Well worth seeing underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4

October 2020 is turning into a blissful month for amateur pilots. Shortly after Star Wars Squadrons and many years after the successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015, the Aquanox remake called Aquanox Deep Descent is finally ready. If you just shrug your shoulders, you may be too young: The starting shot for the Aquanox series was given with the game Schleichfahrt from 1996, followed by Aquanox in 2001 and Aquanox 2: Revelation in 2003. The colleagues at PC Games had one for this last year interesting review formulated. All titles are vehicle-based shooters set in a dystopian future in which humanity had to flee from the surface of the earth and live in underwater stations in the oceans. The Aquanox games were known, among other things, for their progressive, high-impact graphics based on the KRASS engine (the German origin of the developers is obvious), which also explains their use in the popular Aquamark benchmarks.

The Aquanox Deep Descent, financed by Kickstarter, was developed by the young developer Digital Arrow. This is the first major project by the team based in Novi Sad, Serbia. Aquanox Deep Descent is also a reboot, so prior knowledge of the story and game world is not required.






Aquanox Deep Descent in the technical test: Underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4 worth seeing (Pictures: 4K-DCI downsampled @ 1440p) (3)

Quelle: PC Games Hardware




The world of Aquanox is a desolate one – wars, destruction and the exploitation of resources have made the surface of the earth uninhabitable. The rich and powerful have saved themselves in the depths of the seas, but greed, delusions of destruction and misbelief accompanied the meager rest of humanity and soon let them disintegrate into warring factions. You take on the role of Kaelen, who, together with three companions, wakes up from the cold sleep at the beginning of the game and, like you, as a player, is practically born into the post-apocalyptic world of Aquanox and is immediately confronted with its dangers. Your companions are controlled by the AI, but if you wish, you can also dive with up to three friends in the Coop.




Aquanox Deep Descent in the technical test: Worth seeing underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4 (Pictures: 4K-DCI downsampled @ 1440p) (16)



Aquanox Deep Descent in the technical test: Worth seeing underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4 (Pictures: 4K-DCI downsampled @ 1440p) (16)

Quelle: PC Games Hardware




While there are often larger areas to explore, most of the environments in Aquanox Deep Descent are quite small and limited by the rocky walls of underwater canyons and caves, or by walls of sunken buildings or rusty industrial facilities. Due to this level design, Aquanox is often more reminiscent of the classic Descent or a 360 ° ego shooter than of space action such as Star Wars Squadrons. Even if Aquanox shows a somewhat more distant relationship to the latter in terms of design, the underwater action differs noticeably from floating around freely in space, not least because of the higher inertia of the medium water through which we drift with our small submarines despite the underwater scenario quite terrestrial environments. The orientation of our boat is always based on the seabed, which means that Aquanox Deep Descent is sometimes more reminiscent of a first-person shooter with a floating protagonist than of a 360 ° simulation. You can read a test with detailed treatises on gameplay from our colleagues at PC Games.

Aquanox Deep Descent in the technology test: technology

In 2001 Aquanox was one of the first games to showcase the possibilities of pixel shading. The second part was even the first game – or at least one of the first – to receive support for Direct X 9 and Pixel Shader 2.0 a few months after it was released. The game world showed off a fantastic surface display, dense particle plankton and, at the time, very impressive caustics and lightshafts that shone down through the sea surface into the gloomy water. The in-house Krass engine used in Aquanox and Aquanox 2 Revelation was also used in the first Spellforce and delighted many players with the very effective and polygonal graphics for the time.




Aquanox Deep Descent in the technology test: Underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4 worth seeing (Pictures: 4K-DCI downsampled @ 1440p) (20)



Aquanox Deep Descent in the technology test: Underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4 worth seeing (Pictures: 4K-DCI downsampled @ 1440p) (20)

Quelle: PC Games Hardware




Aquanox Deep Descent (buy now ) however, relies on the Unreal Engine. At the beginning of the development and conceptual design of a prototype for the Crowdfunding via Kickstarter, among others Unreal Engine 3 was used, and we were able to examine such a demo at Gamescom in 2014. More than six years later, however, the game appears in a much more modern guise: Now the Unreal Engine 4 forms the graphical foundation. The graphics are effective and generally pretty, the color scheme is based more on the colorful first part from 2001 than on the gloomy Aquanox 2 Revelations. The many underwater effects are especially striking and stylish. A strong depth of field together with volumetric fog ensures a credible cloudiness of the underwater world, distortions simulate water layers of different densities when moving, which are mixed up by the interactions of the player and thus break the light differently, plankton and air bubbles ensure a good feeling of speed, show the direction of movement and are an atmospherically credible, optical support for orientation.

Aquanox: 2001 vs. 2020

Aquanox-2001-pcgh
Aquanox-2020-pcgh





Aquanox Deep Descent in the technology test: Underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4 worth seeing (Pictures: 4K-DCI downsampled @ 1440p) (12)



Aquanox Deep Descent in the technology test: Underwater shooting with Unreal Engine 4 worth seeing (Pictures: 4K-DCI downsampled @ 1440p) (12)

Quelle: PC Games Hardware




The possibilities of the Unreal Engine were only rudimentarily adopted. The graphics menu, see picture above these lines, is rather clear and narrow. You will also look in vain for things like ray tracing and DLSS or support for Direct X 12. An underwater world with numerous possibilities for light and shadow plays invites you to create an atmospheric depth. At the same time, the developers create atmosphere, which is mainly due to the depth of field. Nevertheless, after some time, one comes to the conclusion that there should be more graphically in the end of 2020, a plus of dynamic, shadow-casting light sources for the headlights of the submarines, for example, would have been nice and visually striking, at least for the player’s headlights. Because when you dive with your vehicle through dense kelp forests or gloomy cave complexes, your lamp does not cast dynamic shadows. That is a shame, because the atmosphere would benefit the atmosphere very much, especially with the examples mentioned, if, for example, the light cone had to peel details out of the darkness or objects and dense vegetation made atmospheric shadows dance on cave walls. You can find more impressions of the graphic in the picture gallery.

[PLUS]  Stable overclocking of the GPU and graphics memory: endurance tests for Radeon and Geforce [PLUS] Stable overclocking of the GPU and graphics memory: endurance tests for Radeon and GeforcePCGH Plus: Stable overclocking of graphics cards: We test which games and benchmarks are most suitable for detecting overclocking instabilities. We use a Radeon RX 590 and a Geforce RTX 2080 for the practical tests, while Battlefield 5 and The Witcher 3 are used as game benchmarks. The article comes from PC Games Hardware 06/2019.
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