We've been waiting for this one for quite some time. It's been just over 13 years since Kingdom Hearts 2 debuted on PlayStation 2, before continuing its journey via a range of handheld releases. But a full-blooded home console sequel? That only arrived yesterday, with Square-Enix deploying the strengths of Unreal Engine 4 to deliver a new series entry with a far wider scale and scope compared to the originals. Not only that, but the new title aims high with a peak 60fps frame-rate. The question is, which console is most successful at locking to it? The answer is surprising.
Visual and performance upgrades plus gameplay improvements.
But bugs and pop-in issues need to be addressed.
DF focuses on the tech powering the PS4 Pro version.
Dynamic 4K vs 1080p on both PS4 consoles.
Among the best remakes in recent memory, Resident Evil 2 is a true survival horror classic, rebuilt on Capcom's cutting edge RE Engine. Compared to the PlayStation and N64 originals there's a satisfying technical upheaval to show for that 20 year gap. You get real-time cutscenes, volumetric lighting and the freeing of its camera to allow third person shooter controls. Better still? The team targets 60 frames per second, but sadly it only comes to full fruition on certain platforms. Indeed, comparing PlayStation 4 and Xbox One today, it's clear 60fps is better held on Pro and X models - while the base machines, especially Xbox One S, show signs of being left behind.
It may not just be your bad luck. Playing Fortnite at 30 frames per second - on Nintendo Switch or a lower-spec PC - puts you at a genuine competitive disadvantage. It turns out a bug in Epic's code currently causes a slower rate of gunfire at 30fps, compared to playing at 60fps or higher. In other words, 30fps players deal less damage per second than those running at higher frame-rates.
What better way to kick off the new year? New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe on Switch is a complete version of the Wii U release, with some content upgrades and a smattering of visual tweaks to boot. As with so many highlights of Nintendo's last console, the original sadly got overlooked, despite being one of the series' best - and so it's great that Switch gets a conversion similar in scope to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
With Switch the single platform it needs to focus on for its latest game, developers Namco Bandai and Sora Ltd. are able to create the most feature rich entry in Super Smash Bros. series yet. Graphically speaking, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best-looking game in the franchise: its 75-strong cast and many stages get revamped textures and lighting compared to the Wii U release of four years ago. It also succeeds as a sequel to two previous versions, by offering the de facto home console successor to Wii U, and more impressively, a stark upgrade over 3DS' visuals on the handheld side. Over the last week we've pored over the game from every angle, figuring out what makes - and breaks - the game next to these two versions. It's a remarkable achievement, but is it truly the greatest Smash title ever made?
As patches go, Fallout 76's 1.02 title update is one of the biggest we've seen, weighing in at a mighty 47GB on each of the consoles - a marked difference from PC's 15GB download. In its patch notes, Bethesda talks about bug fixes and performance upgrades, but to what extent is the game actually improved over its launch showing?
The developer Iron Galaxy Studios is fast carving out a niche for itself as a specialist in porting modern classics to the Nintendo Switch. Last year it partnered with Bethesda on the excellent Switch version of Skyrim, and this year it has joined forces with Blizzard to bring Diablo 3 to Nintendo's hybrid system. This is the first time a Blizzard game has graced a Nintendo platform in 15 years - since the Californian studio brought its classic games Rock n' Roll Racing and Blackthorne to Game Boy Advance, and before that improbably put StarCraft on Nintendo 64 - so there's quite a lot resting on Iron Galaxy's work.
Spoiler warning: this article concentrates on an area of the Red Dead Redemption 2 game map that is mostly inaccessible to players who have not finished the game. If you want to remain completely unspoiled, close the page now.
Marking the series' 20th anniversary, a tale of souls and swords is retold once more in Soulcalibur 6 - a sequel that positions itself as something of a successor to the Dreamcast classic, in reprising its cast. It's a direct link that only highlights just how far we've come in the interim. We have two decades worth of move-set changes, added mechanics and technical upgrades to factor in, where Bandai Namco's efforts today are based on an entirely different engine. With the move to Unreal Engine 4, as with Tekken 7, it gives the team scope to push for more effects and shaders than we'd thought possible back in 1998. At launch, it also gives it the means to scale across more platforms than any entry before it. In doing so, there's a huge gulf in image quality between the four current-gen machines.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?