Friday, May 15, 2015

Poor Ports: A Generational Gap

For the first time in a long time I have stopped playing a game after a few hours into the campaign. That game is Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Before you grab your pitchfork, allow me to explain.

I purchased this game as a gift for my brother after hearing rave reviews. We are both avid Lord of the Rings fans, but he did not own an Xbox One. Without a second thought, I purchased the Xbox 360 version for him. He did nothing but praise the game, loving the mechanic with warchiefs and easy to pick up gameplay; it was an overly positive attitude about the whole thing. So naturally, I borrowed this version to see what the game was all about.

What I experienced was a gem of a game buried underneath a terribly executed last-gen port.

The gameplay was there, but the technical hampers of downgrading a game meant for next-gen were all too obvious. Even after using an entire disc for installing the game to the console, framerate drops were common when a ton of enemies were on screen at once, textures did not load quickly enough and would leave me running through a muddy version of Mordor, and every moment you pause to inspect the map or navigate upgrades it would take a solid ten seconds to reload your current world and get back to the action.

Still ugly on all three versions...

Digital Foundry's video comparison shows just how noticeable the framerate issue can be when stacked up to the next-gen version.

For a game that had such critical acclaim, I felt like this was not the way it was intended to be played.

This is not the first time I have played a game on last-generation of consoles that had a next-gen edition available, but the only one I have personally experienced with such an abundance of technical hampers. Assassin's Creed: Black Flag launched with a Xbox One version as well. There were smaller nuances missing from the 360 version like the physics of the leaves blowing in the wind or the radiantly shimmering ocean waters, but nothing truly affected performance of the game on the Xbox 360. I never once felt like I was missing out on the experience of the game by playing the version on an older console, and despite the visual tone down it was still a stunningly beautiful game.

 Dragons are our last concern, we must stop these evil screen tears

This is not the only game to experience this issue. Alien: Isolation, Far Cry 4,  and Dragon Age: Inquisition are just a few of many ports suffering from more than just a visual step back. Screen tearing, character glitching, and audio sync issues are a commonality in ports of this nature. Though these nuances seem simple and could be overlooked by people like my brother, these truly detract from the overall intended experience of the game. These tiny problems can combine together as one ugly snap back to reality.

That is not to say we should leave the previous generation high and dry. Playstation 2 games continued to be churned out well after the release of the Playstation 3, and the last console generations are far from aged. Programs like Playstation Plus and Games with Gold have furthered the life of those consoles, offering discounted and even free titles for download.

I am all for last generation ports to open up a game's experience to as many potential customers as possible, but sacrificing core functionality is not the way to do it. There are a few shining examples such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes that are able to tone down the look but keep it the way it should be played.

 Shiny water, exclusively on the Xbox One

We have not quite hit that generational gap, but ports of this nature may have many people finally hitting that wall before churning out big money for new consoles all together. Big name titles like Witcher 3, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Tom Clancy's: The Division are all exclusively next-gen, but there are other big releases keeping tried and true to the older generation like Mortal Kombat X, Battlefield: Hardline, and Mighty No. 9. Research carefully before you dive into these titles, as your expectations may not be met.

Have there been any ports of games that you could not suffer through? Do you feel the old generation has reached it's cap?

No comments:

Post a Comment