PS5’s 3D audio: Returnal, Resident Evil Village creators detail Tempest implementation

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PS5’s 3D audio: Returnal, Resident Evil Village creators detail Tempest implementation

Sound teams from Housemarque and Capcom explain how the PS5 feature is shaping their games’ soundscapes and adds to your gameplay immersion.

3D audio has been one of PlayStation 5’s headline features ever since the console’s announce last year. Much like the system’s lightning-fast SSD and the DualSense wireless controller, the custom-built Tempest 3D audioTech was conceived to make your video game experience as immersive as possible in games that support it.  

On PS5, gamers can experience 3D audio with the stereo headphones that many already own, either through a USB dongle, USB wired headset, or wired headphones connected into the DualSense wireless controller’s 3.5mm jack. But you can fine tune the experience further: navigate to the 3D audio section within the Sound menu of your PS5 settings and pick which one of the five 3D audio profiles that sounds best to you. 

PS5’s 3D audio: Returnal, Resident Evil Village creators detail Tempest implementation

“We spent a long time deciding on the five audio profile settings for PS5,” explains Kenichi Imai, Deputy Head of the SIE Software Engineering Group, who helped build the Tempest engine. “Each person hears 3D audio differently, so these settings allow players to adjust sound to a level that’s closest to their ear level.”

3D audio has tantalizing applications for every genre. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen how it benefits action and horror with Returnal and Resident Evil Village. To learn more of how the tech is pushing the boundaries of immersion for those two titles, we went directly to the source: Housemarque and Capcom’s sound teams.

Wataru Hachisako, Resident Evil Village’s Audio Director, believes 3D audio can bring something new to the iconic survival horror series. “It’s very important in the horror genre to apply fear to the player’s imagination through elements they cannot see,” he explains. “I want players to be able to enjoy the experience of encountering a new enemy, even before they’ve visually chanced upon it. I believe 3D audio has the specs to really amplify what we’re aiming for, not only before players get a chance to see an adversary, but also when coming directly in contact with it as well. The sounds that an adversary makes are more fleshed out and fill the space in a 3D environment, which helps to amplify the immersion a player may feel.” An extra level of cognizance that’ll only add to the tension as you are hunted by growling Lycans or stalked by Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters.

That perception is equally crucial if you favour fight over flight. In Housemarque’s Returnal, you’re battling your way across a hostile alien planet. Atropos’ aggressive wildlife is diverse and weaponised. You’re always outnumbered and surrounded. In such dire circumstances, 3D audio is an important component to help you stay alive.

“[It] gives you a real-time, total awareness of the battlefield,” explains Loic Couthier. Returnal’s Audio Lead outlines how the Tempest tech communicates essential info to the player. Be it dictating enemy positions (“it tells you what is above, below, behind you”) or where sounds are layered in the audio mix (“enemies you cannot see are given a higher priority than the ones you can”).

One aspect of 3D audio is the ability to emphasize depth in a 3D space through noise. Returnal’s a great showcase for it, with every weapon discharge sounding distinct, based as it is on your position and the 3D space around you.

Couthier details the technical science behind the wizardry. When you pull the R2 trigger on the DualSense controller, the game fires three dimensional sound rays from your weapon. When those rays hit an obstacle, be it a wall or other physical shape, a unique reflection sound is played back at you. As an example, blast off in a tunnel that opens up into a larger chamber, and you’ll hear that echo continue to cascade around that larger space. Those positional sounds are generated in real time, all in the split second it takes you to fire. It’s a lot of work, and all because of 3D audio. “It would not be worth the effort without it,” he concludes.

Returnal’s audio mix smartly resequences that ‘ear-candy’ (as Couthier calls it), depending on the situation. In combat, they’re consigned to the background to allow you to focus ears (as well as eyes) on the immediate threat: the enemies that surround you.

“Obviously, there is a visual UI that helps you figure out the direction from where an attack or enemy comes from. But 3D audio tells you the exact position to get to. It’s an instant, muscle memory action to turn and aim at the enemy. Without 3D audio you would have to navigate the camera until you see where the enemy is, you will probably get some damage due to the time spent searching. The tactical advantage is huge because you gain on reaction time and can plan a strategy according to your awareness of the battlefield.”

He illustrates with a gameplay example. “Some of the most dangerous attacks can be melee from closest enemies. Even with those off screen, with 3D audio you can time and dodge their attacks in the right direction, while still shooting at another. Or decide to dodge and melee kill that close enemy before you resume your shooting.

“This is all subconscious and intuitive. Sometimes you will notice 3D audio in some cool moments, but most of the time you use it without knowing. That is the real strength of it.”

And it’s in the intertwining of 3D audio with other sensory inputs that helps elevate the entire gameplay experience on PS5.

