The launch of any new generation of consoles brings with it the opportunity for bigger worlds and better experiences; but few things can make a console purchase feel justified like a gorgeous game. That’s something that Square Enix is clearly aware of, hence the existence of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.
Now that the game has brought its completely new version of Lara Croft to the Xbox One and PS4 – and not the PC – it’s time to determine which console performs most admirably (and how they stack up to PC). As is usually the case, the answer isn’t as simple as some might assume.
The lengthy technical inspection has been performed by the technophiles at Digital Foundry, and while much of the nuance may be lost on all but the most dedicated graphics enthusiasts, the gameplay footage gives a strong impression of how programming for next-gen consoles is beginning to shape up.
Let’s start with the comparison that every next-gen owner wants: take a look and see how the Xbox One and PS4 perform side-by-side:
What is immediately apparent from the footage is that the console discrepancies of the past may not continue, as each system’s structure inches closer to a gaming PC. But even if the video doesn’t show one with a distinct or consistent advantage over the other, the systems aren’t performing identically.
The PS4 is the undeniable winner in the head-to-head battle of framerate and resolution, with the PS4 running unlocked to a height of 60fps, and 1080p resolution. However, the detailed analysis shows that the PS4 version’s framerate is less than consistent, ranging drastically from 32fps to the top-end.
By contrast, the Xbox One version is locked at 30fps, with resolution dropped to 900p for scripted cinematic cutscenes. Most interestingly is the fact the Microsoft’s version remains locked at 30fps even when the number of assets to display drops. In other words, Tomb Raider on Xbox One runs at a hampered rate in the name of consistency, while the PS4 reaches higher heights while varying in framerate.
Lara’s Definitive model (left) and her PC predecessor (right)
The PS4 version is the overall winner, since the higher frame rate will be noticed throughout playing (and the Xbox One version even dipped below 30fps at times). That being said, the testers point out that a consistent frame rate has distinct advantages when multiple effects are in play. And the issue of TressFX (used to animate Lara’s hair) is alive and well in the PS4 version, varying frame rates wildly.
It’s important not to put too much stock into the discrepancies, as the ports were developed by two different studios (the more experienced Nixxes for Sony, United Front Gamed for Microsoft). Yet what is clear is that porting games from a Windows PC to Microsoft’s console isn’t as simple as one might assume.
How the consoles match up is certainly a complex issue (although the testers see both as massive improvements over the Xbox 360 and PS3), and the same can be said for their performance compared to the PC version. Take a look at the differences, starting with the PlayStation 4:
The drastic re-design of Lara is impossible to miss, but the technical side isn’t as easy to differentiate. The definitive edition brings brand new detail to both the character’s skin and clothing, which is simply not present in the PC build. The same is true of new foliage and items that have been added, and added fire and smoke effects. The console versions both feature some lower-resolution textures, but less motion blur as well.
It’s unclear exactly how the developers have made room for the additional assets and light scattering that make the Definitive console versions visibly different from the PC, and when played with PC settings maxed out, the home consoles can’t compete. So while the PC players may not enjoy a ‘definitive’ experience (not yet, anyway), the freedom to tailor their performance (like turning TressFX off entirely) still provides an edge.
Will you be looking to play through the “definitive” Lara Croft experience if you missed it the first time around? If so, for which console? Assuming you aren’t already awaiting the upcoming sequel, of course. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is available now in North America, and releases January 31, 2014 in Europe.
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