It’s been a bumpy road for Microsoft’s Xbox One. From the laughable TV-heavy reveal, the draconian DRM, and their recent 180 from those policies, you can understand that the company is desperate for some a strong PR message. The problem is that Microsoft’s message they are delivering to gamers about what the Xbox One is and what it’s intended to be is a flat out lie. It’s deception intended to fool people into buying a $500 “Entertainment Platform” that they’re marketing as a game console.
Before I dive into what will surly ignite “mature” Xbox fans into spewing slurs and threats my way via Twitter, allow me to explain where I’m coming from. Ten years ago when I was working at IGN I was the biggest “Xbot” you could find. Right before the launch of the console, I borrowed the debug over a weekend and binged Halo in a marathon session from beginning to end without stopping to sleep or eat. Of course, I was also a Day 1 Xbox 360 owner and as hard for some to believe, that launch 360 still lives (my nephews have it and it still works). I vastly prefer the Forza series to Gran Turismo, naturally love Halo (my current 360 is the Reach slim), and I’m still holding out hope that Microsoft will resurrect Blinx on the Xbox One.
But at the same time, I’m a techie and I pay close attention to the sort of hardware that goes into “next generation” systems. That means I followed the leaks about the Durango (XB1) and Orbis (PS4) devkits very closely to see what both companies were doing. And while they both were similar in a couple of ways (x86 architecture, GPUs derived from AMD), they were also different and it became very apparent that Microsoft was cutting corners for some reason.
That reason is because the Xbox One isn’t meant to be a game console, yet Microsoft is trying to sell you it as one.
If you want an example of how Microsoft cut corners on the hardware you don’t have to look any further than the 720p issue in games like Call of Duty: Ghosts< and Battlefield 4. Last night, sites were given the go-ahead to post comparisons between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of Battlefield 4, and it was confirmed that the Xbox One edition runs at 720. From Polygon (who usually favors MS):
The Xbox One version of Battlefield 4 is currently rendering at 1280×720, while the PS4 is natively rendering at 1600×900. As a result, the PS4 version is somewhat sharper than the Xbox One release.
Needless to say, there are some basic differences in image quality that need knocking on the head right away. Chief among them is the hot topic of internal resolution, where we determine that the Xbox One code is indeed running at 1280×720. If this is set in stone for release – as is likely – the Microsoft version is poised to give us the most aliasing of the two next-gen platforms by a noticeable degree, and is only a stone’s throw from the sub-720p resolutions of current-gen releases. On the other hand, the PS4 version delivers a whopping 1600×900 resolution in all modes, giving it a 50 per cent lead in output pixels overall. As well as cutting down on jagged edges, this reduces the amount of pixel shimmer we see in motion on complex shaders or thin geometry, with distant power lines, scaffolding and other elements with sub-pixel elements creating unwanted flickering on Xbox One.
Popular Battlefied 4 streamer JackFrags has posted a Xbox One single player video and a PS4 multi-player video. With the video set at 720p for the Xbox One version, it’s honestly hard to tell if it’s actually the Xbox One or the Xbox 360.
Not every site was honest when it came to Battlefield 4. Popular gaming comparison site Digital Foundry posted comparison screens and videos that made the XB1 version look not as bad as Jack Frag’s videos, and their text was written to highly favor the Xbox One version. This is par for the course with Digital Foundry, as they have always favored the Xbox 360, however in this case they were called on their bullshit and admitted that they botched the video capture:
“The issue here is simple; Tom had a limited amount of time to capture this stuff and was not able to do so in a normal environment. If mistakes were made normally, it would be easy to go back and correct, but with the way this worked, it wasn’t really possible.
Why so different? DF uses their own hardware for capturing while DICE were handing out Elgato boxes to everyone else. The DF hardware is actually much more capable but it works differently and, without the experience of working with these new consoles, I can see a situation where settings were dialed in wrong.
JackFrags used what DICE provided and probably didn’t even attempt to change any settings which, in this case, turned out to be for the best.”
What happened was Digital Foundry saw the raw footage and that their precious Xbox looked like shit, so they dialed up the color saturation, and dialed down the gamma, to make the colors brighter and the picture darker in an attempt to make the Xbox One version look different than it does.
But the deception goes further than just having certain sites carrying water for MS…