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Games Inbox: Is Xbox Series X more powerful than PS5?

The Tuesday Inbox continues the debate about what to do about difficult video games, as one reader explains how to save money on Xbox.

To join in with the discussions yourself email [email protected]

Small difference
I see the ‘powah’ argument keeps coming up. Kiran’s conclusion is right, but the working out is wrong. He is referencing performance reviews from Digital Foundry, but they don’t say what he claims they say. This is going to be a bit of a nerdy one.

In regards to resolution, you can’t measure it constantly throughout a game, you can only make guesses based on limited samples. Also, the resolution performance isn’t measured per pixel.
Pixels in 1440p = 3.6million. Pixels in 4K = 8 million. That’s 120% more pixels and 50% more vertical resolution in 4K over 1440p.

The performance cost from 1440p to 4K varies between GPUs and games, but it’s about 40%, leaving you with a little over half the frame rate you had. So the actual performance difference is a little beneath the number vertices. This is why games are commonly 1440p at 60fps and yet 30fps at 4K on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

There are 2 million pixels in 1080p, and so 1440p has a 33% higher vertical resolution, but the performance cost is only about 20%. So on the lower end, resolution costs about 60% of the vertices difference, and on the higher end it costs about 80% of the vertices difference.

On a game like Outriders, the PlayStation 5’s lowest resolution is 1188p and the Xbox Series X’s lowest is 1296p. That’s a difference of 9% more vertices, so you’re talking 5.5% extra GPU performance on the low end. The highest resolution is 1944p on XboX Series X and 1692p on PlayStation 5. That’s about 15% extra vertices, so on that higher end you’re talking 12% extra grunt. However, on that game, at least from its launch version, the mean frame rate is 6% better on PlayStation 5. From this we can conclude that in terms of average raw performance, the Xbox Series X edges out the PlayStation 5, but it’s probably by less than 5%. A few games so far seem to have replicated the same sort of difference as is found in Outriders.

As for some more examples, on Doom Eternal, using the same method, the performance difference is about 11% . That extra juice seems to come from the use of VRS on Xbox Series X, which is absent on PlayStation 5. Crash Bandicoot 4 actually runs better on PlayStation 5, but only by 2%. Greedfall, in terms of raw performance , runs better on PlayStation 5 by less than 1%. In all these examples there are other things that affect the experience but those are the numbers.

So the Xbox Series X isn’t running consistently better, although I see that it runs better more often. The average difference, should you work it out, is evidently going to be quite small.
Twigglypuff

GC:

Promoting savings
With Microsoft looking to regain ground they lost last gen I’m finding you can game cheaply on Xbox since I picked up an Xbox Series X in March if you use their promotions.

I bought two years of Game Pass for £81, which is about £3.40 a month with the Microsoft endorsed Gold to Ultimate conversion. It’s already proven excellent value, but it looks an even better deal when I look at the new games I will play on it for the rest of year, which include Microsoft Flight Simulator, Omni, The Ascent, Psychonauts 2, Hades, 12 Minutes, Sable, Back 4 Blood, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo Infinite.

I’ve been doing the daily rewards scheme and have £75 of points after just over 100 days. I used £10 of them to get Death’s Door, which is £15. So since March I’ve spent £86 on games. The next non-Game Pass game I will get is Elden Ring but by then I will have over £100 in points, so will use that.

Through both these promotional offers I don’t see the need to spend much more, if any, than the £86 already spent over the two years of the Game Pass sub.
Simundo

Dreading Metroid
So I am a Metroid fan – playing and finishing the huge box Super Metroid on the SNES was a big accomplishment as a sports adverse kid – and I was excited to hear about Metroid Dread. So excited that I thought I’d play through the four 2D Metroids ahead of its release. Now, I’m not a purist and playing the NES original without modern day quality of life adjustments didn’t appeal so I bought Metroid: Zero Mission on the Game Boy Advance. After 15 seconds I realised I couldn’t cope with the dim screen, so I sent it off to be modded with an IPS screen and as soon as I got it back I was off.

Played it through, explored every corner, loved it, moved on to Metroid 2: Return of Samus and I’m wondering if I should’ve gone for the Game Boy version rather than the 3DS one. What a joyless trudge. The art style is insanely bland, losing all the pixel art charm of Zero Mission, Super, and Fusion. Instead, you have these lacklustre character models that leave me cold. The stages are the same, with backgrounds that seem more interesting than the ground you’re playing on. Bear with me on this complaint but the designers seemingly went mad with curving edges on the walls and ceilings but they left them completely flat on the ones that can be bombed, shot, jumped through, etc which really hampers the sense of discovery as you can basically spot what is going to be a secret area by eye. Like in old cartoons where the part of the background that is going to move and reveal the entrance to a room is a different hue to the rest.

