Remnant 2 is a fitting showcase for Unreal Engine 5’s Nanite tech

Remnant 2 offers an interesting twist on Dark Souls-style action games, combining the core structure of that series with third-person shooter gameplay and a procedurally generated world. It’s a formula pioneered by the first Remnant game in 2019, but the sequel is more interesting on a technical level – as it’s a current-gen-only title that takes advantage of Unreal Engine 5 features and the enhanced power provided by PS5, Series X and Series S. We tested the game on each of these consoles to find out if its visuals fit its ninth-gen heritage and if its procedural systems can deliver a satisfying adventure.

Remnant 2 certainly makes a great first impression. The game’s tutorial area offers a brief look at a Last of Us-style post-apocalyptic city, which offers satisfying visuals, with excellent artwork, detailed elements, and advanced lighting creating a fascinating, lived-in environment. However, locations beyond the tutorial area are more mixed, with some – like the dark 20th-century city of Losomn – featuring a decidedly less lavish look and relatively basic indirect lighting. These types of dark environments are often difficult to light up convincingly, and that’s certainly true here.

This may be due to the lack of some key features of Unreal Engine 5, such as Lumen real-time global illumination or any ray tracing effects. Instead, the main UE5 technology is the Nanite virtualized geometry system, which manifests itself in a distinct lack of pop-in LOD and an excellent level of geometric detail up close. The virtual shadow maps also seem to make the cut and although the shadows are uniformly sharp, there is no visible shadow cascading – so no cutoff point where the higher resolution shadows give way to lower resolution versions farther from the camera.

Oliver’s soft tones accompany this video presentation of our Remnant 2 coverage.

Another factor is that the game’s locations appear to be composed of a series of pre-made environmental blocks integrated via a procedural generation system. The key areas of each location appear to be the same across multiple playthroughs, but the middle sections change for each character you create. Some of these blocks can look quite attractive, from bright and ornate fairy interiors to more sci-fi oriented environments. Interior spaces in general seem to do particularly well, with high-fidelity designs and materials. As you approach any given item, you can really appreciate the fine detail. Other environmental blocks, like the exteriors of Losomn, prove to be a little less convincing.

To some degree, your mileage will vary depending on how the game is presented due to its extensive procedural systems. I started the game on a new character, after playing for about a dozen hours on my first one, and encountered a totally different first world with different plot elements as well. On another new character, I started again on Losomn, but this time in a different realm with a very different layout from my first run on PS5.

This kind of replayability is welcome – especially for DF reviewers – but they make the game feel a little less consistent than other action titles. You don’t really feel a strong sense of progress as you progress through each area, and there aren’t any solid visual panels to help you track your progress. You’ll find your way through the game by mostly consulting the in-game map, which helpfully fills in as you approach each level.

Using Nanite produces sufficiently detailed environments with high geometric complexity – but other major features of the UE5 are missing.

There’s nothing here that seems overly ambitious, but each environment is filled with geometric detail in a way we haven’t seen in last-gen efforts – including 2019’s original Remnant, which features more restrained environments and a flatter look than its sequel. It’s hard to imagine this level of visual improvement without targeting more powerful 9th ​​Gen consoles as a baseline.

Remnant 2 has a few minor issues though. The game makes heavy use of screen space effects, with very obvious occlusion issues when information needed for SSR and screen space shadows are removed from view. It’s not unique to Remnant, but the game relies on these techniques more than most, which can be a little distracting at times. The game’s cutscenes also have a reduced scope compared to other games, and lack realistic characters, detailed facial animation, or choreographed action scenes – a consequence of its lower production values ​​than a contemporary AAA game. Cutscenes also sometimes have weird issues, like very low-resolution shadows in one scene and weird graphical artifacts right after a cut-out camera on PS5.

Overall though, Remnant 2 is an engaging game. The environmental art is of impressive quality and is made using generous Nanite-powered polygonal detail. Lighting is good, enemies are visually interesting and respond convincingly to gunfire and melee attacks, and player animations are responsive. The game’s motion blur also has a pleasingly long shutter speed, even when playing at 60fps. Remnant 2 may not make the most of Unreal Engine 5, but it’s a visually polished game that holds up well among the small cohort of current-gen-only titles.

