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Thomas Morgan

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

32-bit era nostalgic and gadget enthusiast Tom has been writing for Eurogamer and Digital Foundry since 2011. His favourite games include Gitaroo Man, F-Zero GX and StarCraft 2.

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Digital FoundryDark Souls on Switch is a current-gen port with last-gen visuals

But smoother performance, improved resolution and portable play set it apart.

This isn't quite what we expected! Strictly speaking, Dark Souls for Switch actually has more in common with From Software's last-gen original as opposed to the remastered versions released a few month ago. The new release misses all of the visual refinements found in the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions of the game and at its core, this is the Dark Souls you originally played back in 2011. There are key improvements though - like a smoother frame-rate and a higher rendering resolution - and there's a bonus increase to six concurrent players online too. The Switch game still manages to impress on its own terms then and of course, it's fully portable. This is a desirable feature that makes this version unique, and where it shines brightest.

If there's one game franchise crying out for the full current-gen remastering treatment, it's Metal Gear Solid. The classic MGS titles have remained untouched since 2011's excellent Metal Gear Solid HD collection, with no sign of any Xbox One or PlayStation 4 re-releases - despite the emergence of MGS cutscenes apparently running on the Fox Engine on a Japan-only pachinko machine, of all places. However, there is some good news: the 2011 remaster is now backwards compatible on Xbox One, and as things stand, this is easily the best way to play these brilliant games on modern hardware.

Assassin's Creed returns once again with the excellent Odyssey, built upon the same technological revamp that successfully powered last year's Origins. By and large, it's a successful multi-platform deployment across consoles and PC, but similar to the last offering, it's best played on the enhanced '4K' consoles. There's an almost majestic scale and scope to this new title across all systems, but it's PS4 Pro and Xbox One X that deliver a quantifiably smoother, more consistent experience over base consoles.

The Forza Horizon franchise has carved its own path, veering away from Turn 10's mainline series with its emphasis on arcade racing set within a massive open world. The series' evolution has been a long but often spectacular journey - a vibrant racing celebration that's given Horizon its own distinct identity and in Forza Horizon 4, Playground Games aims for something even more special from a technical perspective - a game that builds substantially on the last entry's technical strengths and focuses on Xbox One X as lead platform.

Is battle royale a good fit for Treyarch's iteration of the Call of Duty engine? Black Ops 4's latest beta provides answers. An early demo of the new Blackout mode rolled out last week, revealing that the developer is aiming to deliver a very similar style of game, but targeting a 60fps update in a world where Xbox One has struggled to achieve smooth performance in PUBG. At its core, Blackout follows the same beats of play; up to 100 combatants fly across the map, skydive down, scavenge for weapons and armour, and then duke it out to be the last man standing as the field of play narrows. We're in familiar territory then - but what makes Treyarch's effort stand out?

Digital FoundryForza Horizon 4's Xbox One X 60fps mode is the real deal

But native 4K shows off the visuals at their very best.

Developer Playground Games excels in creating vibrant, varied landscapes - and Forza Horizon 4 doesn't disappoint. Based on a preview build we recently sampled, Xbox One X offers up two compelling ways to explore it too. For the first time in the Horizon series' history, console users get a choice between 4K resolution at 30 frames per second and a new performance mode that delivers a solid 60fps. It's a long-requested feature, and while a mainstay of the Forza Motorsport games, it's been off limits for the Horizon series on Xbox - until now.

Battlefield 5 builds on the Frostbite technology in some exciting ways, and this week's beta gives us our first look at how the new DICE game presents and performs on console hardware. In the wake of the recent Battlefield 1 Xbox One X update, can the developer follow up that excellent rendering showcase with another solid work-out for the Scorpio Engine - and just how closely can PS4 Pro match it?

It may have taken some time, but virtually every major franchise has eventually transitioned successfully to at least one of the enhanced consoles - but the lack of a decent Batman: Arkham experience for the 4K consoles is disappointing. The superb Arkham Knight never received any kind of upgrade for PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, while the Return to Arkham patch for Sony's super-charged PS4 ranks as one of the most disappointing upgrades we've witnessed - until now. Somehow, despite having access to a significantly more powerful hardware spec, the recently released X upgrade for the controversial remaster manages to be even more of a let-down. In fact, it's easily the worst 'enhanced patch' we've seen on Xbox One X.

Digital FoundryZelda: Twilight Princess tested under official Tegra X1 emulation

What does the Nvidia Shield version tell us about prospective retro Switch releases?

