Resolutiongate: Why resolution doesn't matter for now
It has been one of the most fiercely debated issue in the lead-up to this month's next-gen launch, but does the native resolution that games are running in really matter at the moment?
We need to wind the clock back to the launch of the current-gen to explore just how little screen resolution matters. Comparing launch titles to the current crop of Xbox 360 and PS3 games we notice a marked shift in the visuals.
When the current-gen arrived the games barely scratched the surface of what the hardware was capable of. Games like Perfect Dark Zero, Call Of Duty 2 and Dead Or Alive 4 showed just enough of a marked jump in the visuals department for the Xbox 360 to feel like progress and PS3 launch titles like MotorStorm, Ridge Racer 7 and Resistance had a similar effect on for Sony's machine.
It took a while for gamers to really begin to feel the difference. Possibilities began to open up with games Gears Of War, Oblivion and Assassin's Creed began to swim fully in the power of this new console generation.
Problems were about though. Early support for the PS3 was scarce because it's powerful Cell architecture was notoriously difficult to code for. On the other side of the wall poorly designed cooling was bricking Xbox 360s left, right and centre with the now notorious RROD and E65 errors forcing Microsoft to extend the machine's warranty to cover these catastrophic hardware failures for up to three years.
The real watershed moment in the current-gen consoles came with the release of Uncharted 2 in late 2009. Naughty Dog's entertaining Tomb Raider clone proved to be a landmark with some of the most spectacular visuals this console generation had seen.
It underlined the true processing power of the PS3 in particular and showed just what kind of experience this console generation was capable of. This was some three years after the launch of the PS3 and since then both consoles have produced some outstanding experiences.
The Halo series stands out alongside Gears Of War as the Xbox 360's visual landmark series. Both have proven that the Xbox 360 despite lacking the sheer processing muscle or the massive Blu-ray disc format of the PS3 could still give gamers astounding graphics.
The resolution has varied greatly over the life of this console generation due to optimisation issues. Saints Row 2 for instance ran at a native resolution not too far above standard definition and was then upscaled by both consoles. Sadly this has contributed to Saints Row 2 aging very poorly despite it being fantastic from a gameplay perspective.
In fact one of the few true 1080p HD experiences was achieved early on in the PS3's life cycle by the now-defunct Studio Liverpool's Wipeout HD. Playing it is still a spectacle to this day and it deserves to be remembered for quietly showing just what could be achieved with the current-gen long before Uncharted 2 came out.
So, now we have launch titles being released at 900p and even 720p and then upscaled by the enshrined 1080p true HD standard and people are not happy. There are a handful of titles that will run in 1080p at 60fps like Forza 5 on the Xbox One or Killzone: Shadow Fall on the PS4 but, both are platform exclusives built with bespoke game engines designed specifically for their respective platforms.
Ubisoft and Activision are patching their launch titles, Assassin's Creed IV and Call Of Duty: Ghosts on the PS4 to give full 1080p experiences by using the time between the game going gold and release to work on optimising the game further to give the experience they were aiming for.
At the end of the day though, the Xbox One and PS4 are brand new pieces of kit and for despite all pretention towards being designed with developers in mind, even Microsoft and Sony are still very much unsure of how to squeeze the best out of their respective consoles at the moment.
The design should facilitate developers getting to grips with the hardware more quickly than they did with the Xbox 360 and PS3. It probably won't take three or four years for the next-gen equivalent of Uncharted 2 to arrive but don't be so hard on developers if it does.
The PS4 and Xbox One are exceptional pieces of kit designed with your entertainment in mind and what you will get at launch is am array of games that make the best use of the consoles as they stand now. Given that they were developed on hardware that wasn't quite set in stone yet with constantly evolving drivers and development tools they deserve a bit of slack.
These are exciting times and to demand a few more pixels out of the new consoles right now is just being greedy.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III is coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360 after all
- Tomonobu Itagaki's Devil's Third gets a release date
- Adr1ft is coming to PC and consoles at the end of the summer
- EA gives the new Mirror's Edge a name – Mirror's Edge Catalyst
- ZombiU PS4 and Xbox One port reportedly in the works
- Mike Bithell's Volume to be released this August
- Gearbox's new shooter Battleborn gets a pre-E3 trailer
- Steam Controller launches in October, Steam Machines arrive in November
- Gears Of War devs Black Tusk change their name to The Coalition ahead of E3