PlayStation 4 and Xbox One both support HDR, or High Dynamic Range, for gaming, and developers have embraced the new format with open arms. There are now over 80 games in HDR available. Here is what you need to know about HDR console gaming.
The state of HDR console gaming
HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. It is a new video format that offers a far greater luminance range and a visibly larger color space. It is generally considered a bigger leap forward in terms of visual representation than 4K, and combining the two offers a next-gen gaming experience.
HDR gaming is supported on PlayStation 4, Slim and Pro, as well as Xbox One S and One X. Nintendo does not yet offer any HDR-capable game consoles and the PC ecosystem is getting there, but slowly.
There are more movies than games in HDR but that probably has more to do with timing than anything else. Game developers have embraced HDR with open arms because it can take the game experience to new heights. We have had HDR-capable game consoles for a little over a year now. Microsoft opened the show with Xbox One S in August 2016, and Sony joined in November 2016.
To benefit from HDR you need a good TV. Be wary! Only few of the TVs advertised and sold in the market as HDR TVs are actually capable of reproducing an expanded range and a wider color gamut. The reason is simple; HDR formats are easy to support in software but very hard to do in hardware. With a capable TV and a game developed with HDR in mind, it looks stunning. Some of our favorites are Uncharted 4 and Horizon Zero Dawn.
Unlike 4K resolution, HDR places relatively modest demands on the game console hardware. Since many game engines already render in HDR, the game console simply needs a way to output the video feed in a way that the TV can interpret. This also means that many games can be updated to feature HDR via a patch.
Sony and Microsoft both support the HDR10 format. There are currently four to five relevant HDR formats. HDR10 is defined as the base format.
Other formats include HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. The former is meant for live broadcast / streaming and is largely irrelevant on a console. HDR10+ and Dolby Vision on the other hand could potentially improve picture quality even further. Dolby has in the past outlined how its format can improve the gaming experience but as of yet there are no indications that either Sony or Microsoft will support it.
HDR10 uses static metadata, meaning that it sets the luminance level once on an overall level. The game is output with a metadata layer describing the maximum peak luminance and the color space. HDR10+ and Dolby Vision employ dynamic metadata, which means that luminance can be optimized on a scene-by-scene basis or just game-by-game basis. Since there is also a certification process for TVs involved, game console and TV would automatically optimize visual representation to best fit the TV’s characteristics.
Many more HDR games incoming
Across PlayStation 4 and Xbox One there are over 80 games optimized for HDR, according to our count. These are typically labeled as ”optimized for PS4 Pro” or ”Xbox One X Enhanced”. However, be aware that not all optimized games support HDR.
There are more games available for PlayStation 4 than for Xbox One but Microsoft is encouraging developers to embrace HDR. Some developers have released patches to coincide with Xbox One X, with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Rise of the Tomb Raider being the best examples. Similarly, Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us were updated to feature HDR when PS4 Pro launched.
One of the most stunning games we have played in HDR to date is Horizon Zero Dawn on PS4 Pro. It features spectacular effects, especially at dawn and dusk. These effects are only possible with HDR and you owe it to yourself to at least try it on an OLED TV. In the coming months and years, we will see games built for HDR from the ground up.
Microsoft also has a HDR section in the Xbox store. Scroll down to ’HDR Gaming’.
Console games with HDR
PlayStation 4 Agents of Mayhem Assassin’s Creed Origins Battlefield 1 Call of Duty: WWII Chess Ultra Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Everybody’s Golf FIFA 18 F1 2017 Final Fantasy XV Gran Turismo Sport Guacamelee! 2 Here They Lie Hitman Homefront: The Revolution Horizon Zero Dawn Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds Hustle Kings inFAMOUS First Light inFAMOUS Second Son Injustice 2 Knack 2 Madden NFL 18 Middle-earth: Shadow of War Mantis Burn Racing Mass Effect: Andromeda NBA 2K17 NBA 2K18 MLB The Show 17 MotoGP 17 Nex Machina Nier: Automata No Man’s Sky Project CARS 2 Redout: Lightspeed Edition Raiders of the Broken Planet Ratchet & Clank Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Resogun Rime Snake Pass Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind The Elder Scrolls Online: Orsinium The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited The Last Guardian The Last of Us Remastered The Last of Us: Left Behind The Surge The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt The Witness Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Wipeout Omega Collection World of Tanks
Xbox One S + X ARK: Survival Evolved Ashes Cricket Assassin’s Creed Origins Battlefield 1 Call of Duty: WWII Chess Ultra Dead Rising 4 Destiny 2 Disneyland Adventures Deus Ex: Mankind Divided F1 2017 FIFA 18 Final Fantasy XV Forza Horizon 3 Forza Motorsport 7 Gears of War 4 GRIDD: Retroenhanced Halo Wars 2 Hitman Homefront: The Revolution Injustice 2 L.A. Noire Mafia III Mantis Burn Racing Mass Effect: Andromeda Middle-earth: Shadow of War Minecraft Monster Hunter: World NBA 2K18 NFL 18 PlayerUnkown’s Battegrounds Project CARS 2 Pure Chess Ultra Raiders of the Broken Planet Railway Empire Recore Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Rise of Tomb Raider Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 Slime Rancher Star Wars Battlefront II STEEP The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind The Surge The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Unruly Heroes World of Tanks Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection
Coming games – not exhaustive
PlayStation 4 BioWare’s Anthem Days Gone Death Stranding Detroit: Become Human (2018) Gravity Rush 2 Far Cry 5 Skyforge Spider Man (2018) The Last of Us: Part II
Xbox One S + X BioWare’s Anthem Far Cry 5 Crackdown 3 Sea of Thieves State of Decay 2 Strange Brigade Warframe
The future of HDR gaming
HDR is one of the most important developments in gaming for many years. It can help bring the epic fantasy worlds to life to an even fuller extent than for movies.
HDR is already enjoying strong momentum on game consoles, whereas the PC ecosystem has some catching up to do. It is only a matter of time before more TV platforms fully implement HDR. Nvidia Shield already offers partial support for HDR, whereas Apple and Google are currently laying the foundation in tvOS and Android TV.
Dolby Vision is not yet supported on any game console but may arrive eventually. Dolby Atmos on the other hand is starting to emerge as the preferred object-based audio format for gaming.
HDR console gaming has been making significantly inroads during 2016 and 2017 so TV manufacturers are hoping to sell you a new HDR-capable TV. Our advice is to be wary. Not all HDR TVs are created equally and only full array local dimming LCD TVs and OLED TVs have what it takes to bring HDR games to life. If you want the best experience, you should opt for OLED. May we offer you our recommendations?