Then there is the gameplay itself. Here you are presented with the task of hunting metroids and killing them in order to open doors (drain pools of purple acid) that allow you deeper into the levels. Where you then kill more metroids to go further. And then again. And again. And… again. Eventually the metroids mutate into different forms but there are only, I think, four forms and you’ll fight most of them multiple times in tiresome bullet sponge encounters. Just traversing through the levels is made annoying by having to stop to counter the attacks of run of the mill enemies in order to expose their weak spots.

Midway through a Metroid game, Samus usually begins to feel capable of handling herself but in this one she can take a beating from anything until quite near the end, when you unlock the spin attack. By the end of my playthrough I was sick of the whole game and when I was fully powered up and presented with either backtracking for more upgrades or facing the final boss, I ran straight to the ending so I could put the whole experience behind me.

It was so bad it has put me off wanting to start Super Metroid but at least I know when I do it, along with Fusion, will cleanse my palate before Dread. But here’s the rub, Dread’s art style sure seems reminiscent of Metroid 2… I’m hoping that’s the only similarity.
RedRobN

GC: We enjoyed it at the time but we suspect Metroid 2 may just be too old to appreciate nowadays. We have to say we enjoyed Samus Returns a lot more than you did though. It was Fusion we never got on with, in part because of all the terrible storytelling. That’s what we fear most for Dread.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Virtual sightseeing
Nice review of Microsoft Flight Simulator, GC. I was very unclear whether you actually did anything in the game except fly between airports and now it’s clear to me that other than virtual sightseeing the answer is no.

In terms of buying the game outright that is a big no-no for me but I agree that as a Game Pass game it’s great. Here’s one of the best looking games ever but something I would never buy unless it was almost give away price. But now I can play it the days it’s released and it doesn’t matter if I hate it and only play it for 30 minutes.

Good stuff and something which Sony has no answer to as far as I can see.
Cubby

Counter-arguments
I appreciate Henshin Agogo’s response to the Reader’s Feature about difficulty levels in games and I certainly don’t want to seem to attack them, but I think it’s a shame they ignore the argument made last week that an easy mode is a considerable amount of work, that will take time and resources away from the rest of the game. Not to mention that I don’t know how you’d go about rebalancing a game like Dark Souls to be easy, or even not hard.

Another point he ignores is that summons can make the game surprisingly easy, especially boss battles. Add in level grinding and the game is as easy or hard as you want it. These are features that are already in the game and how many less practised gamers have managed to complete it.

There’s also the very obvious argument that Dark Souls would never have had the impact it did if it wasn’t for the fact that it was so challenging. That’s what everyone enjoyed about it and what was copied by so many other games, often in different genres. Viewtiful Joe, to use their example, was a flop that hasn’t had a new entry in 16 years.
Legle

Watch and learn
Than you to Dirtystopout for writing a detailed, nuanced Reader’s Feature published on Sunday regarding easy modes and accessibility in games, and comparing the accessibility of games to other media, including movies, books, and art. Among many well-made points was that games should offer the option of different difficulties, and that this wouldn’t ‘detract from the game or the experience the developer is trying to portray,’ and that not doing so restricts certain deliberately challenging games to the elite. I’d like to offer a few counters.

Firstly, the different subtitle/language options that Dirtystopout mentions for movies and books are also implemented in games, of course, but I think the thrust of their point was that no particular skill was needed to enjoy these works as the artist intended. Which naturally brings us back to the point that games are an interactive medium, whereas movies/books/paintings/etc. are not.

It’s a point that’s been made numerous times before, but it’s worth restating: one of the major appeals of (say) From’s games is to make you feel like you’ve earned your progress, and that the thrill and relief of a narrow victory is a feeling earned after a tense, nerve-shredding, heart-in-your mouth battle, probably after numerous prior failures, with the player’s determination and resilience ultimately being rewarded.

Now this in itself doesn’t justify not having an easy mode – a lower-skilled player triumphing on ‘easy’ may well have gone through the exact same journey (both through the physical game world and emotionally) as someone playing on ‘normal’ difficulty, but it does make a Soulsborne game in particular a lot more difficult to design.

How do you implement an easy mode without diluting the experience? Do you simply go down the route of making the player deal more damage/enemies doing less damage, which opens up alternative and simpler battle tactics and world-exploring strategies, and which runs the risk of the player not going through the intended emotional journey?

Do you change the mechanics by (for example) allowing the player to keep their souls (or equivalent) if they die, which could ruin the risk/reward mechanic? And just how easy do you make it – do you make it a ‘1 out of 10’ for difficulty, allowing everyone to complete it, or do you still retain a certain level of difficulty, which opens you up for criticism that the easy mode still isn’t easy enough?

A solution may be to have adaptive difficulty, such as that offered by Resident Evil 4 and a few other games (explained very clearly here), but I don’t think this is really suitable for the Soulsborne genre, where difficulty is there to be overcome, rather than sidestepped.