This footage demonstrates two minor flaws – fairly basic character facial animation in cutscenes, and unusual graphical artifacts on the first frame after a camera cut on PS5.

Remnant 2 comes with three modes on PS5 and Series X: a 30fps quality mode, a 60fps balanced mode, and an unlocked performance mode. Unlike most contemporary games, these modes differ primarily in graphical characteristics rather than perceived resolution.

Quality mode has noticeably denser foliage than the other two mode options, while screen space reflections are more detailed and consistent, even from a distance. Shadows have higher resolution, with less breakage and artifacts. It looks like there are a series of small tweaks here and there, likely corresponding to a higher Unreal Engine preset level. Meanwhile, the Balanced and Performance modes look about the same in stills, but the Performance mode runs with obvious full-screen tearing as the camera moves.

Counting a full range of render resolutions is difficult because motion blur is always on and cinematics often feature depth of field. However, based on a limited range of samples, Quality mode on PS5 and Series X is around 1296p, Balance drops to ~792p, and Performance mode is around 720p. Dynamic resolution seems to be in play here in the quality and balanced modes, with the performance mode sticking to that 720p figure. Balanced and performance modes also seem to use upscaling at around 1440p, and given the lack of FSR 2 artifacts, I suspect Unreal’s super time resolution is being used here.

Remnant 2 comes with three modes – Quality, Balanced and Performance – which resolve to a similar level of perceived resolution but have different graphics settings, for example the quality of distant foliage and shading.

That does mean a bit of frame breakage in those higher frame rate mode options in typical gaming, though it wasn’t too bad in my experience sitting some distance from a large TV, and the motion blur helps hide a lot of the artifact. In stills, all modes look about the same in terms of image quality, although in motion, the quality mode provides a more stable image.

The Series S is very similar to the other two consoles, but only has a single 30fps mode which has similar settings to the Balanced mode on the Series X and PS5 but without motion blur. The Series S renders at ~900p internally and is upscaled to 1080p, so the final resolution is noticeably less detailed – while the lack of motion blur and presentation at 30fps makes for a bit of a jerky game.

In terms of performance, on the PS5’s balanced mode we’re often below the 60fps target, with drops down to the 30s possible in some environments and in cutscenes. 30fps Quality mode hits its frame rate target more reliably, with only occasional single frame drops for the vast duration of gameplay. Performance mode adds screen tearing but doesn’t play noticeably better than Balanced mode, making it one to avoid. Co-op play can drop frame rates further, but I haven’t had time to test it thoroughly – and most performance variations seem to be related to environments rather than on-screen action, so it might turn out better than expected.

The Series X is basically identical to the PS5 in terms of performance, dropping frames in the same places and generally performing well despite some substantial drops. However, there is a curious difference – namely that the Series X allows the game to run in a proper 120Hz container, allowing frame rates above 60fps, which the PS5 does not. Of course, the game still suffers from intrusive screen tearing on both consoles in performance mode, regardless of refresh rate. Oddly, the VRR didn’t stop this screen from tearing in my testing, even though my TV reported that the VRR was on.

Finally, the Series S hits its 30fps target most of the time, but it suffers from steeper versions of the same drops we see in other consoles’ quality modes – plus that choppy appearance we can attribute to the lack of motion blur.

Consoles don’t seem to exhibit the same signature artifacts as FSR 2 on PC, so we suspect something like Unreal’s Super Time Resolution is being used instead.

While Remnant 2 definitely has its technical flaws, one of the first Unreal Engine 5 games around it proves the capability of UE5’s Nanite technology with a level of visual complexity that surpasses last-gen software. Whether or not you like the reliance on procedural systems, it’s hard to deny that every piece of craftsmanship in Remnant 2’s environments is filled with polygonal detail and looks quite nice in-game.

This complexity comes at a cost, with sub-par internal resolutions only being redeemed by reconstruction techniques, albeit with some moving image breakage. Remnant 2 also struggles to deliver stable performance, with framerate drops on all consoles and modes. It’s certainly a compelling current-gen effort, but it feels quite heavy at times.

That said, I came away impressed with Remnant 2, and if the developers can fix some of the game’s frame rate issues, it’ll be a very compelling technical effort. This is an attractive, state-of-the-art, current-gen only title, which is rare so far in this generation.

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