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 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.

Digital FoundryTech Analysis: How The Last of Us 2 pushes realism to the next level

Naughty Dog's state-of-the-art animation system under the microscope.

To what extent can further technological innovation be delivered on the current generation of console hardware? Sony stood up to be counted at E3 2018 with a series of superb gameplay reveals - and taking centre-stage was Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part 2. On the surface, it looks as great as you might expect. From its detailed characters to its lush environments, it's clear that the game is shaping up well - but if you look closer, there are some remarkable new technologies on display. From our perspective, animation and interaction are two key areas set to separate this game from its rivals.

We knew that Forza Horizon 4 would be coming to E3 2018, of course. After all, a new Forza game arrives without fail every year, and with Turn 10 revealing Forza Motorsport 7 at the last Microsoft E3 briefing, it would be Playground Games' turn this year. And with that came some trepidation. Forza Horizon 3 was a brilliant game and a massive step forward for the series, but could the developers deliver the same level of technical brilliant and innovations once more? After the astonishing reveal and 20 minutes of hands-on time, the signs are all looking good.

Digital FoundryEvolution Studios reborn: the cutting-edge tech of Onrush

How a former first-party studio built its first multi-platform game.

World Rally Championship, MotorStorm, DriveClub - Sony may have jettisoned developer Evolution Studios from its first-party line-up, but the studio lives on in the form of Codemasters Evo, and after two years of work, it's on the cusp of releasing its new game: Onrush. What we're looking at here is effectively the same team with the same focus on technologically advanced racing games, still operating from the same studio space in Runcorn, Cheshire. The key difference is that the studio has moved onto multi-platform development, a fundamental shift after years of supporting PlayStation systems only.

Digital FoundryDetroit: Become Human is a different kind of tech showcase

What happens when advanced tech, talent and budget is deployed on a more focused experience instead of a giant open world?

As big budget triple-A games fixate increasingly on delivering larger, more complex open worlds, we're left wondering - what if all that power was concentrated instead into smaller scale environments with a focus on extreme detail? That's exactly the approach we see with Detroit: Become Human, with developer Quantic Dream delivering its best game yet - and a polished, intricate presentation quite unlike anything else seen on the market today.

Digital FoundryDF Retro: Revisiting Sega's Nomad - the original Switch?

A handheld/home console hybrid... sound familiar?

What makes Switch so special is its enticing blend of portable and console gaming in a single device, but while Nintendo may be the first company to find real success with this idea, it certainly wasn't the first to try. Flash back to October 1995 and Sega released the Genesis Nomad - a handheld/home console hybrid with a remarkably similar feature set to the Switch. Mobile and big screen play? No problem. Support for multiple players? It's in there. As the Switch has proven, the basic console hybrid idea is brilliant, but as with many of Sega's early schemes, the Nomad didn't quite pan out.

With each new generation of consoles, we often wonder - what sort of new gameplay opportunities are made possible with more powerful hardware? It's a difficult question, but the original SSX is one of those few launch games to deliver a satisfying response. With a series of complex, sprawling track layouts, this game simply wouldn't have been possible on previous generation consoles. It's a title defined by its towering tracks, and the increase in available memory and processing power allowed the developers to push the snowboarding genre in new directions. Three years on, EA Canada pushed the formula to its zenith with SSX3, and it's an experience that's now even more special thanks to a new, enhanced iteration for Xbox One and Xbox One X owners.

Digital FoundryHow Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is improved on Switch

Resolution upgrade when docked plus big loading time boosts.

Nintendo's strategy of remastering and re-releasing its first party Wii U back catalogue continues to pay off handsomely, with Retro Studios' Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze making the transition across to Switch with some excellent results. It's a game well worth resurrecting - with its potent mix of fantastic controls, great level design and a memorable David Wise soundtrack, it's a personal favourite I've continued to play years on from its initial release - but how does it stack up on Switch and what enhancements and refinements have been made?

The Xbox One backwards compatibility programme has thrown up plenty of surprises so far, but this one really is quite remarkable - Microsoft's enhanced version of The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind is one of the best examples of the boost to image quality and performance that today's hardware delivers when running yesterday's games.

Digital FoundryGod of War is another tech powerhouse for PS4

Spectacular work from Santa Monica Studio.

God of War returns with a fresh vision for the series, powered by brand new technology from one of the best developers in the business. Santa Monica Studio has always been known for pushing the technological envelope and this new game is no exception. However, more than that, it's clear that the studio has been granted the budget and time to fully realise its ambitious vision - key ingredients in delivering a quality product. From the smallest of incidental environment details to the most towering of beasts, God of War elevates real-time visuals to new heights while pushing the PlayStation hardware to its limits.

In 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog burst onto the scene, forever changing the gaming landscape in the process. With its high-speed action and eye-popping visuals, Sonic helped rocket Sega's 16-bit console to the top of the charts - but something else was on the horizon... a sequel focused on the Mega CD add-on, shifting to shorter, exploration focused levels with a new time travel gimmick. Sonic's Mega CD outing remains an ambitious side-step in the series, and the history behind its development is fascinating. For a start, the reality is that it was created by a second Sonic Team in Japan, while a US-based Sonic Team produced the true series sequel in parallel.

Digital FoundryDoom's new 4K patch analysed on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro

Image quality improves, but what about performance?

Last week, Bethesda and id software released a brand new '4K resolution' patch for the brilliant Doom 2016 reboot, promising improved image quality for PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. Resolutions are certainly increased, but there has been some talk that performance has suffered as a result. Our tests suggest that this is indeed the case, but work carried out on the id Tech 6-powered Wolfenstein: The New Colossus may suggest a possible solution.

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.

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.

Digital FoundryFortnite: iPhone X takes on Xbox One X

X vs X: the world's most powerful smartphone faces off against Microsoft's six teraflop beast.

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.

Digital FoundryGod of War is PS4's next big tech showcase

Digital Foundry checks out a new slice of PS4 Pro action.

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.

Digital FoundryThe making of Shadow of the Colossus on PS4

Digital Foundry talks tech - and more - with Bluepoint Games.

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.

Digital FoundryFinal Fantasy 15's PC port unlocks the game's full visual potential

The Windows Edition takes on the Xbox One X version.

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.

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