“By adding 3D audio to the presentation, greater detail and depth is added to the graphics, and players will also sense more minor differences in the depth and feel of all the different areas they encounter,” answers Hachisako when asked what 3D audio adds to Resident Evil’s horror vibes. “Whether it’s a cold winter breeze rattling a rooftop, the absence of sound that hides the presence of something hiding in the darkness, an adversary that jumps in front of the player, or the peaceful melody of the safe room, all of these elements are distinct and more profound with the addition of proper audio and music… 3D audio is really able to provide the player with a more impactful experience.”

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35 Comments

  • As primarily an Xbox/PC guy this is a huge reason to pick up these games, especially RE8 on PS5.
    It just sounds above and beyond incredible compared to other platforms.
    Sound is totally a system seller for PlayStation 5, seriously good work on that front.

    Now if you could work on the whole PS4/PS5 game version auto installing/updating nonsense that would be great.

  • I absolutely love the 3D audio in both games but wish it was as straight forward knowing if I have 3D audio on or not as in Returnal. The game developers needs to make it clear making 3D audio a term used in options. Not “Surround” or the likes, but use the word 3D Audio!

    • Yeah a label would help. As to the above comment yeah they have some if you say preorder a PS5 version it will install that version not the PS4 version.

      What I mean is the failures installing updates because the SSD if full and they don’t let us put in another SSD. I barely have any games for PS5 and I’m having to uninstall a game everytime a new PS+ game comes out or rarely a new disc game.

    • Right!

  • Wake me up when you no longer need headphones to enjoy 3D audio on PS5.

    • Why? You’d rather buy a whole new sound system that just $99 headphones? K. Enjoy your nap.

    • On the contrary, ive invested heavily IN a surround sound system. Why would I spend a dollar more when I shouldnt have to, or even use a pair I already own ? Who watches their 4K, Dolby Atmos movies on their 65″ plus tvs with headphones?! Why would I do the same for an epic game like Demon Souls, its NOT the ideal set-up.

    • No, to your no.

    • Well, if you want to deprive yourself of better sound because of some weird sense of entitlement and other arbitrary stubborn reasons, you go for it bud.

    • It’s physics, man. Headphones can simulate 3D audio better than speakers. With headphones, you won’t feel the bass in your toes or chest (unless you use headphones and a subwoofer… which you could do), but with speakers you can’t hear audio coming from a direction where you don’t have a speaker placed, also not everyone has access to a room with good acoustics and privacy. Hardly any gamers can build a proper home theater, but almost anyone can have an amazing experience with $120 to $14 headphones.

      I don’t own any Dolby Atmos movies, but I do stream Netflix and Crunchyroll on my PS5, in 4K, on my 55” OLED, with HiFi headphones and amazing components. This was necessary when I lived in an apartment, but since I moved into my first house in March I have been able to make a very nice setup in my basement (with a 5.1 speaker setup), but even then the surround is more convincing with my Sennheiser HD 800 + HDV 820 + Smyth Realiser A16. Now that I got a PS5 on Monday, I don’t need the A16 anymore, a $4000 component that is even more scarce than the PS5, and I’m happy for everyone who now can get something close to that experience with the built-in Tempest 3D tech. These days I just use speakers when I’m sharing the sound, but I let guests hear my true HiFi setup if they want.

    • Also, I am of the opinion that movies tend to mostly use the center, frontal channel (to direct the viewer’s attention on the screen and who the camera is looking at), and surround channels for movies are the real gimmicks. “Oh, but that one scene at the beginning of Mad Max: Fury Road” you say. “Oh, but the naval battle scenes in Master and Commander,” you say.

      Well, in games, the ENTIRE EXPERIENCE can continuously be in 3D, and games are far more dynamic with an environment and things constantly making sounds off-screen, due to their player interactive nature.

      Excuse me, but if all you care about is Dolby Atmos and movies, why on earth are you looking “to spend a dollar more” on a PS5 when a simple and ubiquitous Blu-Ray player or streamer box will do what you’ve repeatedly asked on many PlayStation blogs??? Don’t get a PS5! Get a life! Or go back to bed.

  • How do we correctly turn on the 3D audio in RE 8: Village?

    The system has 3D audio on by default. This is supposed to turn on the Tempest Audio in supported games and virtualize 3D audio in non-tempest games.
    RE Village has an option in its game audio menu asking to turn on “Virtual Surround’ for headphones.

    So…will these conflict (double virtualization) if they are both turned on? Should only one of them be turned on?
    Can someone get an answer from the dev or someone from the PS platform

  • Is there still plans to expand HRTF profiles like was hinted by mark cerny? Maybe a better interface in the settings to help us select which is better?

  • Thr 3D audio is great but I personally hate using headphones it’s sad sony didn’t implement this into surround systems day one it’s obviously just to sell headsets

  • And still no support for real home theater speakers…

  • Yea I have been pouring over reddit and any website to find info on the BEST or intended setup for the ps5 with tempest turned on using pulse headsets. Answers are all over the place. With the audio set to headphones with the virtual on and 3d settings on at console level, it sounds horrible and muted. With surround and virtual off it sounds way better but it’s not in the description that it’s intended.

  • Add HT speaker integration plix.

