Soul Hackers 2: Atlus’ new Persona-lite has main tech issues

What is the longest you have ever waited for a online game sequel? Satan Summoner: Soul Hackers was launched all the way in which again in 1997 on the Sega Saturn, a first-person dungeon crawler JRPG made by developer Atlus. 4 console generations later we lastly have a sequel – Soul Hackers 2 – although it is actually a standalone recreation with largely thematic connections to the unique. 25 years is a very long time in pc graphics, and Soul Hackers 2 has all kinds of tech it might probably use – however early footage did not precisely impress. There’s little right here to counsel that the present wave of consoles are being taxed by this Persona-lite launch – and the knock-on impact of that appears to be that the last-gen machines get some surprising ports, particularly the vanilla Xbox One.

Soul Hackers 2 borrows its gameplay components from different current Atlus titles, so at a primary stage, it is a turn-based RPG oriented round exploiting weaknesses, which is an satisfying sufficient system however nothing out-of-the unusual for RPG veterans. There are some twists, like an overkill-style mechanic that rewards strategic play, and loads of customization. However this is not particularly novel. Elsewhere, nevertheless, this recreation actually shines. Soul Hackers 2 is a party-oriented title that weaves a number of characters by a winding, serialised story. Interpersonal conflicts and interactions take heart stage right here, and a social system gamifies out-of-combat interactions, giving easy conversations precise penalties. It is extra like a TV present than a film, with a ‘villain of the week’-style narrative that options a number of quick story arcs that construct over time.

This system is pretty novel by business requirements however in case you’ve performed different current Atlus RPGs – significantly Persona 5 or Tokyo Mirage Classes – you will know what to anticipate. That happily extends to the remainder of the package deal as properly, with a eager sense of visible model. However you may’t make a online game out of creative thrives alone – so how does the 3D rendering maintain up?

Soul Hackers 2 – the Digital Foundry tech assessment, in video type.

Let’s begin with the great things. On the plus facet, the 3D character fashions are fairly excessive in graphical constancy. They characteristic suitably excessive polygon counts, have good texture work, and are easily cel-shaded. The character rendering itself is not state-of-the-art, however it would not must be and works completely properly right here given the visible model.

Nevertheless, the environments actually expose the rendering weaknesses. Eighth-gen staples like physically-based supplies, world illumination and screen-space reflections appear to be totally absent – however that is simply the beginning. All the environmental lighting appears to be baked, and would not have an effect on shadow-casting in any respect. The geometry price range is sort of restricted, which produces chunky-looking curved surfaces. Texture decision is questionable, and there is minimal texture selection. Cubemaps are remarkably easy and poorly aligned. Put up-processing is proscribed as properly, as the sport lacks per-pixel movement blur and bokeh depth of discipline.

Soul Hackers 2 runs on the Unity engine with out the Excessive Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) characteristic set, so I did not count on technique-level parity with superior software program. However the outcomes listed below are very primary and are not that far forward of PS3 and Xbox 360 titles. It is significantly odd given the platform targets for this challenge – PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Collection and PC – that are all completely able to dealing with extra formidable belongings on the very least.

Evaluating Soul Hackers 2 with Atlus’s final recreation actually highlights these points. Shin Megami Tensei 5 shipped final yr on the Nintendo Swap, and shares many components with Soul Hackers 2 – together with a lot of the enemy fashions. However regardless of the restricted {hardware} energy contained in the Swap, the rendering methods there are way more mature and belongings are typically higher-grade. Engine variations are definitely a part of the image right here, however aren’t the entire story.

Soul Hackers 2’s primary copy-paste dungeons are one of many worst points of the sport’s visible design.

It is secure to say I am not thrilled with the rendering make-up of Soul Hackers 2. However there’s an much more conspicuous downside with the visuals in my view. Soul Hackers 2 has very primary environmental paintings for essentially the most half. Dungeons include samey-looking corridors in barren, industrial-style environments, like shipyards and subway terminals. There’s little to differentiate one room from the following with copy-and-paste corridors and flat lighting. Every dungeon might need a small handful of room designs and hallway options, that are repeated advert nauseum over the course of hours and hours of gameplay.

Fortunately there is a mini-map you may entry whereas exploring – in any other case, it might be extraordinarily straightforward to get misplaced. The sport’s metropolis areas do look first rate nevertheless. These zones are admittedly fairly small, and the rendering foibles nonetheless annoy. But when the dungeons had one thing nearer to this stage of care and a focus to element, there could be lots much less to complain about.

