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.

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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.

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.

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