Ubisoft is comfortably settling into developing for the four current-gen home consoles: hardware that's similar in so many ways, but each paired with a very different level of GPU power. Far Cry 5 has much in common with stablemate Assassin's Creed Origins - we're essentially looking at parity in terms of the visual feature set across the stack of consoles, with resolution the only real point of variation, the differences blurred somewhat thanks to temporal anti-aliasing. Those extra pixels still count - with Xbox One X top of the tree - but the key takeaway is that everyone gets a great game here.
Resolution upgrade when docked plus big loading time boosts.
And there's a 16x boost to resolution too.
Spectacular work from Santa Monica Studio.
A tale of two Sonic Teams.
Sea of Thieves offers players a vibrant, cartoon world of stories big and small - but perhaps none of them are as significant as the tale of developer Rare itself. It's hard to believe that Kinect projects aside, it's been over nine years since we last saw a full game from the studio. Much has changed since then, with the studio's reliance on custom, per-game engines replaced by a shift towards Unreal Engine 4. But this game is a title quite unlike any other built on the Epic middleware - Sea of Thieves is beautiful and unique.
Can mobile phone technology really deliver a convincing take on a game designed for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4? Some might say that Nintendo's Switch has already proven the point in several cases, but Epic's Fortnite on iOS is one of the best examples we've seen yet of a convincing convergence between mobile and console technology - in this X vs X face-off, it's fascinating to see just how close Fortnite running on iPhone X compares to the same game running on Xbox One X. Older iPhones? Well, you get a recognisable experience, but technologically, it's just not in the same ballpark.
A studio with a remarkable heritage for technical excellence, Sony Santa Monica is closing in on completion of its latest God of War and this past week, we've finally had the opportunity to see more of the game in action via PlayStation 4 Pro's pristine 4K video output. Right away, it's clear that what's on display here is extremely promising. God of War should comfortably stand alongside the likes of Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn when it comes to the quality of its technology.
Now known as the 'masters of the remaster', Bluepoint Games has a well-earned, solid gold reputation for delivering some of the best current-gen - and indeed last-gen - ports of gaming's most beloved properties. From Metal Gear Solid to God of War, from Gravity Rush to the Uncharted trilogy, Bluepoint's work has been uniformly excellent across the years.
There's always been the sense that we've not been able to experience the definitive version of Final Fantasy 15, that today's console hardware simply doesn't have the horsepower to fully deliver the developers' original vision for the game. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One X have upped resolution and increased fidelity over the original releases, but fundamentally, there's still the sense that the game just has much more to offer. Only now with the release of the PC version do we get to see the Luminous Studios engine fully unleashed. Yes, the hardware demands can be onerous - staggering even - if you want to see everything but the visual return is outstanding.
We like the Switch version of the Doom 2016. We respect its remarkable technological achievements and we're blown away by the fact that a playable version of this game exists at all for Nintendo's hybrid machine, but the fact is that the game has issues. The drop from 60fps to half-refresh was inevitable, but the impact to resolution and wobbly performance detracted significantly from the overall experience. Last week, developer Panic Button released a patch for the title and to say that people were excited about its potential would be a vast understatement - our social media was awash with demands to re-test the title, with many believing they were seeing some profound improvements in the revised code.
Metal Gear Survive is something on an enigma - a spin-off from its illustrious predecessor, that pushes the franchise into a whole new direction. A look at the credits reveals a mixture of Konami developers old and new, some who worked on the brilliant Metal Gear Solid 5, others who are working on the series for the first time. It's a team that seemingly doesn't have the same level of talent in working with the publisher's iconic Fox Engine - and it's clear to see that what we have here is a technical downgrade from MGS5.
A genuine Super NES classic, Secret of Mana holds a special place in the hearts of those that played it back in the day. Its blend of role-playing action, gorgeous visual design and evocative music remains a treat even today. The series has persisted across multiple generations since, but the original is still best. Or is it? Last week, Square-Enix released a 3D remake for PS4, PS4 Pro, PC and even PS Vita - and we've played them all.
We've already looked at Bayonetta 2 on Nintendo Switch and came to the conclusion that while the mild visual upgrades over the Wii U original were welcome, it was performance that impressed us most, with a much closer lock to 60 frames per second gameplay. With that in mind, it'll come as little surprise to see much the same situation with the first game, but the difference this time is that the original Bayonetta is also available on PC and Xbox 360 (we'd best not mention the PS3 version) so how well does the Switch version compare to all of its rivals?
In 2017, Analogue released the Nt Mini - a premium console designed to play 8-bit NES games with exceptional accuracy and video quality but at $450, it was prohibitively expensive for most. One year on, Analogue has returned with the Super Nt, an FPGA-based precision recreation of the Super NES with many new features. Priced at $189, it's more affordable too, but with so many options available for playing Super NES games, you might be wondering what exactly makes this product special.
Back in the 1990s, the first-person shooter genre was still very much a work-in-progress, beginning with incredible, pioneering work from id software in the form of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, accompanied by a flood of so-called 'Doom clones'. Bolstered by the arrival of hardware-accelerated 3D for PC gamers, players could explore ancient castles and realistic cities, even exploring the outer edge of space through the eyes of their avatar. In the years of that followed, the industry exploded with unbridled creativity as developers tried their hands at building the next great first-person experience. Some succeeded, others failed but one small developer situated in Redmond, Washington delivered its own hugely significant contribution to the development of the genre.
