Digital Foundry – native 4K is not the best way to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X.

We have already spoken several times about Rise of the Tomb Raider, but with the arrival of the update for Xbox One X, which promises to become the best version of the game for consoles, we put our eyes on Nixxes again.

Before we talk about the game, a curious anomaly arose in our most recent captures from Rise of the Tomb Raider and Forza 7 – a change in color that seems to slightly minimize the color in the capture. Other games we recorded at the Microsoft event without support for HDR (Killer Instinct, Quantum Break) do not exhibit the problem, suggesting that it could be an error in the firmware color mapping on the Xbox One X units preview. We warned Microsoft, but remember that everything that has been tested here is pre-production software on production hardware with an operating system that is not final.

This is the Gamescom demo, where we played ten minutes in Syria. We played the demo 4x – in 4K, 4K HDR and with the alternative modes: 4K Enriched and Superior Frame Ratio. The native 4K mode is really impressive, as Rise of the Tomb Raider is still a highly demanding PC game. The level of detail is lower than the PC version, but it is better than you think.

Digital Foundry – native 4K is not the best way to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X

Unfortunately, the Prophet’s Tomb level is the worst for drawing conclusions about detail settings, but we have the equivalent of the PS4 Pro’s 4K checkerboard mode, which is lower than the maximized PC. However, we can clarify an element that generated confusion in the last analysis. Does Xbox One X have superior textures or not? There was a lot of confusion regarding this due to the dirt system, but after more play time and more comparisons between the PC version in various configurations, we were able to draw firm conclusions.

First, the extra memory on Xbox One X means that the textures are almost the same as on the PC in the higher definition. Best of all, they are present in all modes at X. You will have superior assets in any option. Yes, even in the higher frame-rate mode, 1080p.

Digital Foundry – native 4K is not the best way to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X

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Furthermore, the Gamescom version on Xbox One X did not have a depth of field, giving the illusion of greater detail in the scene, even though it was an important effect on the post-processing cadence that was removed (at least for now). When comparing the results of X with the PC without the effect, we have a great proximity in detail, confirming the highest quality assets in the new console. It is strange not to see the effect, as it is present in the original Xbox One. It will be interesting to see if it returns in the final version or if Nixxes will use the superior quality depth field available on the PC.

Digital Foundry – native 4K is not the best way to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X

There are major changes in lighting between each version. The texture resolution on Xbox One X appears to be the same as the PC, while the PS4 is below that. Each image uses the highest resolution mode available.Xbox One X and PC offer higher resolution textures than PS4 Pro, but the main improvement is Nvidia’s VXAO on PC, which greatly improves contact shadows.The depth field is absent on Xbox One X, affecting the clarity of the detail in the textures, so we have included an extra PC image with the effect disabled for better comparison.The variation in color between each version is evident in this scene, but we also see subtle differences in the background on the PC, in the maximum settings.

The most important thing for us is performance. Nixxes demonstrates ambition with native 4K mode, but the Gamescom version was still unstable. The PS4 version uses triple-buffering for a screen-free experience, while Xbox One – and X – use adaptive sync technology, allowing frames that exceed budget to have room for maneuver, manifesting themselves as visible tears at the top of the screen. Most of the demo runs at 30fps, but can download in intense scenes – a little worrying considering that this level is one of the most relaxed in the game.

Digital Foundry – native 4K is not the best way to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X

Nixxes knows what it does, so we expect improvements in the final version, however, but there is already a better solution. The 1080p Enriched mode on the PS4 Pro – receives a 4K improvement, maintaining what appears to be the same visual layout (better viewing distance, weaving, etc.) but with a reconstruction technique similar to the checkerboard, to reproduce 2160p as in Pro. This mode looks good on Xbox One X and offers better performance. Areas with problems maintaining 30fps at native 4K run without hiccups. You lose some fidelity when using this rendering, but it looks beautiful on a 4K screen and the performance is better as well as the graphics. For the moment, this is the best way for us to play it.

Then there’s the superior frame-rate mode, which is impressive. Offers a 1080p image, just like on PS4 Pro, but with support for higher resolution textures. It also uses a converter when running on a 4K screen – meaning a sharper but also more pixelated image. This is a mode with a higher frame rate, but without promising fixed 60fps. The demo is close to that. Although the drop in resolution is noticeable, the improvement in the fluidity and response of the command is pleasant. It looks fantastic.

Here’s how each of the three modes captured a frame. It is a way to see how the rendering mode works – we see native images on certain edges, while others need more frames before it appears correctly.In this scene, all modes look the same but in the higher frame-rate mode, the texture loses definition. Although the textures have the highest level of detail in all modes, they are difficult to appreciate at 1080p.This famous scene receives more foliage and detail in Enriched mode, but otherwise it is very similar. The loss of clarity when using the higher frame-rate mode is negligible.The difference is subtle but the Enriched mode offers weaving, more refined environmental occlusion and a better texture filter.

Digital Foundry – native 4K is not the best way to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X

Unfortunately, it is not fixed. In the last section of the demo you have a slight descent and tears. The falls are minimal and this area is one of the most demanding in the game. If we have a small drop here, demanding areas like the Geothermal Valley will also show difficulties to reach 60fps. What we can confirm for now is that the tests confirm that the Xbox One X runs the same content at a higher speed than the PS4 Pro. This should happen in the rest of the game.

This demo is our first encounter with this version. The impressions are positive – the improvements over PS4 Pro are evident and this puts Xbox One X at the top. However, we still have to figure out what’s going on with the missing features and unstable native 4K performance. The absence of the depth field is strange, but the drops in the native 4K frame-rate are a major concern, given that this is a somewhat complex area. If we have these problems at this level, it could be worse later on – but this is an old demo and Nixxes is already known for improving its work. Even if the problems persist, you have 4K Enriched mode.

130 games have already been confirmed with improvements on Xbox One X, it will be an intense end of year. Games like Doom, The Witcher 3, Titanfall 2 and Forza Horizon 3 are demonstrations of technology with the potential to amaze you on a 4K screen. But with its support for higher frame rates, better resolution or improved effects, Rise of the Tomb Raider has become more than a game, it has become a technological test for today’s consoles. We are looking forward to the final version.

Digital Foundry – native 4K is not the best way to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One X