Switch fans are used to extra blur and jaggier edges when it comes to their ports. Alien Isolation, somehow, looks better.
Switch games aren’t supposed to look better than the major consoles, and yet that’s what’s apparently happened with the recent port of Alien Isolation on the Switch. Alien: Isolation is a pretty old game by this point — it’s five years old this year — but developers Feral Interactive have pulled off a virtual miracle.
A teardown from Digital Foundry has found that the image quality of Alien Isolation on the Switch is sharper, clearer and in some places, less jagged than the PS4 version. And it’s worth specifying the PS4 version here, because Isolation was released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions as well.
What’s really made the difference, apart from some smart cuts in places, has been the inclusion of a more modern temporal anti-aliasing effect. There’s dynamic resolution scaling and some adaptive sharpening for contrast, all of which makes the Switch version of Isolation smoother in motion, and more enjoyable, than the PS4 build.
It’s worth noting the faults in the PS4 version too: the shimmering issues is a constant distraction from the game’s appearance, and not having that on the Switch is a big, big win. On top of that, performance across docked and handheld is real smooth.
With the Switch a couple of years old, we’re starting to get some fascinating stories of studios getting real clever with the console’s limitations. It’s starting to approach the kind of magic developers had to pull in the early, mid and late ’90s when dealing with cartridge restrictions, limited memory bandwidth and other caps on graphics, storage and general capacity. The tricks being used by Switch developers are more subtle, and they have a lot more headroom to work with, but the wizardry of getting games like DOOM and Wolfenstein 2 to run on such comparatively low-spec hardware – not to mention making games look better with less – is just inspiring.