HDR console gaming: What you need to know

22 Dec 2017 | Rasmus Larsen |

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.

Also read: List: Best HDR TVs

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.

HDR-capable game consoles:
  • Xbox One S
  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Xbox One X


    Gran Turismo Sport in HDR


    HDR formats on game consoles

    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?



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