Let’s start things off with an apology – this is a little (okay, much) later than I’d intended. Unfortunately, the RGT team have been rather busy of late and so despite us having the raw captured footage, things slipped behind the intended schedule. But, we’re here now and that’s what matters, right? Sniper Elite 3 was developed by Rebellion games for both the PC, previous generation and the focus of this article – next generation systems.
Both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions of Sniper Elite 3 manage to achieve the much touted and seemingly hard to achieve 1080P native resolution. Both The PS4 and X1 versions also are trying their best to push to the 60 FPS, with varying degrees of success. While giving away the rest of the article up front, the PS4 version manages to achieve better visual quality and frame rates over the Xbox One version, due to higher graphical quality (think of it as higher graphical settings), fewer torn frames and an overall more solid frame rate.
Of course, a good spec PC can crank the various graphical effects up high enough to easily outshine consoles – not just on the graphical quality front, but also in terms of frame rate (less torn frames) and better Anti-Aliasing. If you’ve a monitor capable of 1440P or above, then the world is your oyster for resolution settings. If you’re gaming on a ‘mere’ 1080P screen however, you can effectively employ downsampling by using Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (known as SSAA). Then again, if you’ve a very very high end rig and an Nvidia card, you could always go one step further and use the custom DownSampling hack with the drivers, combined with SSAA – but you’ll need a beefy SLI rig to contemplate this.
Just for reference, we’re using our standard default testing rig: Intel 4770K (left for stock for this), 16GB of DDR3 RAM, GeForce GTX 780 Ti (clocked back from our usual overclock to stock), Windows 8 and the latest Nvidia drivers and game patches that are available (for both console and PC). Truthfully on such a rig there’s no reason why you’d not want to crank the SSAA all the way up, as at times we were hitting well over 100FPS, but as mentioned we’re trying to keep things ‘fair’.
For comparing the graphics of PC version of Sniper Elite 3 we’ll be setting the game to the ‘Ultra’ preset. Meaning all of the settings are at their highest, with the exception of SSAA. SuperSample Anti-Aliasing is left disabled for a few reasons: firstly, it’s vastly unfair to the console version of the title – it would leave the console no possible way to compete in a visual quality sense. Secondly, it would require a higher spec card. SSAA 2.25 means the game is effectively running at 1440P internally, while 1080P at 4x SSAA pushes this to rendering at 4K. A high spec card such as a GTX 680 (or AMD equivalent) should be able to handle 2.25 SSAA. So for PC owners, know the game can look better if you’ve got the GPU grunt to do it.
That being said, 1080P isn’t an indicator to the actual quality of the graphics – and here we’ve a situation where each of the platforms, even at 1080P vary somewhat in quality. When we were recording Sniper Elite 3 for the consoles, we went back and forth between the PS4 and X1, switching completing each level in turn (just to make the gameplay better match). We started things out with the PS4 version, for no reason other than its patch had downloaded first so we went with the “might as well start” approach. Upon switching to the Xbox One, we immediately noticed the lack detail in distant objects in comparison to its rival. Less Anisotropic Filtering is certainly one of the largest culprits here. The PS4 version therefore comes off as looking sharper and crisper.
While we’re on the texture filtering subject, we might as well branch off to discuss textures as a whole. The good news is that both consoles use the same version of texture assets. The bad news is texture pop-in is pretty obvious on both systems, and at certain distances you can see fairly harsh and frankly ugly transitions. They’re mostly noticeable in the shadows, and the PC version isn’t guiltless either, it just happens far less for PC gamer’s.
Both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions of Sniper Elite 3 do indeed feature tessellation, but the bad news is that the PC pushes a far higher degree than either next gen console can muster. Tessellation is taxing, and indeed when we were performing Analysis of Tomb Raider for the PS4 & PC we’d noticed similar issues. Much like titles such as Watch Dogs or Thief, lighting and shadows also take a hit. The PC version sporting a more consistent shadow quality compared to either console.
While Sniper Elite 3 isn’t completely next generation – after all, there are Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the title available, it’s hard to argue there is a significant upgrade from either Sniper Elite 2 or its Nazi Zombie cousin. It’s a case where the next generation consoles are being pushed, but the biggest single issue remains the frame rate. To beat a dead horse, the PC version certainly is the more stable and pretty looking if you’ve got the rig. If your GPU isn’t quite up to the task, there’s always the option to turn down the graphical or resolution settings a notch (if you’d prefer a higher FPS over prettier looking flowers). Unfortunately, console gamer’s aren’t afforded that option and so you’re given what you’re given.
Higher frame rate doesn’t just translate to a smoother visual experience, but also a more consistent control latency too. The Xbox One version, if V-Sync is disabled features some of the worse tearing we’ve witnessed – and while in the thick of the action you’ll quickly forget about it (from trying not to get shot in the face), watching someone else play the game and it becomes fairly obvious. It’s hard to argue Rebellion made the ‘wrong’ decision as it were for the Xbox One, and the system does a fine job at trying to replicate the Playstation 4’s accomplishments. Ultimately however, the visual quality of the PS4 wins out versus the X1 (but it’s still leaps and bounds over the old generation), while a mid to high end PC can run rampant over either next generation console.
For the sake of completeness, we also tested the loading times. These times were from the loading of Mission 2 (since it’s pretty damn large). The PS4 and X1 were both using their standard factory given hard drives (launch models, just in case you’re wondering). The PC meanwhile is using a standard mechanical drive (the game is stored on this, Windows is on an SSD). It’s important to remember while it’s a 7200RPM drive, it’s pretty old for HDD and loading times could likely be faster if we’d have installed to a newer HDD. The Playstation 4 version clocks in at 22 seconds, the Xbox One loads faster, a hair over 12 seconds (this is a completely different story to Watch Dogs, which loaded faster on PS4). The PC was by far the fastest of the trio, loading in a little under 4 seconds.
It could be argued the Xbox One version would have benefited for longer in development, but personally I feel the real improvement would have come if Sniper Elite 3’s release date was say 4 to 6 months later and could have benefited from the newly releases SDK for the Xbox One. It’s difficult to believe the additional GPU and system resources wouldn’t have helped deliver a more consistent and pleasing frame rate experience. It’s a stretch to say the extra grunt would allow Microsoft’s system to match Sony’s, but the busier scenes would likely have felt a little more consistent, or perhaps a touch of additional Anisotropic Filtering (AF) would have helped objects appear a little more detailed.
If you’re an owner of an Xbox One, Playstation 4 and good PC then your decision is fairly obvious – buy the PC version. It’s cheaper, and just plain looks and plays better than either next generation console. As a slight aside, we noticed the controls felt considerably easier in the PC version. We’ve a few theories as to the cause. The first is Keyboard and mouse are certainly advantageous to the game, allowing you to make faster adjustments to moving targets than a pair of analogue sticks ever could. But the other factor would be the lower control latency – once again, assuming you’ve the system to run it. If you’re a console owner, and all things being equal the PS4 version does win out. The major reason to buy the Xbox One version would be if multiplayer is your thing and all your buddies are buying the title for the Xbox.
For a shorter high quality video, please click here.