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Titanfall has been one of the most anticipated and important games of the Xbox One's short life, but a head-to-head comparison between the new console and high-end gaming PCs has illustrated that once again, the PCs come out on top. The problem, in this case, isn't that the Xbox One's visuals are poor -- the differences between the PC and the console are very small in static images; apart from the resolution difference (792p vs. 1080p).

As Digital Foundry writes, however, the gap between the two systems once the actions gets going is the real problem. When it built Titanfall, Respawn Entertainment settled on an adaptive V-Sync solution in which the game uses V-Sync when running at a steady 60 FPS, but disables V-Sync when it can't maintain a flat 60 frames per second. The upside of this is that it lets a game maintain higher frame rates than standard V-Sync, which would normally enforce static rates of 60 FPS, 30 FPS, and 20 FPS, falling back to each level if the previous couldn't be maintained. Adaptive V-Sync allows a GPU to dip below to say, 45 FPS, then step back up to 60 FPS. This slide from Nvidia illustrates the approach.

Unfortunately, this is where Titanfall drops the ball. The game engine simply can't maintain a steady rate of 60 FPS on the Xbox One, which means the frame rate plunges when the screen fills up with action, with wicked tearing as a result. That's problematic for a game engine that's supposed to emphasize high frame rates and constant speed over visuals; the Source engine has been stretched to its limits for Titanfall, but it still lacks the visual punch of Battlefield 4 or Crysis 3.

Digital Foundry describes the PC vs. console matchup as follows:
The real issue we have with this game on Xbox One is that playing Titanfall on Xbox One appears to be a case of taking the hits wherever they come from, and hoping that the core gameplay experience isn't impacted too much. By and large it works out acceptably, and the sheer fun of playing it can't be denied. However, the outlook changes appreciably once you play the game on PC, where - hardware permitting - performance is just so much better. At that point, you can't really go back. It's not difficult to get an experience that easily outstrips what's offered by Xbox One with hardware that needn't cost the earth.
PC marred by 50GB installs

The downside to Titanfall on the PC is that the game installs a whopping 50GB of data, of which 35GB is reportedly PCM uncompressed audio. Respawn's weak justification for this is that dual-core PCs can't handle the audio stream decoding required -- a fact that blatantly ignores the existence of low CPU utilization MP3 playback. This handy article from 7 years ago illustrates the point -- running Vista Basic in 32-bit on an Athlon 64 X2 5600+, measured CPU utilization in megahertz for MP3 playback was between 30 - 200MHz depending on the audio engine. Even on an aging Core 2 Duo without Hyper-Threading, that works out to about 2.5% usage on one CPU core.

Given the number of PC users that have converted to SSDs in recent years, a game install at 50GB is a serious shot to take -- that's 20% the capacity of a 256GB drive for one title. Given that the Xbox One install weighs in at less than half the size, it's hard to buy the argument that this is somehow a requirement or that the problem couldn't have been solved in another fashion.

Click to enlarge

The final report is positive on Titanfall's overall experience but notes that it continues to suffer from the "crushed black" syndrome that affects other games that use the Xbox One's own scaling solution. So far Microsoft has cleaned up that situation for one title, Killer Instinct, but it continues to impact others. 

This is nothing new Pc is always superior xD it takes a Pc to make a console for designs and infrastructure anyways so


.... They really had to ask ????


Anything is best played on PC.....


why would a comparison even be needed? Pc is beast mode end of story


The PC version being better isn't rocket science, it's expected. The sad truth is the game, if you take everything else aside, looks like shit.

Valve Source Engine. Nuff said. The irony that it isn't on Steam and forces you to deal with Origin is enough that I'd rather get it for the console than PC in the first place.

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I really want to try out this game for PC! But the 50gb install if a turn off for me as well. I have a 256gb PCIe-based SSD with a core i7 haswell so uncompressing the audio really wouldn't have been a concern for me but the install size is. I am running Win8 and OSX mavericks, have many programs installed including the full adobe cs6 suit, severala couple of games from Steam, along with music and picture files. I am down to 112gb of free space across both OS's and had of that going to a game is not an option...


lol 50 gig and 35 gig of audio pfff


If you have a high end pc.. shouldnt you have another large ssd drive be open for games? Why spend the $$$ on the pc without equally fast storage.... My pc has space (ssd) to spare yet I hate playing games with mouse/keyboard.... xbox one is good enough for me. I'd still play my Nintendo if it still worked

Joel H


SSD storage space prices have dropped tremendously in the past 2 years, but a high-end PC from 2012 isn't outdated by any sense of the word -- in fact, CPU performance has scarcely budged in that time. In 2012, a high-end 256GB SSD could easily have run you $350 - $500 depending on manufacturer and model.

High-end PCI-Express solid state drives are even more expensive than that. So many people have chosen to balance high-end SSD storage with a larger conventional spinning drive. I have 4TB of total storage in my system but only a 256GB SSD.


But of course


But "high end" is what I'm getting at... pc is always better than consoles, but at what price? You won't see many $500 pc's holding 60fps at 1080p or even 792p or whatever titan fall runs at on xbox one

Joel H

Actually DF looks at this.

We ran the game on our recently constructed "next-gen" Digital Foundry PC, pairing a six-core AMD FX-6300 with a GeForce GTX 760. Texture quality needs to drop to very high, but otherwise, everything is on max and we can hit 1080p60 with lashings of anti-aliasing, but the performance level is not sustained - but still a clearly noticeable improvement over Xbox One."

I can't speak to the exact cost of that testbed, but an FX-6300 is around $129. A GTX 760 is maybe $280. You can build the whole system, I'm guessing, for $600 - $650.