Halo Reach: Backwards Compatibility analysis

Publisher Microsoft
Developer Microsoft Studios
Platforms tested XboxOne Xbox360
No Master Chief to be found in our second analysis video of the XboxOne's expanding list of X360 titles now playable on the machine. And now you won't have to REACH far to enjoy more halo action. Bungie's swan song from both Microsoft fold and the franchise as a whole was a real gem of a game, taking the saga into the popular at the time prequel set before Reach falls you get the chance to live the legend first hand.

After such a long collection of games on the 360 the team had become far more versed with its architecture and the engine was far more impressive here with better use of post effects, cinematography, animation even if the grey/brown colour corrected palette can deliver some washed out textures and looks at points. It can still deliver some great views and frantic action in play.

The 360 release was a pretty good performer in the most part, handing in a very solid 30 tick rate across the cinematic's, exploration along with a pretty good streaming system. The same engine signs are clear even from the more recent Halo 5 release but here with much less hardware to work with we are presented with a near native 1280 X 720 resolution ( only upscale is the horizontal from 1152 ) but near as damn it. Great use of HDR bloom, saturation and many dynamic lights mixed with the series trademark alpha effects really delivers here. And this is the limit at times as in conjunction with mass AI work and increasing hordes can but the strain on both the Xenon CPU and Xeno's GPU, this means with its double buffered render if the frame allocation misses more than A little it can drop to a sustained 20fps update. It does run and adaptive V-sync to allow the top section tear if slightly over budget and in action is hard to spot and helps keep the framerate from tanking too low or too long at times. But it does happen in heavier GPU cinematics or action and along with some longer hangs from I/O saving or loading once you get into the meat of the game it sticks at or close to its target most of the time with its average rate of 29.5 delivering 97% of its target over a 5 minute spread of all key areas. With just over 340 torn frames adding from my like for like tests across platforms, the biggest issue for the drops does appear to stem more from its heavy CPU use in both AI scripting, physics than any real GPU load although this is not always the case.

And here with the new X1 emulator in action we see that not even the master chief himself can solve some of the issues here. The first thing of the bat is the emulated game now present frame pacing issues not present when run on the 360 machine, as my frame time graph shows even though it can hit 30 frames over a 1000ms run the order and delivery is not flat with its Yo Yo delivery making it feel as if it is dropping frames at times when it is in fact flipping between a 16/50ms delivery. This means that it hits this higher frame time more often than the 360, and due to the delay in delivering frames it is allow to flip its buffer to attempt to mask its dip. But it also suffers from actual dips also, take a look at my Mass Effect video to explain more on this full V-Sync solution that is in effect en masse across all backwards titles, (subtle huh). Meaning now even the smallest tear that only effected the top section of the screen now results in a full held frame for another 16ms at best.

And following this logical flow to its conclusion means that in general where the 360 dipped or tore the X1 version dips also just to a higher degree. Now due to the original games heavy CPU resource causing frame spikes with the X1 having to handle even more overhead from its VM in addition to the game it has an even harder time to hit its target when these are the majority of the games reasons for missing its budget. Throw in the V-Sync and its pacing issues delivers a game that feels and performs much worse than its original target hardware. And even though it is not as bad a performer on either machine as my last game in Mass Effect, it does fall a decent level behind the 360 release as shown by the on screen metrics. My gut feeling is the emulator may need to allow some adaptive tearing to try and alleviate these issues as a good portion of games use this method or no vsync at all. But also as each title will need levels of changes to each VM on a per basis level, with Reach it needs to solve the pacing issues which are far more prevalent and interfere with the games controls more than the sum of its dips.

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