Digital Foundry: Hands-on with Mantis Burn Racing on PS4 Pro

When we were first invited to go hands-on with Mantis Burn Racing – PlayStation 4 Pro’s first native 4K title running at 60fps – it’s fair to say that we didn’t have to think twice about taking up the offer. It was a chance to see a title running at the new hardware’s optimal video output, and to talk directly with VooFoo Studios, the Birmingham-based UK developer behind the game.

Best described as a modern 3D refresh of Codemasters’ classic Micro Machines series of top-down racing games with a very different visual style, it’s perhaps understandable how Mantis Burn Racing manages to hit 60fps at 4K. It doesn’t run on the most technologically advanced engine on the market right now – in fact, its underpinnings are based on proprietary VooFoo tech used everywhere from iOS to Android to Wii U – but the end result is a game that looks and feels different and while it’s not pushing the state of the art, it still has its own charms.

Various gameplay modes are on offer but the basic gameplay remains constant – it’s flat-out circuit racing built upon a solid combination of excellent, dynamic, sweeping camera work and a highly satisfying drift mechanic. The game’s visuals are distinctive too – two separate areas are included in the game: an industrial cityscape and a detail-rich rocky environment, though some stages merge the two. The more natural environments are where Mantis Burn Racing’s visual really shine – light, shadow, intricate detail and a substantial post-process pipeline combine to produce a great look, with lighting values and indeed textures taken from photography and baked in at a high resolution. It’s here where you get your value from the native 4K framebuffer.

The game’s based on a forward renderer which also helps in getting this game to run at 60fps in ultra HD, and in terms of visual features, we’re told it’s identical to both the base PS4 version and indeed the PC game. All of the more expensive visual effects make the jump across to PlayStation 4 Pro, including an impressive depth of field effect that emphasises distance and is particularly effective as background detail drops away as the circuit gains altitude. The only casualty in the move to 4K comes from the omission of anti-aliasing – you get 2x MSAA on the base PlayStation 4, while the rich pixel density and post-processing means that it isn’t really required at all at 4K. Perhaps not surprisingly, PS4 Pro owners connected to 1080p displays get a super-sampled version of the 4K output, downscaled to full HD.