Fortnite on Unreal Engine 5: can Steam Deck deal with Epic’s next-gen tech?


Valve’s Steam Deck has revolutionised PC gaming, its 15W customized AMD processor exceeding expectations and doing an incredible job in delivering handheld triple-A expertise – however Unreal Engine 5 might be its hardest problem but, owing to its Nanite micro-geometry and RT-based Lumen lighting. That is next-gen – or relatively current-gen – stuff, so whether or not the Deck can deal with it’s key to its long run prospects. To place that to the take a look at, we determined to see if we may run the most recent model of Fortnite with all of those options in play – and the outcomes are stunning.

I went into this one with little optimisation. The Valley of the Historic demo was a slideshow on the Deck, whereas the Matrix Awakens Metropolis Pattern demo with massive cutbacks nonetheless operates principally in in sub-20fps territory. However remarkably, Fortnite is playable, even handicapped by numerous points that maintain the machine again.

Truly getting the sport operating is difficult sufficient. The most important downside of all is that owing to lack of compatibility with Fortnite’s anti-cheat expertise, the sport will not run in any respect below SteamOS, which means that you have to set up Home windows to get it operating. The second downside is a warning from Epic on booting the sport, telling us our GPU driver is old-fashioned and performing sub-optimally – which is not going to assist our trigger.

Unreal Engine 5 with {hardware} RT Lumen, Nanite and digital shadows enabled on Steam Deck and stacked up in opposition to Xbox Collection S.

Settings-wise, I opted typically for top settings throughout the board – a fundamental try and broadly mimic Xbox Collection S. To be clear, these settings decisions aren’t about producing optimised settings for Fortnite on Steam Deck. Utilizing ray-traced lighting and Nanite is just not a good suggestion. If it labored below Steam OS, you would be utilizing the extra streamlined modes and seeking to goal 60fps. Our experiments at the moment are one thing fairly totally different: it is about testing the viability of UE5 cutting-edge options on the Deck.

Preliminary outcomes have been too good in that efficiency was truly relatively spectacular – and stacking up Steam Deck in opposition to Xbox Collection S in a linked multiplayer recreation, the explanations grew to become clear. Regardless of choosing the software program model of Lumen (in keeping with the consoles), this did not appear to work in any respect. The one method to get broadly equal world illumination was to make use of the {hardware} RT Lumen setting. On the one hand, utilizing {hardware} RT when the consoles skip it’s fairly the feat, however then again, there are causes Epic selected to go for the software program resolution – it is quicker – and that possibility for quicker efficiency wasn’t obtainable for me in my testing.

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So, there’s excellent news and unhealthy information by way of our general outcomes operating Fortnite on the Deck. We will get near 30 frames per second on Deck – even utilizing {hardware} RT – however the unhealthy information is that we’d like use temporal tremendous decision in efficiency mode to do it, which means that – astonishingly maybe – we’re truly upscaling from 360p. TSR actually could be very spectacular on the one hand, however then again, I am unable to assist however wonder if we may get higher picture high quality and extra steady efficiency if we had the flexibility to make use of software program RT, in keeping with the console builds.

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Utilizing Fortnite’s replay system, we are able to examine absolutely matched gameplay footage utilizing no matter settings combos we like – so I began by evaluating the varied temporal tremendous decision choices, from 720p in TSR efficiency mode, as much as native 720p with TAA. The TSR variants are maybe nearer than you would possibly anticipate, whereas native 720p utilizing TAA is clearly quite a bit slower – however on the flipside, it is rendering RT at pixel counts broadly in keeping with Collection S. That being the case, 19 to 24fps is sort of spectacular for a handheld with a 15W APU servicing each CPU and GPU. Additionally spectacular is how nicely TSR holds up, making an allowance for that within the efficiency mode, it is upscaling from simply 360p. It might merely be right down to the way in which that Fortnite presents however even this seems to be advantageous on a handheld display screen. Even so, a constant studying of 30fps or larger remains to be elusive even on the bottom decision possibility we now have right here.

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I ran these frame-rate checks with v-sync off, permitting for legitimate benchmarking of the varied permutations. TSR efficiency throughout the clip weighs in at 30.04fps – however do not forget that frame-rate is each above and beneath that common. Transferring as much as TSR balanced sees efficiency drop by eight p.c for a 27.6fps common, whereas a lot cleaner TSR high quality mode can solely muster 87 p.c of the efficiency mode’s numbers with a 26.2fps common. Native decision 720p delivers 22fps – or 73 p.c of TSR efficiency’s throughput.

Going into this experiment, I used to be seeking to replicate the outcomes I noticed on the Deck operating Metro Exodus Enhanced Version below Home windows (there is not any RT help in SteamOS but), stacked up in opposition to Xbox Collection S, with decision compromises and frame-rate lower from 60fps to 30fps. It seems to be just like the settings I selected have a small element deficit and I used to be to see that the {hardware} RT possibility presents a clearly RT-based lighting resolution that also seems to be fairly totally different to Collection S. Even so, we’re near getting an honest 30fps expertise on Steam Deck that in movement seems to be fairly near the Collection S expertise – and I feel there are clear routes ahead in bettering efficiency (software program Lumen not working accurately being the large disappointment in my checks).

Efficiency comparability utilizing varied flavours of temporal tremendous decision upscaling, stacked up in opposition to native 720p with TAA.

One thing else to contemplate is that whereas it is nice to make use of all the UE5 high-end options collectively, it isn’t a should – definitely not based mostly on Fortnite, at the very least. Lumen lighting could be disabled for an easier, flatter various. Alternatively, Nanite geometry or digital shadows could be disabled too. There are alternatives for rising efficiency, however I assume the query is the extent to which future UE5 titles concentrating on the consoles will goal 60fps within the first place and whether or not the fallbacks will work nicely sufficient if, say, RT lighting must be disabled. There’s additionally the query of decision: TSR works nice with Fortnite in upscaling from absurdly low resolutions, however how would extra detailed visuals fare?

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And naturally, each recreation – even these operating on the identical engine – can have very totally different {hardware} necessities. Proper now, there’s solely Fortnite to check however at the very least with our first working instance of an precise UE5 recreation, Steam Deck’s mere 1.6 teraflops of peak GPU compute paired with its cutback CPU cluster (in relation to the Sony and Microsoft consoles) does appear to at the very least be capable to run in a playable state.

This has been an attention-grabbing experiment then – and I am unable to wait to see what the subsequent UE5 title is that’ll use Lumen and Nanite, and the extent to which it will run on Steam Deck. Working future UE5 titles below SteamOS will likely be an attention-grabbing problem too, making an allowance for that in utilizing Home windows on the Deck, we’re successfully working in UE5’s ‘dwelling territory’. This could imply good issues or unhealthy issues for the Deck. Regardless, I actually cannot wait to see simply how scalable UE5 is and the extent to which Steam Deck can deal with this new wave of demanding titles. Within the meantime although: UE5, Lumen and Nanite operating on a handheld with a mere 15W energy envelope? It may be achieved!


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