The PS4 and Xbox One aren't out yet, but that's not stopping them from facing off in Battlefield 4, the next-generation, just-launched title from EA/DICE. We highlighted some of the visual differences we might expect between the console and PC versions of the game based on the performance of the in-game scaling software option, but now that the title has launched, what do we see?
Quite a bit -- some of it good, some not so much. Fair warning here: The PS4 and Xbox One screenshots are quite large. I decided to preserve the YouTube videos and the original aspect ratios below, in order to give you a better look at the differences in zoom. Eurogamer has published a full preview of the game, screenshot by screenshot, as well as a video that shows the differences running side-by-side, as shown below.
The first thing that's going to jump out at you is that the contrast ratio and coloring is different -- very different. The Xbox One version looks, at times, like the characters or objects have taken a hefty dose of spray-on tan, with oversaturated yellow-red tints that make colors pop in certain wavelengths, but also leaves the game looking oddly washed in places. Eurogamer checked calibration of the test equipment in multiple scenarios -- what you see here is what's showing up on the display, and all the defaults for the game were properly configured.
So, what do we know? We know the Xbox One variant is running at 1280x720, while the PS4 pushes 1600x900. We know that the Xbox One version, on occasion, goes for tamped-down effects in comparison to the PS4, as is visible here, in this helicopter explosion.
See the greater volume of shrapnel being flung out? That's the PS4's increased graphics fidelity at work. But we also can see that Microsoft's aggressive post-processing produces some rather odd, even contradictory results when it comes to evaluating which console delivers the most detail. For example:
The Xbox One version of the character looks better here, with sharper textures and more visible detail. The same elements, on the PS4, are rather washed out and faded. Advantage, Xbox. But then we jump to a scene slightly farther down the line...
Multiple interesting things to notice here. First, the rock looks better on the Xbox One, but the camo pattern on the arms is much better on the PS4. The PS4 is using ambient occlusion for shadowing (you can see the faint shadow under the left arm), while the Xbox ONe isn't. On the other hand, the use of ambient occlusion leaves the right arm looking rather odd, with a light outline. The Xbox One doesn't have that problem. If you look at the upper edge of the rock, in between the two hands, you can see noticeably more aliasing (jagged lines) on the Xbox One than on the PS4. That's a resolution issue, or a less-than ideal post-processing filter, and it means the PS4 has the better picture.
Another interesting split-case between the two consoles. The PS4's shadowing is better and the image is less visibily aliased, but the vehicle detail levels are better on the Xbox One, no question.
And This is Why Graphics Fidelity Gets So Complicated
Ever since it came out that the PS4 had substantially more GPU horsepower than the Xbone, fans on both sides have been mud-slinging with ferocity. Yet in the end, what we see in these shots isn't an absolutely clear-cut win for one company over the other. There are places where the PS4 absolutely looks better than the Xbox One. There are places where the Xbox version is better than the PS4.
According to Eurogamer, the PS4 version does offer faster overall performance in side-by-side comparisons, and has an edge in general graphics fidelity for that reason -- it returns to 60 FPS play more quickly than the Xbox One does. But most people don't play games in side-by-side comparisons. Most people take a game home and play it on its own merits, and if it doesn't make them wince and check Google to see if there's a problem, they're not going to be unhappy with the end result.
The PS4 has an advantage here. Is it going to be big enough to tilt sales results? We'll find out shortly.