Microsoft surprised us last week with the backwards-compatible re-release of the Crysis trilogy for Xbox One and Xbox One X. Once again – alas – there’s no sign of X-enhanced support for these titles, but what we do get is one of the most dramatic performance upgrades yet, and a chance to revisit a fascinating period of Xbox 360 history.
We all know of the original Crysis’ legendary status amongst PC users, and the fact that even today, the game can still bring the most powerful CPU hardware to its knees. But the wider point here is that developer Crytek were pushing the envelope in rendering and simulation in ways that no other game would dare attempt at the time. Suffice to say, when Crytek announced a multi-platform future for the franchise with Crysis 2, there was doubt from all sides. Would PC users be let down with a console port? And did Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have the hardware chops to run CryEngine 3 – even on lower than low settings?
When it did eventually launch in 2011, Crysis 2 – the first of the trilogy to hit Xbox 360 – was definitely a mixed bag. On the one hand, the CryEngine experience was there and the game looked quite unlike anything else on the platform. Aside from various bugs and some obvious, distracting pop-in, it was a stunning visual achievement. On the other, performance was poor, with frame-rates tanking into the teens. And this is where back-compat truly makes a difference. At worse, the standard Xbox One dips to the mid-20s, while Xbox One X mostly hits the 31fps performance target – with only minor drops.