Destiny 2's Xbox One X upgrade hands in everything you'd expect from a talented studio working with a very powerful piece of hardware, so in many respects, there are no real surprises here. Bungie's long-awaited upgrade essentially takes the existing Xbox One and PlayStation 4 visual feature set and upgrades it beautifully to ultra HD resolution - nothing more, nothing less. In terms of gameplay, the leap to 4K is delivered without any compromises to the established Destiny 2 experience, meaning that the game feels just as solid to play as all of the other console releases available.
It may be the most powerful gaming handheld ever made, but Switch's peak battery life of three hours while running Zelda Breath of the Wild - or two hours 37 minutes at maximum brightness - is the price we pay for this level of fidelity. Thankfully, there are plenty of inexpensive options for extending a play session on the go. Nintendo's use of the USB-C standard opens the door to a range of external batteries, where even a £19 power costing can triple your overall game time.
The Seagate Firecuda is a 2.5-inch 'laptop-size' drive - a 2TB hybrid costing around £115/$130. What makes it stick out? Well for PlayStation users, it ticks a few crucial boxes if you're itching to upgrade the standard hard drive. Until this model came along, we've had 1TB as the maximum size for 2.5-inch hybrid drives. Even with on-board NAND memory to increase speeds, 1TB might still not be quite enough to make an upgrade worthwhile - after all, PS4 Pro ships with the same level of storage out of the box. But the big question is, can this upgrade deliver both a capacity upgrade and a notable performance bump over the stock drive?
With the recent arrival of system software 4.5, PlayStation 4 finally possesses a 'must have' feature that has proved invaluable on Xbox One - full support for plug-in external storage, hooked up via USB. Boosting available hard drive space is now easy and virtually any kind of storage can be attached - but the question is, what's the best way to use this feature?
Long loading times are one of our biggest issues with current-gen consoles. Games are getting bigger, more complex, with ever-increasing levels of details in art assets - but the fundamental basis of storage technology is unchanged since the Xbox 360/PS3 era. Solid-state storage drives are the future, and the question is, can PlayStation 4 Pro - with its brand-new, high bandwidth SATA 3 interface - finally take a good-sized chunk out of the extended pauses between gameplay that are often part and parcel of modern console gaming?
Unexpected results: flash memory beats game cartridges.
There are still a number of high-profile Xbox One X titles still in the pipeline (Forza Horizon 3, anyone?) but two significant upgrades arrived in tandem yesterday. Bethesda's Skyrim upgrade looks to deliver a native 4K experience in line with the PS4 Pro version - and we'll be reporting on that in the next day or so - but it's Fallout 4 that seems to be bringing much more to the table. On paper at least, the 4K resolution offers a big upgrade over the existing PS4 Pro release, while retaining and even improving on the draw distance and god ray upgrades seen on Sony's latest console.
The LA Noire remaster is available on PS4, Xbox One and their 4K mid-gen refresh equivalents, but the real story here is the Switch port and the fact that it's the first time we've seen an open word game of this type running on Nintendo's hybrid system. It's also Rockstar's debut title for the console, and we can only wonder what else the publisher has cooking for the system. Could the Grand Theft Auto games be in development for Switch? Is it even possible to successfully port those titles? The LA Noire conversion doesn't have all the answers, but it convincingly reveals some of the challenges any prospective GTA conversion might face.
Recently, we dissected Bethesda's intriguing conversion of Doom for Switch, dubbing it the 'impossible port' - a full-on triple-A engine somehow cut-back, massaged and finagled onto Nintendo's hybrid console. The Skyrim conversion may not be quite so impressive in terms of its sheer ambition, but it's clearly far more successful from an execution standpoint. Yes, there are compromises when the title is stacked up against its PlayStation 4 counterpart, but it delivers where it matters - and where Switch offers a unique experience - in handheld play - it is simply excellent.
Wolfenstein 2 is one of the most exceptional graphical showcases of the generation so far - a 60 frames per second shooter with beautiful dynamic lighting and shading, GPU-accelerated particles and a state-of-the-art post-process pipeline. However, it does have one weakness: performance. PS4, Pro and Xbox One can't quite lock to the target 60fps and all console versions lack the slick fluidity of the Doom 2016 reboot, running on the same engine. Which begs the question - can Xbox One X power past the frame-rate issues of the other console versions, and to what extent can it improve on PS4 Pro's impressive visuals?
