How the Call of Duty: Vanguard beta addresses the cross-gen gap

How the Call of Duty: Vanguard beta addresses the cross-gen gap

How the Call of Duty

The transition between console generations is proving to be more extensive than many initially imagined, but how does an established franchise like Call of Duty fit into this scenario?

With Call Of Duty: Vanguard, Sledgehammer Games has the task of wowing the early adopters of the new generation as well as making sure that the new chapters of the series come out and in a valid way on PS4 and Xbox One.

This is a complicated proposition as developers cannot simply rely on the 30 / 60fps dividing factor between console generations, as seen in Halo Infinite (although Xbox One X managed to deliver 60fps in the last phase of testing), and basically there must be some parity in the graphics features, mainly to ensure fairness in online matches. Resolution, 120Hz support and other graphic enhancements therefore seem to be the differentiating elements between the old and the new consoles.

Obviously it is in the campaign that developers can really push the new consoles to the limits, but so far we have not seen a lot in this area, much less support for native next-gen apps for Warzone, so it's important to evaluate the multiplayer beta by contextualizing it. Basically, we went back to a COD game based on the Infinity Ward engine that worked beautifully for Modern Warfare 2019 (expect details on the evolution of this technology over the last few years soon).

From a content standpoint, you can expect 20-player maps at launch, with four of them being proposed for beta testing. The proposal consists of a snow-covered square in Stalingrad, a luxury Parisian hotel, a mountain retreat and a military base located in the Pacific. A new filter called 'combat pacing' has been added to matchmaking: it is a method of filtering games based on the specific knowledge of the single map.

Here's how everything discussed in this article translates into frames on the move.

Watch on YouTube. Speaking of improvements on PS5 and Xbox Series, we have 120Hz support on all three next-gen machines, although this comes at the price of a lower resolution. So far there is no sign of the ray traced shadows and reflections seen in Black Ops Cold War, which are currently handled in the canonical screen space method, so it will be interesting to see if that changes with the final release. Another extra that we find on next-gen is the on-demand streaming of textures. This promises higher-grade textures on PS5 and Series X, which are downloaded as you play to bring out the points of detail on each map. The extent of this technique's effectiveness is yet to be verified, but in addition to the resolution boost and smoother 60fps update, it aims to make selected points on the map look more beautiful.

Comparing the PS5 and PS4 Pro versions, the resolution boost is palpable: PS4 Pro renders at a target resolution of 1536p, with temporal reconstruction and dynamic resolution scaling in place to aid in performance. The PS5 version instead aims for full resolution 3840x2160p but appears to dynamically adjust the horizontal axis down to a minimum of 1920x2160. Overall, the PlayStation 5 version generates a much cleaner image thanks to an increase in vegetation density and render distance. In the context of the comparison between next-gen consoles, PS5 and Series X seem practically identical, while the Series S aims for a maximum of 1080p but with the horizontal axis that varies dynamically as well.

And what about the performance? PS4 Pro can struggle a lot to maintain 60fps, with dips in the beta found to be around 50fps especially towards the end of a match. On PS4 Pro, frame-rate seems to suffer particularly with physical interactions in large rooms like the hotel lobby, and when different bullet effects build up on walls and floors. The amount of environment destruction is a strength of Call Of Duty: Vanguard's multiplayer maps.

Physical interactions have an impact, so much so that maps like the hotel one become unrecognizable at the end of the game. The shattered walls, the unhinged doors and even the windows in the ceilings end up on the ground. The PS4 Pro version pays for all this with drops in performance, especially in maps that collect 48 players at the same time thanks to the combat pacing option set to maximum. Maintaining 60fps is not a problem on PS5, as on next-gen Xboxes. There are rare dips, single stuttering, but little stuff that doesn't compromise the gameplay.

A look back at how Warzone runs on PS5 and Xbox Seriers X, a game based on the same engine as Vanguard, namely IW8.

Watch on YouTube. The 120Hz mode isn't quite as stable at the moment, despite a limited target rendering of up to 1536p on PS5 and Series X. Smaller levels with fewer players inevitably perform better, as does the Hotel Royale map (although we did experience few dips. at 90fps when there are several physics-governed elements in the field of view). Large maps like Red Star and Gavutu with up to 48 players have the worst frame-rate, with dips to 80fps and 70fps on Series S.

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On Xbox Series X we have achieved similar results but there is a difference. The action is variable and therefore it is impossible to make mirror comparisons, but we can say that the Xbox consoles work differently since they use adaptive screen-tearing.

Tearing appears at the top of the screen when the engine is under load but at 120fps it's really hard to see with the naked eye. On Xbox, 120Hz performance is similar to PS5, with dips to 80fps and gameplay in the 100-120fps range. The advantage over Xbox is obviously the VRR which can intervene to make difficult situations smoother by increasing the frame-rate.

The final game will open the door to many more maps and campaign mode on November 5th. But at the moment the four maps offered in the beta offer us a good appetizer of what awaits us from the Sledgehammer game. Physics-driven destruction of environments seems to be the top priority in Vanguard, levels transform from start to finish in each game.

60fps is rock solid on next-gen consoles and is a huge upgrade over older generation consoles. The 120fps is not as stable as we would like but the biggest doubt concerns the innovations in multiplayer and in the campaign, after Black Ops Cold War and Modern Warfare 2019 have accustomed us to big surprises. We will be back with new reports as we get closer to the game's launch.

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