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Digital Foundry vs. Trine 2 on PlayStation 4

1080p60, stereo 3D, potentially even 4K - why the sky's the limit for the new version of Frozenbyte's puzzle-platformer.

It runs at native 1080p at 60 frames per second - but that's just the beginning of the story. Frozenbyte's impressive Trine 2 has migrated to PlayStation 4 in fine form - not only does it combine the optimal mix of resolution and frame-rate, but it's the only game to support stereoscopic 3D, running internally at an effective 1080p120 in the process. Indeed, according to the developer, Trine 2 could even hit 4K at 30fps should Sony ever unlock the output of the PS4 to support ultra-HD resolution.

As it stands, Trine 2 joins the PS4's indie launch line-up with the Complete Story edition of the game - a release that brings together the Goblin Menace expansion and the Dwarven Caverns level previously exclusive to the Wii U in one delightful package, designed to be the definitive version of the beautifully crafted puzzle-platformer on consoles.

As we've seen before with the impressive Wii U release, Frozenbyte has taken the time to enhance the title around the strengths of the target platform, so in addition to the 1080p60 and stereoscopic 3D support, there's also integration of the DualShock 4's touch pad for some of the title's core gameplay mechanics.

The developer's enthusiasm in customising the experience around specific features offered up by the different hardware platforms is noteworthy, while the graphical upgrade on offer puts the PS4 game firmly in line with the technically accomplished PC release. This is something demonstrated by our PS4 and PC head-to-head video below, where we can see how the crisp and clear native 1080p presentation reveals a level of detail in the artwork previously subdued on the current-generation systems, with the boost in pixel precision felt dramatically across the game.

Image quality in the PS4 release is generally excellent: the game sports a high-precision FXAA implementation that produces surprisingly clean images almost completely free of jaggies, except for some mild pixel crawl around the characters and the smallest details in the environments. The end result is that overall image quality manages to come close to matching the PC version - running here with FXAA and 4x super-sampling. Impressive stuff for a post-process edge-smoothing solution. The lack of sub-pixel detail in the beautiful artwork also helps in this regard, with few thin trips of geometry causing the usual issues.

"Frozenbyte's impressive Trine 2 has migrated to PlayStation 4 in fine form - not only does it combine the optimal mix of resolution and frame-rate, but it's the only game right now supporting stereoscopic 3D."

The new Trine 2: The Complete Story on PlayStation 4 compared against a maxed-out PC edition running at 1080p. Only the inclusion of super-sampling on PC opens up any kind of quality gap. Use the 1080p quality selection for best performance on this video.

Instead, the main difference between the two formats comes down to the mild texture blur on the PS4, which smooths over some high-frequency details compared to on PC, where the process of down-sampling from a higher resolution to 1080p preserves more information while delivering better anti-aliasing coverage across the scene. This minor nitpick aside, the artwork and effects rendering are identical between PC and PS4 releases, making for a spellbinding visual treat filled with multiple light sources, fog and physics-enhanced objects that help bring the vivid world to life.

The inclusion of true stereoscopic 3D in Trine 2 is also a nice touch, with the natural separation of layers creating a sense of realistic depth without resulting in the fake cardboard cut-out 'diorama' look found on some titles that use the effect as little more than an added checkbox feature. In Trine 2, stereo 3D genuinely immerses you more deeply into the game world, showing that this largely forgotten feature in video games is still a worthwhile inclusion if carefully implemented. Right now the only drawback is that the game is stuck running in 720p on the PS4 when in this mode, so we get 720p at 60FPS displayed in 3D. Meanwhile, the full fat 1080p60 stereoscopic presentation is available on PC.

However, according to Frozenbyte this is a limitation of the current PS4 firmware and not the actual game engine.

"We have to go by the 3D limitations at the moment - so the regular resolution is 1080p and 60fps, but in 3D the resolution gets dropped to 720p60," the developer posted on the PlayStation blog. "The game actually still runs at 1080p internally. So in the future the game may even automatically be able to run and output at 1080p60."

PlayStation 4
Trine 2's native 1080p presentation appears crisp and clean on both PS4 and PC. The style of the artwork allows for the use of FXAA on Sony's console to almost match the image quality found on the PC game, which in these shots is using 4x supersampling in combination with FXAA.

PlayStation 4
The artwork in Trine 2 is lush and beautiful to look at. The use of FXAA on the PS4 results in some mild texture blur not found on the PC release, but otherwise the two versions use the same high quality assets.

PlayStation 4
A multitude of lighting effects, smoke, particles, and physics-enhanced objects create an accomplished visual presentation across the PS4 and PC that breathes atmosphere and a sense of wonderment into Trine 2's varied landscapes.

PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4 3D
Trine 2 is upscaled very well to 1080p when played in 3D mode on the PS4, with the combined use of downsampling from 1080p internally to 720p in combination with FXAA producing smooth images that are virtually artefact-free when resized by our display.
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4 3D
According to Frozenbyte, Trine 2 features differences to shadows, post-processing effects and a dynamic implementation of anisotropic filtering when running in 3D mode. However, the differences are difficult to spot when playing the game.