Cited as an example of ultra HD gaming on Microsoft's list of Xbox One X enhanced titles, Diablo 3 is an evolution of Blizzard's good work on the PlayStation 4 Pro version of the game. The same principles are in place: the game targets a native 2160p presentation, but utilises a dynamic scaler to lock to the target 60 frames per second, adjusting the pixel count on the fly to ensure consistent performance. And just like the PS4 Pro version, Xbox One X benefits from a smattering of visual enhancements too. But the question is, just how close are the two versions? And to what extent does Xbox One X's higher spec translate into a closer lock to a native 4K?
Developed by Machine Games, Wolfenstein 2 The New Colossus is a true, generational leap in visual design over the franchise reboot in 2014. From the first frame of action, the standards are clearly kept high - in large part owed to the technologies included in its id Tech 6 engine. The physically-based materials, the dynamic lights, shadowing and GPU-accelerated particles all deliver a clear upgrade over what we've seen in the engine's previous incarnation. Visually, the developers have handed in a masterclass on par with the recent Doom reboot, though it's fascinating to see what another Bethesda studio is capable of producing with the same toolset.
While we can draw conclusions about PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X from their respective specs sheets, real-life comparisons are somewhat thin on the ground right now. Microsoft's new console should offer a comprehensive improvements owing to more memory, higher levels of bandwidth and a big compute advantage, but to what extent will it actually matter in the homogenised world of multi-platform development? From an extended look at the Gamescom build of Shadow of War running on Xbox One X, the signs are looking good for the green team's new hardware, with an immediately obvious, comprehensively improved presentation - possibly the most dramatic boost we've seen to date.
Monolith Productions returns with the follow-up to 2014's superb sleeper hit, Shadow of Mordor, with the ambitious Shadow of War. In three years, it takes us from the Lithtech engine to the new Firebird Engine - upgraded code that now supports larger-scale battles, and an expanded Nemesis system. Having checked out PS4, Xbox One, and PS4 Pro renditions this week, it's clear there's a pecking order to which looks and runs best. Ahead of the Shadow of War's Xbox One X support, PS4 Pro inevitably comes out on top on the console front - but with only a month to go, is the bar set high enough on Sony's 'supercharged' console?
First it wasn't happening at all, but now it's a reality. The Witcher 3's PS4 Pro patch 1.51 landed this week, finally giving us that coveted 4K support, and what CD Project Red describes as a slight performance boost. It's a tiny update in size - just over 100MB - but the impact is huge for PS4 Pro owners. To what extent is 4K delivered with the update, how does it stack up against the base PS4 version, and what do 1080p display users get from the deal? And finally, how does the new code compare with the full fat PC experience?
We've been waiting for this for a long time. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was one of the key titles we were looking to see upgraded for Sony's super-charged PS4 and finally, ten months from the system's release, patch 1.51 with full Pro support finally dropped today. The question is, has full 4K been delivered? On top of that, has anything else changed or seen improvement?
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is set to have a far more engaging multiplayer than the original 2015 reboot. At DICE's headquarters in Stockholm I had the chance to check out four competitive modes: a chaotic 40 player Galactic Assault game on Naboo, and the recently introduced space dog-fighting of Starfighter Assault. Now, I'd already seen these two demos from E3 and Gamescom, but the Arcade mode's survival mission, and 8v8 Strike mode on Takodana were new. And it's in the Strike mode in particular that DICE's efforts to bolster the multiplayer portion of the game became apparent.
Mario Odyssey is the Switch game we've been waiting for, a key technical showcase from one of Nintendo's most talented development teams. The template of Mario Galaxy's full 3D exploration is in place - and in many ways it feels a direct successor to those two Wii classics - but it goes one step further: Odyssey expands on Galaxy's core mechanics with more exotic, wilder stages that could only be realised on more powerful hardware. Already, we've seen a more realistic New York environment from its E3 2017 reveal. But the latest demo we've had access to offers us the chance to analyse three new levels - the Cappy Kingdom, Luncheon Kingdom and Seaside Kingdom - with some exciting findings.
Cast your mind back to Xbox One's launch in 2013 and a few big games stand out, with Killer Instinct one of them. As Microsoft's flagship fighting game, it offered a long overdue revival of Rare's classic franchise, enhanced with the latest 3D console technology. Every impact forced an explosion of alpha and lit particle effects - an obvious upgrade on Xbox One over what was ever possible on Xbox 360 - and it all ran at 60 frames per second. It was a sample of what the machine could bring to the table graphically this generation. But there was a downside: Killer Instinct - at launch - ran at just 720p on Xbox One.
