Picture of John Linneman

John Linneman

Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

An American living in Germany, John has been gaming and collecting games since the late 80s. His keen eye for and obsession with high frame-rates have earned him the nickname "The Human FRAPS" in some circles. Hes also responsible for the creation of DF Retro.

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In what has become somewhat of a tradition at this point, boutique console manufacturer Analogue has returned with a new machine focused on Sega's eight and 16-bit legacy - the Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis. The new Mega Sg is a beautiful piece of hardware designed to play Sega games with optimum compatibility while delivering pristine visual results on a modern flat panel display.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a spiritual follow-up to the Souls series with a very different visual style and a range of new gameplay ideas. It's a fast-paced, tough-as-nails action game and it's every bit as good as I had hoped - but when it comes to the technology powering its games, From Software doesn't exactly have the best track record. Games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 are gorgeous to behold with complex geometry and remarkable art direction but on consoles, performance leaves a lot to be desired, while historically, loading times have been problematic. Sekiro manages to address some concerns, but others persist.

The road to Killzone 2 was almost certainly a difficult one fraught with unrealistic expectations defined by its infamous E3 2005 pre-rendered trailer - but despite the odds, developer Guerrilla Games managed to produce one of the most visually striking games of the generation. Even today, Killzone 2 stands head and shoulders above most games released for PlayStation 3 in terms of both technical ambition and artistic vision. Revisit the game yourself and see what I mean - it still looks stunning.

Digital FoundryWhat links Tron, classic Disney animation and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure?

DF Retro presents a masterclass from Hollywood veteran, Bill Kroyer.

What links Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure with the beginnings of Hollywood CG movies, a whole host of animated features and the original artists that helped to define the Disney method? That would Bill Kroyer, an animation veteran who learnt from the original masters at Disney, pioneered CG rendering in Tron - and collaborated with Activision during the mid-90s on the fascinating Pitfall sequel.

Digital FoundryDevil May Cry 5: a spectacular fusion of cutting-edge tech and superb design

Plus: everything you need to know about every console version.

Capcom's run of great games - and superb technology - continues with the arrival of Devil May Cry 5. It's been eleven long years since the developer produced an in-house DMC game, and this new release is quite something, combining brilliant artwork with a sense of fun and style, slick action and another brilliant outing for the RE engine. Visually, Capcom has hit a home run with this one and while there are some important differences between the four console builds, the game looks superb and is a lot of fun regardless of the system you play it on.

Digital FoundryYoshi's Crafted World: an epic yarn for Switch?

Powered by Unreal Engine 4 - a good fit for Nintendo?

On the face of it, Yoshi's Crafted World may not seem like the kind of game we usually cover on Digital Foundry, but there's actually a lot of interesting things happening here from a technical standpoint. Foremost amongst them is that a Nintendo first-party title is coming based on the ubiquitous Unreal Engine 4 middleware. We know that Epic's engine can produce some fantastic visuals, but is it a good match for Nintendo's unique style of presentation, not to mention the 60 frames per second performance typically associated with most first-party Nintendo releases? The answers are pleasantly surprising.

Crackdown 3 tech analysis: a console classic reborn?

Xbox One X, Xbox One S and PC versions tested.

The journey towards Crackdown 3's release has not been a smooth one - but after some four years in development, the game is finally complete. Its troubled history and dodgy trailers left us concerned about the quality of the final product but as it turns out, the campaign portion of Crackdown 3 is actually an accomplished and often beautiful game, using Unreal Engine 4 innovatively to deliver a unique visual style, paired with the best HDR implementation we've seen since Gran Turismo Sport. Whether Crackdown 3 delivers as a sequel comes down to how closely wedded you are to the original's chaotic anything-goes open world and the introduction of more structure here. Opinion may be divided on this one, but the core gameplay delivers much more than I expected, and I think one of this game's strengths is just how much of an actual sequel this is, as opposed to a reboot or a 'reimagining' of one of Xbox 360's finest hours.

Ace Combat 7 is a superb sequel to a classic franchise that succeeds because it embraces new technology, but respects its past - and doesn't try to evolve the series into something it was never meant to be. There are all-new visuals, missions and game modes, but its connection to the past remains fundamental to its success. It's a proper sequel to the brilliant Ace Combat 5 (a decent port of which is bundled with PS4 pre-orders - and it runs at 4K60 on Pro), with gameplay evolved from AC4 and AC5. However, the fundamental technology has changed: similar to the Tekken and Soulcalibur titles, a proprietary game engine has been ditched for Unreal Engine 4, but thankfully the move pays off handsomely for the most part, with larger environments, lots of destruction and more on-screen entities.

