EA’s Ignite and Frostbite 3 game engines benefit from new console hardware

This might not be news to you, but your PS3 and Xbox 360 are old. Nobody’s looking to unnecessarily remind you of this fact more than Electronic Arts. The marketing of the next-gen versions of FIFA 14, Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed: Rivals take a heavy PS4 or Xbox One-shaped blunt object to your noggin, telling you the way it is. “You haven’t played our games until you’ve played them on a next generation console” is the loud message. Or more accurately, “You haven’t played FIFA 14 until you’ve played it on a next generation console. The other two, you can play on a PC” is more accurate, from an objective-observer point of view. But in the end, there’s no doubt that EA’s game engines are different beasts when not constrained by the hardware limitations of the previous generation of consoles.

Playing with fire

‘Ignite’. If there ever was a reason to play the unwitting role of early adopter in this video game charade, this is it. Exclusive first-party games aside, EA’s new sports game engine is exclusive to next gen. Be it clever marketing gimmick or the most evolved AI engine ever created, Ignite makes a difference from a visual and experiential standpoint. The idea behind ignite was to have in-game athletes think, react, move and behave like their real-world counterparts based on game situations and the environment. The additional processing capability of Sony’s and Microsoft’s consoles makes all of this possible. More than simply running smoothly at a gorgeous 1080p, the next-gen FIFA 14 experience (I got my hands-on with it on a PS4) is simply unparalleled.

After only a couple of matches, there wasn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that this was the definitive version of the game — infinitely more stable, better looking, more responsive, and simply beautiful. Animations and player collisions almost have the air of believability unlike other iterations, production and presentation quality has been turned up to eleven (the game features fully rendered 3D crowds, albeit with inferior model quality when compared to the players) — the stadiums look as good as they do in real life. Whether or not the much-touted ‘Pro Instincts’ feature brings about a drastic change in on-pitch player reactions and behaviour, I don’t know, but the generally sluggish response times (from controller movement to player reaction) have been all but eliminated. Comical clashes between players are minimised as well — AI players almost seem ‘aware’ of their position with respect to other players on the pitch, with collisions few and far between, and there’s the odd attempt made by players to actively avoid tackles, or in worst-case-scenarios, brace for impact. The standing tackle button is now all but useless, save for in the direst of circumstances, as defenders are able to win the ball back by sheer force of movement and clever positioning. If not in a deliberate attempt, EA has managed to imbue a game of FIFA 14 (on the PS4 and Xbox One) with the qualities, particularly the ebb and flow, of a real football match. There’s no question that Ignite had made this a better game in every respect.

Frostbite

Like the previous generation version of FIFA, Battlefield 4 and NFS: Rivals were ‘inferior’ PS3 and Xbox 360 titles. Running at low resolutions and stripped of a lot of visual fidelity, forced 30fps frame rate cap, physics effects, and in Battlefield 4’s case, a reduced maximum multiplayer limit, the only saving grace for older console owners was the optional upgrade option to the PS4 and Xbox One. Again, there’s no doubt that the next-gen versions are better, and in Battlefield 4’s particular case, the game is almost comparable to the PC version (running on midrange hardware). The game is up-scaled to 1080p from 1600x900, runs at 60 frames and looks great on a large HDTV. NFS: Rivals is powered by the same Frostbite 3 engine that is behind Battlefield 4’s magic, but the strange 30fps cap that plagued other versions still appears to be in place. The resolution and visual fidelity of the PS4 version, however, still put the next-gen versions way ahead of the PS3 and Xbox 360.

If you own a powerful PC, perhaps Rivals and Battlefield 4 are better experienced on it — Rivals’ frame rate cap, for instance can be bypassed with a patch and BF4’s graphics settings are extremely scalable. But if you own older console versions, enjoy either of those games and have just picked up a new PS4, upgrading is a no-brainer. FIFA 14 next-gen, on the other hand, is in a league of its own. All three games are currently available for the Playstation 4 in India.