Use the options menu to improve console frame-rate – or cripple it.
In a world of cross-platform development, one of the key differentiating factors between console and PC releases is the ability to tweak graphical settings – a necessity when a games PC can be built from a vast array of different components. Graphics menus in console games are a rarity for obvious reasons, making this discovery somewhat curious: adjusting graphics presets in Bridge Constructor Portal on the Windows Store works just as it should, but with an added bonus – your changes transfer across to the Xbox versions too and can radically alter performance.
Friend of Digital Foundry, Alex Goh, clued us into this one when exploring the Xbox Game Pass library and remarkaby, his report checks out. Settings changes on the PC version are beamed into the cloud and transfer over to both Xbox One S and Xbox One X – presumably a factor of UWP and the ‘Play Anywhere’ nature of the title. In-game progress is shared between Xbox and PC platforms, and somehow, your graphics settings do too. Also fascinating is that if you play the game on Xbox first, the console settings migrate across to the PC game when you load it up.
There are three major areas for adjustment: anti-aliasing, post-process effects and shadows. By default these are set to 2x MSAA and medium quality, respectively. By far the biggest impact to performance comes from anti-aliasing, where ramping this up to a maximum 8x MSAA sees both Xbox consoles collapse to a wobbly 10-15 frames per second.
The post-processing selectable is arguably the most interesting setting though, introducing screen-based and per-object motion blur and SSAO – all of which are otherwise absent from the ‘stock’ Xbox version of the game. Moving shadows from Xbox medium to the high preset improves their quality very, very slightly but aren’t really worth adjusting.
The only settings that don’t work are the PC’s resolution and frame-rate options – pixel count is locked to 1080p on Xbox One S and native 4K on the X, whereas the PC version supports high refresh rate displays and ultrawide resolutions. Interestingly though, we did get some slight wobbles above 60fps when running the Xbox One X in 120Hz output mode – but nothing worth writing home about. By default, Bridge Constructer Portal on consoles operates with a double-buffer v-sync that flutuates between 30fps and 60fps, but porting over the low setting from PC to Xbox effectively locked us to 60fps throughout.
Whether console games should have graphics menus or not has been a controversial topic ever since PC/PlayStation/Xbox multi-platform development kicked off in earnest during the last-gen period, but the fact that Bridge Constructor Portal supports it at all is likely down to the code’s status as a Windows Store port, which unifies PC and Xbox through a common platform – and even allows for homebrew cross-platform development that works for both PC and retail Xbox consoles.
This shouldn’t be happening at all – and will probably be disabled by a patch at some point – and it was only discovered by accident when ramping up anti-aliasing on the PC version proceeded to cripple game performance on Xbox One S. A system-level screenshot proved that somehow, 8x MSAA had been enabled on the console. If you have Game Pass, or own Bridge Constructor Portal, this is worth toying with. Lowering settings can boost frame-rate significantly – which makes you wonder whether more console games should ‘officially’ offer this option…