Face-Off: Skyrim Special Edition

Skyrim arrives on current-gen consoles and gets a PC upgrade in the form of the Special Edition, a remaster of sorts featuring several visual upgrades over the original game. New lighting and effects work is woven into the existing rendering pipeline, while some of the core assets are reworked. Draw distances and streaming are also improved too, adding another layer of refinement to the presentation. It all adds up to a tangible boost in visual quality over the original game, especially when looking at the last-gen console versions. But with that said, what’s the best way to play the game? And which console provide us with the better overall experience?

Kicking things off with PS4 and Xbox One, and it’s immediately clear that both versions deliver an identical presentation with asset quality and effects work nicely matching up. A native 1080p resolution is also in place, bringing a welcome increase in clarity over the 720p presentation on last-gen machines. Resolution also appears to be locked to 1080p too, although, just as in Fallout 4 it’s possible that a dynamic framebuffer could still be in play, though we didn’t find any drops below 1080p during our gameplay session.

As such, image quality is solid, with the game’s temporal anti-aliasing solution practically eliminating shimmer and other edge-related artefacts across the entirety of the scenes. However, the downside is that this post-process AA implementation creates a soft look that lacks the per-pixel sharpness we expect from a native image. Stacked up against the original PC Skyrim with its MSAA implementation, there’s no doubt that the presentation is considerably less focused.

Face-Off: Forza Horizon 3

Could this be our first look at how Xbox One titles will look on next year’s Project Scorpio? Forza Horizon 3 represents a fascinating balance between looking good and running well on current generation console hardware while at the same time scaling up to provide an improved experience on high-end kit. Combined with the cross-platform nature of the new Play Anywhere system, what’s clear is that Microsoft is laying the foundations for Scorpio’s arrival right now – and it looks great.

It helps that the Forza Horizon engine is so solid to begin with, to the point where it looks so good at 1080p, you can’t help but wonder whether we actually need a new wave of consoles at all. If there was one takeaway from this year’s E3, it was that the first party wares from both Microsoft and Sony are punching seriously above their weight, compared to the outputs we’ve seen from equivalent PC kit.

Forza Horizon 3 builds upon the key technical successes of its predecessor and retains the superb image quality – 4x MSAA on a console title is virtually unheard of these days – while ramping up the environmental detail to new levels. It also goes without saying that the car modelling is exceptional, and though enhancements vary from vehicle to vehicle, the PC version does offer the ability to run more detailed in-game models, adding further to the spectacle.

Performance Analysis: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is now available and we’ve now spent a good few hours with all three versions of the game. Powered by the Dawn Engine – an upgraded engine based on IO Interactive’s Glacier 2 technology platform – this new title takes on a new look with plenty of advanced graphics features on display. The question is, how is it running thus far across the three platforms and which version should you play? Let’s take a closer look.

Right out of the gate, we’re looking at native 1080p on PlayStation 4 and 900p on Xbox One. Both versions employ a high quality temporal anti-aliasing solution that helps clean up edges, but this is somewhat spoiled by an aggressive, non-defeatable sharpening effect that produces visible edge ringing across the image. The PC version allows users to disable these options independently, in addition to taking advantage of the more demanding MSAA, though its impact on memory consumption – and indeed performance – is high.

In judging the technical performance of a game like this, there are a few key elements to consider including map size, loading times, and frame-rate. In this case, the Dawn Engine is capable of much larger maps than the previous Deus Ex, with a huge number of fully explorable buildings that can be entered without any additional loading. It’s the first time since the original Deus Ex that we’ve seen maps of this scale and, in many ways, Mankind Divided is able to exceed that. The maps are simply huge and richly detailed throughout the game.