and utilising the new console's advanced storage capabilities to provide a revelatory improvement in loading times.
Showing is perhaps better than telling, so I'd recommend digging into the video embedded below, but the bottom line is that the performance mode is arguably the best way to play. Just like PS4 Pro, it's running at 2160p checkerboard with a dynamic resolution window that extends as far as it needs to in order to sustain the crucial 60fps target. Essentially, the more mayhem you unleash, the lower typical resolution is likely to be - expect values in the 1800p range in the heat of the action, dropping to 1440p when all hell truly breaks loose.
Regardless, there are visual improvements on top of the frame-rate boost if you compare the game running up against PS4 Pro's quality mode. This starts with significantly superior texture assets on PS5, along with a mild boost to texture filtering quality and a more dramatic speed-up in texture streaming. Particle effects and alpha transparencies also operate at a significantly higher resolution up against Pro at its best, which adds a great deal to the look of the game bearing in mind how omni-present these elements are. On top of that, water rendering also gets a significant boost - the flat plane effect on last-gen water is replaced with a proper geometric surface with undulation and deformation on PS5.
It's not a complete improvement in all areas though - that's reserved for the next-gen quality mode. So, shadow quality remains mostly unchanged and post-processing quality on elements such as depth of field and motion blur is also much as it was on PS4 Pro. But the point is that 60 frames per second is promised and aside from some minor blips, that is what is delivered for the most part, with only the most intense destruction seeing any kind of fleeting frame-rate hit during gameplay. Yes, there's also a performance mode on the last-gen machines, but resolution is low and there's a sometimes crippling CPU limitation - PlayStation 5 looks good and runs great, certainly in the campaign we tested thoroughly (we'll return to the online component when it's up and running).
The quality mode removes checkerboard rendering in favour of native rendering, aiming to deliver a 4K30 presentation, but again, the title leans into dynamic resolution to ensure that frame-rate is rock solid - and it is, as I discovered over hours of play. DRS changes are minimal to the point where an almost unnoticeable 2088p was the lowest pixel count I could find. Beyond switching to native resolution rendering and running with a much tighter DRS window, the quality mode ups shadow quality and filtering significantly, adds screen-space shadows for extra depth and improves the quality of screen-space reflections. View distance improvements are also made; these were subtle where I could spot them, but welcome nonetheless. The final improvement to the quality mode is my favourite: improved destruction effects. Particle effects are improved, debris is more dense and less prone to disappearing into the ether, while physics are applied too. It makes those impressive Hulk rampages even more of an event.
In summary, what we've played of Marvel's Avengers so far on PS5 is impressive - and aside from the huge improvements to both quality and performance modes, the loading times also deserve mention as Nixxes really is tapping into the software APIs here, not just relying on the basic hardware upgrade. In just one example, a four-second load on PlayStation 5 takes one minute and two seconds on PlayStation 4 Pro - an astonishing boost. This is the kind of improvement we really wanted to see and it's remarkable to see the side-by-sides play out.
We've still got to put the online component through its paces, and we're also keen on examining the new Xbox versions. Our understanding is that native resolution rendering replaces checkerboarding on the Series X performance mode, with the 4K60 target dropping to 4K30 on the quality mode. Meanwhile, on Series S, 1440p30 is the aim for the higher fidelity mode, dropping to 1080p for the 60fps performance alternative. Naturally, expect dynamic resolution scaling to be in play on Xbox systems too, which will be fascinating to stack up against the checkerboard rendering on PS5. We're also told that Nixxes taps into the new DirectStorage API, so we should also see some impressive loading time improvements on Xbox consoles too. We'll be looking at the Series versions of the game as soon as we can.
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