Dishonored Definitive Edition Visual Analysis: Xbox One vs. PS4 vs. PC

Arkane Studios’ current gen port fails to match up to the 2012 PC version.

Posted By | On 31st, Aug. 2015 Under Article, Graphics Analysis

Arkane Studios’ Dishonored is one of those cult-classic games that we have fond memories of. Except it wasn’t a cult classic – the game did fairly well for itself and actually released recently (about three years ago in 2012). Say what you will about the overall length but never had there been a stealth game like Dishonored which incorporated fast-paced teleport slashing, multiple pathways, a mish-mash of fantasy elements set against a distinct visual aesthetic and an awesome story.

Even for its time however, Dishonored wasn’t pushing the boundaries of what the Xbox 360 and PS3 could accomplish. Developed on Unreal Engine 3, Dishonored brought out numerous little details like rats crawling through alleyways and steadily increasing number as the bodies piled up in the story or bodies burning, limbs being chopped off or corpses being consumed (sometimes all at once). Playing it on PC was a delight and even when teleporting across rooftops, admiring the scenery and analyzing character movements, the game was silky smooth and responsive.

Performance on older platforms was anything but perfect but for the most part, Dishonored managed to look good and play good. It ran at 30 frames per second on Xbox 360 and PS3 with adaptive V-sync causing screen tearing whenever the frame rate began to chug. Post process anti-aliasing was in effect, which obviously couldn’t compare to the PC version’s full blown AA solutions, and both versions rant at a 1280×720 resolution. Elements like screen space ambient occlusion and depth of field were also present though their implementation varied across both versions (for example, the PS3 version boasted better DoF).

Note: PC followed by the Xbox One version.

What can one reasonably expect from a PS4 and Xbox One port like Dishonored: Definitive Edition? A full overhaul of textures, character designs and cut-scenes a la Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was never really the case (nor was it expected) but there was at least some hope that Arkane Studios would take advantage of the current gen consoles to significantly improve the game’s performance, increase the resolution and further add on to the present effects and options.

Unfortunately, that isn’t completely the case here.

Textures look sharper with better image quality overall and Dishonored: Definitive Edition can thus be considered as the PC version running at high settings. Native resolution is set at 1080p for both Xbox One and PS4 as revealed through pixel counting. So far, so good. However, the frame rate hasn’t been increased to 60 FPS. Consider this for a second – my three year old laptop with an AMD A8 APU with a mobile GPU was capable of running Dishonored at 60 frames per second with some drops here and there on reasonable medium settings.

The PS4 and Xbox One are obviously far superior hardware in comparison and yet Dishonored: Definitive Edition isn’t running at 60 FPS on either of them. Why couldn’t Arkane Studios hit a higher frame rate? This makes the Definitive Edition feel like a cheap port in some ways and the screen tearing that harmed previous gen releases is still present. The other assumption is that enough has been improved in other areas to justify 30 FPS.

That’s not the case either. Both console versions use a heavy amount of fast approximate anti-aliasing or FXAA for removing jaggies with no performance penalty. The problem is that it also tends to blur out a lot of the details on textures and even with FXAA, Dishonored: Definitive Edition doesn’t run at 60 frames per second. Couldn’t Arkane have at least used a better anti-aliasing solution if it intended to stick to 30 FPS?

Anisotropic filtering is absent on the PS4 version of the game, which would’ve been understandable a year ago on newer titles but doesn’t fly here. Parallax occlusion mapping is included in both versions but the lack of anisotropic filtering makes it insignificant. Texture streaming issues have also been spotted in some places as noticed with textures that would load incompletely. This is similar to what plagued id Software’s RAGE and whether this is related to Unreal Engine 3 not being properly optimized for current gen consoles (not that it’s meant for the PS4 and Xbox One anyway – that’s Unreal Engine 4) or due to some other reason isn’t known. Either way, it really hurts the experience for those who appreciate the finer details. Loading times are almost non-existent on the current gen consoles but texture streaming still feels snappier on the PC.

Note: PC followed by the PS4 version.

If that weren’t enough, the PC version features a number of visual enhancements that is present on neither version of the Definitive Edition. While the PS4 and Xbox One versions undoubtedly look better than the previous generation, we at least expected the Definitive Edition to stand side by side with the PC version.

Dishonored: Definitive Edition is a very, very odd port. The original visual style stood out for its amazing art direction and this was ably assisted by the gameplay, world design and characters. The 2012 release wasn’t a benchmark by any means and could be maxed out easily even on older gaming PCs. That’s what makes the new generation release so baffling, especially when it’s supposed to provide the transition to Dishonored 2 which has been developed from the ground up for PS4 and Xbox One. The fact that both current gen platforms can’t hit 60 frames per second and still suffer from screen tearing is disappointing.

For those interested in Dishonored, especially since the Definitive Edition includes all previously released DLC, it’s worth your while to seek out the original PC release. Not only will it offer a better visual experience overall for those with powerful hardware but it scales remarkably well on older GPUs. If you’re a console player who never experienced the original game and are wondering what the fuss is all about, then give a shot at Dishonored: Definitive Edition. For everybody else, looks some where else.

There are honestly much better ways to get into the universe and prepare for Dishonored 2 without having to spend money on a below average port. Hopefully Arkane Studios’ true current gen outing will offer a much better visual experience even if it sticks to 30 FPS on consoles.

Note: Analysis was carried out by Bill Smith.

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