It's been over three months since Playerunknown's Battlegrounds arrived on Xbox One and Xbox One X. Released as an early access 'game preview', what was immediately clear was that PUBG's console implementation had profound issues in nearly all areas: presentation was lacking, textures possessed severe streaming problems and frame-rate was sub-optimal, to put it generously. Three months on and there have been a range of improvements, but performance, key to the PUBG experience, is still lacking - and the developers agree with us.
And what kind of spec can be realistically delivered?
The PS4 Pro original vs its new VR companion.
Last week, news emerged of Nintendo's immediate and longer term plans for the Switch, reported on the Wall Street Journal, no less. The headline made it clear that there'd be no Switch hardware revision this year, with Nintendo's emphasis shifting to USB-C peripherals and its fascinating Labo initiative. However, tucked away at the foot of the report is coverage of a February investor briefing, where Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima talks about his plans of extending Switch's lifespan beyond the five to six year console average, taking the lifespan of the console hybrid up to 2021 at least. To make this work, hardware revisions may be inevitable.
Bluepoint Games has confirmed that its next project in the wake of the stunning Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4 is a new remake. Digital Foundry had the opportunity to talk with the team about the technology powering its latest release, and asked whether the expanded art team brought on for the project would be deployed next on an original game.
Microsoft's Xbox One X enhanced programme for classic Xbox 360 games recently added support for a very special last-gen release: The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. I was particularly keen to check this one out because CD Projekt Red's 360 conversion effort was absolutely outstanding and with its arrival on the X, you might describe it as one technological miracle layered on top of another. The 360 release wasn't just a port, it was a top-to-bottom revamp of a PC original specifically built for the strengths of a far more capable platform. The port had many cutbacks, of course, but in some respects, I thought it actually improved on its counterpart. So with that remarkable port now upgraded for Microsoft's latest console, how does it look running on 4K displays? And how does the PC original hold up running at an equivalent ultra HD resolution, almost seven years on from its initial release?
It's still brilliant. It really is. And on Xbox One X, Crackdown is even better than you remember it. The 2007 classic scales up wonderfully to 4K resolution, but the biggest takeaway here is that, remarkably, the gameplay still holds up - it's still utterly superb. I picked up the game exactly where I left off - with a tooled up, maxed-out Agent ready to take on the final gang left in the game, the villainous Shai-Gen. What happened next is Crackdown at its best: absolute carnage on the streets of Pacific City, urban warfare on a simply spectacular scale. It is - quite possibly - the best £1.50 I've ever spent on a game.
The stakes were high. 2005 would kick-start a console generation that would offer a stratospheric leap in processing power and gaming capabilities compared to the ruling PlayStation 2 and its Xbox and GameCube competitors. Just prior to E3 2005, Microsoft had already announced Xbox 360 - bizarrely via an MTV special - but gamers weren't exactly amazed by the preproduction wares revealed therein. All eyes were on Sony for its E3 2005 reveal for PlayStation 3 and when it did eventually kick off, gamers were presented with an unbelievable array of cutting-edge tech showcases. Unbelievable, as in literally unbelievable.
Microsoft restarted its programme of Xbox One X enhancements for Xbox 360 games this week with four new titles - Forza Horizon, The Witcher 2, Crackdown and Fable Anniversary Edition. We're seeing the same 9x resolution boost on all releases in concert with improved performance where appropriate, but it's the first game in this new line-up that's our focus today. Image quality in Forza Horizon is off the charts in the transition to ultra HD and there are a couple of further, surprising enhancements that caught our eye.
AMD loves to provide PC users with a great $99 CPU, and with the Ryzen 3 2200G, it's delivered a genuine classic. Traditional wisdom suggests that when constructing a gaming PC, you need to purchase both CPU and GPU, but the Red Team's latest offering delivers an all-in-one package - a quad-core Ryzen CPU, paired with Radeon RX Vega graphics. You'll need to be realistic with quality settings and resolutions - you've got just over 1.1 teraflops of compute to play with - but this entry-level processor can indeed run most triple-A PC titles, and we had a lot of fun proving that.
We knew the spec many months before its launch and gained insights on its core design from its system architect, but only now can we see the physical layout of PlayStation 4 Pro's central processor. The key takeaway? Add some memory controllers plus an extra four AMD Radeon compute units and the basic layout of the Pro's chip is very similar indeed to the physical make-up of the Scorpio Engine found within Microsoft's Xbox One X. Putting the two chips side by side reveals just how close today's consoles are, and how innovative design choices and more memory pushed Microsoft's hardware ahead of its rival.
We've been eagerly awaiting the PC version of Final Fantasy 15 for some time. It's the chance to see Square-Enix's stunning Luminous Studio engine freed from the constraints of console hardware. Enhanced versions of those visuals running at 4K resolution or a locked 60fps? The potential here is mouthwatering, but the question is just what hardware will be required to push beyond the standards set by PS4 Pro and Xbox One X - and how optimal the PC port is. A PC benchmarking tool was released at the beginning of the month, and first impressions based on mainstream hardware are sobering.
Last year we made the case that Wii U ports for Switch are a very good thing - a chance to bulk up the library of Nintendo's new hybrid console with an array of quality games that never quite got the exposure they deserved. We wrote that piece based on Platinum Games' teasing of Bayonetta ports and six months on those games are now in our hands.
Is this the answer to the current graphics card shortage and the sky-high cost of RAM? Or perhaps a genuine alternative to the way we own and upgrade our gaming PC hardware? Today, after a successful rollout in its home territory, French company Blade revealed that its Shadow cloud gaming system is coming to the UK, offering what it says is the equivalent of a £1,500 PC at prices starting at £27 per month for unlimited usage.
