Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance running on Android using mobile hardware? This we had to check out. Platinum Games' brilliant Metal Gear spin-off has been promoted for some months on Nvidia's Shield portal, with no indication of when it may actually be released. Now, it's finally available - but unlike many of Nvidia's ports that scale across Tegra hardware, only the Shield Android TV micro-console can run this one, and perhaps not surprisingly, a gaming controller is mandatory.
There are good points and bad points about this conversion. Addressing the positives first, Nvidia has seemingly crammed everything from the original release into a 4GB download - to the point where the game's video sequences produce a much higher visual quality compared to the murky Xbox 360 encodes. Based on first impressions, Metal Gear Rising appears to be very close in terms of its visual make-up - we ran the game back-to-back with the Xbox 360 version and noted that aside from harsher gamma on the Microsoft console (quite possibly an RGB vs rec.709 digital component issue), the graphical features are mostly a match too.
Resolution on the new port also seems to match the last-gen console too - which is surprising bearing in mind that Shield's mobile-based technology, Tegra X1, features a GPU component significantly more powerful than the Xenos graphics tech found inside Xbox 360. We've previously noted that mobile ports tend to fall short in performance terms when stacked up to last-gen console titles, but there have been notable exceptions: Doom 3 BFG Edition in particular operates at a nigh-on flawless 1080p60 on Shield Android TV, a considerable upgrade over the 720p60 Xbox 360 and PS3 efforts, which also had more noticeable performance drops.
But the bigger disappointment comes down to performance where Shield Android TV can't keep up with the pace set by the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. Metal Gear Rising is a game designed to be played at 60fps, and while both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions of the game could see performance dips, there's still a night and day difference compared to the Shield Android TV version. All too often frame-rates occupy 30fps territory - the only time we saw anything approaching sustained like-for-like performance came in the much more simplistic tutorial sections.
Revengeance running on Android operates with a significant frame-rate disadvantage then, but it's actually the variations in frame-time that are more of an issue - frames persist for 16ms, 33ms, 50ms or even higher at any given point, meaning there's little consistency in the overall experience. This gives the sense that the game is actually running at an even lower performance level than it actually is. Presumably this explains why only Shield Android TV owners can access the port - with this read-out, the less capable Tegra K1 tablets simply wouldn't be able to cope.
To its credit, Nvidia has been fearless in its pursuit of high-profile Android ports - Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Resident Evil 5 are on the way, and we've even seen early work on a Crysis 3 conversion - but clearly the process of bringing console titles onto Android isn't easy, despite Tegra X1's impressive spec. The conversion team would have had access to all the source material - which presumably includes the existing PC and Mac ports - but clearly there's an overhead issue. Whether that's down to issues with the port itself, or the process of converting DirectX code to OpenGL (the Mac version used the Cider wrapper to achieve this) is unknown, but it highlights that the convergence between desktop and mobile tech we've been looking forward to for some time is still some way off, particularly if DirectX continues to be dominant.
Regardless, putting this piece together and revisiting this game has been great fun. Revengeance is almost three years old now, but the game still holds up beautifully. In fact, it may well be our absolute favourite Platinum Games title. Perhaps it's time to revisit it on PC...