So in terms of native 3D support in 1080p60, Trine 2 is effectively future-proofed, though it would require Sony to update the system firmware in order to allow this display mode on the PS4. One benefit of the current 720p situation is that you get improved anti-aliasing in the form of downsampling the 1080p image to 720p which, combined with FXAA, produces a very clean image that is upscaled very well by our display. The 1080p internal rendering resolution in 3D on the PS4 may also allow for another exciting possibility: the potential to render natively in 4K, although this does come with a few drawbacks, a point illustrated by Frozenbyte senior graphics programmer, Juha Hiekkamäki:

"I can't think why we technically couldn't support 3840x2160 mode at 30fps (with the stereo rendering quality). Increasing the resolution while rendering less often would end up to the same amount of pixels being rendered," he told us.

"Whether or not a 4K mode would otherwise make sense is another matter. Currently we render both normal and stereo mode in 1080p, and while close, they are not exactly identical in quality. There are some differences in rendering such as FXAA, shadows and some post-processing effects. Stereo mode also uses dynamic aniso setting in texture filtering - variable AF - which is scaled by previous frames' rendering time. Gameplay wise you'd also lose smoother 60fps controls."

Of course, with no 4K firmware support in PlayStation 4, the whole discussion remains firmly rooted in the theoretical, but consider this: 30fps is the same frame-rate as the last-gen console versions of Trine 2, but on top of that, we'd be seeing nine times the raw resolution. Impressive stuff.

Trine 2: performance analysis

So the PS4 version of Trine 2 steps up to the plate with a crisp 1080p presentation that stomps all over the 720p - and below - the current-gen console versions, but this is also backed up with a solid boost in frame-rate, with the game running twice as smoothly as on Wii U, PS3, and the Xbox 360.

A recap of our triple-format performance video below reveals that all three current-gen systems mostly deliver a solid 30fps throughout a general run of play, with the engine on the 360 and PS3 dynamically adjusting the framebuffer resolution to help preserve this level of smoothness on a near permanent basis. In fact, other than some brief pockets of tearing on Sony's system, all three manage to do this with ease. The Wii U confidently delivers a solid 30fps with resolution locked at 720p, which provides the best experience of the three.

"HDMI 1.4 stereo 3D is limited to 720p resolution, but Trine 2 renders internally at 1080p and still hands in a consistent 60fps update."

Trine 2 hands in flawless performance on PlayStation 4, whether you're playing in traditional 2D or stereoscopic 3D. Both display modes deliver a sustained 60 frames per second

On the PS4 Frozenbyte doesn't disappoint, with the game staying locked at 60fps while rendering natively at 1080p. Playing in 3D, the results are even more impressive, solidly maintaining a 60fps update, despite the doubling of pixels internally, plus the additional geometry processing required to support stereoscopy. The extra crispness in the controls and increased fluidity of the animation as a result of the higher frame-rate makes Trine 2 more enjoyable to play on the PS4, and even more stunning to look at when you see the beautiful effects work, physics and lighting in action. While these improvements won't come as a surprise to PC gamers, it's a captivating upgrade for those who prefer to play on consoles, easily making the PS4 version of Trine 2 worthy of a double dip for existing fans of the game.

Use of the DualShock 4's touch pad is scarce amongst the launch titles on the system, but Frozenbyte has fully integrated this element in a way that naturally enhances the puzzle-platform mechanics. For example, gently moving your finger across the touch pad allows you to manipulate objects and cast spells as Amadeus the wizard, deflect falling objects with your shield as Pontius the knight, or aim and shoot arrows as Sora the thief, more quickly than using the right analogue stick.

The system works very well alongside the traditional joypad controls, better replicating the speed and accuracy of a mouse or a capacitive touchscreen when performing certain actions. Traditional controls are also available on their own by default on the PS4 if you prefer them, although you can seamlessly switch between both options at any time without having to go through menus or selecting multiple control schemes.

"Revisiting last year's Trine 2 console Face-Off, Wii U took the honours - but the new PS4 version is on a whole new level."

This time last year we were comparing Trine 2 running on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. The Nintendo console got closest to the PC ideal, but was still limited to 720p30 - a far cry from the theoretical 1080p120 the PlayStation 4 is pumping out in stereo 3D mode.

Trine 2: The Complete Story on PS4 - the Digital Foundry verdict

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Frozenbyte's beautiful puzzle-based platformer when it appeared late last year on the Wii U, with the interesting physics-based gameplay mechanics and impressive rendering technology making it easy to become immersed in the vibrant and colourful world on display. However, with PS4, Frozenbyte has handed in the definitive console version of the game, with native 1080p visuals, 3D support and slick 60fps gameplay that is rarely achieved in the console space.

Sure, on a technical level this can be matched or even exceeded on the PC. But short of rendering in 4K resolution at 60fps, the differences are hardly mind-blowing - we're looking at a similarly impressive visual presentation in all areas bar raw image quality, backed up with the same smooth and responsive 60fps gameplay that just isn't possible on last-gen systems. Taken as a whole, the PS4 game is hard to beat.

Going forward, it's likely that we'll see the indie community play a greater role in defining the next generation of games, with interesting ideas and experimental gameplay enhanced by the extra power in tap in both Sony and Microsoft's fledgling consoles. With titles such as Hyper Light Drifter, Galak-Z: The Dimensional and Transistor on the horizon there's plenty of enticing content coming up away from the bombastic megabucks franchises that have dominated the PS4 and Xbox One launches. Trine 2 demonstrates that even without a colossal budget, indie games can still compete effectively on a technical level.

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David Bierton