Microsoft has revealed that Xbox One launch title Ryse is not running at native 1080p.
Aaron Greenberg, chief of staff for the Devices and Studios Group, tweeted that the game will actually be running at "900p". Greenberg confirmed 1080p rendering for showpiece title Forza Motorsport 5, but it's already known that Killer Instinct - somewhat surprisingly - has targeted an internal 720p rendering resolution.
While some might be disappointed that some of the firm's first party exclusives aren't running at full HD, the situation is somewhat reminiscent of the Xbox 360 launch, where key titles like Project Gotham Racing 3 and Perfect Dark Zero failed to hit the native 720p target that Microsoft mandated in its own technical requirements.
In the case of Xbox One, the system's graphical performance level has been something of a moving target since near-final silicon shipped to developers - clock-speeds on the CPU and GPU have increased, while the software-side driver has seen considerable revision. Bearing in mind that games take upwards of two years to develop, decisions on rendering resolutions must surely have been taken prior to the console's hardware spec being set in stone.
Developer sources have also suggested that the 32MB of ESRAM - the fast scratchpad memory for high-speed graphics processing - may favour lower resolution render targets. This is a topic we hope to return to soon with some hard data from on-the-record sources.
So what does the reduction to resolution actually mean for image quality? It's a topic we recently covered in our article on how Xbox One games can compete with PS4, using Crysis 3 - one of the most visually rich of PC titles - as our test-bed. Coincidentally, this game hails from the same developer as Ryse and is based on the same underlying CryEngine technology. For the purposes of this test, we've assumed that "900p" sees the same level of scaling on the x-axis too, giving us a 1600x900 framebuffer.
While we'd clearly prefer 1080p as a target resolution, it's safe to say that the reduction in quality isn't quite as impactful as you might expect in these shots - surprising bearing in mind that we're looking at a one-third drop in overall resolution. In motion, larger, upscaled pixels may be more noticeable but persistent on-screen elements - like the HUD - are likely to be rendered at native 1080p.
The takeaway from our testing with the detail-rich Crysis 3 was that the situation isn't as much of an issue as it is on current-gen console, where sub-720p imagery can look really grim, particularly in concert with post-process anti-aliasing. Clearly though, final judgement on multi-platform next-gen titles that employ different resolutions will be reserved for our hands-on comparisons with final retail code.
Upscaling has come a long way since the current-gen consoles launched in 2005/2006, and we can imagine that developers of both Xbox One and to a lesser extent PS4 titles will employ sub-native framebuffers to hit their performance targets, especially in first-gen games. Given the choice between a consistent gameplay experience at 900p or 1080p with a frame-rate hit, we'd take the smoother performance every time.