Halo 5 Xbox One Technical Analysis Praises 60FPS

"High performance at all costs."

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A new technical analysis of Halo 5: Guardians dives deep into the Xbox One shooter's graphics and frame rate, overall describing the title as a "handsome game in its own right and with a focus on performance."

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Digital Foundry said Halo 5's "defining technical feature" is undoubtedly frame rate. The game's campaign and multiplayer run at 60fps and the results are impressive, the site concluded.

"Delivering a stable 60 frames-per-second across the board, Halo 5 feels marvelous to play," it wrote. "During normal gameplay, only the occasional duplicate frames manifesting at checkpoints have any impact on fluidity." Halo 5's Forge mode is coming in December, so it's unknown if this will also hold 60fps.

The technical breakdown also praised Halo 5's use of dynamic resolution to achieve 1080p in certain scenarios. As announced previously, Halo 5 uses dynamic resolution to help keep frame rate locked at 60fps.

"It's clear that hitting 1080p while maintaining 60fps would not have been possible in Halo 5 but rather than simply opting to render at a low resolution across the board, 343 has implemented one of the most impressive dynamic resolution scaling systems we've seen to date," Digital Foundry said. "In Halo 5, X and Y values are adjusted independently enabling a wide range of values designed to maximize performance. The lowest recorded value we find is 1152x810 but we see arbitrary values such as 1168x810, 1440x840, 1344x972, and 1536x1080 as well. Halo 5 is able to make these adjustments on the fly while avoiding over budget frames throughout, ensuring silky-smooth performance."

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Other praised features include Halo 5's revamped menu, its use of real-time cutscenes, the audio (7.1 mix and the 39-song soundtrack), and zippy load times for campaign and multiplayer.

Digital Foundry's technical assessment of Halo 5 wasn't entirely glowing, however. The site reports that, although Halo 5 is able to achieve 1080p in some sections, "the overwhelming majority" of sequences are "well under full 1080p."

"When combined with sparse anti-aliasing coverage, this often results in scenes exhibiting aliasing and blurring artifacts simultaneously," it wrote. "This is further impacted by limited texture filtering, smearing surface textures at oblique angles. In fact, the selected texture filtering has a stronger impact on overall presentation than resolution."

Digital Foundry goes on to say that Halo 5's use of half-rate animations, that is, when game objects operate at 30fps when they reach a set distance from the player, can look "jarring" in some sections. "The distance in which enemies begin to animate at half-rate is just a bit too close to the player for our liking," it said.

On top of that, the site says Halo 5's use of lighting and shadows is not all it could be.

"In order to improve rendering speed, a number of tricks are employed here that have an impact on visual quality," Digital Foundry explained. "For instance, dynamic shadows are regularly culled from view near the player, while shadow maps exhibit noticeable jagged artifacts. The greater issue is the way in which the game swaps between the different levels of quality. The constant adjustments being made ultimately create a sense of instability across the world."

Other technical downsides, according to Digital Foundry, include the fidelity of some textures and enemy AI (and some friendly AI interactions) not being as good as it was with Bungie-developed Halo games.

Ultimately, Digital Foundry said Halo 5 is a "release focused on delivering high performance at all costs. There are sacrifices here, but each of them are made to improve upon the experience."

Halo 5 launches tomorrow, October 27, exclusively for Xbox One (though a PC edition has not been ruled out). Microsoft is holding a New Year's Eve-style countdown event tonight to mark the game's release. The company has even teased that it may have news outside of Halo to share during the event.

We're holding back our full review until after the game's live servers go live. For more on our impressions of the game so far, check out this post from editor Mike Mahardy.

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