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Division 2’s next generation upgrade is impressive



On the front page, Division 2’s upgrade for the next generation of consoles will be quite easy to describe, with completely predictable results. Like titles like God of War and Days Gone, the latest generation code base is updated with the game aware that it is running on new hardware, and unlocks the frame rate in the process. The end result should be a limited 30 fps experience that now runs at 60 frames per second – or close to it – with little or nothing else changed in the process. It̵

7;s effectively what you get on the Xbox Series X, but something’s definitely wrong with the PS5 build, which lacks important graphics effects – visual features not only present on Xbox consoles, but also on the PS4 Pro.

But still, the headline is that all versions now run at 60 frames per second, lifting 30 frames per second from the last generation experience. Of course, it feels much smoother, transformative for a third-person shooter, and there are improvements in load times as well – plus improved texture filtering on Xbox series consoles. In terms of resolutions, Division 2 retains the game’s impressive temporal reconstruction technique, which means we had to jump through the hoops somewhat to discern the actual native number of pixels. Dynamic resolution is in play on all systems, which means that the 60fps action comes with a resolution range of 900p to 1080p on the Xbox Series S, rising to an 1800p-2160p range on the Series X. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 5 operates with a lot wider range – 1080p is apparently the lowest recording, rising to a maximum of 1890p.

Graphics settings on the Xbox consoles seem to be closely related to the latest generation Xbox One X, but the transition to solid state storage and improved CPUs increases the efficiency of the background power systems, with texture and geometry pop-in minimized to some extent – good stuff! In fact, Xbox Series consoles essentially get the game-changing boost in frame rate that is marred by additional visual enhancements, mainly provided by system-level back-compatible feature sets and raw horsepower from the new hardware.

Division 2’s next generation upgrade is the latest title to be tested by the Digital Foundry team.

It is when we look at PlayStation 5 more specifically that the situation takes a turn for the stranger. Whether there are issues in the cross-platform SDK or just errors that somehow made it through QA, it’s clear that this rendering of the game is not quite where it should be. Simply put, we see a regression in visual features present on the Xbox consoles – and crucially, these visual effects are even still present on the PS4 Pro, which runs on the same code base. The most dramatic change is the total omission of volumetric lighting and atmospheric reproduction: the fog effect flowing from lamps is removed on the PS5, something the Snowdrop engine is known for showing off. Smoke mist is missing. Interiors also lose volumetric lighting. PS5 is now a 60fps game, but you lose a lot of the atmosphere, and it’s hard to believe that this is a deliberate effect.

Not as important for the presentation, but still remarkable, is the fact that screen space reflections are also missing on the PlayStation 5. Again, they are present on the PlayStation 4 Pro and the other systems. Instead, you see only simple and static cube map effects – usually only reflections for reflections when screen space data is not available. The latest mystery is loading times – we get a dramatic improvement on the Xbox series consoles compared to the Xbox One X, but oddly enough, the PS5 lags a few seconds behind other next-generation computers when you load the same content. This is a bit of a mystery, because the Sony console is usually level or at least faster.

The good news is that the update at 60 frames per second is well met on all systems, and perhaps due to the slightly lower resolution and the paired back effects, the PlayStation 5 sticks hard to its performance target of 60 frames per second. Meanwhile, it seems that Xbox Series X and Series S consoles drop some frames when there are a lot of transparency effects working on the screen. The Junior Series S has a third of the total computing power, which is responsible for only a quarter of the Series X’s target resolution, so this means that the lower specification box can deliver a more even level of performance in general than the big brother, but there is not much in it really.

All in all, the 60 fps experience is excellent, and in common with similar next-generation updates, it’s hard to go back. It’s an easy way to harness horsepower for the new machines, but it’s also the most potent upgrade Ubisoft could have delivered. If you’ve upgraded to the new consoles and you own the game, we strongly recommend checking it out – but let’s hope Ubisoft can look at the PS5 issues and restore the full range of effects in the game.




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