Besides the 900p versus 1080p divide in native resolution, there are other noteworthy contrasts between the Microsoft and Sony versions. One of the biggest is in shadow quality, where Xbox One employs lower-resolution, flickering shadows that match the PC's medium standard. PlayStation 4, meanwhile, offers much sharper outlines - particularly on hand details as Talion presses to a wall, falling close to the PC's high setting. It's a clear PS4 lead here.
Added to that, while the Sony console falls very short of the PC's level of vegetation density, by comparison to Xbox One it still boasts a notable increase in foliage across the world. Otherwise, both versions are very closely aligned in terms of effects quality and filtering - the PS4 only missing out on a subtle alpha effect around a creature's fangs in one encounter (shown in our comparison videos).
All of which leads us on to the topic of performance. Each of these per-platform visual tweaks service one end goal: v-synced 30fps playback on console hardware. In dialling back the LOD levels, textures and shadow quality for Xbox One and PS4, Monolith Productions achieves a near-perfect lock at this target based on our tests. Even in rendering a screen filled with irascible orc underlings, there's little that disrupts Shadow of Mordor's clean 30fps read-out. We do get the odd dropped frame when the camera quickly zooms to an alerted general; but gameplay is otherwise consistent for both platforms.
PC performance is a curious subject, especially in light of the huge video memory requirements for ultra level textures. In planting a GTX 780 Ti (featuring 3GB of GDDR5) into a Core i7 3770K PC backed by 16GB of RAM, the top-end results are startlingly choppy with this card. Even with a circa £450 GPU here, we're beset by huge downward spikes in frame-rate; the ultra texture setting even impacting performance with a 30fps cap set.
Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor: the Digital Foundry verdictIn assessing all three versions of Monolith Productions' open-world adventure, the takeaway is that each one is keenly optimised. The studio's latest LithTech engine takes very well to the PS4 and Xbox One hardware, with advanced features such as tessellation and higher-end lighting effects making the grade. Ultimately the PC version's ultra settings trump both in terms of geometry draw distances and terrain density, but from a distance the results remain satisfying on console.
At the time of writing, the console releases also have unexpected aces up their sleeves. To the Xbox One and PS4's credit, each offer post-processing anti-aliasing that's not available on PC, plus a working motion blur effect - though we suspect that this option is likely to be fixed in due course on PC. To an extent, such extras make up for the lack of an ultra texture quality equivalent, adding a lick of polish to the game's overall presentation.
It's undeniably a PC victory in theory though, provided you have powerhouse hardware to support its max settings - allowing for a taxing super-sampling option to solve its aliasing issues. However, the PS4 remains the best bang-for-buck version out right now. While broadly a match for Xbox One, its full 1080p resolution, higher shadow quality and increased foliage density barely put a dent in its v-synced 30fps performance. The Xbox One release is a solid 30fps too in matching frame-rate tests but the added visual treats on Sony's platform make this an easy one to call between the two.