Wolfenstein 2 is one of the most exceptional graphical showcases of the generation so far – a 60 frames per second shooter with beautiful dynamic lighting and shading, GPU-accelerated particles and a state-of-the-art post-process pipeline. However, it does have one weakness: performance. PS4, Pro and Xbox One can’t quite lock to the target 60fps and all console versions lack the slick fluidity of the Doom 2016 reboot, running on the same engine. Which begs the question – can Xbox One X power past the frame-rate issues of the other console versions, and to what extent can it improve on PS4 Pro’s impressive visuals?
The truth is that Wolfenstein 2 looks exceptional on both Sony and Microsoft’s premium consoles with a very similar graphical feature set, but in terms of achieving that native 4K target, it’s Xbox One X that puts in a more convincing showing. 2560×1440 is the peak output of the Pro, rising to a full-fat 3840×2160 on X, meaning a 2.25x increase in pixel-count that surprisingly remains in place in many areas of the game. However, dynamic resolution scaling is in effect on both systems, with the Microsoft console more prone to deviating from its peak 4K output.
Taking an in-engine cutscene as an example of a like-for-like rendering scenario, Pro retains its 1440p peak, while Xbox One X drops its output by 10 per cent to 3648×2052. There’s more variability in resolution on the Microsoft console, but we’re still looking at a 103 per cent increase in pixel count when scenes are matched. Clearly, this is not insignificant, and along with other results seen recently in Diablo 3 and Assassin’s Creed Origins, there are echoes of the PS4 vs Xbox One launch divide. The end result in this case is a much clearer image on Microsoft’s machine, despite the more frequent fluctuations in resolution.
That’s essentially how the majority of the game unfolds. Up close, Xbox One X really does look all the better for its flexibility, and it’s remarkable how often it does hold 4K, while Pro locks to 1440p. Tellingly, there is one unique spot in our testing where both drop; a particularly gruesome scene with lots of characters on-screen. In this case, Xbox One X takes a hit to 2052p once again, but curiously, on PS4 Pro, this scene drops to 2432×1368 – a matching, ten per cent drop in pixels from 1440p. It’s another example of a like-for-like situation where the new console hands in a 2.25x increase in resolution, giving a clearer, more refined image.
Moving away from precise, like-for-like analysis and expanding our scope to similar gameplay scenes, it’s clear that gameplay stress points can push the dynamic scaler that much harder. Moving to intense combat in one command room, we can push Xbox One X to its lowest recorded pixel count of 2944×1656, while Pro drops to 2304×1296. It’s a 63 per cent advantage in favour of the X, and image quality still holds up fairly well in the heat of the action, while the Sony equivalent starts to look just a little too blurry for our tastes.
Image quality is the main upgrade for Xbox One X owners to enjoy, but it’s also interesting to note that Machine Games has pushed a couple of quality settings up over the Pro version. A comparison with PC – running on a GTX 1080 Ti at maximum settings and 4K – is telling when stacked up against Xbox One X too. It gives us an idea of how the new console compares against a far more powerful PC pushing the engine to its limit.
Xbox One X holds up well, and settings for lighting, post effects and more are a match here. Three areas fall short next to PC though: shadow quality is lower – giving a softer effect on Xbox One X- while anisotropic filtering quality is a step down from the 16x setting on PC. Also, it’s clear that some shadows are missing on both Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, visible only on the fully maxed PC experience. Otherwise, both these versions are near-identical to one another, and given that Xbox One X is targeting and mostly achieving 4K, it’s a great result.
None of this is to suggest that Wolfenstein 2 isn’t a great-looking game on PlayStation 4 Pro and the temporal anti-aliasing solution ensures that the tell-tale jaggies are kept firmly at bay for the most part, but the resolution divide is clear for those who’ve invested in a 4K screen. The increased clarity speaks for itself, but Xbox One X also raises texture filtering quality visibly, possibly owing to the increase in pixel-count alone and the extra samples this offers in the filtering process. Microsoft’s hardware is leagues ahead when it comes to presentation of floor textures, and the actual quality of materials is also improved in select cases too. Xbox One X again delivers closer to PC’s best here, though on the flip-side, shadow quality is ultimately the same between the two consoles
The end return is a more visually complete 4K package on Xbox One X and a better match for an ultra HD display. To return to our original question though: can the new console improve resolution and iron out the performance drops seen in the other versions? Well, the answer there remains in the negative – Xbox One X runs within a very similar 50-60fps window to the Pro version. The wheelchair bound segment at the start tends to run at 60fps at least, and similar for later stealthy-based stages. However, in open areas with enemies and physics stacking up, we do seem to be CPU-limited. The dynamic scaler adjusts only when the GPU is the bottleneck, and resolution doesn’t shift in some of the game’s more taxing areas.
Overall, the sense is that Xbox One X offers up a big win over the Pro in terms of image quality and delivers a beautiful 4K gaming experience, but the core gameplay remains much the same, and those performance issues can be intrusive. However, with a big bunch of 4K monitors on the market with FreeSync support in the 40-60Hz range, games like Wolfenstein 2 are tailor-made for testing with AMD’s adaptive sync technology. It can’t eliminate the drops in performance but it could certainly make the dips smoother and harder to notice. It’s another title to add to the list when we move onto FreeSync testing, but for now, we hope that the developer looks into addressing the issue.