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Riddick: Dark Athena Demo Analysis

Starbreeze Studios: if you’re reading this, we love you. The Darkness was the first Xbox 360 game we played that didn’t look like an Xbox 360 game. It was better than that, looking for all the world as though it was running on superior, more sophisticated hardware. Right now, Starbreeze is working on a new project based on the Bourne franchise, and thus we are officially in a state of almost sexual arousal.

But before Bourne, we have Riddick, and here’s our technical analysis of the recently released Xbox Live demo. Yup, the beautiful engine that powered The Darkness is back, and although the sampler is but a mere taster, there’s plenty of technical stuff we can comment on. So, with thanks to Alex Goh, here’s the full-on deconstruction of a complete playthrough of the Riddick demo, complete with frame rate analysis.

Riddick tech analysis, with annotations from Alex Goh.

As you would expect from Starbreeze, what we have here is an extremely polished game. Full 720p and the 360’s maximum 4x MSAA. By and larger, frame rate is a smooth 30FPS, but what is interesting is the circumstances in which the refresh rate drops. It only really seems to happen when both tone-mapping and motion blur are in effect, so it’s most obvious when you’re spinning around quickly in certain environments. In situations where only one of these effects is in play, there’s no discernable impact in performance.

A lot of the small dips in the graph come from loading, where the screen blacks out. Frame rate detection works on the principle of counting duplicate frames and one black frame is identical to another. That being the case, ignore any of those you see as ‘false positives’. Overall then, we’re excited about this game. It looks good, it feels good, and just like The Darkness, it feels like a generation beyond most other first person shooters: classic Starbreeze. What will be interesting will be the performance of the PS3 version - so far unseen. The Darkness was compromised on PS3 in many ways - resolution, texture quality and lighting - so it will be intriguing to see what improvements Starbreeze has made to its tech since its last game shipped.

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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