The Stealth upgrade for Control on PC dramatically improves its visuals

Remedy’s Control has always been a special game for Digital Foundry. Originally released in 2019, the PC version in particular blew us away with its slick physics of destruction and groundbreaking implementation of ray tracing. Since then, the studio has focused on new projects such as Alan Wake 2, but interestingly, one of the developers – Filippo Tarpini – continued to refine the PC version of the game, adding a great HDR implementation that was so lacking in the original version (and Ultimate Edition). ) along with a number of other improvements, including better fidelity to the already excellent RT, improved texture streaming, and a more complete DLSS implementation.

The HDR update is the most game-changing enhancement, added because Tarpini is a big fan of the feature. The control has always featured a high-contrast visual design, with HDR providing greater local brightness and contrast, saturated color tones with no banding errors – and even extra detail solved with greater dynamic range, along with less blown-up glow effects. I won’t waste too many words describing this improvement as we have prepared a video recorded and mastered in HDR to show the improvement. If you’re watching on a standard non-HDR display, you’ll get a tone map presentation – but what surprised me was that the difference was still noticeable to some degree.

In addition to showing comparisons of the differences offered by native HDR, I want to subjectively comment on how it enhances the visuals of the game. Given how many striking scenes there are with excellent color and dark contrast, it’s good to have HDR preserving local variations in the scene so it doesn’t look as monochromatic as before. I definitely prefer the HDR look to the “raised grey” aesthetic you might be used to, but for those who prefer the original look, Tarpini has even included this option in a modded version of the game. So you get HDR brightness but with a more monochromatic look from the original release. There are other elements that can be tweaked as well, including the ability to adjust the brightness of UI elements – which can otherwise resolve with piercing intensity.

Here’s our full HDR video of Filippo Tarpini’s control update. It may not be an official patch, but it’s too good not to try it – and Filippo himself works for Remedy…

In addition to HDR support, other improvements have also been added to the mod. Ray tracing in the original Control typically used one sample per pixel for most effects. When the mod is set to ultra RT, this is increased to multiple radii per pixel. For coarse reflections, this means they retain their brightness level and true shape much better, look fuller, and the amount of noise is greatly reduced when using something like DLSS. All ray-traced effects should now look more stable on ultra settings versus the old high settings, but this is usually most noticeable on the brightest reflections captured at sharp angles.

This ultra setting also increases the resolution of volumetric effects which used to look good but now look a bit better with less aliasing, but this setting especially helps with glass shading which also seems to be related to volumetric lighting – thus scaling their quality to very the powerful GPU hardware we currently have access to.

Another benefit of the new patch is the way texture loading is done by setting texture streaming to a higher quality. Even on ultra in the old game, just running around the world could cause textures to load late, significantly changing the quality. Thanks to the new max texture streaming quality option, this behavior seems to be almost completely eliminated. Once again, just another smaller tweak to scale the game much higher for current-gen GPUs.

Going back to where it all started, with Alex’s original take on the PC version of Control and its (at the time) state-of-the-art ray tracing support.

Further fixes are aimed at improving image quality, primarily improving texture quality with DLSS enabled. Thanks to this mod, the texture mipmap is properly scaled with the output resolution, whereas previously only the texture streamer itself was biased. This means that textures at a distance are of much higher quality in some scenarios. In addition, support for DLAA is implemented, which is best described as DLSS running at native resolution, not internally lower than native. This is great because it provides better quality than the existing TAA solution in many areas and also reduces ghosting. There are a few other tweaks and quibbles as well, such as displaying film grain correctly with DLSS enabled – whereas before it basically disappeared.

Overall, we’re looking at iterative improvements to make the visual experience more polished with fewer visible artifacts – but Tarpini is still working on improvements. For example, the problem with ultra RT reflections was quickly fixed. Either way, these nice iterative quality improvements come at a price. With the new ultra ray tracing setting, using it has a big performance impact, even on a large GPU. We are dealing with a 30-40 percent drop in performance. Interestingly, DLAA has little impact on performance – it costs almost the same as a standard TAA, and it looks a lot better.

Ultimately though, this mod is worth a look even if it’s technically unfinished. What is clear to me is that with the features it has and the care and attention that went into its creation, this is effectively an unofficial patch – the quality is definitely there. It improves control in a number of significant ways, so it scales for much more powerful PCs in the future, while providing a number of decent upgrades for today’s hardware. Would you like to look at it? Download the mod here.

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