Ah yes, the good old graphics debate! The news that the all-new Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will run in a native 4K resolution has been doing the rounds this week, and I am anything if not willing to leap on the bandwagon and weigh-in on the age-old resolution / frame rate / gameplay discussion.
Actually, we need to be specific about this: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will only run in a native 4K resolution on the Xbox One X and PC; the PS4 Pro, it would seem, is not powerful enough to achieve such dizzying heights of graphical wonder. According to an analysis carried out by Digital Foundry (see the video below) the latest iteration in the stealthy / genetic memory franchise achieves uninhibited 4K goodness during the game’s quieter moments, and a still-impressive 1644p during busier sections. Lovely! (If you’re an Xbox One X owner 😛 )
I’ve talked about graphics before in my Shadow of the Tomb Raider ponderings, and those of you who caught that rant will remember that I elaborated on the importance of visual finesse in triple A titles – namely, because people who have purchased higher-end machines such as the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X rightly expect a premium-quality experience. And the same applies to the likes of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. If it’s being offered on the classier machines, which hardcore users will be running through 4K televisions, then yes, it’s not unreasonable for those owners to feel as if they’re getting their money’s worth.
I do, however, feel slightly sorry for the developers of such titles. YouTube is swarming with in-depth analysis videos that scrutinise frame rates and textures using scientific and mathematical methods that I will never fully comprehend, and few artists across history have been subject to such a detailed level of assessment. As such, the ‘pressure to deliver’ is often upsettingly high, and it must make for quite a stressful development process.
So how much does Assassin’s Creed Odyssey‘s graphical prowess really matter in the grand scheme of things, once we’ve ruled out the 4K gamers and the YouTube analysts?
Muchly not, as it happens. This is possibly the most unoriginal observation ever, but surely the deciding factor in a game’s overall quality is, uhh, the game part. As in, what it’s like to play. Is it fun? Is it enjoyable? Is it compelling? Is it satisfying? Nintendo, for example, has prided itself on its understanding of this fact, and in recent years has happily wheeled out graphically inferior machines such as the Wii and the Switch, demonstrating that the visuals matter not one wit. Nobody sat down and played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and hated it for failing to reach a native 4K. Or at least, nobody that I know of.
You also have to bear in mind that 4K televisions are far from ubiquitous; they are not yet the ‘industry standard’ and indeed nobody in my social circle owns one, to my knowledge – even the ones who game. It’s still a niche experience, and so even I could theoretically sit down and play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on the Xbox One X, and its native 4K resolution would be entirely irrelevant to me given that I’d be channelling it through a ‘mere’ 40 inch, 1080p monitor.
What I also find amusing in my older age is that I can’t even appreciate my PS4’s visuals (or indeed a Blu-Ray movie) unless I’m wearing my glasses! I can still see well enough to play a game whilst spec-less, but the beauty of the finer details are invisible unless I can be bothered to don my frames. So again, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey could be displaying my stealth kills in 9080i and 50,000 frames per second and I’d still be blissfully unaware.
My answer, therefore, is no – it doesn’t really matter. It matters somewhat for those who have invested in more expensive pieces of hardware, but for Joe Gamer the key take-away is whether the title is actually fun to engage with. Again, not an original observation by any stretch, but I sometimes think it needs saying in the midst of such aggressive scientific analysis.
If you pick up Asssassin’s Creed Odyssey, I hope you have a blast with it, and don’t forget to wear your glasses.