"Resolutiongate": why there's more to the next generation than 1080p

You're not seeing the wood for the trees, argues Ed

"Damage control". "MS spin". "Journolol". Just a few of the exhilarating terms and phrases you may read in the comments thread below this article, providing the posters in question don't expose themselves to the wrath of our Justice League-esque moderator team by adding a string of swearwords. In February I wrote with hopefully unmissable irony about the dawn of another "Console War", and it's both gratifying and depressing to see that things are panning out much as predicted. I'd say we'll look back on all this and laugh, but by the time we're in a position to do that, we'll probably be smiting each other's Twitter feeds with truthfacts about Xbox Two and PS5. Assuming the whole concept of a videogame console hasn't gone out of fashion by then. Nobody mention the cloud.

The debate is steaming along at a particularly hysterical pitch right now, thanks to the revelation that both Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 run at a native resolution of 720p on Xbox One, upscaled to 1080p, as opposed to a native 1080p on (cough) other platforms. This has made a lot of people very angry. It probably won't shock you to learn that I - lord of hosts, keeper of secrets and the deputy editor of Official Xbox Magazine - am not one of them. The case against having been made so eloquently and forcefully elsewhere, permit me to mount a defence.

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For starters, let's draw a line under the notion that Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts are representative of Xbox One's capabilities in the long or even the short term. The console is indisputably capable of supporting a 1080p resolution, as illustrated by Kinect Sports Rivals, Need for Speed: Rivals, Fantasia: Music Evolved, NBA 2K14 and Forza Motorsport 5, the last two of which also run at the much-coveted 60 frames a second. And as pretty as these games seem, don't forget that they're all launch or near-launch titles - developed alongside the hardware itself, and adapted on the fly as manufacturers tinker with the nuts and bolts.

Microsoft has altered and upgraded its console dramatically since announcement alone - dumping the online and Kinect requirement, uncovering performance boosts during final prototyping - and I know from my own sources that Sony's earliest PS4 devkits came with far less RAM than the machine you'll see on shelves later this month. These are changes for the better, by most accounts, but I'm sure they've played merry hell with the nerves and sleeping patterns of software designers and programmers.


The day one games in particular have been created in conditions of terrible stress, with comparatively little opportunity for a release delay in order to nail down trouble spots - putting off release, after all, means rousing the wrath of manufacturers who may already be selling your game as part of a launch bundle. They're likely to be far outclassed by the titles we play a few years from now. As Infinity Ward's Mark Rubin is fond of pointing out, there's a world of difference between Call of Duty 2 (pictured above), an Xbox 360 launch game, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Arguably, developers have yet to hit the technical ceiling on PS3 and Xbox 360 - I've been playing Assassin's Creed 4 on Xbox 360, for instance, and the wave physics are a sight for sore eyes.

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