Assuming the role of virtual pilot while engaging legions of foes in the art of aerial combat is a concept synonymous with the origins of video games. Many popular titles of the 70s, 80s and 90s centre on this simple concept. Sometimes it was a space craft, other times a fighter jet but the concept is simple to grasp and always promises loads of fun. These games started as simple two-dimensional shooters but, as technology evolved, developers started to push new boundaries. Three-dimensional flight simulation games started to become extremely popular especially on the PC platform. From After Burner to more serious simulations such as Falcon 3.0, we certainly weren't starved for choice.

Digital FoundryDF Retro: the forgotten Nintendo tech that makes GameCube HDMI possible

Nintendo's vintage 2001 console has never looked better.

Nintendo's GameCube is a fascinating design - and an under-appreciated masterpiece of console technology. First released in Japan in September 2001, it offered a vast leap in 3D power compared to its predecessor - the Nintendo 64 - while at the same time delivering the whole package in a tiny form-factor. But there are hints that Nintendo had further plans for its machine, ideas built into the design that were never fully utilised - until now. A series of HDMI adapters for the machine are now available, delivering crystal-clear 480p, derived from a lossless digital signal that was mysteriously built into the GameCube hardware.

Digital FoundryArk: Survival Evolved on Switch is cut back to the absolute barebones

It's playable, but the visual compromises are extraordinary.

Nintendo's Switch has been a genuine surprise - a hybrid console based on a mobile chipset that has delivered some remarkable tech showcases: the Doom 2016 port was a mini-revelation while the Wolfenstein 2 follow-up was even more mind-blowing. But these were streamlined 60fps games pared back to 30fps, and built around an eminently scalable engine - a state of affairs that doesn't fully apply to Studio Wildcard's Ark: Survival Evolved, which seems to have been dragged kicking and screaming onto the Switch hardware with some good - and some very bad - results.

Digital FoundryDF Retro: we play every single Doom console conversion

Doom is 25 today - and this is every console port the PC game inspired.

December 10th 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of Doom, the first-person shooter that changed everything, not only for PC gaming but for consoles too, as the hardware of the time attempted - with varying levels of success - to bring that classic PC experience to the living room. Last year, DF Retro revisited Doom on every console platform, using today's Digital Foundry tools and methods to assess the quality of each port. It's a piece we're happy to republish today!

With game-makers and publishers building almost all of their games with multiple console platforms in mind, it's worth remembering that things used to be very, very different. Titles used to launch on bespoke arcade platforms before being ported to home consoles, and when hardware like the original PlayStation arrived, titles were specifically built around its strengths. Direct ports to other systems rarely worked owing to massive hardware differences, with some developers opting to create entirely new games instead. But when it came to the N64 port of Resident Evil 2, Angel Studios - now Rockstar San Diego - went for a different approach. It aimed to overcome the N64's most profound limitations, delivering an uncannily accurate port of the original PlayStation release.

With its remarkable, varied game library, the original PlayStation stands as one of the best console platforms in gaming history. For Sony as a corporate entity, the PlayStation brand remains a key part of its lineup and one that has arguably saved the company at points during its long history. For gamers though, the original grey box represents an era of discovery and wonderful memories - a time when previously niche genres were given the chance to thrive the world over and well-worn genres were given new life in the transition to 3D.

Digital FoundryWarframe on Switch: Panic Button delivers another tech showpiece

The developer's run of superb conversions continues.

They've done it again. Developer Panic Button returns with another highly impressive Switch conversion of a current-gen title: Digital Extremes' Warframe. It's available now on the eShop and it's free to play, so if you want to see how this talented team manages to bring PS4 and Xbox One experiences to Nintendo's console hybrid, do check it out - we suspect you'll be impressed.

Digital FoundrySunset Overdrive PC: the game's great - but the port is basic

Resolution and frame-rate are the only real improvements.

One of the worst-kept secrets in gaming, the PC version of Insomniac's excellent Sunset Overdrive finally released last week on both Steam and the Windows Store - and it's a bargain at just 14.99/$19.99. Liberated from the 900p30 lock of the original Xbox One release, the game is vastly improved - but as good as the game can be, the quality of the port itself could have been better. A lot better.

