Cel-shaded PUBG, ’70s Truck Sim and zinester Assassin’s Creed with new Nvidia tool

pubg

Post-processing tools for games aren’t new – hello Reshade and SweetFX – but the world of dramatically altering a PC game’s appearance with what could loosely be described as real-time Instragram filters has always been a scrappy wild west. Nvidia have this week built themselves a governor’s mansion on this new frontier, introducing a feature called ‘Freestyle‘ to the GeForce Experience suite of game optimisation, streaming and screenshotting tools. It might lack the open source and community-driven scope of ReShade, but it’s easier and slicker to use on the games that support it – and the results can be dramatic. Gimmicky, sure, but making a game you’re otherwise tiring of into a neon fever-dream can be a real shot in the arm.

Presenting for your wide-eyed delectation and howling disapproval – Plunkbat: The Animated Series, Assassin’s Creed Oranges: Vice City and American Truck Simulator: Grindhouse Edition.

Freestyle is, I’m afraid, only available for Nvidia cards, though again there’s the ReShade option (which also supports a wider range of games) if you’re on AMD and don’t mind a bit more fiddle. It also requires installing the latest drivers and GeForce Experience application, then heading to Settings - General - Enable experimental features in said application in order to opt-in to the beta version with Freestyle.

From there, you can bring up Freestyle options in-game by pressing Alt-F3, but for the time being only in selected titles. The full list is at the end of this post, and more are being added over time – indeed, the ranks have swelled in the day since I started fiddling with Freestyle.

Freestyle can’t do some of the more genuinely useful stuff that ReShade can, like improved anti-aliasing or adding ambient occlusion to games with limited options – it’s strictly for mucking around with the appearance. I’ve found there to be three realistic uses for it in its current state: knocking up eye-catching screenshots or desktop wallpapers; making a game which you’ve grown tired of or is too po-faced for its own good a little more lively for a time; in a handful of cases, lending a brand new atmosphere to the familiar.

The best element of it is that you can tweak entirely in real-time, using an array of easy effect, lighting/constrast and colour sliders (or a few presets) to come up with something you’re happy with. It’s a toy, basically, and while it could be dismissed as silly or gimmicky, I genuinely enjoy seeing how strange, horrific or simply strikingly different I can make games I know well look.

Here’s a few early highlights. Click on each for a 1080p version.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds does Borderlands

pubg-filter
pubg-graphics

The ‘Sketch’ filter adds faux-comicky outlines and bleaches out colour – maxed out, it just looks like you’ve got a piece of tracing paper taped over your monitor. But add in the Half-Tone effects and bump colour settings such as vibrancy up high and you end up with a broad simulacrum of the sort of thick lines/flat texture aesthetic seen in the likes of Borderlands or Telltale’s Walking Dead. It’s not entirely appropriate for characters, but does some eye-catching stylisation of the Monument Valley-like landscapes of Plunkbat’s new Miramar map. I played an entire match like this and really dug it – far more so than I’d expected.

Assassin’s Creed: Oranges – 80s fanzine edition

assassins-creed-origins-graphics

Definitely click through the larger version here – the effect’s somewhat lost in the wee’un. Sure, Assassin’s Creed Oranges is a very pretty game in its own right, but it doesn’t look like the poster-printed cover of a hand-made Cramps fanzine, does it? The ‘Mood’ filter comes in all sorts of colours, by the way, but the neon nightmarescapes of pink and purple plus a bunch of colour-amplifying sliders and the Half-Tone filter are hard to beat.

Eurotruck Simulator 2 does the 70s

retro

People, by and large, suffer when these filters are applied – too much detail, too many possible points of failure. But trucks? Trucks are easy. In Eurotruck Simulator 2 (sadly American Truck Sim is not officially supported as yet), the almost purely vehicular focus means effects are dramatic and broadly more convincing. It’s also, to be brutally frank, quite a stark and sometimes flat-looking game, which means the filters can be more transformative than they would in something with far fancier shaders and lighting. I came up with quite a few things I dug (see below), but nothing sang as much as the ‘Retro’ preset, which lent the whole affair a sort of grindhouse feel – all dirty shadows at the corners, sunset colours and over-exposed highlights, like a polaroid lying in a gutter. It’s cheesy for sure, but it lends ETS2 an instantly more filmic appearance, and I’m very happy to play the game this way.

Alternatively, there’s Post-Apocalyptic Truck Simulator:

apoc

Or Borderlands vs Van Gogh (check out the clouds in the wing mirror):

ets

Something I wish worked a bit better was the depth of field filter, whose bokeh effects from certain angles blesses ETS2 with some of the depth it’s sorely lacking, but for now it also adds blur and weird ripples to the wrong parts of the scene. Maybe over time…

bokeh

Early days for these tools, and whatever updates they see will need to work hard to escape gimmick status – but I enjoy playing with them, and hope they do become more powerful and versatile as time goes on.

