Resident Evil 7 at 4K: does resolution really matter?

PlayStation 4 Pro’s native 1260p rendering resolution for Resident Evil 7 turned out to be something of a surprise, representing a relatively slight 36 per cent uplift in pixel-count over the base PS4 version of the game. It’s a curious choice for a console designed to service the new wave of ultra HD displays, and that led us to wonder – just how does the Pro mode compare to a full-fat 4K presentation? For a game with RE7’s heavily stylised aesthetic, to what extent does a high native resolution actually matter?

Given the soft ‘found-footage’ nature of the game, there could be diminishing returns over higher pixel counts, with clarity and intricate detail masked by the heavy post-process pipeline. In many ways, RE7 produces an intentionally ‘lo-fi’ image, but on the flip-side, the boost in resolution could possibly flesh out more detail from the existing assets alongside greater precision in rendering effects – essentially keeping the film-like image intact while adding additional refinement to the core aesthetic.

With Resident Evil 7 geared towards running at 60fps, one might assume that jumping from 1080p to 4K might not require ultra high-end hardware to get the job done, but that isn’t the case here. A locked 60fps at max settings is somewhat off the table, but with an i7 paired with an overclocked Titan X Pascal it’s possible to achieve a mostly solid 4K60 during more demanding scenes. And as it turns out, brute-forcing ultra HD resolution does indeed result in a considerable upgrade over the PS4 Pro’s higher resolution mode, although the console version can hold up well in many scenarios – not a bad turn-out considering that our PC set-up is handing in a 2.9x increase in raw pixel-count.

Lego Dimensions gets Goonies, Lego City and Hermione in May

Lego Dimensions’ second year continues on 12th May with the arrival of packs themed around 80s movie favourite The Goonies, upcoming HD re-release Lego City Undercover and… Hermione from Harry Potter.

Dimensions’ The Goonies pack adds both a fresh level and adventure world to the sprawling toys-to-life game. You also get a minifigure of Sloth, plus a pirate ship and skeleton organ to build.

All of the Goonies are playable, with Chunk available from the off to perform his trademark Truffle Shuffle.

The race for 4K: how Project Scorpio targets ultra HD gaming

The race for 4K gaming has begun. PlayStation 4 Pro is in the marketplace, and while success in supporting ultra HD gaming varies dramatically between releases, an established series of techniques is in place that is already capable of effectively servicing a 4K resolution with a comparatively modest level of GPU power. In the wake of its E3 2016 reveal for the new Project Scorpio console, Microsoft began to share details with developers on how they expect to see 4K supported on its new hardware. A whitepaper was released on its development portal, entitled ‘Reaching 4K and GPU Scaling Across Multiple Xbox Devices’. It’s a fascinating outlook on Microsoft’s ultra HD plans – and it also reveals more about the Scorpio hardware itself. For starters, Xbox One’s contentious ESRAM is gone.

A small, but ultra-fast array of embedded static memory integrated into the Xbox One processor itself, ESRAM was the high-bandwidth scratchpad designed to mitigate for the lower-speed DDR3 system RAM on which the Xbox hardware relied. An evolution of the eDRAM attached to the Xbox 360 GPU, ESRAM is massively fast but suffers from one major shortcoming – the lack of it. Microsoft’s whitepaper categorically rules out ESRAM for Scorpio, while at the same time suggesting that developers continue to support it to ensure strong performance on legacy Xbox One hardware.

“ESRAM remains essential to achieving high performance on both Xbox One and Xbox One S,” the whitepaper reveals. “However, Project Scorpio and PC are not provided with ESRAM. Because developers are not allowed to ship a Project Scorpio-only SKU, optimising for ESRAM remains critical to performance on Microsoft platforms.”

Digital Foundry: Every PS4 Pro native 4K game tested

If you’ve bought PlayStation 4 Pro and paired it with a brand new ultra HD TV, the chances are that you’ll be looking for a range of games designed to get the most out of both of your new purchases. As we stated in our , the likes of Ratchet and Clank, Rise of the Tomb Raider and COD Infinite Warfare are must-play experiences, but just how many PS4 Pro titles manage to hit a native 4K with full-fat 60fps gameplay?

There’s no shortage of 4K games lists for PS4 Pro dotted across the internet, so over the last few weeks we spent our spare time getting hold of each and every game that purports to offer native ultra HD gaming, with an emphasis on targeting 60fps. Each title was put under the Digital Foundry microscope, with pixel-counts carried out to ensure that native resolution was indeed being delivered. Curiously, we discovered that quite a few titles said to be running at 4K were clearly and obviously not handing in anything like the required pixel-count, so we created a sub-category for these titles along with their actual native rendering resolutions.

In the final analysis, we were left with a mere ten titles that fulfilled the initial brief – handing in the combination of a locked 4K pixel count matched with 60fps gameplay. You can watch Dave Bierton and Tom Morgan sort the wheat from the chaff in the latest Digital Foundry videocast below, where the discussion is backed with native 4K footage for all titles captured.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered is now free on PlayStation Plus

January’s PlayStation Plus freebies, the Instant Game Collection, has been released and it includes Day of the Tentacle Remastered.

Between now and 7th February, you can snag the HD remake of Tim Schafer’s classic time-traveling point-and-click adventure game on PS4 and Vita.

