Burning skies, falling Titans and the quest for 60 FPS.
Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall is here – or rather, it’s been here for a good solid week now and has managed to remain large and in charge all throughout. Inevitably, the comparisons between the Xbox One and PC version would come about, especially considering the parity between both versions. Aside from higher resolutions on the PC, both versions tout a 60 FPS frame rate and present roughly the same texture and asset quality at regular 720p settings. Of course, with a reflex-driven experience like this, it only makes sense that performance, over visual grandeur, would be preferred.
The Xbox 360 version of the game has been delayed till April 8th in North America and April 11th in Europe, but for all intents and purposes, it’s considered distinct from the Xbox One and PC versions. It will be interesting to see how Bluepoint Games is able to translate the manic experience of the next gen version onto the Xbox 360. Recent rumours peg the game as being at a sub-720p resolution and 30 FPS though, so the Xbox One and PC versions are the definitive releases at this point.
"Respawn’s v-sync feature is also a little iffy here – the developer decided to go with the adaptive approach the Xbox One. It attempts to keep the frame rate at 60 FPS but ultimately causes screen-tearing in some places."
Developed on the Source Engine, Respawn Entertainment made some very heavy modifications to Titanfall. Effects such as lens-flares and a strong draw distance are apparent and impressive– the game also features 2X MSAA (Multi-sample Anti-aliasing) on the Xbox One. This is a particularly amazing feat, especially when you consider the criticisms the console has faced regarding its performance. However, Respawn Entertainment opted for a 792p resolution on the Xbox One. This means a 1408×792 resolution overall. Odd right? It’s especially odder when you consider that there isn’t much difference between Titanfall’s 792p on the Xbox One and 720p on the PC.
Where the Xbox One version was seemingly meant to excel was in providing a consistent and steady 60 FPS throughout and it succeeds…for the most part. Even during general gameplay, there are a few frame drops here and there. But as soon as the screen is lit up with Titans, canvassing about, wrecking anything that moves, you’ll notice some strange stutters throughout. Respawn’s v-sync feature is also a little iffy here – the developer decided to go with the adaptive approach the Xbox One. It attempts to keep the frame rate at 60 FPS but ultimately causes screen-tearing in some places.
This doesn’t necessarily affect the PC version as much, considering that you can choose between different v-sync settings or disable it completely if controller input accuracy is more important than visuals. In terms of texture quality, the PC version is also significantly better than the Xbox One when pushed to the highest settings. For the Source Engine, Titanfall looks extremely good.
"It may not outright shock and awe you like Battlefield 4’s hyper-realistic texture and environment destruction despite the resources it demands."
While it can be a pretty big drain on resources at high settings, users with an NVidia GTX 660 with 2 GB DDR5 RAM can rest assured of their visual experience along with a rock solid frame rate at 1080p. It may not outright shock and awe you like Battlefield 4’s hyper-realistic texture and environment destruction – and in fact, the destructibility in Titanfall is fairly limited when it comes to buildings and structures – despite the resources it demands.
But for its visuals and the amount of effects going on – with AI soldiers rappelling in, Spectres leaping up floors, enemy pilots running around, Titans smashing the surroundings, drop ships flying through the skies and literal battlefields erupting in the back drop – Titanfall remains surprisingly robust even on older systems.
Playing it on an old AMD A8 mobile CPU with Radeon HD 7640G+7670M dual graphics card may not produce the best visuals at the highest resolution but the experience is fairly smooth and highly playable. While that 35 GB of uncompressed audio may not make much sense, it’s a given that the larger install size on the PC compared to the Xbox One’s 17 GB install does have a benefit for those using more dated hardware.
"This animation quality extends to the Grunts and Spectres as well – you’ll never mistaken one for the other at any point."
Even if you discount frame rate performance, it’s easy to see the benefits that the PC version holds over the Xbox One version. So if you’ve been caught admiring that sweet matted black hull on your Atlas on the PC, you’ll notice far less pronounced details on the Xbox One. It’s not annoying and it doesn’t affect the gameplay experience per say, but it is somewhat of an odd choice aesthetically.
We did admire the overall animation quality of Titanfall. Titans move like big lumbering mechanized tanks rather than giant robots, and the emission of steam and fire from the engines gives a more pronounced contemporary feel as compared to other sci-fi first person shooters. This animation quality extends to the Grunts and Spectres as well – you’ll never mistaken one for the other at any point.
"Titanfall as a graphical experience is extremely competent on the Xbox One. It promises action and doesn’t let up until the last drop ship has either departed or blown up."
The factions in the game are also distinguished by their tell-tale accessories – Militia Pilots employ a more barren colour code to blend in with desert surroundings, with an added scarf to protect against hostile winds, while the IMC is more clean-cut and futuristic in its appeal.
It’s to the credit of the developer that they’ve created character designs that are nuanced enough that you can immediately recognize the potential weapons a Pilot could be wielding by their outward appearance alone. Titanfall as a graphical experience is extremely competent on the Xbox One. It promises action and doesn’t let up until the last drop ship has either departed or blown up.
Respawn has promised improvements in performance down the line for the resolution and despite the frame rate and v-sync, it’s still one of the most visually distinguished shooters of this generation. And that in itself is a triumph. Just know that once you immerse yourself in the PC version, it’ll be very hard to settle for anything less.