As the Xbox One X game patches have come rolling in, it's been mostly good news for Microsoft and its new console. It's perhaps not been the 'true 4K' showcase many were hoping for and techniques like dynamic resolution are deployed to scale up current-gen 900p and 1080p games to better suit 4K displays. But the presentations have been convincing and the upgrade palpable - which made Titanfall 2's initial sub-par presentation so disappointing. Based on the findings of our report, Respawn Entertainment spent several days retooling the code and a new title update arrived at the tail-end of last week.
To quickly recap, our first hands-on with the Xbox One X upgrade did confirm that Respawn has deployed dynamic super-sampling technology - which can, in theory, scale resolution beyond 4K pixel-counts in order to keep the Scorpio Engine's six teraflop GPU fully tapped out. However, in actual gameplay, even the earliest campaign missions saw much lower resolutions - and occasionally even lower frame-rates - than the PlayStation 4 Pro version. It's safe to say that this is not what we expected, so we submitted our results to Respawn then spent a further couple of days testing and re-testing before publishing our article.
The extra testing highlighted a stress point that saw PS4 Pro's dynamic resolution scaler hit a low of 1080p, with Xbox One X sitting below that at around 864p. Something was clearly amiss. The good news is that the new patch massively improves the game's turnout in all of the crucial areas. Resolution issues are significantly improved and none of the advantages we saw in the earlier code - such as higher detail geometry at distance - are compromised. So in effect, we're looking at the best of both worlds here.
To cover off the matter of resolution scaling, Titanfall 2 improves dramatically on Xbox One X. The 864p/1080p stress point we identified on X/PS4 Pro now shifts markedly to a 1440p/1080p split in favour of the new Microsoft console. In-game pixel-counts in campaign gunplay now seem to vary between 1440p and around 1800p, only rising significantly higher to 4K and beyond when not much is going on (the initial stages of the tutorial remain the best area to see Respawn's dynamic super-sampling in effect).
The developer's temporal super-sampling anti-aliasing remains outstanding, smoothing off edges and allowing for a decent final upscale (or indeed downscale) to the hardware's 4K output. Playing the game over the weekend on an LG OLED display, Titanfall 2 simply shines - and the principal impact of the patch is in bringing out more of the game's detail. However, side-by-side with PlayStation 4 Pro, it's equally fair to say that the improvement here is one of refinement as opposed to a game-changing, super-crisp upgrade over Sony's 'super-charged' console. We've seen similar results in other titles that heavily utilise temporal super-sampling - the technology produces a softer aesthetic that helps to bridge the gap between resolutions, and big on-paper boosts in pixel counts don't result in equally massive improvements to image quality.
Titanfall 2's revamped patch provides improvements in other areas though. Performance is improved, with a much tighter lock to 60fps than either the pre-patch version or indeed the PlayStation 4 Pro release. The first campaign shoot-out - which could see X drop beneath Pro in terms of both resolution and frame-rate - shows much improvement, with both issues ironed out. A pleasant surprise is that cutscene frame-rates also lock to 60fps in the areas we tested. Generally, Respawn isn't quite so concerned about locking to 60fps in engine-driven cinematics, so there are drops on PS4 Pro and there were on Xbox One X. Microsoft's hardware now ploughs through the cutscenes we tested with no real issue.
The developer tells us that more optimisations may be incoming on a later patch, but the bulk of the work required to get the game running to the required standard is now done, and further improvements are likely to be more incremental in nature. While Titanfall 2's Xbox One X upgrade doesn't quite blow the doors off as we were hoping it would in light of the 6K resolution hype from a few months back, what you are getting is a superb game that presents very nicely on an ultra HD display.
For the purists that want the absolute top-end 4K Titanfall 2 experience with improved shadow cascades and ambient occlusion, the PC remains the place to be, but you're going to need a Ł700/$700 GTX 1080 Ti to really push all of the bling at consistent top-end resolutions. As things stand, both PS4 Pro and Xbox One retain the super-slick refresh and response that is the game's signature, and scale to varying degrees in terms of visual features and pixel counts. Neither are killer apps that can sell their respective systems, but both are solid, good-looking upgrades for one of last year's very best games.