Streaming has proved to be one of the most disruptive technologies to hit the media landscape in the last decade. Instant, fuss-free access to movies, TV shows and music has fundamentally changed the way we watch and listen - and if Google gets its way, streaming will transform the way we play too. Today, the firm reveals itself as a new platform holder, announcing a bespoke cloud gaming system that possesses undoubted strengths - and weaknesses - compared to the current console model. Fully integrated with YouTube, and leveraging the unique strengths of its vast, worldwide infrastructure, the new system - named Stadia - has the potential to change everything.
Specs have leaked for a new AMD console chip - but what is it?
Cerny Computer Entertainment.
GTX vs RTX: can brute-force compute match hardware acceleration?
An ingenious port of one of Unreal Engine 4's most challenging games.
How PC, Pro and X power ahead of the standard consoles.
We've talked elsewhere in our Google Stadia coverage about the fact that it's not a console, it's what Google calls a 'cloud native' system that leverages tight integration of gaming components in the datacentre to provide - in theory, at least - a system capable of delivering genuinely different gaming experiences, while providing a generational leap in processing power over today's consoles. That said, we should expect to see ports of multi-platform games and Google itself has already demonstrated one of them - Assassin's Creed Odyssey, delivered to the US public at the tail-end of last year for extensive beta testing. We had the chance to go hands on with the game again, running on the latest version of the streamer, and with access to Google's own controller hardware.
With the announcement of Stadia, we're off the blocks. The first next-gen platform has been revealed and while Google isn't going into too much depth about specs, we know enough to paint a compelling picture of the new system's capabilities. In terms of its potential performance, there are comparisons points with the consoles to come from Sony and Microsoft, but at the same time, the whole nature of the enterprise is a massive step beyond what is possible not just from the consoles of the here and now, but even future boxes too.
For a few short hours after the PC release of Devil May Cry 5, a code fork available on Steam was available that stripped the game of its Denuvo copy protection, with only Steam's own DRM systems left intact, according to reports on the Steam community forums. Not surprisingly, the leaked .exe - apparently intended for use by Capcom's QA team - has been tested by a number of users, with some noting a 20fps improvement to performance, while others could see no improvement whatsoever. So, what's really going on and does Denuvo really hit CPU resources as has often been claimed? Since the .exe in question is not a crack of any sort, we decided to put it to the test.
Yes, Anthem's day one patch has indeed addressed many of the performance issues and oddities found in the console versions of the game, but despite undeniable improvements and optimisations, there's the sense that BioWare's latest epic still requires work. Meanwhile, if you're playing on PC, be prepared for an experience that really pushes your hardware, but undeniably provides impressive enhancements over the console experience. But does Anthem on any system deliver an experience anything like that E3 reveal? The answer is no, but it's still a visually arresting game.
Nvidia's Turing roll-out continues with the arrival of its first sub-£300/$300 graphics card - the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. And yes, that's GTX rather than RTX with Team Green opting to remove hardware-accelerated ray tracing and machine learning features from its cheaper range of GPUs. It is still Turing, however, using the same revised shader modules offering enhanced performance and increased power efficiency. Priced at £259/$279, GTX 1660 Ti is a direct replacement for GTX 1060, delivering a substantial increase in gaming frame-rates, often exceeding the power of the outgoing GTX 1070.
What happened to the power of the cloud? Crackdown 3 finally launched last week, its Wrecking Zone multiplayer mode presenting the final iteration of an astonishing cloud-driven physics showcase first revealed by Microsoft in 2015. Perhaps inevitably, the final game only bears a passing resemblance to that initial demo, and while Wrecking Crew itself is rich in potential, the actual game is rather lacklustre.
Just over 11 years ago, Infinity Ward revolutionised online multiplayer gaming with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. This past week, Respawn Entertainment, featuring many of the core team responsible for 2007's game-changing title released its take on the battle royale shooter: Apex Legends. Set in the same world as Titanfall 2, it lacks the technological edge that Modern Warfare had in its day, but the quality of the action shines through in ways that its competitors struggle to match.