“Now or maybe even two hundred years in the tentacle future, it’ll still be a fine answer if you ever find yourself asked what’s the best adventure game of all time,” said Eurogamer contributor Richard Cobbett in his glowing .

Third Age of Empires 2 expansion announced

Age of Empires 2 just keeps on going – the people behind the HD version of the real-time strategy game have just announced a third official expansion.

Age of Empires 2 HD: Rise of the Rajas comes out on 19 December – that’s over 17 years after the original Age of Empires 2 came out on PC.

Rise of the Rajas is set in southeast Asia and includes four new civs (Burmese; Khmer; Malay; and Vietnamese), four new, fully-voiced campaigns, and new units, such as the Battle Elephant.

Digital Foundry’s 2016 Black Friday/Cyber Monday top deals

Welcome to the 2016 Digital Foundry Black Friday guide, where our staff present the cream of the deals currently available, curated with a simple philosophy in mind – if it were our money on the line, would we actually pull the trigger on these deals?

We’ve been monitoring the big sites and bargain forums over the last few days, and little in terms of PC hardware has piqued our interest, but clearly the situation has changed somewhat radically over the last 24 hours, to the point where there are now a number of recommendations we can make.

With the arrival of PlayStation 4 Pro and ever-increasing levels of PC GPU power, there’s never been a better time to upgrade to a 4K screen. We recommend a 50-inch screen (or larger) for the living room, but we’ve actually been really impressed with Samsung’s 40-inch KU6400 as a desktop monitor replacement – to the point where our very own Tom Morgan is now using that as his daily driver. So it’s with ultra HD screens where we’ll kick off our recommendations.

How does PS4 Pro improve the PlayStation VR experience?

Some might say that the new PlayStation 4 Pro is better equipped for enhanced VR gaming as opposed to its stated purpose of adapting titles for ultra HD displays. Effectively doubling GPU power over base hardware opens up a range of options for improving PlayStation VR titles – an area where smooth frame-rates take priority over image quality or graphical features on standard PS4 hardware. So the question is simple: to what extent does PSVR benefit with a PS4 Pro upgrade?

Of course, we need to bear in mind that it’s early days for PS4 Pro development in general, as evidenced by a small number of sub-optimal ports we’ve seen so far. On top of that, there are commercial considerations to take into account. Development budgets for VR will be constrained enough already, owing to the relatively limited number of launch units out in the wild. To add support for this specific combination of PS4 Pro and PSVR – a subset of an already small installed base – is perhaps a hard sell for a developer when it comes to allocating development resources.

This may explain , hinting that only a few visual features are enabled in PSVR’s flagship racer on PlayStation 4 Pro. As it happens, we struggled to find any at all, though further comparisons revealed enhanced reflections are enabled on the body work of the car. Otherwise, the rest of our comparisons came up empty. Admittedly, we are hamstrung here; the social feed limits resolution, making pixel-count comparisons difficult. And even access to the HMD feed offers limited results owing to the distortion pass added to account for PSVR’s lenses. Truly, there is nothing quite like actually putting on the headset to judge the actual differences – something we can’t really present in an article, or even a video.

Face-Off: Dishonored 2

We can’t kick off a Dishonored 2 platform comparison without first discussing just how remarkably poor the PC version is. We’re not going to dwell too much on this because the backlash against the product is already intense enough, but let’s put it this way – we’ve tested the title with an overclocked Core i7 4790K paired with Titan X Pascal and remarkably, it has trouble hitting 60fps at 1080p. Clearly, a fundamental re-evaluation of the PC version is required beyond the brace of patches seen so far. It’s stunning to think that this title actually shares technological underpinnings with Doom 2016 – a title that runs maxed-out at over 100fps at 4K on the same hardware. Things do seem to be improving (the first patch could see the same Titan-powered system trough out at 38fps in full HD resolution) but the product had no business shipping in that state.

Of course, the fact is that there’s no game-changing improvement in the PC version’s visual make-up – it’s the usual array of additional refinements to image quality, but that said, taken together, they do make a difference. You can operate at higher resolutions, ramp up shadow and ambient occlusion quality, while texture quality gets a bump – aided and abetted by far superior streaming. That’s most likely down to hardware though – an SSD really should be part and parcel of any modern gaming PC.

Provided that Arkane can get the PC version into shape, it should prove to be the definitive release, but as things stand, we’re a long way from that and the console versions are looking pretty good. The scalability of idTech makes its way into Dishonored 2’s Void engine, meaning that the major difference between all console builds is – inevitably – resolution.

Digital Foundry’s 2016 Black Friday top deals

Welcome to the 2016 Digital Foundry Black Friday guide, where our staff present the cream of the deals currently available, curated with a simple philosophy in mind – if it were our money on the line, would we actually pull the trigger on these deals?

We’ve been monitoring the big sites and bargain forums over the last few days, and little in terms of PC hardware has piqued our interest, but clearly the situation has changed somewhat radically over the last 24 hours, to the point where there are now a number of recommendations we can make.

With the arrival of PlayStation 4 Pro and ever-increasing levels of PC GPU power, there’s never been a better time to upgrade to a 4K screen. We recommend a 50-inch screen (or larger) for the living room, but we’ve actually been really impressed with Samsung’s 40-inch KU6400 as a desktop monitor replacement – to the point where our very own Tom Morgan is now using that as his daily driver. So it’s with ultra HD screens where we’ll kick off our recommendations.