Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time arrives on Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PC, and Switch tomorrow, giving us some of the most polished versions of last year’s excellent platformer alongside one that struggles a lot but gets the job done. Digital Foundry compared the PS5 and Switch versions side by side, and the differences are, not surprisingly, pretty dramatic.
I reviewed Crash Bandicoot 4 on the PlayStation 4, where it ran mostly fine. I recall the odd bit of slowdown during particularly busy levels, but never enough for me to condemn the game for all eternity. I’ve been playing the PlayStation 5 version for a couple of days now, and it’s pretty much perfect. It’s locked to a consistent 60 frames per second at 4K, and I’ve yet to see it falter. As a fan of faster monitors, I’d love to see a 1440p mode running at 120 frames per second, but I get no speedy love here. I like that it loads a little faster though. I was most looking forward to the PS5 version for the challenge cards, but for some reason they made it that I’ve got to make my way through the main story before the cards help me finish collecting all the collectibles and time-trial rewards.
Anyone surprised that a video game runs better on a more powerful system? No? How about a video game running worse on a less powerful system?
The Switch version of Crash Bandicoot 4 does not run at 4K60, obviously. It doesn’t even hit 1080p in docked mode, maintaining a pretty stable 720p at 30 frames per second, which of course means it’s much more cinematic looking (cough). Undocked the resolution drops to 540p, which sounds very dramatic but doesn’t matter much when you’re looking at a smaller portable screen.
It’s still a good-looking game on the Switch. It’s just nowhere near as good-looking as it is on the PS5 or even PS4. One reason for that is the lighting effects. The Switch version either renders dynamic lights only when they are at close range, or does away with them entirely. Digital Foundry’s video shows some great examples of this, such as the absence of lightning flashes in an early stage on the Switch.
In order to get the Unreal Engine 4 game running smoothly on Nintendo’s hardware, the Switch version also makes less use of particles and loses landscape details. Textures, water rendering, and shadows are all pared down for the Switch.
The biggest downgrade for the Switch version, which I cannot unsee now that I’ve watched the Digital Foundry vid, is the lack of per-object motion blur. More powerful systems use post-processing motion blur to smooth the animation, giving the game a more CGI cartoon sort of feel. The Switch does not use these effects, so the animation looks a tiny bit more stuttery. It’s something I might never have noticed had I not seen the side-by-side comparison, and now it’s making my eye twitch every time I notice it.
As long as you don’t watch the Digital Foundry video you’ll be fine with any version of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. Having said that, here’s the Digital Foundry video.
It’s neat to see all the little things that change when scaling a game engine from a glorified Android tablet to a high-powered next-generation console, even if it completely ruins one version of Crash Bandicoot 4 for me.