• Beau Steward

Outriders In HDR - It's Really Bad

Recently, I got a new gaming setup with an RTX 30xx series graphics adapter that plugs in to a 1440p DisplayHDR 400 display. I plan to post about this setup later, but I want to note that I've enjoyed some of the good HDR content at max settings that I've encountered. That is, until I encountered Outriders.

Outriders is by People Can Fly and Square Enix. It seems like it should be well done as it's by groups experienced in the industry, using a high end gaming engine, and is considered a AAA title. However, it seems either PCF, SE, or both don't understand HDR.

High Dynamic Range, or HDR, is a way to improve the dynamic range of an image. There's a couple of methods for doing this. In computational photography, this tends to not only try to improve the appearance with lighting, but also with color. Some computational photography algorithms really fuck it up, though, by really blowing out the hue saturation and making a really weird looking cartoony image.

In computer displays, however, HDR is focused more on lighting and brightness. DisplayHDR has a harder emphasis on display brightness capabilities than on color support for their different levels of certifications. As I mentioned, my monitor is DisplayHDR 400, which means it should be able to sustain a peak luminance of 400 cd/m2. This is the lowest spec. Essentially, the rest of the spec is "oh, and also 8-bit image processing and sRGB color gamut" but nothing about color vibrance.

Games that implement HDR by providing a wider separation of dark from bright by making the brightness really pop with the darks still looking quite dim do it right. One of the first games I played on this new setup was The Division 2, and I found the HDR implementation quite good. To me, it's a great introduction to HDR. Unfortunately, I can't seem to get a HDR screenshot of it to post here to show how good it looks.

I don't have many games that I play these days that support these newer features, so Outriders is the only other game I've come across that attempts HDR.

And oh boy.

Let's take a look at what SDR looks like, first, so you can see something closer to the view of the game most people will see.

Yeah, it's pretty drab. It looks about standard for a current generation game. It looks fine, it plays well, and I can easily understand what's going on in the scene.

Now let's see how fucked up it gets.

Holy shit, right? The only slider you get to control is the brightness of the HDR and this is the best I could come up with. Understand that this is better than immediately after launch, where many of the tones weren't even the right fucking color.

But seriously, this is the level of bad computational photography doing HDR. This is what tech reviewers will make fun of in a bad camera. This is bad HDR.

I still have a lot of Outriders gameplay planned, but it will be in SDR. The HDR version makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

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