Performance Analysis: World of Tanks on PS4
Digital Foundry returns to the battlefield.
Provided you had 40GB of space going spare, the World of Tanks beta went live on PS4 last weekend, offering a trial of its 15v15 tank action. Technically, its engine shares an obvious common ground with the Xbox One version of last year. Both consoles use a revamped lighting model with high dynamic range, delivering a very different look to the PC original. PS4 also matches Xbox One for its nighttime battles and weather effects, which again, are not seen on the basic PC game.
The setup is simple enough: each console runs at a full 1080p, with 30fps as its refresh target, using full v-sync to keep tearing at bay. It's perhaps a shame PS4 doesn't aim for a 60fps target in this case, though we're at least seeing a diligent lock to 30fps that matches the Xbox One release. This isn't a deal-breaker either, given the emphasis on keeping terrain draw distances as far afield as possible. There's also a convincing sense of weight to the handling of each tank, even the adroit T1 Cunningham - a piece of hardware that rarely demands quick reactions to operate. Running at 30fps is a compromise then, but it doesn't hamper the ability to target an opponent as it might in a faster twitch shooter.
On certain maps, Xbox One suffered a few dips from its 30fps target in our original analysis, taking us down to 25fps in certain cases. The times have changed though, and fortunately this has been addressed, with gameplay running more consistently at 30fps across the board now. On the whole it's a very solid console conversion and this PS4 rendition - due for a full release later this year - already looks like it comes with a similar array of bells and whistles, plus a solid level of performance.
Based on the PS4 beta's generous suite of maps, ranging from an icy mountain setting to war-torn villages, we only see the rarest of drops from the 30fps performance target. At its worst, this manifests as a missed frame or two, usually followed by two unique frames - resulting in a perceptible, but very brief hitch. An internal logic is at play that restores the average to 30 frames per second should anything drop, meaning frame-times spike very occasionally to 16ms (and almost always after a drop to 66ms).
Fortunately these drops are uncommon, and World of Tanks gives a smooth 30fps in every other scenario. Asset streaming is the likeliest culprit of these one-off drops - particularly when roaming a map at speed, or first identifying an enemy across a ravine. However, the beta is otherwise nicely optimised for PS4, and you'll be hard pressed to catch such drops by eye. Nether alpha effects, nor CPU-side destruction physics give PS4 any apparent issues at their peak either - and when the action kicks off proper, performance holds as you'd hope in bigger 30 player skirmishes.
The draw distances on terrain is what impresses most, and at range, each map delivers a superb sense of scale. If you have a hankering for a slower-paced, free-to-play tactical shooter, the beta sampler suggests that World of Tanks is well worth a shot when the PS4 version launches, especially with a solid performance level already in the bag.