At what point did 4K gaming finally become viable without having to compromise too much on graphics settings? For my money, it would the arrival of the Titan X Pascal in August 2016, followed by its stablemates later on: GTX 1080 Ti and Titan Xp. Nvidia reached new heights in performance with its GP102 processor. AMD had no answer, and RTX duly followed. Two-and-a-half years on from GP102's debut, there is now a powerful Radeon that is indeed competitive - and while it lacks the latest innovations in graphics technology, it is fast, and it has its own unique selling point: 16GB of ultra-fast HBM2 memory.
Anthem was first revealed during Microsoft's E3 2017 media briefing, a climactic showpiece that demonstrated EA's Frostbite engine taken to the next level, with a level of visual fidelity and density we'd never seen from this generation of consoles. We were told it was running in real-time, we were told it was running on Xbox One X, all of which has made the last couple of weekends playing the demo fascinating. To cut to the chase: was the demo an accurate representation of the actual product's visual credentials? No. Is it a beautiful current-gen game? Yes, but there is a price to pay.
The surprise Nvidia announcement at CES? Surely it has to be the reveal of adaptive sync/VRR support for GeForce products - or to put it more plainly, Nvidia graphics cards now deliver FreeSync functionality. Right now, only 10-series Pascal and 20-series Turing GPUs get the required support, but this is a highly significant development: over 550 monitors out there adhere to the variable refresh open standard, and with the arrival of a new driver earlier this week, you can test your GeForce graphics card on any of them.
Last year, Razer entered the smartphone market with its highly distinctive, gaming and media-focused Razer Phone, combining what was then the fastest Android-optimised processor on the market with a variable refresh rate screen, powerful front-facing speakers and a ginormous 8GB of RAM. It's the phone I use to this day, and for reasons that shall become clear, the recently released Razer Phone 2 is essentially the only upgrade choice I'm considering right now. There are faster, more powerful phones available but Razer's unique mixture of RAM and VRR display looks and feels so good that even the fastest rival flagships I've used seem to fall short.
Earlier this week, we reviewed Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2060. Priced at £330/€370/$350, it's the first mainstream graphics card to hit the market with hardware ray tracing support. Right now, it's early days for RT technology and initial demos suggested that even the top-end RTX 2080 Ti could only run ray tracing with a big resolution or performance hit - so what chance would the significantly cut-down RTX 2060 have? The good news is that BF5's RT performance has improved dramatically, and initial tests produced some promising results on the RTX 2060 at full ultra settings. Frame-rates were still highly variable though, and what we wanted was something more ambitious - a fully locked 1080p60 experience with RT features enabled. The good news is, it can be done.
We knew this one was coming, but the form it would take has been a hot topic in hardware circles. Some rumours suggested that Nvidia's successor to the massively successful GTX 1060 wouldn't have ray tracing features at all, while support for other Turing architecture technologies was also in doubt. Happily, the reality turns out to be very different indeed - RTX 2060 is a full-blooded Turing product, with all of the RTX features enabled. The question is really how viable the new card is for ray tracing when the hardware is inevitably pared back, and of course, how fast it is for non-RTX tasks.
What does the future hold for the Xbox One S? At Digital Foundry, we've noted something of a concerning trend for Microsoft's base console - while system exclusives continue to hold up well from a quality perspective, top-end third-party titles are pushing the system to its limits - with sometimes disappointing results. The question is this: if the S is losing pace with the competition, how well can it hold up in the years to come? After all, its successor is not likely to arrive until 2020.
When Fortnite first appeared on iPhone, we were quick to laud a genuine technological achievement - a visually cut-down version of the full game that was still recognisably Fortnite, that played the same way, that run the same code and allowed users to buddy up with their friends running on console and PC. Recently, Epic took the mobile version of Fortnite to the next level; the latest iOS devices run the game smoothly at 60 frames per second, just like their console equivalents - and the story of how that became possible is absolutely fascinating.
