Control Ultimate Edition - this is how the next-gen transforms a classic

Control Ultimate Edition - this is how the next-gen transforms a classic
Control has a special place at the heart of Digital Foundry. Not only is it one of the best games of 2019, but the revision of the Northlight graphics engine is capable of bringing truly spectacular images to the screen, flanked by one of the best successful implementations of ray tracing on the market. Remedy managed to run the title (without RT of course) on last-gen, but now owners of the Xbox Series and PlayStation 5 can test the graphics engine, with respectable results.

As revealed directly by Remedy, the base improvements are identical on PS5 and Xbox Series X: 1440p and temporal upsampling up to 4K. As is often the case, we are asked to choose between two graphics modes: one with the cap at 30fps but with RT reflections, and one at 60fps, but without RT. Microsoft's small next-gen, Series S, doesn't offer ray tracing, so we're limited to performance mode (native at 900p, with 1080p output). Dynamic resolution is not featured in any of the versions.

Before we dive into the numbers, though, it's important to remember why Control is such a relevant game. If we go back to 2019, we see how the Remedy work was particularly ahead of its time both in terms of rendering and in terms of gameplay. Even putting ray tracing aside, Control really does a lot of stuff behind the scenes. Take the environment destruction system, for example, where virtually any object can be torn apart, and then think about how many of those objects are in each scene. Each firefight becomes a physics show. And then there's the fluid simulation used for the reddish energy, which ripples in a dance of color and waves as enemies pass through.

Everything you need to know about Control Ultimate Edition, with a focus on PlayStation 5.

Watch on YouTube. Even where ray tracing is not supported by hardware, Control uses a software version of it on all systems: when the data to generate standard screen-space reflections is not enough, further reflections are generated by a ray tracing calculated in a simplified version of the scene. It's a technology you don't often see on last-gen after its debut on PS4 Pro and One X, and that still squeezed Jaguar CPU cores over the limit, judging by the impact it had on performance despite the various patch.

On next-gen, PS5 generates 1.8 times more pixels than PS4 Pro in both modes, as does Series X. We imagine there is some doubt as to which mode to prefer between RT and 60fps, and the simple answer is that the increased frame-rate really makes a difference given the high rates the action can achieve. That said, both modes offer tangible improvements: Loads are so fast that the PS5 can even beat a Core i9 10900K paired with a 3.5GB / s NVMe SSD. Really a drastic improvement over the last-gen.

We'll talk about performance in detail in another article, also because for now we have played on PS5 with the patch from day one installed, while on Xbox Series we are stuck to the code gold, without patch. On PlayStation 5, the 60fps mode is solid most of the time, with only the occasional slowdown during the heavier fights when the screen fills up with heavy effects to handle. RT mode at 30fps is even more solid with minimal and sporadic smearing. The situation on the Xbox Series is similar, but there seems to be some stutter here and there, as seen on last-gen and PC, but we'll talk about it during the detailed analysis.

The differences in resolution and ray tracing are evident. The differences in resolution and ray tracing are evident. The differences in resolution and ray tracing are evident. Like on PC, ray traced reflections make a difference on the realism front. Usually, the PlayStation 5 uses the lowest possible, or even lower, settings likely to maintain frame-rate and resolution. PlayStation 5 uses mid-resolution checkerboard reflections to save money. While it's true that games are best played at 60fps, it's also true that the 30fps mode with ray tracing on is spectacular. On the new consoles we do not arrive at the same quality as RT that can be seen on PC but, especially on opaque surfaces such as marble and metals, we are on excellent levels, as well as the reflections on transparent surfaces are defended more than well. You can check out the video above for a detailed look at the benefits hardware accelerated ray tracing brings to games. In short, it's about greater precision, accuracy and, often, effects capable of giving new life to images. In short, the choices of materials and design of Control seem to be made on purpose to make the most of this technology. Thanks to the greater details of the settings, and the refinements of even the smallest objects, the 30fps RT mode still knows how to be appreciated.

One of the most noticeable aspects of ray traced reflections on PS5 is the impact they have on image stability. When playing in third person it often happens that your avatar occupies an important portion of the screen, so the screen-space reflections are affected: the character simply takes up too much screen, generating visible artifacts. When playing in quality mode with the RT, this is clearly not the case. The 30fps cap may be a bit too much to swallow for some players, so the hope is to see a 60fps RT mode in the future, perhaps with some sacrifices on the resolution front. To say, the drop to 900p on Series S obviously shows, but it could be worth it if balanced by RT and frame-rate.

At this point you will have realized that Control Ultimate Edition on PS5 is simply excellent. Whether you're aiming for 30fps or 60fps ray tracing, you'll get closer to Remedy's vision. The only superior version is clearly the PC version, as long as you have updated hardware. An Nvidia RTX allows for more RT effects, more precise rasterization, and one of the best implementations of DLSS AI upscaling, which actually opens the door to gaming at 4K 60fps RT starting with the RTX 2080 Ti. By lowering the resolution, even older cards provide a great experience.

Our video on the PC version of Control. Since then, DLSS 2.0 has improved so much that artificial upscaling can surpass native rendering.

Watch on YouTube. In the video above you can see how the next-gen versions fare compared to the PC version, although there are some important differences to note, due to the version of the Northlight engine in action on consoles. On the ray tracing front we have said that ray tracing is implemented in a checkerboard pattern, while on that of the LOD, the impression is that the settings are also lower than the lowest level available on PC. Nothing to spoil the experience, mind you, but still noteworthy.

The arrival of Control on the next-gen definitely convinces, it is clearly a significant step forward compared to the last-gen versions, easily surpassing even PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. The ray tracing is beautiful, while the 60fps they take the experience to another level. We are also pleased to see these improvements working on the S Series too, despite its positioning as a budget machine. Remedy has already said that this is just the beginning of their next-gen adventure, and that we should expect a lot of news in the future. If we were to use what the team did on last-gen as a yardstick, the mere thought makes your mouth water. As soon as possible we will prepare an in-depth performance analysis on next-gen, but right now (playing the updated version only on PS5) we think that having this game for free on PlayStation Plus is among the best offers ever seen on the Sony service.

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