Without any kind of pre-launch announcement - or indeed, a single word of warning - remasters of Prototype and its 2012 sequel crept quietly onto the Xbox One store earlier this week - almost as if neither wanted to be caught in the act. On first glance you might wonder why. On the face of it, we're in standard remaster territory: both versions output at native 1080p, boosting image quality over their sub-720p setups on PS3 and Xbox 360. However, everything else remains as you remember it: each game maintains the exact same draw distance range as the older console releases, while texture and shadow quality is identical.
If what we're looking at is an HD remaster by the numbers, the situation swiftly goes downhill from there. The first Prototype remaster plays at 30fps with adaptive v-sync on Xbox One, dropping to the mid-20s with tearing once explosives are triggered. It's generally solid - and playable enough - but a touch under-ambitious given the plain, repetitive design of the world.
Even by latter-day PS3 and Xbox 360 standards the animations, effects and textures don't hold up well on the current generation of consoles, and it's hard to fathom why such a game couldn't operate at an absolutely locked 30fps. Indeed, given the vintage of the game, it's a real disappointment that the developers did not go the whole hog and target 60Hz gameplay. Otherwise, the original game is passable in its remastered guise, if a somewhat barebones conversion.
If the first remaster is a disappointment, Prototype 2 is more of an ordeal to play on Xbox One. From the word go, cut-scenes stutter by a frame every time the camera cuts to a new angle (seemingly due to a lighting pass switching each time). Emerging to Manhattan's complex of skyscrapers, most of the game's traversal then unfolds at around 20-25fps with highly intrusive screen-tear. It's absolutely among the worst performing games on Xbox One to date, despite its relatively modest origins. Despite the more ambitious lighting and physics compared to the original Prototype, it's staggering to see Xbox One's frame-rate stay so consistently low in this remastered sequel.
The real salt in the wound is how Xbox One's delivery of Prototype 2 compares to last-gen versions. Neither PS3 or Xbox 360 exactly aced it on this front; the Microsoft release suffered from heavy tearing and worse frame-rates overall, leaving PS3 the victor in our original Face-Off. In direct comparison, Xbox One struggles to even match the 360 version at points, falling as low as 18fps during a fly-over of the city (during which last-gen consoles lock to 20fps via a double-buffer v-sync).
As for gameplay, Xbox One's frame-rate is interchangeable with Microsoft's older platform, and trails behind too often for comfort. In one scene, 360 leads by a margin of 4fps during a tank battle, while Xbox One is pinned to around 23fps by the end of the fight. A resolution boost to 1080p is an obvious plus on current-gen hardware, but when Xbox One's combat sequences are fraught with sluggish, stuttering visuals like this, all we're left with is a sharper looking version of the original that offers no boost in playability over the original games. We're not having anywhere near as much fun with it as we should.
Worse still is the fact PS3 completely overshadows Xbox One in playability. Throughout our tests, Sony's last-gen machine runs with no tearing at all, and yet still manages to consistently best both Xbox machines in frame-rate, both old and new. And unfortunately this is another aspect in which the remaster comes undone: tearing is pernicious on Xbox One, and rarely lets up. The PS3 edition sails by with smoother performance in gameplay, and to back it, has a tear-free image that flatters the subject - even with its lower-resolution window.
Everything tallied together, this is really disappointing effort. All we're getting is a resolution bump, while the core assets are seemingly unchanged. A lack of any marketing in advance for this double-bill now makes sense; neither remaster is up to snuff. We didn't expect a total reworking of each game's visual design, but as a rudimentary conversion, we would have hoped for a solid 30fps on Xbox One. A PlayStation 4 version of each is also inbound, and if there's a glimmer of hope left for this project, it's that Sony's machine is unlikely to turn in worse results.
Will you support the Digital Foundry team?
Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.
Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of $5. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.Support Digital Foundry