Nvidia's Shield is a solid, high-end streaming micro-console with the distinction of using the same Tegra X1 silicon found in Nintendo Switch - which makes the existence of a high performance Wii emulator for the system absolutely fascinating. An official project, developed by Nvidia and Nintendo in partnership, is this an early preview at how Wii and GameCube titles could be added to the Switch library? Our first look at the emulator running Super Mario Galaxy proved compelling, but follow-up analysis on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess tosses us a curve ball, in that it's unlike any other version of the game available on the market today. It's still emulation - but with very specific customisations that set this release apart from the pack.

Digital FoundryHow Red Dead Redemption 2 uses the power of PS4 Pro

Examining Rockstar's enhanced console debut.

Last week's Red Dead Redemption 2 reveal turned out to offer more than a look at gameplay alone - it was our first chance to check out Rockstar's first work on the enhanced consoles, the entire trailer captured in-game from the PlayStation 4 Pro build. So how is the developer using the console's hardware and based on our findings here, what should we expect from Xbox One X?

Three months shy of its second birthday, Electronic Arts surprised gamers with news of an Xbox One X enhanced upgrade for Battlefield 1 earlier this week, the full 5.8GB patch arriving the following day. Patch notes from the developer only mention support for "full 4K resolution" - an upgrade that is by and large delivered, though there is a sting in the tail: at the time of writing, the game's signature multiplayer mode isn't working quite the way it should be.

Digital FoundryHow No Man's Sky uses the power of Xbox One X

And how well does the standard console compare?

No Man's Sky's latest 'Next' update is the deepest reinvention of the game to date. In terms of the improved rendering tech, the addition of a third person camera, a long-awaited multiplayer mode, upgraded base building, and much more - we've come a very long way since the its original PS4 launch. Indeed, this isn't just No Man's Sky's biggest update so far but also a landmark release for Xbox One and Xbox One X, with users of Microsoft console hardware finally able to enjoy this fascinating game.

Digital FoundryOctopath Traveler: a 90s-style JPRG brought to life with cutting-edge tech

Unreal Engine 4 powers a hybrid game for a hybrid console.

The Japanese RPG has travelled a long road since the early days of sprite-based 2D adventuring, but in Octopath Traveler we have a fascinating blend of old and new. Exclusive to Switch, it takes the traditional top-down style of Super NES greats like Final Fantasy 6 and blends it with the cutting-edge 3D rendering techniques of Unreal Engine 4. It's a hybrid JRPG for a hybrid console, but developers Square Enix and Acquire know exactly where to push the boat out technically and where to stick to the tried and tested 2D template. The result is a beautiful and compelling Switch exclusive that's well worth checking out.

Digital FoundryGhost of Tsushima's E3 debut analysed: a stunning late-gen showcase

Sucker Punch bookends the PlayStation 4 era in style.

It may have been a Sony E3 media briefing short on new announcements, but there was no shortage of spectacle. Alongside The Last of Us Part 2, the gameplay debut for Ghost of Tsushima took us to the war-torn grasslands of 13th century Japan, depicted via a masterclass in real-time rendering, animation and physics simulation. Looking at its stunning opening vista shot, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is running on future Sony hardware - a prototype PlayStation 5, perhaps. At first glance, the environment animation, particle effects and lighting look a generation ahead - and certainly it's a big stylistic jump from the studio's previous work on InFamous First Light. But as the end credit tile reveals, the demo runs on hardware you may already own. It's a PS4 Pro, and so, the real surprise is the technical ingenuity going on in order to achieve such great results on existing console technology.

Digital FoundryThe Crew 2 takes Forza Horizon's concept and ramps up the scale

And Xbox One X provides the best console experience.

Given absolute freedom to race anywhere you choose, The Crew 2 is one of the most exciting racing concepts on PS4 and Xbox One consoles. For those who missed the original, it hands you a miniaturised version of the USA, from New York to San Francisco, remixed and remodeled for you to freely explore. Four years on, the canvas is now even bigger for this sequel - and to help with that heightened scale, developer Ivory Tower adds boats and planes to an existing warehouse of supercars, giving you more ways to get from state to state. The sense of scale is often staggering - a supersized version of Forza Horizon, if you will - and the idea is realised surprisingly well on all consoles.

Digital FoundryPaladins runs at 60fps on Switch and it's superb

Resolution takes a hit but this is close to the complete package.

Paladins on Switch is a current-gen port that offers a genuine surprise: it's a true 60fps rendition of a title that - perhaps unfairly - has been overshadowed by Overwatch. But with Blizzard's own shooter missing from Switch's library, Paladins has a great chance to shine here, and shine it does: developer Hi-Rez Studios squeezes almost all of the full console experience onto Nintendo's hybrid. It comes fully featured with all characters and maps and as a result, cross-play with Xbox One works brilliantly. 60fps support for a current-gen port is far from the norm on Switch, so what are the trades and do they have any impact on the quality of the gameplay?

