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The folks at Digital Foundry have taken a good hard look at Fallout 4's technical make-up for Eurogamer and came up with two articles. In the first, they ask themselves whether Fallout 4 qualifies as a "next-gen game" in terms of graphical fidelity. Unsurprisingly, they conclude that it does, even though it looks a bit dated and behind the curve:
All told, Fallout 4 does feel like a step forward in technological terms, if not the giant leap we had hoped for. The physically-based lighting, its interplay with weather conditions, and a suite of new effects make it stand apart from Fallout 3 on the surface. Aspects of its presentation fall behind the curve though, and the world overall appears a touch flat, plus we still see lengthy loading screens when fast-travelling between major areas. On PS4 and Xbox One, we also stick to the 30fps target of its last-gen games too, with variable delivery in hitting that number as we've discussed in our performance analysis.
It's disappointing on these points, and we suspect Bethesda's tools could have used a more thorough refresh for its first PS4 and Xbox One project. The team recently revealed the game's development began with porting Skyrim to Microsoft's new machine, and Fallout 4's inheritance is often clear to see in playing the game. But there's a legacy to Bethesda's underlying tech that it clearly feels at home with - a method that has helped realise a huge apocalyptic playground few other developers are able to match for scope.
The end product in Fallout 4 is an unusual mixture of old and new. It undoubtedly follows a familiar template underneath, but the new lighting model layered over the top gives it an often-times beautiful, current-gen veneer. Certain new effects already look dated, but regardless, it has a flexibility most games don't offer, with its wide scope for exploration, and a freedom granted by its dialogue options. It's not a knockout blow in technical terms, but it still impresses in its own way - and hopefully this marks the first step of many, as Bethesda continues to develop for PS4 and Xbox One.
The second article is the performance analysis proper. The PC version gets Digital Foundry's recommendation and seems very solid, but the console versions suffer. On the Xbox One, Fallout 4 apparently stutters so heavily that Digital Foundry's framerate tool even registered 0 fps at one point:
All things put into perspective, Fallout 4 does hold 30fps as a general rule, but drops are noticeable. For example, moving between major city areas is a particular strain on the engine, causing PS4 and Xbox One to drop to 20fps in matching spots on the map. Like clockwork, each platform lurches downward for a spell when passing a threshold in the environment - suggesting assets are being decompressed on the fly for the next location. 30fps is restored relatively quickly on arriving at the next spot, and it's business as usual from there. However it's not an ideal setup when these connecting areas are filled with enemies, and controller response suddenly takes a hit - though PS4 holds a frame-rate advantage in matching runs.
But that's not the whole story. On top of this, Xbox One is unique in its suffering of a stuttering issue, halting the game experience for up to a second during play. It's a glaring hitch downward, and matching runs to the gates of Diamond City shows Xbox One dropping to a record 0fps (zero) while PS4 turns the same corner at 28fps. Each has their blips, but having tested two separate Xbox One and PS4 consoles, the results are always the same across the world at large; we get sizeable stutters on Microsoft's console that aren't present on PS4.
For now though, evidence so far suggests those buying Fallout 4 on console should get an overall smoother experience from PS4. It's far from perfect, and we have a suspicion re-tests will be due once each machine receives new patches down the line. As ever, we'll update as new information comes in. Meanwhile, for those with PC as their platform of choice, all the signs look good for a smooth experience even on budget kit.