Picture high quality is, maybe not surprisingly, behind the curve as properly. There isn’t any anti-aliasing in anyway. The relative lack of geometry sarcastically helps a bit right here, minimising seen aliasing in some scenes. Nonetheless, count on a shimmery presentation. Even excessive resolutions do not repair the issue. PS5 and Collection X each provide graphics and efficiency modes, that are basically the identical factor, with one working at full 4K decision with a 30fps cap, and the opposite at 1800p60. Xbox Collection S? There’s simply the one choice there, delivering a weird 2048×1152 decision, with an unlocked frame-rate. The shortage of AA would not assist any of those variations, however Collection S will get the worst deal right here.

Efficiency mode on the PS5 is usually nice, however Collection X inexplicably has issues delivering 60fps on extra complicated environments.

Efficiency-wise, the 4K30 graphics modes work as meant, with no noticeable efficiency drops – as you’d count on from a comparatively untaxing recreation. On PS5, the efficiency mode hits 60fps nearly the entire time. The one exception actually comes right down to sure screen-filling assaults throughout fight – particularly the ‘breath’ assaults that emit a excessive density of alpha particles. You may typically discover a quick clutch of dropped frames whereas these assaults are onscreen. Outdoors of that, nevertheless, the sport locks to 60fps, and it is the higher solution to play.

Collection X would not fare almost as properly with this feature. The transient dips throughout fight return however the recreation actually struggles in sure metropolis areas, dropping into the 40s and 50s for prolonged intervals. Sure cutscenes see extended efficiency dips as properly. The fight points are comprehensible, however the different issues do not make as a lot sense. Collection S performs out a lot the identical, even with its drastically decreased pixel rely.

If there is a sense that Soul Hackers 2 is technologically unambitious and considerably underperforming, it is nonetheless an enormous, huge enchancment over the last-gen variations. Beginning on Xbox One S, the efficiency is depressing. Soul Hackers 2 tends to run between 15-35fps right here, with metropolis environments proving extraordinarily taxing. Most cutscenes dangle within the 20s, whereas fight fluctuates wildly. For some cause, Atlus has elected for an uncapped frame-rate which feels completely unsuitable for these frame-rates.

Maybe the 1080p rendering decision is partly guilty, although with these visuals it is arduous to see the place the bottleneck is coming from. Efficiency tanks additional when fast-forwarding by cutscene sequences, although all of the last-gen machines have points in these segments. One X fares considerably higher. The unlocked framerate is again however efficiency is improved by about 5-10fps in related gameplay, and determination is quadrupled to a full 4K. This may work with a 30fps cap (which the sport lacks), although excursions into the low-to-mid 20s are nonetheless far too frequent for my style.

Xbox additionally struggles on last-gen machines. The One S model is extraordinarily tough and whereas One X runs at 4K, efficiency shouldn’t be nice. It is the 1080p-focused PS4 and particularly PS4 Professional that work out greatest.

PS4 is the primary last-gen machine that truly manages to prove kind of constant efficiency. We will nonetheless push the machine to lows round 20fps in sure scenes however critically a 30fps framerate cap is definitely in place. We’re getting a 1080p decision, similar to Xbox One, however with efficiency lows nearer to the One X and with a correctly frame-paced 30fps ceiling as well. PS4 Professional sticks at 1080p with none visible boosts over the PS4 code, however efficiency could be very, very near a locked 30fps, with solely the difficult Karachuko metropolis setting inflicting any points. Of all of the last-gen machines, that is positively the one to go for. Atlus’s selections with Soul Hackers 2 appear very odd although. Why depart the Xbox One variations uncapped? Why run One X at 4K, and PS4 Professional at 1080p? I am genuinely befuddled. Regardless that the sport appears inexplicably heavy, the configuration points on last-gen machines simply make a foul scenario worse.

I like the Atlus video games typically however I am of two minds about Soul Hackers 2. The sport itself is excellent, combining robust characters, a satisfying fight system and glorious music. It’s extremely a lot consistent with different Atlus titles and whereas it most likely is not as polished or expansive as a recreation like Persona 5, it is a strong recreation for individuals who like these sorts of titles. Plus, there are visible components that maintain up very properly – particularly the 2D paintings, animations, character fashions, and menus.

The graphics, nevertheless, are merely properly under par. The rendering tech is primitive in nearly each respect, although it is one thing that may be largely ignored when you get used to it. Even so, the dungeon belongings are offensively primary, with ugly copy-pasted corridors all around the recreation’s fight sections. The sport has some troubling efficiency points on lots of its supported console platforms, with the Xbox One S specifically exhibiting among the worst frame-rates I’ve seen in current occasions. As a up to date full-price launch Soul Hackers 2 falls under nearly each technical commonplace. However in case you’re in any other case on this title, it’s price enjoying – so long as you retain technological expectations in verify.

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