After our recent hands-on session with Need for Speed: Most Wanted, we managed to corner the game’s producer, Criterion’s Leanne Loombe, for a chat about why the PC version will make its console counterparts look positively ugly. Read on for all the specifics, including how they’ve leveraged DX11 for a 300% performance increase on PC, and exactly what sort of rig will be required to push it as hard as you can.
games.on.net: There’s a growing gap in performance between the PC and consoles as consoles get older. Does that create more work for you guys, because you need to spend more time on the PC version?
Leanne Loombe: Yeah, we have a dedicated pipeline for the PC version. The way that we have it set up means we can dedicate more time to PC. The PC version of Most Wanted is obviously 1080p, 60Hz, and we’re using DirectX 11 as well. That’s there for the PC gamers.
games.on.net: Do you know which features of DX11 you’ll be using?
Leanne Loombe: We’re primarily leveraging the increased efficiency of DX11 to give improved performance. The move to DX11 from DX9 has given us around a 300% improvement in rendering performance. This has enabled us to provide an improved image based lighting model over the console version, as well as allowing us to run with higher detail shadows and reflections. The increased power of DirectX 11 hardware has also allowed us to implement features such as real-time ambient occlusion, and light scattering algorithms which are absent in the console version.
games.on.net: What other changes have you made to the visuals in the PC version?
Leanne Loombe: PC supports a number of advanced graphical features including SSAO, light scattering, high dynamic range motion blur, high resolution textures, advanced specular lighting models, headlight shadow casting, enhanced VFX quality, and enhanced shadow quality levels. We also scale geometry detail and level of detail switching according to screen resolution.
games.on.net: How deep are the graphics configuration options on PC – are we talking a short list of three or four options, or a deeper screen with over a dozen? Can you tell us what options PC users will be able to tweak?
Leanne Loombe: Options are available to enable High Resolution textures, motion blur quality, shadow quality, SSAO level, reflection detail, visual effects quality, geometry detail levels, and light scattering.
games.on.net: Will Most Wanted need a very fast PC to run at the highest graphical details?
Leanne Loombe: A modern quad core PC with an AMD Radeon 6000 series or NVIDIA Geforce 500 series can run the game with highest details settings.
games.on.net: Will the PC version use peer to peer gameplay for the online mode, and what are the number of players it supports? Is it more players than console? Also, do you support LAN play?
Leanne Loombe: PC uses peer to peer and supports 12 players online, whilst console only supports 8 players. An internet connection is required for multiplayer, so LAN only play is not supported.
games.on.net: What controls will the PC version support? Can we expect full Xbox 360 controller support on the PC at launch?
Leanne Loombe: The Xbox 360 controller is fully supported and is the recommended controller for Most Wanted. We also fully support keyboard and the majority of DirectInput controllers, including steering wheels. Controller bindings are fully configurable in game.
games.on.net: Have you had to change the interface at all for the PC version?
Leanne Loombe: We have always strived to provide an accessible user experience, regardless of platform. We want the game to be fully playable whether you are hunched over a 15” laptop, or sitting on your sofa playing on your PC hooked up to a 50” plasma TV. As such minimal changes have been made to the PC interface, other than providing enhanced settings menus and a quit option. Origin In Game is also fully supported to allow you interact and manage your Most Wanted friends on PC.
games.on.net: Comparing the handling of Most Wanted to Hot Pursuit, are you aiming for the same feel?
Leanne Loombe: It’s brand new handling this time around. It’s unique for every single car, so every car has a different model. We wanted the player to feel like they were driving the real car because they’ll never get to drive those high-end sports cars in real life.
games.on.net: We just drove the Aston Martin in the demo and it felt quite heavy and sluggish. Is that because I was driving the Aston Martin, or is it part of the new handling, with cars having more weight?
Leanne Loombe: I’d say it’s probably because you were driving the Aston, where we tried to reflect the car’s weight.
games.on.net: How do you then balance that in online racing, where everybody is driving wildly different vehicles?
Leanne Loombe: With the Speed List that you get served up there are car restrictions, so you do have to go in particular cars. We try to get that balance right. We have a wide range of cars, mainly for multiplayer, so we try to balance them in each event’s restrictions.
games.on.net: In a lot of racing games, after a couple of weeks the community has found THE fastest car for each category, and that’s what everybody races. How are you tackling this issue so that your entire collection of cars get used?
Leanne Loombe: That’s part of the reason why we’ve made all the cars available at the start. Then people can go and drive their favourite car.
games.on.net: Cop chases are out of multiplayer. Given that was such an amazing feature of Hot Pursuit, why did you remove them?
Leanne Loombe: Most Wanted has a different focus to Hot Pursuit. Hot Pursuit was very much about racers and cops, whereas Most Wanted is about racing with friends, driving in the open world. Obviously it has chasing with cops in single player, but we do other things in multiplayer instead.
games.on.net: What’s the level of involvement of the cops in single player – will they use all the same tricks that we saw in Hot Pursuit?
Leanne Loombe: Fully integrated – if you start driving dangerously, or too fast, then the cops will be on you. You have to get out of their line of sight, which drops your heat level. As your heat levels increase, more cops will come, and they’ll do roadblocks, and drop spike traps, but no helicopters this time around. You then use the open world to evade the pursuit.
games.on.net: Can you describe the matchmaking, and how that works?
Leanne Loombe: We try and keep the players in the world at all times, so we don’t have any lobbies or anything like that. We do it all from in the world. The matchmaking will happen while you’re in free drive, and then drop you into the speed lists. To find friends you can bring up “Easy Drive” which will show your list of friends, and you can select your friend. You can also create a private or public and match make that way.
Thanks to Leanne for chatting to us!