Homebrew PlayStation 4 development on older consoles is finally happening, which has in turn led to the arrival of pirated software and a way to run more of the PS2 game library on Sony's modern console.
It's been described as one of the most serious PC security issues we've ever seen. Headlines have been dominated by the news that there's a serious flaw in the hardware design of Intel microprocessors, going back over 20 years and covering millions upon millions of CPUs still in use today. If your gaming PC is based around an Intel processor, it's vulnerable to the recently revealed 'Meltdown' exploit. Side by side with Meltdown is another serious security problem, dubbed 'Spectre' - which has the potential to affect your PC, smartphone or tablet, regardless of whether or not it has Intel technology at its core.
Nvidia has revealed a new range of ultra high-end, 65-inch gaming monitors designed for the living room, dubbed BFGDs - or Big Format Game Displays.
Intel has revealed full specifications and product details for its upcoming Core i7 G products shipping with Radeon RX Vega graphics - the fruits of an unprecedented collaboration between Chipzilla and its arch-rival, AMD. A total of five different SKUs are in the offing, with spec and power differentials that target a range of notebook segments and the desktop market. At the heart of each product is a quad-core Intel processor paired with RX Vega M graphics offering between 2.6 to 3.7 teraflops of peak GPU power, combined with 4GB of HBM2 memory.
One week on from its controversial launch, the Xbox One version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has been patched, featuring a range of bugfixes and what the patch notes describe as a 'first pass' at visual and performance improvements, along with 'slightly improved' anti-aliasing. So what's actually changed? From our perspective, this patch is definitely a case of two steps forward, one step back.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on Xbox One continues to throw up some fascinating discoveries, including the inclusion of a PC-style settings screen that displays resolution and graphics options. The menu itself is non-functional, but suggests that the base Xbox One version of the game runs at 1080p on PC's very low settings. Meanwhile, accessing the same menu on Xbox One X gives a different outlook, with 4K resolution and medium settings dialled in. But is this an accurate representation of the game's visual make-up? We decided to find out.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is - without question - the biggest game in the world right now, so Microsoft's current console exclusivity for the title is obviously a big deal. Equally without question is that the PC game is notorious for its work-in-progress visuals and wobbly performance. With that in mind, some might say that it's somewhat miraculous that any playable version of PUBG is possible on a console right now. From another perspective though, what's clear is that the current build of the game is a long way short of the standards expected from a polished console release.
Since the arrival of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, games have skewed towards multi-platform projects, but could it be that we are now moving into a period of multi-generational development? After all, we now have developers targeting console hardware with graphics power at the base Xbox One's 1.3 teraflops, right the way up to Xbox One X's 6TF, with a brace of PlayStations sandwiched in between. Techniques and technologies have emerged to help bridge the gap - and a knock-on effect is potentially improved performance and image quality on the games consoles of tomorrow.
One of the most memorable of E3 reveals also happens to be one of the greatest technological achievements of the current-gen era. Two-and-a-half years ago, Phil Spencer took to the stage at Los Angeles' Galen Centre to showcase the original Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect running on Xbox One hardware. Following an impressive early access period, the backwards compatibility program rolled out in full force, and hundreds of Xbox 360 titles are now available to play on Xbox One, with a clutch of enhanced 4K games now available for Xbox One X. So how was this all achieved? How does back-compat actually work?
Just a couple of weeks after the launch of AMD's mainstream-friendly Radeon RX 480, Nvidia enters the fray with its own pitch to the more value-orientated gamer. The new GeForce GTX 1060 is pricier than both of the Radeon RX 480 SKUs - and it loses two gigs of VRAM compared to AMD's 8GB offering. However, Nvidia hopes that the extra power on offer makes the difference, promising GTX 980-level performance. Two years ago, that would have set you back £430/$550. Today, thanks to GTX 1060, it's £240/$250. That's a highly attractive proposition but the question is, does the product fully deliver?
On a platform with near infinite levels of configurability, just how do you demonstrate whether a new GPU really has the power to deliver a quality, native 4K experience at 60 frames per second? In our testing with the new GTX 1080 Ti, we established a very simple test criteria: if the new card's performance at ultra HD matches up to the 1080p prowess of GTX 970 at the same settings, we have a winner. We're perhaps one generational step away from a complete match, but Nvidia's new GPU king gets astonishingly close. In some cases, it's actually even faster - a remarkable turnout bearing in mind the 4x increase in pixel-count.
Nvidia's Pascal architecture continues its top-down steamrolling of the graphics product stack, with the arrival of the first of two more budget-orientated parts - GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050. It's the first card we're looking at today, highlighting the debut of the fully enabled version of Nvidia's GP107 processor, offering performance significantly ahead of PlayStation 4 and paired with a useful 4GB of GDDR5. GTX 1050 Ti can get you to 1080p60 in most titles with careful tweaking, but really this class of GPU is all about matching ballpark console performance with improved visuals and more consistent frame-rates.
We've already taken a look at the excellent Radeon RX Vega 56, the cut-down version of the full-fat graphics card reviewed here today - and it's a winner. A couple of outliers aside, it's as fast as Nvidia's GTX 1070 or significantly faster and it easily overclocks to push further ahead. It's AMD at its best - competitive, disruptive and adding value - but the same can't quite be said for the RX Vega 64. It's a good product overall and it's competitive enough with Nvidia, but it offers no knockout blow - in the here and now, at least.