Hopefully it won't look this bad
In what can only be described as the worst-possible gut-check moment for potential Xbox One customers, the game makers responsible for the eagerly-awaited blockbuster "Call of Duty: Ghosts" revealed some bad news this week. The version of the game for Microsoft's Xbox One console will only run at a lowly 720p, while the Sony PlayStation 4 version will run at a superior 1080p resolution. Is this the final nail in the coffin for Xbox One with hard core gamers?
Partisan gamers have been fighting a virtual battle of "which console is best" ever since Microsoft and Sony announced their next-gen consoles earlier this year. (Actually, since before that, but whatever: A lack of facts has never gotten in the way of a good deathmatch.) In recent weeks, a growing vocal contingent of Sony PlayStation 4 fans has somehow gotten the upper hand, claiming that despite nearly identical specifications, their favorite console was somehow more powerful than the Xbox One.
And then this happened.
Infinity Ward executive producer Mark Rubin revealed via Twitter that the PS4 version of "Ghosts" would indeed run at a higher resolution than the Xbox One version. The reason: The Xbox One can't keep up.
Here's his tweet:
Hey, been on the road last couple weeks so haven't had a chance to update, but wanted to confirm that for Xbox One we're 1080p upscaled from 720p. And, we're native 1080p on PS4. We optimized each console to hit 60 FPS [frames per second] and the game looks great on both. Still on the road, but glad to see the great reception to Extinction. Can’t wait for next week's launch.
To recap what this means: Ghosts runs at 60 FPS at 1080p, the native resolution of the game. But to achieve this speed on Xbox One, Infinity Ward needed to scale down the native resolution of the game to 720p for that console.
As along-time Call of Duty and Xbox fan, I can tell you that this is completely unacceptable. But the key issue here is what recourse makes sense. Put another way, is the screen resolution enough of an issue to make me—or others—walk away from the Xbox One and adopt the PS4 as well?
The shorter answer is probably not. Truth be told, I prefer the Xbox, generally, over PlayStation for a number of reasons. I think the exclusive games are better on Xbox, I think Xbox Live, despite its costs, is vastly superior to PlayStation Network, and I trust Microsoft more than Sony to deliver on the type of console I prefer.
But the biggest reason to tilt towards Xbox is a simple one. It's the controller. The Xbox 360 controller today is, by far, the superior video game controller. And looking at the evolutionary changes both Microsoft and Sony made to their respective controllers for the next gen, this will clearly be true going forward as well. I would rather not contort myself to a smaller, hard to hold and use controller like that offered by Sony.
The thing is, I'll be getting both console regardless. And I'll test them fairly, and we'll see.
But the Call of Duty aspect of this is troubling to me. While I dabble in other games, I am very much a Call of Duty gamer. And one of the other huge advantages on Xbox for two years now is that the DLC (downloadable content—map packs and so on) happens first on Xbox. This is a big deal. It really is.
One more point just to balance things out further. When Halo 3 first shipped for the Xbox 360, it was the first Halo game for that console. But gamers uncovered the fact that it did not run in HD, but rather in some weird sub-HD resolution, which Microsoft later explained was so that it could maintain a consistent frame rate. This is of course the exact same reason Infinity Ward is using 720p for Ghosts on the Xbox One. And Halo 3 looked fantastic, in the day.
I guess we'll see what happens. But the side-by-side comparisons are going to be interesting.