Scorn is one the most distinctive and visually striking games of recent years. It is clearly inspired by HRGiger’s work. The game’s environments combine biological intricacy and mechanical precision to create an extremely unnerving experience. It’s scifi, but not high-tech. There are analogue mechanics, skeletal steelwork and glimpses of something truly living.
Scorn appears to be a first-person shooter on the surface. However, it shares more similarities with Myst and The Witness than Doom. This title is slow-paced and brooding. It requires careful exploration and puzzle-solving. However, with a small development team and a close to 10-year development cycle, are the Unreal Engine 4-based games properly polished? What about AMD’s FSR 2 reconstruction of image on Xbox Series X.
Scorn’s visual design starts as soon as you glance at the title screen. Ambients are highly ambiguous, vaguely mechanical but ribbed with bone-like arches. They’re also inlaid with vascular tubeing. Everything is old, worn, and full of moisture. Some mechanisms are still functional and may have a deeper purpose. As you move on, organic elements become dominant, with all the veins and guts scattered around. There are many humanoid species that can be found. They can be fused together into unusual arrangements or thrown away like trash. Your character is no exception. You’re soon engulfed by a parasite shortly after you start the game. It is a strange, unsettling, and completely unique gaming experience.
Every location will have unique and stunning artwork. It’s all visually captivating and eye-catching, from the dazzling ceilings that let in light, to elaborate contraptions covered in mist, to the temples crisscrossed with flesh webs, it’s all visually stunning. Every space has been given great care. Without the technology to support it, all that artwork would be worthless. Scorn’s limited scope and dependence on static opaque models really boosts the level of fidelity. For example, every surface has a lot of geometry. Even for a game with a smaller budget, the level of consistency is remarkable. The maps are detailed and rich with detail in a way that few other games can match.
It doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Scorn is a current generation exclusive – it was released on Series S and Series X respectively – but the overall visual impression is that of a last-gen title, albeit one with excellent graphics. You shouldn’t expect any boundary-pushing rendering features such as ray tracing. While environments look dense at close ranges, you can still see the limitations of traditional geometry meshes at point-blank distances.
The resolution metrics are quite simple. Series S renders at 1080p internally, while Series X renders at 1440p. While dynamic resolution is possible, I didn’t see evidence of lower pixel count. But, as I looked closer at the image quality, I found a few anomalies that indicated the use of cutting-edge technology.
The most obvious difference between the two machines is the resolution. Series S may look very 1080p-like but Series X’s overall resolution looks almost identical to 4K at very close distances. The presentation is very good even when the PC is fully loaded, with the exception of small artifact-ridden particle effects trails. This is because these elements don’t have motion vectors and certain temporal-AA techniques may not be able to deal with them.
Reconstruction is supported by the PC version. AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution 2 can be used. Quality mode allows you to see an effect similar to Xbox Series S. This includes all of the issues with particles. FSR 2’s stereotypical image quality flaw – significant Disocclusion Artifacting – can be seen here on Series X. FSR 2 displays a kind of fizzling artifact when certain screen elements become visible. Xbox Series X does have some disocclusion artifacting, but it is usually very mild.
However, I think there are a few key features that make disocclusion less important in this particular game. Scorn’s first-person perspective is simple and doesn’t use complex animation. It also uses a low-contrast visual style and has lots of film grain that can’t be turned off. Final verdict: The game’s first-person viewpoint and particular aesthetic make it an excellent match to FSR 2; as I was finishing up my work on the game, I actually received confirmation that AMD’s smart upscaler has been installed on the Series X edition.
Series S? It’s straight 1080p without any obvious upsampling. FSR 2 is important because this is, to our knowledge, the first console title to use FSR 2. FSR 2 has been used in console games without any technical barriers since its release a few months ago. However, the development timelines seem to have prevented its immediate integration into console software.
Series S delivers a nearly locked 60fps update over the entire play-through. All aspects of combat, cutscenes and exploration run smoothly. Although I noticed that the junior Xbox occasionally dropped a frame when traversing in more challenging environments, this was not a major issue and wasn’t noticeable.
Series X runs at 60 frames per second with the occasional duplicate frame. There are some areas where the frame rate issues can be more severe. Performance drops can occur in cutscenes, such as the opening sequence which drops to 43fps. A drop in frame-rate can be caused by combat, especially if alpha effects are present. In rare instances, the environment can cause performance issues that last for a long time. Although the Series X is running at 60fps for the vast majority of the time these performance issues are quite interesting.
This is because Series X usually delivers a greater resolution advantage than Series S than what you’re seeing. The difference in raw pixels between 1080p and 1440p is only 78 percent. 1080p versus 4K, 1080p versus 1800p is the more common gap in resolution between these two machines. The consoles have no apparent differences in their visual settings. So what is the problem?
Upsampling techniques have a frame time cost. More advanced methods take longer to compute. FSR 2 can be very expensive, and it is possible that it may take several milliseconds for each 4K frame of Series X. That’s 16.7ms, which is a lot of time. This could explain why Series X has a lower performance than Series S despite a modest increase in raw pixel counts. It may also hint at the reason we don’t see similar upsampling tech for the S – perhaps the computational cost is too high. FSR 2 and other high-end scaling solutions are great for console gaming. However, they have a price – you can’t get a ‘free lunch.
Scorn is not for everyone, so let’s return to the game. It’s very difficult, slow-paced, and cryptic. It’s a strange world where you are given no direction and expect to find your way through it without any help. The world is very similar to the old-school adventure game, but it’s deliberately confusing in the same way. There is no dialogue, text, or plot, and there is no dialogue. This game is great for Game Pass. Scorn is an excellent game and well worth the effort. However, I doubt many players will have the motivation to go very far. This game will require a specific type of gamer to truly enjoy it. However, those gamers will reap the visual rewards. Scorn is a dense and beautifully designed world. It often looks amazing.