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Countdown to PS4: ResolutionGate

Let’s talk hardware.  Base hardware.  Real tech stuff.  As the launch of both next gen consoles approaches it never ceases to amaze me how many sites want to create mountains out of mole hills and generate stories where there really isn’t one.  Of these stories, the raging debate over which console is “stronger” or “better” is low hanging fruit for the unimaginative looking to fill impressions until something comes out to boost traffic.  Naturally there will be a debate, like there always is, over the resolution, graphics, and technical prowess of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One.  Permit me to make this short and simple: the Playstation 4 has stronger hardware.  It’s just a fact.  Don’t be ready to call it the winner, though, because the PS3 technically was also stronger than the Xbox 360 and it clearly did not benefit.  Both consoles share architecture, have similar clock speeds, and the same amount of RAM, albeit the big difference being that the Xbox One utilizes DDR3 and the Playstation 4 DDR5.  Still, none of this speaks to how well the operating system handles playing the games or how the implementation of the onboard memory can be best utilized by developers – we saw Bethesda have massive problems with Skyrim on the PS3 whereas Naughty Dog clearly was able to blow gamers away with The Last of Us.  So while the Ps4 may be a bit beefier (and really, the difference between DD3 and DDR5 RAM is not the difference between will a game run or not), this means almost nothing in terms of game development.  Nope, the key factor will most likely be the developer. 

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We have already seen proof of this.  In this generation there was no precedence for which version would be better once the platforms evened out around 2010.  You could lean on resolution and comparing sites like Tom’s Hardware or Digital Foundtry, but in the end most of it will be looking at two impressively similar screens and reading information about lighting and shadows that your eyes can’t pick up and making a determination for yourself.  It is with sites like this that we have seen recent information to suggest that Xbox One runs many games natively in 720p and uses an upscaler to bring it to 1080p resolution, whereas the PS4 appears to run games in 1080p.  Fire and brimstone came down from the sky, rivers and seas boiled, the dead rose from the grave, human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!  And over what?  The fact that when you play Call of Duty Ghosts you are looking at a 1080p signal that has been upscaled versus a 1080p signal generated natively in hardware is worth ripping your hair out and canceling a pre-order?  It’s ridiculous and in no way indicative of this console generation.  Christ people, most of you don’t even understand what resolution and finer points really mean, can’t identify it with your naked eye, and did I mention the damn things aren’t even out yet?  Stop doing this to yourselves, it’s a waste of time and effort.  Had it not been discovered, no one would know or care. 

Perhaps you do, though.  Perhaps you’re the type of person who unchecked “720p” on the PS3 and checked “1080p” to force games like Dead Space or Call of Duty 4 to run in 1080p (upscaled, of course) because you weren’t pleased with the developer’s forced resolution.  Okay, fair, it’s still  a stupid concern and here’s why.  Launch titles are never the best example of how hardware will work, especially third-party titles, because they simply do not have enough time or knowledge to optimize for the console.  It’s a mad dash to release a “good enough” port or game.  In the case of Call of Duty Ghosts, Infinity Ward had probably six months to re-purpose the PC version for higher end consoles and had to do the best they could with what they had.  I should also add that I have not heard stellar things about the PC versions of recent Call of Duty titles, but that’s all speculation because I have not played one myself.  In the end you have performance issues on the PS4 with framerate, a chuggy PC port, and an Xbox One version at 720p upscaled to 1080p while the PS4 version is 1080p native.  This reeks of launch woes.  Look at the first party stuff: Killzone Shadow Fall looks gorgeous compared every launch game on the PS4 and Forza 5 runs silky smooth in native 1080p at 60 frames per second, so perhaps you shouldn’t jump to conclusions before a console even launches.  Third party will catch up, perhaps even blow away the first party later in the cycle, but it takes time.  Additionally any PC gamer will tell you that changing around optimization settings like effects, shadows, and detail can often generate better visuals at lower resolution, especially when you integrate an upscaler.  When you purchase consoles and console games you sacrifice the ability to choose these options; by their very definition console games (and gamers) sacrifice this choice to instead get a game that they put in the console and just runs as smooth and as good-looking as the developer can make it.  Call of Duty Ghosts is useless on Xbox One if it doesn’t run smooth at 60 frames due to the company prescedence – Infinity Ward will sacrifice anything in a game to ensure it runs at 60 fps, even changing resolution between consoles.  Don’t get too bogged down with details like that unless you can simply accept it for face value, perhaps say, “interesting,” in your favorite James Bond voice and move on.

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In two days the Playstation 4 will be out and seven days later the Xbox One follows.  I feel confident that with the retail price these consoles fetch today, both Microsoft and Sony have gone out of their way to come up with compelling and competitive long-lasting experiences to accompany these consoles.  The only person to blame for resenting your purchase decision is yourself.  When asked what the best console coming out is, my answer is simple: the one you are buying.  If you’re buying both then it’s irrelevant because you can always get the best version.  Fighting for your favorite console to justify your expensive purchase is as old as the Genesis/SNES debate, and there’s still no clear victor.  Like the Bible, you will be able to use the internet to prove or disprove any case you want to make for or against the PS4 and the Xbox One.  Why not, instead, sit down and play a game.

The views expressed here are solely those of the writer, Fred Rojas, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The B-Team podcast or any of its other co-hosts.  In fact most of the time the guys think I’m bat shit crazy.

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