Skip to main content
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Cold War’ runs the same on Series X and PS5. The DualSense is the difference.

(The Washington Post)

One of the challenges for game developers this fall — on top of a pandemic — was the sheer number of platforms they needed to account for during production. Mark Gordon, co-studio head of Treyarch, which will release “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War” Nov. 13, said his studio needed to make the game run on nine different platforms.

Three of those, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S, gave them their first opportunity to tackle next generation console features, including the PS5′s unique haptic feedback.

“Cold War” developers say they are trying to give each weapon a unique feel on the controller when it comes to rumble and recoil. A shotgun would feature a different vibration pattern than a submachine gun, which would also feel different than a light machine gun.

“Sony has done some really interesting things with their controller and we’re using that to try to improve the immersion of the feel of using a weapon,” Dan Olsen, principal software architect at Treyarch, said. “The things that we have to work with are the trigger tension and the rumble, and we’re combining them to try to create a feeling of weapon heaviness, classes of weapons. So you look at the recoil, you look at the trigger tension as you fire. And it’s different for all those classes of weapons. So we’re actually really interested to get it to players hands because I feel like the design space in this is so open that we’re just maybe scratching the surface of what we can do with it."

With the PS5, Sony is betting that what’s good for developers will be great for players

The DualSense features will not apply to the Xbox Series X or S, but that is the only major difference between the game on Sony and Microsoft’s latest consoles.

“I really doubt that a player will notice the differences [in gameplay on a PS5 or Series X], if a frame draws in a fraction of a second faster on one platform or another or we read faster on one platform or the other,” said Eran Rich, Treyarch’s director of technology. “The feeling, the experience will be the same pretty much on both the PS5 and Series X.”

The lack of platform differentiation is due in large part because of the need for Treyarch to keep the game experience level for competitive players in a game that will be playable online across both platforms and generations.

“I think that is one of the challenges when trying to add next-gen features because you want to make it so that the next-gen is an improvement, but you want to make it so it’s not so essential to the experience that someone who is playing on a current gen console is going to have a bad experience,” Gordon said.

While the developers themselves were most fond of the next-generation’s rapid load times, competitive types will likely focus on the fact the game will run at up to 120 hz on the next-gen consoles, providing better frame rates for hit registration and reaction times. The added frames will come at the cost of ray-tracing, which will only be available at 60 fps.

‘Call of Duty’ voice actors spent the summer on video calls like the rest of us

Both the PS5 and Series X/S will benefit from revamped audio, according to the developers, which allowed them to not only localize channels to the front, sides and rear of a player using headphones or a surround-sound speaker set up, but also pinpoint sounds above or below a player.

“When our audio team got it working the first time I had a bot just shooting bullets over my head and I would just stand up or crouch and you can really hear the bullets hitting above you or below you,” Rich said.

Perhaps most intriguing is what’s yet to come. As developers get more time with the next-gen tools, they figure to build even better experiences.

“This is my third time doing a console transition, and it’s always different, it’s always fun,” Olsen said. “It’s a learning process throughout the whole thing. … We get the specs a little bit early, but never early enough to ever really do what we want to do. And and I think that’s why you always see improvement in the second wave of titles on a console generation."

Read more:

Xbox Series X and S review and comparison: Next-gen feels awfully familiar

The PS5 makes being Miles Morales feel super

‘Ghost of Tsushima’ sees the best kind of PlayStation 5 upgrade: transformative and free