Fortnite finally arrived on Nintendo Switch this week, with developer Epic Games releasing it for download in the wake of Nintendo's E3 Direct. It's a title built with scalability in mind, capable of running on everything from an iPhone 6S through Xbox One X, right up to the world's most powerful gaming PCs. And going into this one, we were fascinated to see just how much performance and fidelity Epic could extract from the Switch - after all, we're looking at hybrid technology here, a machine built on a mobile chipset but with all the low-level access typically associated with a dedicated console.

Digital FoundryHands-on with Super Mario Galaxy at 1080p on Nintendo's official Wii emulator

Powered by Tegra X1: a preview of how well Switch back-compat could work?

While the wait continues for back catalogue titles to arrive Nintendo Switch, owners of the Chinese version of Nvidia's Shield have been playing a quartet of Wii games for the last few months. These are entirely official emulated titles co-developed by both Nintendo and Nvidia, and as the same Tegra X1 processor powers Shield and Switch alike, we have to wonder: is this our first look at how games like Super Mario Galaxy may look and play on the hybrid console? If so, we're in for a real treat.

The deluge of Wii U ports for Switch continues and the recent arrival of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition offers up a great opportunity to improve a game that was somewhat disappointing - in performance, at least - on the older system. The good news then: developer Omega Force's efforts on Switch satisfy on several key fronts, and it's easily the most feature-complete version of the game. However we're still one patch away from perfection, since this new release is marred by some highly questionable tech decisions - most curious of all being that Switch's mobile mode downsamples from 1080p, with a disastrous impact to performance.

With release code in hand, we finally have a complete picture of how Dark Souls Remastered runs on consoles and PC - and while the notorious Blighttown was our first port of call for performance testing, it turns out that there are much better ways to push developer QLOC's refined version of the Dark Souls engine. The title's CPU issues are by and large resolved in the final product, but it turns out that it's the GPU that is now our primary bottleneck. All versions of the game target 60fps, though only one console gives us an absolute lock, while the PC release rights many wrongs - but is a remarkably unambitious effort overall.

Exclusive to Xbox One and PC, State of Decay 2 blends four-player online co-op with a well-worn zombie apocalypse setting - and the concept is sound. Survival is the name of the game: you explore a seamless, open area for weapons and items, claim safehouses, and scout new spots for your community of survivors to migrate to. It expands on the original's ideas, but the technology behind it gets a full reset this time. Built on Unreal Engine 4, State of Decay 2 abandons the CryEngine 3.1 of the original game - perhaps partially explaining the five-year development time. It's a fundamental overhaul in rendering technology, but with that transition comes a fair share of teething troubles, requiring some pretty fundamental work in improving what is clearly a lacklustre showing.

It's almost time for a long overdue return to Lordran. We've seen plenty of early areas in the Dark Souls Remaster already, from the Undead Asylum to the Taurus Demon, and most recently in the Network Test right up to the Bell Gargoyles. Performance has been impressive across the board on both Xbox One and PS4, but for many, there is only one performance test that actually matters: Blighttown.

Digital FoundryDark Souls Remastered's network test puts the spotlight on Xbox One X

And the leap over PS4 Pro isn't quite what we thought it would be.

Dark Souls Remastered's network test was conducted last weekend, giving our firs look at how the game operates across all consoles. We've already had a sizeable chunk of PS4 Pro preview footage to look at, of course. Running at a native 1800p and with something very close to a locked 60fps, first impressions are of a conservative, but satisfying remaster. What the network test finally gives us is a sense of perspective: how does the more powerful Xbox One X compare to the PS4 Pro? And equally, where does that leave the two base consoles?

Dark Souls Remastered is fast approaching its May 25th launch and based on our recent look at work-in-progress PS4 Pro code, there's the sense that we're looking at a refined, optimised port rather than a fuller, top-to-bottom refresh of the whole game. So where does that leave the original 'Prepare to Die' PC version, already improved significantly via some heaving community modding? Namco Bandai is actually withdrawing that version of the game to new buyers and offering a 50 per cent discount to coax existing users into purchasing the remaster, but with mods like DSFix and SweetFX already enhancing the game significantly, the official game has a lot to match.

Digital FoundryWhat's up with The Witcher 3 patch 1.61 on PS4 Pro?

HDR support added and performance upgraded, but 4K visuals take a hit.

CD Projekt RED's The Witcher 3 has recently received yet another upgrade, with patch 1.61 bringing high dynamic range support to PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro - a welcome bonus for a game swiftly approaching its third anniversary. With the release of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X enhancements, this vintage 2015 title has never looked better on consoles. This HDR upgrade for PlayStation 4 users should have been the icing on the cake, but something's not quite right here - and it looks like the PS4 version needs one more patch before it's everything as it should be.

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