Playerunknown's Battlegrounds is back with a new console port, finally arriving on PlayStation 4 a full 12 months after its debut as a timed-exclusive for Xbox One (where the title has transitioned to Microsoft's Game Pass subscription service). Available for £24.99/$29.99, we went into this one wondering whether the PUBG Corporation has managed to resolve the lingering issues with the Xbox One code, and the extent to which the port may have been changed or even improved over the existing game.
Can Avalanche get the Just Cause franchise back on course? The arrival of the latest series entry this week sees the developer scaling up its ambitions for the game: even more insane physics, more diverse tasks, more action-packed missions and the arrival of adverse weather conditions spread across four different biomes. Bearing in mind how much the last game struggled on consoles, has the developer bitten off more than it can chew? It's against the odds perhaps but the truth is that Just Cause 4 pulls it off - the game is far more challenging on console hardware and yet the performance delivered is a night and day improvement over its predecessor.
On October 1st 2018, Google revealed the existence of Project Stream, an early demo "pushing the limits of streaming technology". Many in the industry - including Microsoft - believe that streaming gameplay over the internet is a key part of the future of gaming, and Google has shared some of its vision with a select few beta testers, including Digital Foundry. The demo itself is a collaboration with Ubisoft, with Assassin's Creed Odyssey taking centrestage as the game of choice.
What hardware is inside the PlayStation Classic and what it makes it tick? It's something we've been fascinated about since the project was announced. Initially, we wondered whether Sony might have returned to its PlayStation Vita SoC - a proven performer for original PlayStation emulation. However, the platform holder has opted for an ARM SoC set-up - and one that's a good chunk more powerful than the internals of the NES and Super NES mini consoles.
Something's up with the Sony PlayStation Classic - what should be a celebration of a truly iconic console is compromised by an uneven selection of games, sub-par emulation and the bizarre choice of using a mixture of both NTSC and PAL games in a machine with a locked 60Hz high definition output.
We're closing in on the launch of Avalanche's Just Cause 4 - a game that looks to push the series' signature open world and remarkable physics systems to a new level, which begs the question... what's the score with performance? Just Cause 3 is our go-to game for testing CPU limitations on consoles, while the PC version launched with severe loading time problems and obvious driver issues for Radeon cards, which took some time to resolve. Based on what we've seen of the sequel so far, we should be in for a smoother ride this time around.
Two years on from its initial launch and PlayStation 4 Pro has been quietly tweaked once again, with new hardware that sees Sony revisiting the super-charged console with a new design that improves once again on the machine's perennial noise problem. The work pays off because this is quietest, most discreet Pro yet, completely banishing the 'jet engine' effect commonly associated with launch models.
It's weeks on from the launch of RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti and despite the lack of any games that utilise Nvidia's state-of-the-art ray tracing or DLSS features, the roll-out of the new Turing cards continues. The RTX 2070 has some pretty big shoes to fill, as the green team's xx70 cards are traditionally so compelling: the GTX 970 was one of the best price-vs-performance products of all-time, while the GTX 1070 may have been pricier, but delivered performance that inched ahead of the prior-gen Maxwell Titan. On the face of it, the RTX 2070's charms aren't so obvious, but it's still a good product and in time, I suspect it may well become a great one.
Intel has been marketing the new Core i9 9900K as the fastest gaming CPU money can buy - and while a massive amount of controversy has surrounded the accuracy of pre-release benchmarks, the logic is sound. After all, the existing Core i7 8700K holds the title, ahead of its Ryzen 7 2700X competition. The new 9900K adds two additional cores and four threads, while boosting frequencies and increasing cache - improving on the 8700K in every way. Going into this review, my only question was this: to what extent do games actually make use of the additional resources? After all, the 8700K was already a performance monster, and arguably under-utilised. Do we actually need more gaming power?