For a generation-spanning franchise that has enjoyed success on PlayStation 2, PSP, 3DS, Wii and Wii U, it's surprising just how long Monster Hunter has taken to arrive on the current wave of consoles. Designed from the ground up to leverage the power of PlayStation and Xbox, the recently released Monster Hunter World promises ambitious changes to the formula, rolling out new technology in the process - so just how successful is the final result?
There's a reason why Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus commands so much love and respect from the PlayStation audience. From a technical perspective, it pushed the PlayStation 2 hardware further than it had gone before, but it also delivered a special style and atmosphere that set it apart from anything else that had gone before. In essence, it was the type of game that only comes along very rarely - an experience that actually strengthens one's love for the gaming medium.
2017 could so easily have been the Year of the Hedgehog thanks to the arrival of two high-profile Sonic releases. It goes without saying that Sonic Mania is something truly special, a brilliant return to classic 2D platforming for the franchise - but on the 3D side of things, Sega came up short. Sonic Forces was a disappointment, a real shame bearing in mind just how good Sonic Generations was - especially on PC. The game has aged remarkably well, has exceptional modding support and runs well and looks wonderful at full 4K on GTX 970-level hardware.
While the mystery buried within The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is certainly intriguing, from our perspective, it's the journey of its developer that is most fascinating. First released in 2014 on the PC, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has undergone several surgeries on its way to this new release on Xbox One. In porting the game to PS4 years ago, its developer, Warsaw-based The Astronauts, completely overhauled the game by porting it from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal 4.
23 years on from its initial release, Donkey Kong Country remains one of the most influential games of all-time. Combining a unique approach to visual design and a pivotal reimagining of a classic Nintendo character, DKC was a landmark release. It was Rare's unique response to the move from 2D to 3D visuals in gaming, and - perhaps surprisingly - the platform holder's answer to the arrival of Aladdin on Mega Drive the previous year.
After months of anticipation, Yooka-Laylee has finally arrived on Switch and it feels right at home. Playtonic's debut is a sprawling platformer with a focus on exploration and the jump to modern hardware has enabled its designers to create worlds much larger and more complex than the games which inspired it. And that's precisely why there has been some trepidation leading up to its release on Nintendo's hybrid. After all, Yooka-Laylee is a large-scale Unity game on the Switch and while we've seen a lot of Unity titles on the system since its launch, the average performance level hasn't always been optimal, even in relatively simple games.
Switch ports of library titles? We're all for them if the game is right and the quality of the port holds up. Capcom's recently released Resident Evil Revelations collection is an interesting choice for conversion then, bringing together an improved port of Revelations 1 - which debuted on 3DS, remember - and its sequel, designed primarily with current-gen consoles in mind. So, the question is, do we get the definitive version of the original game? And does the Switch port of the sequel hold up alongside the existing releases?
It's been a remarkable year for Nintendo's Switch and Monolith Soft is ensuring a strong finish with Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Building on the technology that powered Xenoblade X on the Wii U, this new game expands upon its engine in numerous ways enabling cool new visual effects in the process, but this ambition is met with unexpected drawbacks that detract from its overall presentation, including the one of the lowest recorded rendering resolutions we've seen on record. Clearly, the developers have walked the tightrope here in terms of balancing new features with the hardware limits of the Nintendo hybrid and we're not entirely sure that it's fully paid off.
For decades now, console gaming has traditionally focused on delivering a specific experience for each platform, tailored by the developer. Sure, we've seen high frame-rate modes and occasional toggles between different presets but nothing like the kind of full suite of options found in a typical PC game... until now. That's exactly what developer Tri-Ace has delivered with its PlayStation 4 remaster of Star Ocean: The Last Hope. Every aspect of the game available for tweaking on PC is available to PlayStation owners, but is that actually a good thing?
Out of the many Xbox One X upgrades we tested during the preview period, Quantum Break was one of the most intriguing, featuring the choice between 1080p and '4K' modes - both a leap over the base Xbox One's 720p - along with enhanced detail. Visually, it offered a night and day improvement over the existing version of the game, moving more into line with the PC release running on mid to high-end hardware. There was just one problem - performance. The good news is that frame-rate problems are essentially a non-issue in the final release, but the bad news is that several distracting visual bugs have been introduced: distracting artefacts that weren't in the port when we first looked at it.
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds is an expansion for one of the year's best games in just about every sense of the word. This isn't just more of the same - from a technological standpoint, it's a genuine effort to push on to even greater heights, and an impressive evolution of Guerrilla Games' peerless Decima Engine. Pushing beyond the forests and great plains of the original experience, The Frozen Wilds invites players to the northern-most region of the map to explore snow-covered fields and steep mountains. New features are added to Decima to emphasis the new environments and weather systems, but the core aspects of the technology are just as strong as they ever were: from the gorgeous lighting to the world class HDR implementation and smooth performance, there's little doubt that Horizon remains a beautiful game.
Hitman creator Io Interactive purchased itself from publisher Square-Enix earlier this year, retaining control over its signature stealth assassination series in the process. A new GOTY edition of the title is now available, complete with all original content and a new Patient Zero campaign variant. Meanwhile, the studio has revamped the look of Hitman and rolled out a highly impressive Xbox One X update.
Since its launch last year, Final Fantasy 15 has changed a lot and Square-Enix has continued to support the game with patches and changes designed to improve the experience for players while introducing features - but this hasn't always gone smoothly. The PS4 Pro has been supported since the game's release and its implementation has always been inconsistent at best. Features have come and gone but in the end, it never seemed to run as well as we would have hoped. Could the new Xbox One X upgrade finally deliver the Final Fantasy 15 experience we've been waiting for?