Destiny 2 is at last in our hands. It's been three years since the original launched, and in that time, developer Bungie has put some serious work into its sequel to create a richer, more beautiful world to explore. It's a game that addresses many of the original's shortcomings - adding a stronger narrative backbone, while improving what already shined in its gameplay and visuals. Evolving from the solid foundation of the first Destiny, does this sequel's revised tech truly satisfy in terms of graphical upgrades? Or is it more the case that the more profound changes have actually happened behind the scenes with Bungie's content creation framework?
Can you believe it? This week marks the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Kart - the original, pioneering Super Nintendo release. Many imitators have come and gone, but that 1992 release set the template for seven sequels - eight if you count the excellent Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch - and we felt that was worthy of celebration. But beyond the anniversary itself, the importance of Mario Kart's evolution across the years is significant - each series entry defines the strengths and weaknesses of its host platform, and demonstrates the values, practises and philosophy that set Nintendo apart from its competition.
It's only a tiny slice of the final product of course - a taster of three years' hard graft from one of the most respected developers in the business - but the arrival of the Call of Duty: World War 2 beta gives us our first look at how Sledgehammer Games has evolved one of the most significant console engines of this generation, and how its work scales between PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro.
Nintendo Switch has impressed us so far with some of its ports from more powerful platforms, but the arrival of a Japan-only Monster Hunter XX demo gives us a chance to see developers coming at the hardware from the other direction, refining and improving an existing 3DS title for the new console hybrid. The results are intriguing, with Capcom delivering a dramatically improved HD remaster with impressive enhancements in almost all areas.
UPDATE 9/8/17 3:37pm: Good news for prospective buyers of Boss Key's Lawbreakers. The hitching and stuttering issues that heavily impacted gameplay on launch day are now massively improved. "PS4 players, the @lawbreakers hitching fix is live! Thanks for your understanding. Now go kick some ass," Boss Key announced on Twitter.
Input lag - it's a crucial factor in defining the 'feel' of a game, and especially important for gameplay in the first-person shooter genre. Right now, two franchise giants battle it out for supremacy in this key market: Call of Duty and Battlefield. Which offers the fastest, most responsive controls? And in turn, how to do they compare with other key titles in this most competitive of genres?
Minecraft on Switch is one of the best uses to date of Nintendo's hybrid design, delivering a complete rendition of the classic game with full four-player functionality - even when undocked and gaming on the go. But its launch was marred by two factors: a lacklustre 720p resolution even when docked with your HDTV, along with noticeably jarring performance drops in split-screen mode. Developer 4J Studios promised that it would look into a full 1080p upgrade and it has duly delivered - and not only that, despite the 2.25x boost to resolution, performance in some split-screen scenarios is improved too.
Toy Story: the first full-length computer-generated feature, and a revolution in animated film. In 1995 it was a landmark moment for cinema, but it also caused big waves in the videogame industry. Around the time of PlayStation 2's launch in 2000, the visual quality of the original Toy Story became a kind of benchmark, a lofty goal developers strived to hit in their games, even if it quickly transpired to be a vain pursuit. Sadly, there was nowhere near the graphical horsepower in PS2 to achieve such pristine image quality in real time. But two console generations on, do we now finally have the power to match - or exceed - the visual quality of Pixar's iconic movie?
Nintendo's Switch is a console of two halves: tablet and dock, a unique combination designed to service the platform holder's hybrid gaming dream. The unit itself is well-designed with high levels of workmanship, but the dock? It's a bit of a clunker - it does the job, but it's big, bulky and constructed from mediocre materials. It's also dogged by controversy, with reports of scratched screens and warped Switch casing owing to poor heat dissipation. The question is, can third parties produce something better?
Frontier Developments' celebrated Elite Dangerous arrived on PlayStation 4 recently, joining the already established PC and Xbox One versions. There's a reason we've held off coverage until now: the PS4 build launched with v-sync disabled, resulting in a sub-optimal presentation. Frontier asked us to wait for a hotfix to roll out, which duly arrived on Monday. The outlook improves with the new update in place but it's still not quite right.
Six years since the 3DS first launched, Nintendo's New 2DS XL lets the handheld go out on a high. Forget the standard 2DS - a heavily stripped back version of the console released at a budget price - the 2DS XL is a very different beast. It includes almost all the features of the New 3DS XL, including its extra processing power and 256MB of RAM. You get the C-stick controls and ZL/ZR shoulder buttons as well, plus Amiibo NFC support. But as the name of the machine suggests, the obvious change is the complete removal of the auto-stereoscopic 3D display, and the head-tracking technology.