  • Very nice article and all, but, as many said here, can Capcom share with the buyers of RE8 on PS5 what are the correct settings for 3D Audio? Answers are random on Reddit, Capcom doesn’t reply over twitter. And in-game settings are a bit of a mess.

    3D Audio is enabled on PS5 System. Obvious!
    We know that 3D Audio is currently only supported with headphones, so choosing Headphones on the in-game settings seems pretty obvious… or not!
    And then the Virtual Surround Setting…. why? how? why? If 3D Audio is enabled system wide, such an option shouldn’t even exist. Or not! Because nobody can explain it!

    Two multi-million dollars companies and nobody notices that something is not right?

    • Andromedas_Fall

      This. It’s amazing to me that PlayStation took the time to create this blog post but did not tell us how to actually make sure we are using 3D audio in Resident Evil Village. The in-game audio options do not tell us anything. What should we be selecting to ensure we are getting the best audio experience??

    • the fact that you can’t tell which settings correctly enable it, tells you that the tempest engine is just a buzz word like blast processing.

      If the tempest engine is so great, you would be immediatly able to tell the correct settings from the wrong settings.

    • I don’t have RE8, but it seems like it’s using the same interface for PS4 as it is for PS5. For the game Control, I selected “Headphones” from the options menu, and it’s definitely surround, though I haven’t run into many instances yet where I have to worry about height. For Destiny 2, I didn’t have to go into settings at all and it’s very clearly 3D.

      Good luck in getting a PS5 for yourselves soon, and being able to try this for yourselves.

  • NinjaRemoteplay

    Resident evil Village is a game of the year contender

  • capt_hank_murphy

    Too bad there’s no support for any of the existing object-oriented audio standards.

  • The part in RE8 where the baby fetus is chasing you and doll house section just wow horror right up my alley

  • The fact that not even the PS fans in the comments can tell which settings correctly enable the tempest engine tells you everything. It’s just a buzz word. Not even the biggest fans can tell if it’s active or not.

    You should have just spent the license fees for Dolby Atmos (and that would have supported headphones AND speakers), instead of cheaping out again. The Xbox version supports Atmos.

    • Not sure what you mean, the settings are EASY to find…

      In the sound settings, it’s labeled as 3D audio. In some PS4 games, you select the “headphones” option instead of “speakers.” That’s it.

      I’ve already been enjoying it with Destiny 2 and Control, and it’s really cool to hear the energy projectiles in Destiny as they sizzle past you, and creepy when I hear the alarms and whistling janitor down the hall at the start of Control (I only just got the PS5). I broadcast a few hours of gameplay on my YouTube, and viewers should be able to hear the 3D pretty easily IF THEY USE HEADPHONES. For example, in my Destiny 2 video, near the beginning, my broadcast started after I had finished clearing a room, and you can really here the placement of a fan in the floor and some fires as I circle around them… and then of course I go and get into fights, and those are awesome as well.

      It remains to be seen if Tempest 3D is enabled in Call of Duty: Warzone. That game drives me nuts, because the best I could get on the PS4 was 7.1 speaker surround, which was limited to 2D (since its just a ring of 7 speakers around you, no ceiling or floor speakers) and often trips me up when I’m not sure if I’m hearing enemies on the same floor of a building as me. Hopefully Star Wars Squadrons has been enhanced with 3D audio too, space sim games like that are MADE for 3D audio!

  • 3D spatial audio has been one of my most desired gaming features… after all, we hear naturally “in 3D,” and we only see what is in front of us (and within the frame of the screen).

    The Resident Evil series is very deserving of its hallowed legacy, and Village gives me RE4 vibes. Sooner or later I’ll have to own that game, but I think Returnal will be my first PS5 game! It looks like a very cool sci-fi story with mystery, as well as making the best use of 3D audio… the mixing during combat also seems to show a lot of care and respect by the devs!

    I JUST got my PS5 this week, and the Tempest 3D audio indeed works well with good height cues as well as front/side/rear. Depth is OK, but I feel I am being somewhat restricted by my (old) Creative BlasterX G5, which is good for the price but it is still an entry level product. My best DAC/Amp (and my Sony Walkman ZX300) sadly are not recoignized by the PS5, and I know that a clearer, higher quality component greatly enhances the realism and ability to sense depth with surround cues. Regardless though, I definitely recommend everybody try the Tempest 3D audio (and pick the right “height” sound profile for you, just takes 10 seconds to instinctively tell which is right for you), it’s the real deal and a good enhancement to gameplay.

    From the days of using little optical adapters and learning about Dolby bit streaming and all kinds of little settings tweaks, to the limited quality of gear available… I am SO PLEASED that 3D Audio will be available to all (that get a PS5) this generation, and that Sony supports at least some USB sound peripherals (UAC1 only, wish Sony would add UAC2 so more DACs could be used). RE8 and Returnal (Reeeeee!) seem to be great showcases for spatial audio, I hope to see more feature stories about how games are using this!

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