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.
Naughty Dog's state-of-the-art animation system under the microscope.
How a former first-party studio built its first multi-platform game.
What happens when advanced tech, talent and budget is deployed on a more focused experience instead of a giant open world?
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.
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.
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.
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?