Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is making use of the new PS5 and Xbox Series X/S hardware to create a more lush, organic-feeling world that you can quickly fly around in, its developers said in a new interview today. Even if the quests still turn out to still be familiar Ubisoft fare, the open world tech is getting a big upgrade. At least that’s the pitch Ubisoft Massive is making to sell players on why the new Avatar won’t be on PS4 and Xbox One.
The first-person action game’s recent teaser trailer at E3 2021 showed characters flying over the beautiful jungle planet of Pandora at lightning speed, and while it was still just a cinematic showcase, creative director Magnus Jansén and technical director of programming Nikolay Stefanov told IGN that next-gen hardware makes it possible to do similar things in actual gameplay.
“[New consoles allowed] us to have much better object detail up close to you,” said Stefanov, “but also when you’re flying high up in the air – to have a lovely vista and far-distance rendering, where we can even use the ray tracing to do shadows super far away, you know, three or four kilometers away from you.”
Thanks to the new solid state drives, developers can render more realistic things even quicker than before. In terms of world design, this means points of interest can be placed much closer together. “With the old hard drives, they had to be spaced out very far [apart], because you had to stream out the old and stream in the new, so it just created a formulaic world,” said Jansén.
The developers also say everything will also just look better. That’s not a shocker, but it’s interesting to hear them talk about the ways that will manifest. One example: foliage. “It can actually handle the translucency of the leaves […] so it can figure out how much of the light is reflected through the leaves, how tinted it is with the colours and everything else. You get lovely reflections and sights for the water, even down to the volumetric clouds up in the sky – they actually receive the correct lighting as well.”
Announced back in 2017, Avatar is one of a handful of ambitious Ubisoft projects that we haven’t heard much about in the years since. What little news has tended to trickle out about it has usually come in the form of delays quietly noted during investor calls. The latest of those pushed the game’s release back to sometime in 2022. At least by that time more people will have had a chance to buy the new consoles.