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Performance Analysis: Star Wars: Battlefront beta on Xbox One

It's 720p - but to what extent does that impact the game?

UPDATE 10/10/15 11:37am: Rounding off our console coverage of the Star Wars: Battlefront beta, we thought we'd take a look at the survival mode two-player split-screen on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. In this mode, DICE drops frame-rate to 30fps, with pretty decent results. The action is still plenty of fun, although we did notice that fluidity is compromised owing to some frame-pacing issues. We noticed something similar in Need for Speed: Rivals a couple of years back and it was fixed via a patch, so fingers crossed DICE can do the same here. One thing we can confirm after further testing is that both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions do run the split-screen component at full 1080p, with DICE effectively trading frame-rate for resolution - so a 1920x540 resolution per player window is confirmed.

The beta's Tatooine survival mode offers co-op via both online and local split-screen - here we're testing using the latter option.

Original Story: The Star Wars Battlefront beta kicked off yesterday, giving us our first opportunity to go hands-on with the Xbox One version of this hugely anticipated game. But going in, our concern was this: the PS4 beta renders at 900p - just as Battlefield 4 did two years ago - and we suspected that history might repeat itself on Xbox One as well, with a sub-optimal 720p presentation. We had harboured hopes that two years of familiarising itself with the Microsoft hardware would result in a higher base rendering resolution, or that we may see a dynamic resolution as seen in the likes of Halo 5: Guardians.

It hasn't happened. Battlefront on Xbox One is fixed at 720p, meaning that it runs at 64 per cent of the PS4's overall pixel count. From an image quality perspective, the compromises are just as you'd expect; we see more aliased edges, and a higher level of shimmering on fine distant detail - particularly on Tatooine's flag-lines. Added to that, there's a softening to the picture as a whole - a result of a more drastic upscale, combined with a similar grade of post-process anti-aliasing to PS4.

We're left with a similar state of affairs to Battlefield 4, but there are some positives. If you can look past Xbox One's lower resolution, the actual content of the game is identical to PS4, and a decent match for PC's high graphics settings. It means texture and shadow quality are the same between both consoles, as is the use of tessellated geometry across the floor, giving textures a 3D 'pop' effect. The Battlefront beta's three included maps give us some of the best-realised Star Wars locales in videogame form, and both consoles get the goods in this sense.

Draw distances are like-for-like too, resulting in similar levels of pop-in as we sweep across the map. Of course, Xbox One's resolution is a factor in this respect, particularly with map visibility across range. As with DICE's earlier titles on the console, 720p has an impact when picking out enemies across broad expanses of terrain - the Hoth map being the biggest example in this case. The rebel base interior area holds up well enough during shoot-outs, and it's fair to say DICE's anti-aliasing does a surprisingly thorough job of cleaning up a base 720p image. Unfortunately, this core pixel count isn't high enough to resolve details clearly across the map as a whole, and the anti-aliasing's attempts to clean the image has the side-effect adding a noticeable blur to the distance. In effect, this especially dulls the spectacle of this mission's final third, bringing us to a long spread of trenches - and from an AT-AT's top-down perspective, Xbox One's resolution starts to obscure the great art design DICE puts into this scene.

Xbox One's beta under the microscope. As with PS4, Battlefront's frame-rate runs between 50-60fps, but tends to get bogged down more heavily once effects kick in.

It certainly falls short of a 900p image, where PS4 gives clearer results overall - and while Sony's platform falls short of the full 1080p (and beyond) possible on PC, the perceptible results are convincingly close at this number. We're increasingly seeing 1600x900 used as a stop-gap resolution this generation on consoles, and it's fair to say with the right image treatment, it certainly holds up. On the other hand, there's only so much DICE can do via post-processing to compensate for Xbox One's short-comings at 720p and it falls below a threshold of quality we had expected going into this generation.

As for performance in the beta, Xbox One targets 60fps just like PS4, and it sticks to that number most of the way. The bad news is we see more drops to 50fps on balance compared to PS4, especially as the Walker Assault mission reaches its climax. By the tail-end of play here, we see start seeing more drastic dips, sometimes below the 50fps line once transparency effects kick in across the trenches. The interior Rebel base area is a major stress point, causing prolonged stints at 50fps once AT-ATs start attacking the entrance.

As a baseline we're looking at a 60fps playback on Xbox One overall, but it's fair to say drops are more intrusive and protracted than PS4's once the engine is stressed. Fortunately, smaller maps run a lot smoother, and we get a near perfect 60fps for Sullust's 16-player games, and the Tatooine survival mode. Barring a few dropped frames here and there, Xbox One's level of performance isn't a distraction on these two at all.

As an insight into Star Wars Battlefield's state ahead of its November launch, it's fair to say PS4's beta is in the healthier shape. With a clearer image and the better average frame-rate of the two consoles, the strong suggestion right now is that the PS4 version is the one to gun for on launch. On the PC side, we aim to cover performance in more depth across a range of hardware soon - our investigations yesterday were hampered somewhat by woeful level of server availability (in our tests: none). Thankfully, EA has addressed this now, and initial impressions suggest that we are indeed looking at a very scalable game - Core i3 power has kept us at locked 1080p60 when paired with a Titan X in the taxing 40-player Hoth stage, so the game is very accommodating in terms of the level of CPU power required. That said, adept settings tweakery is required to maintain frame-rate on lower-end GPUs, something we'll report back on soon.

Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
Xbox One features the same level of texture mapping and tessellation, in line with the PS4 beta and PC's high preset. However, its 1280x720 resolution muddies texture clarity past a certain point, with PS4 appearing the sharper of the two.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
Decorative terrain such as rubble, draws in at the same distance on Xbox One and PS4. Curiously, the smoke plumes at the top-right are significantly pared back in density compared to PC's high preset.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
Ambient occlusion quality is a match between consoles. Strangely, lighting across this stage differs slightly during this cut-scene - an anomaly not seen on the other maps.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
At range, Xbox One's lower resolution produces the blurrier image across Sullust's wastelands, with PS4 holding up reasonably well at 900p.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
Another long range shot, showing the PC's ultra preset drawing shadows in at a longer range than on consoles.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
PS4 and Xbox One use a similar post-process technique to PC's high setting.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
Quality of geometry is closely paired on console, and likewise for the way shadows are rendered across the scene - a blurrier implementation compared to PC.
Xbox OnePlayStation 4PC HighPC Ultra
Motion blur is in effect on console, during intro panning shots and cut-scenes. The effect is absent on PC at any preset.

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About the author

Thomas Morgan

Thomas Morgan

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry  |  cataferal

32-bit era nostalgic and gadget enthusiast Tom has been writing for Eurogamer and Digital Foundry since 2011. His favourite games include Gitaroo Man, F-Zero GX and StarCraft 2.


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