Digital FoundryFinal Fantasy 13 on Xbox One X is a back-compat masterpiece

Enhanced performance, 9x resolution boost - and vastly improved video cutscenes.

The recent arrival of Final Fantasy 13 on Xbox One is a simply brilliant addition to the backwards compatible library. And for X owners at least, the transformation is astonishing: what was originally the least preferable version of the game is now by far and away the best way to play it. Better still, it also sees Microsoft going the extra mile to bring an enhanced experience to users, to the point where the line blurs significantly between backwards compatibility and a bespoke remastering effort.

Following the immense success of last year's Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy, Activision has wasted little time in resurrecting another fondly remembered 90s platforming hero for modern consoles. Spyro Reignited Trilogy brings Insomniac's three Spyro The Dragon games to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in a visually lush conversion by industry veteran Toys for Bob - the studio responsible for classic games such as Star Control 2 as well as the Skylanders series.

18 years after the release of the original Hitman: Codename 47, the series lives on - yet it was arguably only with the release of the 2016 game that Danish studio IO Interactive perfected the formula. That game has been widely recognised for its remarkably complex, systematic world, engaging design and highly replayable missions - it's a remarkable achievement. Hitman 2, released last week, is a continuation of the work IO started on the 2016 game, with six new environments and new gameplay features and options.

PlayStation 4 - and latterly, PS4 Pro - have taken centre-stage in Red Dead Redemption 2's pre-release marketing campaign, meaning we have a pretty decent idea of how Rockstar's latest epic presents on Sony hardware. Today, we can discuss the Xbox One versions of the game, and the key takeaway is this: if you're looking for the very best RDR2 experience, Xbox One X is the go-to platform for this game. Rockstar's stunning technological achievement runs at native 4K on the X, and also delivers the smoothest performance. Bearing in mind just how far Rockstar is pushing current-gen hardware, that's a stunning achievement.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a landmark technical achievement - and the end result of a unique development situation. With Grand Theft Auto 5, Rockstar has already developed the top-grossing title in the history of the games industry - and with that comes the confidence to invest all of the time, money and resources required to realise its vision for the ultimate game. The final product is technological masterpiece, matching and arguably exceeding the very best first-party efforts of this generation.

Digital FoundryLuigi's Mansion 3DS: GameCube port or full mobile remake?

Nintendo's veteran handheld continue to impress.

Seventeen years ago, Nintendo upended expectations by launching its state-of-the-art GameCube console without a Mario game. At the time it seemed crazy - after all, Mario titles were key to the success of its prior console launches - but this time, there was something else awaiting early adopters instead. Luigi's Mansion was - and is - rather an unusual game. Combining Nintendo's charming character design and fun gameplay mechanics with a horror-themed mansion certainly isn't something anyone expected at the time, but since its release, the series has become somewhat of a fan favourite. And now, the original game has relaunched on Nintendo 3DS in one of the most interesting conversions we've seen in some time.

UPDATE 16/10/18 3:52pm: Sega has been in touch with a statement - "SEGA and D3T indeed had started exploring the feasibility of a full HD remaster for Shenmue I & II. That being said, we soon realised that this was a project with its own set of challenges. Working with original animations and characters but meshing them with enhanced HD visuals gave us a game that we felt would not meet the standards that Shenmue fans expect and deserve. Rather than going ahead with a release that may disappoint fans, we chose to focus on bringing the classic game to PC and modern consoles, so that new players could experience Shenmue's original charm."

One year ago, retro console maker Analogue unveiled the Super Nt - a premium console designed to play Super NES games on a modern display with low latency and excellent visual quality. At Digital Foundry we reviewed the final unit when it released a few months later and were suitably impressed. The level of accuracy and suite of features on offer is certainly impressive and we feel it's the best option for playing Super NES games on a flat panel. With NES and Super NES now covered by the Analogue line we wondered what might be next.

It's been over 30 years since its NES debut, but Capcom's classic Mega Man is still one of the greatest platform games of all time. The series has evolved over the years - and not always in the right direction - but the recently released Mega Man 11 is a monumental achievement. It modernises the game while retaining an innate understanding of what made the originals so special - and it looks and plays beautifully across all platforms. For my money, it's Capcom's Sonic Mania moment: for series purists it reminds you of everything that made the original games great, while also serving as a good jumping on point for new players.

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