Final Fantasy XV compromises visual quality differently in every version

Few games have been through ten years of development hell, and come out the other side in good shape. Final Fantasy XV has been through numerous platforms, names, and directors in the last decade, but it’s finally made its way to store shelves this week.

Final Fantasy XV began its life as Final Fantasy Versus XIII — a PS3 game in the same setting as Final Fantasy XIII. The dev team spun its wheels for years under the Versus XIII banner, but the game was eventually internally rebooted as the 15th numbered installment in the series. After a bit more turmoil, and some lackluster demos, we get to see for ourselves if all of this time and effort was worth it in the end.

Over at our sister site IGN, the game received a “Great” rating of 8.2/10. The reviewer spoke highly of the characters and environment, but the real-time combat and limited magic system were a bit disappointing. Similarly, the PS4 version of Final Fantasy XV currently holds an 84/100 on Metacritic based on 35 reviews. Sadly, the Xbox One version hasn’t been widely reviewed yet, so there’s not a great apples-to-apples comparison available.

Square-Enix put out numerous demos for this long-awaited release, and each one ran into some meaningful technical snags. The frame rate was often rough, the resolution was sub-par, and the anti-aliasing was kind of a mess. Things are looking much better for the finished product, but every version of the game has some unfortunate compromises.

Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry examined the performance on the PS4, PS4 Pro, and Xbox One, and found that each one suffers from a slightly different issue. Playing on the baseline PS4 gets you a mostly stable 30fps, but the game has some egregious frame-pacing problems. Even though we’re seeing 30 new frames every second, they’re being delivered inconsistently, so the image appears to stutter. On the PS4 Pro, you’ll have two different rendering modes to pick from: High and Lite. The High mode runs at a 1800p with checkerboarding, better textures, and improved effects, but it sees a similar level of stutter as the base PS4 version.Drop down to Lite mode on the PS4 Pro, and things are slightly better. You’re limited to 1080p30, but the frame-pacing problem mostly goes away. You’ll still see it pop up during some cutscenes here and there, but it’s probably your best experience for the time being.

Running on the Xbox One, Final Fantasy XV’s pacing problem disappears completely. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of a lower resolution and some torn frames. There’s a dynamic resolution in place, and it tops out at just 900p on Microsoft’s platform. And when the engine can’t keep up, you’ll see screen tearing show up at the top. It’s imperfect, but it’s still smoother than the base PS4 experience. None of these technical issues make the game unplayable, but it’s frustrating that there’s no singular “best” version of the game — not even a PC release to throw horsepower at. For now, our recommendation is to sit back, and wait to see if Square-Enix ships a patch in the next month or two.

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