Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Playstation 4 Vs PC Graphics Analysis

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Tomb Raider Definitive Edition has now landed on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and there were questions from the beginning of just how much ‘different’ the next gen consoles would look compared to a high spec PC. I’ll say from the outset, that there are advantages with both versions, but which one is best for your money?

Both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions of Tomb Raider run at 1080P native resolution, and the PS4 manages to push a higher FPS (running often at 60) compared to the Xbox One’s 30 or so average. We’ll be doing frame rate tests soon for Tomb Raider on the PS4, so be sure to check them out. The PS4 does indeed feature Anti Aliasing, FXAA. FXAA has low impact on performance, but as is typical with FXAA it can cause ‘shimmering’ on finer details.

http://youtu.be/644M-1NeuJk

For the PC, we’re running everything on the highest settings and at 1080P. For Anti-Aliasing we’re not using FXAA, instead opting to take advantage of Tomb Raider PC’s 2x SSAA (Super Sampling Anti Aliasing). SSAA is extremely resource intensive (more so than MSAA), and it isn’t much of a surprise it didn’t make the cut for either the PS4 or X1. The PC version does support levels up to 4X SSAA, but we’ve kept the setting left at 2x for two reasons. The first is that most PC gamer’s won’t have the hardware to smoothly run Tomb Raider (which is a demanding title) at 1080P with 4X SSAA. The second is to at least have some level of graphical parity between the two versions, rather than having AA smooth everything out.

tomb-raider-pc-graphics-options-advancedCrystal Dynamics enabled the PC version to use AMD’s TressFX technology, but it was the first iteration. The Playstation 4 version of Tomb Raider uses TressFX 2.0, which has a few advantages over the original. The first is that it drastically reduces the performance penalty that’s associated with AMD’s TressFX by using a myriad of optimizations. TressFX 2.0 is also more accurate, with the original TressFX sometimes causing major issues with the hair (going off in the wrong direction and generally a little glitchy for example). It can also better react with what’s happening in the environment, and be used for other ‘things’ now other than just hair, for example hair and grass. For more on TressFX technology check out our article.

High quality Tomb Raider Video Download

Click here to download a super high quality graphics comparison. It’s much shorter than the video on youtube, but serves to provide a great companion alongside it.

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In Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Lara’s face have been remodelled, and given a wider array of animation and expressions helping to convey a greater sense of ‘realism’ of the character. These additions for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One aren’t present in the PC version. If you pay closer attention to Lara’s eyes, you’ll notice them widen with fear, or show confusion if she comes up against a puzzle, or portray the effort she’s putting into lifting herself up on a platform. That’s not to say that the PC’s Tomb Raider is lifeless, but it certainly is missing a portion of realism from the next generation consoles.

PC Version - click for larger image

PC Version – click for larger image

Thanks to the SSAA (Super Sample Anti-Aliasing) settings we’ve selected in the PC’s graphical settings, the contours and details like somewhat less jagged and smoother. The PS4 version can look a little ‘blockier’ in comparison, but it’s not really noticeable in motion. The PC often times seems to enjoy higher quality textures which are simply not present in the next generation consoles. Certain elements of the environment have been improved, you’ll notice certain objects have great geometry details for instance. Fire is another element (no pun intended) which has seen improvement. It flickers slightly more realistically, producing more smoke and all together looks ‘nicer’.

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Tomb Raider – PS4’s Lighting

In my graphics comparison video, I’d pointed out specifically that I’d left the color output of both systems default. With the PC, there was no gamma correction Anti-Aliasing applied in the Nvidia Control panel, and graphical sliders set to default. For the PS4, it’s own color sliders were left ‘default’ and no additional saturation or color adjustment was given when capturing. To say that the next generation version of Tomb Raider features a vastly new lighting system would be too generous, but there has been definite tweaking of the gamma, saturation and contrast throughout the adventure.

In addition to the gamma tweaks, Sub-Surface Scattering (wiki link) has been added to the PS4 / Definitive Edition, which unfortunately for PC owners, isn’t available to them. Sub-Surface Scattering is noticeable in translucent objects, helping materials glisten and react more naturally to the lighting surrounding them, One example is when Lara is walking around with her torch, particularly in underground caverns with water. On the PS4’s Definitive Edition, the lighting appears ‘fuller’ and more realistic, using Sub-Surface Scattering to bounce off the wet walls, Lara’s damp clothing and just add to the feeling of being in a claustrophobic tight space. The PC misses a lot of these reflections.

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Motion blur is certainly present in the PS4 version of Tomb Raider, but is used less. I also noticed less ‘dirt and debris’ impacting the camera, which was noticeable during a lot of really busy scenes. Dynamic foliage was added to the PS4 version, allowing it to be moved by the wind, and a greater impact as Lara stomps through it. However, in my testing (specifically my first impressions) of Tomb Raider on the PS4, I’d noticed that it’s not without fault. Foliage moved yes, but was more than happy to clip through rocks and other solid objects on occasion, which hurt the atmosphere somewhat.

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition foliage is improved on PS4, but can have ugly clipping.

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition foliage is improved on PS4, but can have ugly clipping.

No hardware Tessellation on the PS4’s Definitive Edition

It’s hard to call Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition truly ‘better’ graphically than the PC. Indeed, it’s clear at times there have been some compromises made. As mentioned above, lower quality textures are certainly one such culprit. Tessellation (Wiki link) also appears to be suspiciously absent from the PS4. You’ll notice that Tessellation is a graphical option (see above) on the PC version, which in this comparison is enabled. It allows details to be dynamically added, which is useful in situations of camera distance. Tessellations absence on the Playstation 4’s Tomb Raider Definitive Edition certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but does add to ‘blockier’ looking models at times.

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So, we’re left which either version which has compromises. The PS4 version certainly sports lower resolution textures, inferior Anti-Aliasing options, lack of tessellation and certainly lower frames per second (and resolution) if your PC rig can handle it. The other side of the coin is the new facial animation systems look very nice, TressFX 2.0 is a major improvement over the original (leading to fewer times were hair acts completely strangely, such as strands going in the wrong direction), Sub-Surface Scattering and a little extra geometry.

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It’s however hard to recommend the PS4 version over the PC when you consider the price difference between the two. You can pick up Tomb Raider full price on Steam for £25, compared to £40 for the PS4 version. Shopping around, and it’s fairly easy to get the PC version considerably cheaper. Personally, I prefer to ‘aim’ using keyboard and mouse, but I do enjoy the ‘speaker’ element of the PS4’s control pad. It adds an extra ‘ouch’ to injuries which occur.

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Given how demanding TressFX is, it’s possible that its inclusion has taken its pound of flesh out of the GPU’s performance from the PS4, and thus contributed to the lower details else where. Fortunately, the PS4’s slightly meatier GPU (compared to the Xbox One) manages to handle things fairly well, and maintain a stable frame rate. TressFX 2.0 is much improved over the original in terms of performance, featuring Level of Detail along with numerous other improvements. These AMD claim can offer twice the performance over the original TressFX.

All in all, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is a beautiful game, whether on the PS4, Xbox One or PC. It’s a fantastic experience, and either of the three versions is a significant upgrade from the previous generation.

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