Alien: Isolation, the PC Advantage

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AMD has recently joined forces with Creative Assembly to bring PC gamers the definitive Alien: Isolation experience. The PC version offers native support for AMD Eyefinity, 4K Ultra HD, AMD Crossfire and a plethora of DirectX 11 effects specifically fine-tuned for the Graphics Core Next architecture in AMD’s new GPUs and processors. What does this mean for the game? Better textures, higher framerate, better lighting, enhanced shadows, better anti-aliasing...the list goes on. I recently reviewed Alien: Isolation on the Playstation 4, and while my score was a high 9/10, the console’s technical shortcomings hurt the overall playthrough on more than a few occasions. 

The differences are immediately apparent. The constant stuttering during cutscenes is one of the biggest problems on both Sony’s and Microsoft's consoles. Despite the considerably consistent frame rate, the cinematics stutter whenever figures move onscreen, which completely ruins the beautifully rendered character models. While Creative Assembly is aware of the issue and are currently working on a solution, the PC version is flawlessly smooth. There appears to be less compression too, which makes the cutscenes look more consistent with in-game graphics. 


"Notice how the smoke receives correct lighting on the right and the particles remain unlit on the left?"

Alien: Isolation is all about atmosphere and the game’s lighting is one of the most essential elements. While both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions are undoubtedly beautiful, Alien: Isolation on PC adds a level of realism only attainable with more powerful hardware. As a result, more complex lighting sources can be rendered in a single scene without significantly impacting performance. Creative Assembly’s lighting model is truly impressive as it not only illuminates solid objects in a scene, but translucent things like smoke and mist as demonstrated in the screenshot above. Notice how the smoke receives correct lighting on the right and the particles remain unlit on the left? The AMD-developed HDAO+ technique adds further depth by calculating shadows that are created when light hits cracks throughout each scene.


"Gorgeous lighting aside, the PC has the advantage of improved anti-aliasing and GPU-accelerated particles."

To further enhance the game’s atmosphere, Creative Assembly used AMD’s “contact hardening shadow” technology to dynamically soften or harden shadow edges based on their distance from the objects casting the shadows and the light source (see above). Gorgeous lighting aside, the PC has the advantage of improved anti-aliasing and GPU-accelerated particles. The console versions suffer from distracting shimmering effects when moving around and certain objects exhibit ugly staircasing effects that aren’t present when playing on the PC. 


"Backed by real physics simulation calculated on an AMD Radeon graphics card, the embers realistically fill the air when action breaks loose."

Since fire plays a big part in Alien: Isolation, enhanced particle effects breathe new life into the otherwise dark space station when the flamethrower or molotov cocktails are used. Backed by real physics simulation calculated on an AMD Radeon graphics card, the embers realistically fill the air when action breaks loose. Both consoles do a good job of emulating fire, but the immaculate authenticity of AMD’s DirectCompute is hard to replicate with inferior hardware. As with most PC vs console analyses, the overall frame rate performance is one of the most imperative factors in FPS titles. Whether the gameplay is slow-paced or fast-paced, 30 fps judder is a distraction regardless of movement speed. Because Alien: Isolation is an AMD Evolved title, AMD Radeon GPUs come out surprisingly strong when stacked against the competition, which results in smoother, more immersive gameplay. As presented by the chart below, The AMD Radeon R9 280X can hit a solid 60 fps at 1440p with ultra quality settings. Then there are the higher resolution textures and improved tessellation. Objects, characters and the environments are not only sharper and cleaner, they have added depth and feel more three dimensional.


I’m usually not the type of person who gets involved in PC vs console arguments, but every once in a while a game comes along that exhibits such impressive improvements on the PC, it’s difficult to recommend a console port. Alien: Isolation is the kind of game that must be played on PC for a truly authentic and flawless experience. Alien: Isolation is not only the best Alien game to date, it’s the finest survival horror title since the original Silent Hill and Dead Space, and the PC advantages are impossible to ignore. 

Article by: Tin Salamunic

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