Dirtystopout refers to Tracey Emin’s quote that ‘art is for everybody and not just the elite’, but this is meant that art as a whole is for everybody – not that everybody needs to be able to enjoy every single piece of art. Certainly, some art is intended to be enjoyed by everybody (the Toy Story movies spring to mind) but some definitely are not (e.g. the Saw movies). It doesn’t mean that the Saw movies are any less valid but changing them so they don’t include any torture/trap scenes would fundamentality alter the experience of watching them.

I have sympathy for Dirtystopout’s position and the difficulties they have with Asperger’s Syndrome, meaning they have been unable to enjoy the Dark Souls trilogy. One thing I may suggest is have they tried watching someone else play the games on Twitch? Not just watching someone super-skilled playing through them on YouTube but a ‘regular’ gamer playing through the game, and being able to comment, offer hints, and share in their victories and defeats in real-time (a good article on this is here)?

It could be a very good way of experiencing the games as From intended. Indeed, with the community around the games, going through the games as a team might be a very rewarding experience, allowing Dirtystopout to enjoy the lore/atmosphere/etc. of the world whilst experiencing the gameplay vicariously.

Anyway, this one will run and run, just wanted to thank Dirtystopout for the article again, and add my thoughts.
Julian

Fear the Old Blood
Really enjoyed the Reader’s Feature at the weekend on difficulty in video games and hearing a different perspective on the subject. However, I would argue that difficulty in games is not synonymous with accessibility. The reader cites films and books offering subtitles and translations, and there are thankfully plenty of accessibility options across media. But the creators aren’t expected to produce a version of their art that is reduced in complexity.

Nobody is asking Margaret Atwood to rewrite The Handmaid’s Tale with fewer complicated words, for example. In that sense, the art will always be gated to certain readers, though almost anybody can access it. In FromSoftware games, I think the difficulty level is inextricable from the artist’s vision. They want you to persevere, to get better than you might first have thought possible. It simply would not be the same piece of art with an easy version.

I say all this as someone who has given Bloodborne a go; I downloaded it on two separate occasions, fought Cleric Beast a couple of times, Father Gascoigne once, died all three times and decided that it was too much effort to try and fight my way back there. Yes, it’s a bit too hard for me. We’re in the same boat (though I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m trying to minimalise any neurodiversity). Not only that, but I don’t like the Lovecraftian aesthetic. I find it too oppressive. People may argue that’s as important to the experience as the difficulty, and I’d be hard pushed to disagree with them.

Lastly, to the reader in Monday’s Inbox who has managed to equate the ‘keep it difficult’ argument with right wing politics, voting for Brexit, and the resistance to gay marriage. It’s a lazy-to-the-point-of-offensive comparison to make and might make sense if gay marriage was somehow easier than straight marriage and attrition was part of the artist’s vision.

Again, I say this as somebody who is all for gay marriage, voted to remain in the EU, and would very likely be described as a snowflake by those inclined to do so. I still don’t think there should be an easy mode in FromSoftware games if they don’t want to include one.

Having said all of the above, I have absolutely been sold on Elden Ring and the more fantasy heavy aesthetic, and cannot wait to download it three times, die at the first boss, and never play it again.
Nathan

Gud luck
Many thanks to all the readers who took time out to read my Reader’s feature, and even bigger thanks to those that commented. I know this is an emotive subject and this was seen in the comments, both for and against the argument. Having read through them all I am going to accept the challenge to ‘git good’! What I really mean is I am going back in and try my best to see what happens. There were some really good comments on how to tackle the game and where to go for help and assistance.

As I type, Dark Souls 3 is downloading. I’m even putting my money where my mouth is, all £13 of it. I have watched my first YouTube video on character building and I am about as prepared as I can be at this stage. Mrs Dirtystopout is going to leave me in peace while she has her hair done.

Wish me luck.
Dirtystopout
PS: I did write a feature a few years back on being a gamer with Asperger’s which some of you may find interesting.

Inbox also-rans
I was reading that the original Max Payne was 20 years old. I remember being blown away by the gameplay back then with bullet time, which was technically ahead of its time. Brilliant game.
TWO MACKS

I actually think Julian’s letter today, about moments in real life reminding us of games, will garner enough responses for a Hot Topic, it’s a fun premise. [snip! – GC]
TheTruthSoul (PSN ID)

GC: We’re cutting your letter short there because we got so many saying they want to do that Hot Topic that we’ve decided to give it a go next week, we just hope there’s enough other people with stories of their own.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Olliephant, who asks what is your least favourite video game genre?

No one likes every type of video game so which ones do you automatically avoid? Was there a particular game that put you off them and how many have you tried, to know you don’t like them? Given modern games often include elements from multiple genres do you ever avoid them too, if they have too much of the genre you don’t like?

What’s the closest you’ve come to enjoying the type of game you don’t like and is there anything simple developers could change in order for you to enjoy it more?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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