Here’s the full list of supported games, or keep an eye on this page for new’uns.

  • 300 Ying Xiong (300 Heroes)
  • 7 Days to Die
  • Archeage
  • Ark: Survival Evolved
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Assassin’s Creed II
  • Assassin’s Creed Origins
  • Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
  • Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
  • Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
  • Assassin’s Creed: Unity
  • Battlefield 3
  • Black Desert
  • Borderlands 2
  • Call of Duty Online
  • Call of Duty: WWII
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Counter-Strike: Source
  • CrossFire: Rival Factions
  • Crossout
  • Cuphead
  • Dark and Light
  • Dark Souls II
  • Dark Souls III
  • Dead by Daylight
  • Dead or Alive 5: Last Round
  • Diablo III
  • Dishonored
  • DNF
  • Don’t Starve
  • Dota 2
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Dream Three Kingdoms 2
  • Dying Light
  • Euro truck simulator 2
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Faith of Danschant (神舞幻想)
  • Fallout 4
  • Far Cry 4
  • FIFA 17
  • FIFA Online 3
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
  • For Honor
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  • Grim Dawn
  • Guild Wars 2
  • H1Z1: King of the Kill
  • Half-Life 2
  • Hearthstone
  • Hearts of Iron IV
  • Hellblade:Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Insurgency
  • JX Online 3 (劍俠情緣3)
  • Killing Floor 2
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • Mad Max
  • Mafia III
  • MapleStory
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War
  • Moonlight Blade
  • NBA2K Online
  • Need for Speed Online
  • Need for Speed: Payback
  • Paladins
  • Payday 2
  • Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
  • Qian Nv You Hun (倩女幽魂)
  • QQ Dance
  • QQ Dance 2 (QQ炫舞2)
  • QQ Speed
  • Rocket League
  • Rust
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization V
  • Smite
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
  • Stellaris
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Terraria
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
  • The Evil Within 2
  • The Forest
  • The Sims 3
  • The Sims 4
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Tian Long Ba Bu
  • Titanfall 2
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
  • Transformers Online
  • Unturned
  • Warface
  • Warframe
  • War Thunder
  • Watch Dogs
  • Watch Dogs 2
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
  • World of Tanks
  • World of Warcraft: Legion
  • World of Warships

14 Comments

  1. Ghostwise says:

    That might be overstating the difficulty of using Reshade. The vast majority of users simply slam in a pre-made series of settings, I suspect.

    And as you point out, Reshade’s more common use is genuinely improving image quality rather than gimmicky goofing around.

    • sosolidshoe says:

      Yup. Plus, this nonsense requires you to install Experience, and I have enough mandated corporate spyware on my PC to be able to play games as it is thanks Nvidia.

      • MelissaLyons says:

        Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income… You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection… Make $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up… You can have your first check by the end of this week. This is what i do… Click Here & Start Work

    • Bremze says:

      You mean the more common use is cranking the shit out saturation and sharpness, surely?

      • Baines says:

        From my experience, yes.

        All you have to do is blow out the color saturation, post it, and you’ll have people lining up to praise how much better you made the game look.

        One of my griping points of lazy/bad PC ports is when a company ports the last-gen console version of a game to PC, instead of the current. The graphics in these cases often take a visible hit, with shorter draw distances, lower poly models, lower resolution textures, reduced models onscreen, and the like… It is almost physically painful when someone post a SweetFX config that blows out the saturation, claiming that they made the PC version’s graphics look just as good as console (and a bunch of people then agree.)

  2. woodsey says:

    And just like that, a thousand art directors howled in terror.

  3. Godwhacker says:

    I think most people use Reshade to get an advantage by turning up the saturation.

    Amisingly I see the GeForce Experience thing pop-up when I’m using Lightroom- will the providing the ability to filter my filters?

    • empty_other says:

      I usually used Reshade (and other tools like it) to cancel out the awful after-effects that was popular back then. Weird distance fog and blur effects. Brown or green-tinted desaturation effects. Light-gray blacks.

      What was wrong with game developers eyes back then?

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        “Brown or green-tinted desaturation effects.”

        Fallouts New Vegas and 3 I take it?

        I have no idea what they were thinking.

  4. OmNomNom says:

    This is great, I use reshade on almost every game to enhance the sharpening and add SMAA (and sometimes add a little colour) – having an ‘official’ alternative can only be a good thing.

  5. Mario Pajas says:

    I did not know Player Unknown had broken Spanish.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>