Back in 2010, after a stint working on the early version of Eidos Montreal's Thief reboot, Rhianna Pratchett set to work writing a very different Lara Croft. The brief from developer Crystal Dynamics was clear: this new Tomb Raider would be a reboot for the long-running series, a game that would drag Lara Croft kicking and screaming into the modern era. For Pratchett, that meant helping craft a personality for a younger Lara, an origin story in which the world's most famous video game action hero could find herself.
The unscheduled, early release this weekend of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 allowed us to get something of a head start on our upcoming Face-Off coverage. Factoring in the controversy surrounding the frame-rate differential between the two versions, we prioritised performance analysis in order to get our impressions to you as quickly as possible - and the results are going to make for uncomfortable reading at Microsoft.
Reports suggesting that the PS4 version of the game operates at a slick 60fps while the Xbox One game languishes at the console-standard 30fps are verified - up to a point. Deeper analysis reveals that PS4 frame-rates can vary significantly depending on the effects work at play, resulting in variable controller latency and some on-screen judder. For its part, performance on Xbox One is palpably lower - massively so judged by the numbers alone, but the experience itself is more consistent overall.
First up, let's compare the two versions of the game running exact like-for-like footage via engine-driven cut-scenes. On Xbox One, we see a lock at 30fps, with occasional dropped frames shifting results lower. Activity is far more interesting on the PS4 side though, with frame-rate varying from anything between 32fps to 60fps across our sample, with elements such as TressFX, depth of field and transparent alpha effects hitting frame-rate in a cumulative manner. Note in particular how scenes that switch between the TressFX-enabled Lara and the rest of the cast can see sudden switches in performance.