Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons remake – UE5 Nanite and Lumen come at a heavy cost

Even today, gamers still hold a special place in their hearts for the 2013 classic Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons developed by Starbreeze Studios. Originally released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, this adventure puzzler resonated with players just before the next console generation arrived, delivering a powerful emotional experience. Fast forward to the present day, and we have a new remake tailored for the latest generation of consoles like PS5, Series X, and Series S. The question on everyone’s mind is: how does this remake measure up on these new platforms, especially on the less powerful Series S, in terms of performance and visual quality?

In terms of technology, this remake is a significant upgrade. The original game’s Unreal Engine 3 has been replaced with Unreal Engine 5, and the Milan-based studio Avantgarden has put in considerable effort to re-imagine every environment with enhanced detail using the engine’s Nanite and Lumen technologies. Apart from the improved visuals, the remake features new cutscenes, refined controls, difficulty adjustments, and even a re-recorded soundtrack with the original composer Gustaf Grefberg back on board.

Despite the extensive changes, the developers have made sure to stay true to the essence of the original game in terms of gameplay design and story. The core mechanics, from the main menu layout to the physics of the puzzles, remain largely unchanged. Players still control two brothers simultaneously from a top-down perspective, using one brother per analog stick, navigating a mesmerizing fantasy world filled with trolls, wolves, and sentient trees on a quest to save their ailing father.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Remake – PS5/XSX/S Tech Review – UE5 Nanite/Lumen Come at a Heavy Cost

Watch a detailed tech analysis of the Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons remake in video form.

Right from the opening scene on the cliffside, the transition to Unreal Engine 5 brings a plethora of visual enhancements. The revamped geometry, powered by Nanite, introduces more intricate meshes visible in details like rock formations along the coast, wooden planks, and cobblestone streets in the town below. Particularly, the cutscenes with close-up camera shots showcase the benefits of Nanite, adding rich grass and foliage details, improved water shaders, and advanced post-effects such as depth of field, film grain, and light shafts.

One of the most significant improvements, apart from Nanite, is the lighting in the remake, utilizing UE5’s Lumen real-time global illumination system. This lighting system enhances the diffuse bounce lighting across the scenes, especially noticeable in interior settings where light bounces off surfaces and affects nearby geometry, creating a more realistic lighting environment.

The character designs in the remake also receive a major overhaul. The materials used for the models show a significant improvement, with textures displaying intricate details like stitching on cloth and realistic skin shaders that interact convincingly with light. The redesigns of the characters’ facial features, with more expressive animations and detailed expressions, give the remake a fresh perspective. Additionally, some cutscenes are now pre-rendered, while others are completely new, aligning the remake closely with the original.

View a series of comparisons between the 2013 original and the 2024 remake. Click to enlarge!

Fortunately, the developers have managed to balance visual enhancements with playability in the remake. The environments remain easily understandable despite the graphical upgrades, and there are new features to explore, such as a two-player co-op mode introduced in the remake. Controls have been refined to provide a modern feel to movements and animations, with various smaller adjustments implemented throughout the game.

One key aspect to note is the availability of two graphics modes on PS5, Series X, and Series S: a 30fps quality mode and a 60fps performance mode. The quality mode on PS5 and Series X typically ranges in internal resolution from 1260p to 1620p, with 1440p being common, while 4K resolution is not observed during testing.

However, the Series S struggles in the quality mode, with its 30fps performance ranging from 454p to 720p, often hovering around the lower end of the spectrum. Despite some visual compromises and lower settings compared to PS5 and Series X versions, the Series S manages to maintain a decent frame rate on the quality mode.