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. He’s also responsible for the creation of DF Retro.

Featured articles

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 Ł14.99/$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.

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.

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.

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.

We're mere days away from the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - a game that takes the series in brand new directions, removing the campaign element completely and introducing us to Treyarch's take on battle royale. But there's more - including a concentrated focus on making the PC version of the game the best it can possibly be, while simultaneously moving the title to Blizzard's Battle.net for the first time. What we're looking at here is the biggest fundamental shift to the COD proposition since Modern Warfare - and in fact, depending on the success of the new game, the make-up of a COD series entry may never be the same again.

FeatureSonic X-Treme and Sonic Chaos remakes are the highlights of SAGE 2018

A wealth of brilliant demos to enjoy - and you can download them all.

One of our favourite gaming events - the Sonic Amateur Games Expo - returned once again this year with a wide selection of impressive games from talented developers. From resurrecting a cancelled Sega Saturn Sonic title to remaking Game Gear classic Sonic Chaos, the range of ideas and concepts on display this year is highly impressive - and best of all, every demo from the event is available to download.

Spanning more than two decades and produced by a succession of talented developers, the Tomb Raider series almost serves as a barometer of progress in the space of 3D gaming. From its initial outings during the 90s, through its issues early in the PS2 generation right up to its most recent resurrection, the series has evolved and changed to meet the needs of each new era. Shadow of the Tomb Raider continues this tradition, presenting not just an evolution in technology - but subtle a shift in gameplay focus too for the rebooted series.

Digital FoundryMarvel's Spider-Man - Insomniac's technology swings to new heights

PS4's latest technical marvel under the microscope.

Marvel's Spider-Man continues Sony's winning run in first-party releases, once again combining state of the art technology with well-realised gameplay and a wealth of content. For our money, it's also the best and most ambitious release yet from Insomniac Games, and the most complete Spider-Man experience to date. Our focus here concentrates primarily on the game's technical aspects - if you're looking for the final word on last week's 'downgrade' flare-up, we debunked that yesterday.

Digital FoundryDebunking the Spider-Man 'downgrade'

What if we told you it's been upgraded instead?

Those expecting confirmation of a downgrade to Marvel's Spider-Man when assessing final code should probably look away now. Having stacked up the final game against the E3 2017 presentation, our overall conclusion is that Insomniac is on the money here - there have been changes, as there are during production of any game - but there has been no technical downgrade. In fact, we'd say that the final presentation is upgraded in key respects, both technical and artistic.

It may not be the full-on remaster/remake we might have hoped for, but Shenmue and its sequel are finally playable on modern hardware, courtesy of Sega and developer d3t. PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC releases are available, each delivering a remarkably close conversion of the Dreamcast originals, with one or two interesting tweaks.

Digital FoundryForsaken Remastered - the welcome return of the six-degrees shooter

What made the original a classic, plus full analysis of the new release.

If there's one gaming genre that embodies the spirit of late 90s PC gaming, it's the six degrees of freedom shooter. Dropped into a labyrinthian mass of tunnels, players are tasked with navigating complex spaces utilising a full six degrees of freedom while dealing with enemies, hunting for keys and finding exits. Interplay's Descent popularised the concept, but other brilliant games followed in its wake, including Probe Software's stunning Forsaken. And now, thanks to the efforts of Nightdive Studios, Samuel 'Kaiser' Villarreal (the developer behind the EX versions of Turok, Doom 64 and Powerslave) and other talented coders, Forsaken has returned.

Digital FoundryOkami HD's Switch release is a nigh-on flawless port

Whether you're playing docked or on the go.

Released more than 12 years ago, the original Okami arrived during the PlayStation 2's twilight years. It's a sprawling open-ended action RPG fusing The Legend of Zelda with ancient Japanese history and at the time of its initial release, it was also one of the most ambitious and expensive games undertaken by publisher Capcom. It's a beautiful adventure and one the firm has seen fit to re-release across three generations of consoles - and it now arrives on Nintendo Switch, boasting new features including touchscreen input and motion control, along with HD visuals in line with the other current-gen ports.

Digital FoundryDF Retro: The history of water rendering in classic games

A refreshing antidote to the summer heatwave.

Fire up any recent game and if it features water in any capacity, chances are good that it'll look suitably refreshing. While actual fluid simulation remains computationally expensive, the visual representation of water has continued to evolve and impress for years. It's fair to say that water looks great in most game today but if you dive back into the early days of gaming, water is one of those things that has always been difficult to get right. In this DF Retro special - with more titles examined in-depth in the embedded videos on this page - I take a look at the standout water implementations across 15 years of classic gaming.

In many ways, Gameloft's Asphalt 9 Legends is a remarkable game, bringing console-quality arcade racing action to mobile phones, using many of the rendering techniques present in some of today's most advanced game engines. It's free - download it, try it out and see what you think. We did and we were really taken aback by just impressive this is. Eager to learn more about the current state of cutting-edge mobile game development, we contacted Gameloft to learn more - and an interesting story emerged.

Digital FoundrySwitch's mobile mode analysed in unprecedented detail

And the hardware mod that makes it possible.

Last week, we took delivery of a new and very special Nintendo Switch unit, based on retail hardware but with a very special feature that'll radically improve our coverage. To cut a long story short, this new consoles offers us the ability to capture direct-feed video while playing in portable mode. On the face of it, it's a feature that doesn't offer much use to the average user - after all, you can dock the system and use HDMI to hook up the system to your HDTV. But for Digital Foundry, it's a game-changer - we can finally analyse Switch's portable configurations to see how they stack up against the docked experience, and based on our very first tests, some of the results are fascinating.

He's back - again - and seemingly more popular than ever. Crash Bandicoot's N. Sane Trilogy arrived on Xbox One, PC and Switch last week, once more racking up impressive sales. Indeed, Vicarious Visions' port to Nintendo's hybrid managed to best the week one tally of the impressive Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Clearly, demand is high for the remastered cartoon antics of this particular Bandicoot, but how does the quality of each version stack up against the baseline template set by the existing PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro releases?

When Bethesda revealed that it was working on a port of Doom 2016 for Nintendo Switch, it was hard to believe that a worthwhile conversion was possible - until we went hands-on. Panic Button had somehow produced an impossible port, flawed in several ways, but definitely playable - and from a technological perspective, it was quite unlike anything we'd seen on Switch before. Naturally, when a conversion of the more demanding Wolfenstein 2 was announced, we were once again sceptical about the game's chances, especially considering Doom's frame-rate issues. But the proof of the pudding is once again in the tasting, and as a technological achievement, Wolfenstein 2 on Switch is even more miraculous than its predecessor.

Nintendo has wasted little time in porting most of its Wii U back catalogue over to Switch and the trend continues with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - and this is actually a great thing as it's one of the Wii U's most enjoyable titles. Of course, it's ultimately derived from a mini-game in Super Mario 3D World, but it holds up as a standalone release with a whole host of fun puzzles, beautiful visuals and a superb implementation of the Wii U dual-screen concept. But this is no ordinary conversion project because not only is the title coming to Switch, it's getting a 3DS conversion too.

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