Crash Bandicoot 4 Runs Great On PS5, Passably On Switch

Lights out, Switch.
Lights out, Switch.
Screenshot: Digital Foundry / YouTube

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.

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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.

Activision’s press assets look better on PS5 as well.
Activision’s press assets look better on PS5 as well.
Screenshot: Activision

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.

The Switch version in all its glory.
The Switch version in all its glory.
Screenshot: Activision / Kotaku

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.

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The Switch version gets pretty dark.
The Switch version gets pretty dark.
Screenshot: Digital Foundry / YouTube

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.

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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.

Do you prefer smooth or crunchy bandicoot?
Do you prefer smooth or crunchy bandicoot?
Screenshot: Digital Foundry / YouTube
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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.

Digital Foundry (YouTube)

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.

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Kotaku elder, lover of video games, keyboards, toys, snacks, and other unsavory things.

DISCUSSION

Realnoize42
Realnoize42

I always find these comparisons weird. I mean, the Switch has been built with a chip that was meant to be energy efficient to be usable in a portable manner. OF COURSE it’s never going to match the power in those new shiny consoles, and even the old PS4 and XB1 are more powerful. The Switch innards aren’t even in same leagues as all of these, yet, it is still being featured in such comparisons.

This is like making graphic comparisons between a console or PC games with a version that was built for mobile or something. Or if we go back in time, like comparing a PS2 game to a Game Boy advance version, which is an extreme example I admit, but I see the same logic applied in that it’s just not the same thing, and most people buy those two consoles for mostly different reasons too.

I don’t find this particularly useful. Except maybe to showcase how AWESOME the Switch is at running home-console games on a portable unit with some trade-off in graphics (which are expected, duh!!!). But then again, I don’t see the point of the comparison.

The only way I’d see such a comparison being useful would be to compare the Switch to that other modern portable cons..... oh... right..... there’s none. lol!