July 1, 2021

Scarlet Nexus: Unreal Engine 4 deployed to excellent effect on PS5 and Xbox Series consoles

Welcome to Suoh City - the starting point of Scarlet Nexus, and the focus of our very latest tech analysis. Built on Unreal Engine 4, Scarlet Nexus - and in particular this opening locale - presents us with an alternate reality that blends traditional Japanese elements like shinto shrines with the futuristic tech of its high streets. Taking one of two selectable characters through its adventure, here we have an anime-inflected action RPG that has you defeating enemies known as The Others - mutant creatures - via combo-driven combat in a futuristic world where superpowers are the norm. Gameplay is served up at 60 frames per second on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S. But how close are we getting to a locked 4K resolution at 60fps, and how does Series S slot in?

Developed by key members of the Tales series, Scarlet Nexus' most fascinating draw is easily its visual style. The backdrop detailing of Suoh, and the ruined outskirts beyond it, is generously plotted with detail. The style, especially in the Kikuchiba Merchant City later on, draws clear inspiration from classic anime works like Akira, with thin linework helping to etch out patterns of battered circuitry, distant city skylines, all tinged with a green hue. Often it's presented in a way that could easily sit on the printed page. The setting sets up a scenario where mankind has tapped into special abilities via a substance found in the mind, while of course, it's far from a utopia. Rather, mutated creatures known as the Others threaten to disrupt the society built around all these new-found powers. And so it's up to you and your squad to scout out and battle these creatures wherever they pop up.

The setup is simple and well handled. The combat too is well explained, but not without fault. Over the first three hours, expect to dismiss a lot of tutorial prompts. It's gradually paced, where new moves are drip-fed via an ability unlock menu. But honestly, it's easy to be put off by the combat to begin with: even basic mechanics like quick recovery after being hit, or double-jumping are gated off until you reach higher levels. Namco Bandai Studios' choice to strip each character's moves down in order to offer an upgrade path means that combat starts off as being rather tedious. You do build satisfying momentum later on: mid-air combo strings, well-timed dodges and even psychokinesis powers are added to the mix - it just takes some time to get to the good stuff.

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