October 23, 2021

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Evolution Studios reborn: the cutting-edge tech of Onrush

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World Rally Championship, MotorStorm, DriveClub – Sony may have jettisoned developer Evolution Studios from its first-party line-up, but the studio lives on in the form of Codemasters Evo, and after two years of work, it’s on the cusp of releasing its new game: Onrush. What we’re looking at here is effectively the same team with the same focus on technologically advanced racing games, still operating from the same studio space in Runcorn, Cheshire. The key difference is that the studio has moved onto multi-platform development, a fundamental shift after years of supporting PlayStation systems only.

The end result is a new arcade racing title built on a brand new engine, releasing next week on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with a PC version to follow. At first glance, Onrush is reminiscent of Evo’s iconic work on MotorStorm, but look further and you’ll see definite influences from Burnout and SSX – not least in its pursuit of intense action rendered at a slick 60 frames per second. With 24 cars on-screen in the ‘stampede’ and an array of physics and destruction in play, Onrush at its most insane looks quite unlike any other current-gen racer – and it’s a technological achievement made possible by ditching legacy code, rebuilding the studio’s engine from the ground up.

Beginning by taking a look at Codemasters’ established multi-platform Ego engine, the team added in support for technologies it had used previously, like Havok physics, before crafting its own bespoke rendering solution based on DX12 and the low-level graphics API used by PlayStation 4. This involved going ‘bindless’ – instead of binding resources to the API for every draw call, Evo groups elements together, putting them into a group that is binded just once before rendering. This greatly reduces CPU utilisation, which is a big deal in a world where current-gen console designs make CPU time such a precious resource.

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