We’ve already taken a look at BioShock: The Collection’s upgrades for PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, and while the sense is that the code isn’t quite where it should be right now for those platforms, the same can’t be said of the recent Switch release. Virtuos Games has delivered an excellent collection that makes nips and tucks in all of the right places, with all three games in the pack looking good and running well.
Let’s get the basics out of the way. When it delivered Dark Souls Remastered for Switch, Virtuos leaned heavily on the original last-gen assets for its conversion work for the Nintendo hybrid, perhaps a better fit for its more limited capabilities. That’s categorically not the case for BioShock: The Collection. It’s immediately apparent that the remastered artwork is in place for both the original BioShock and its sequel, while additional tweaks made to the environments in the remaster are also present and correct in the Switch port. Compared to Xbox One X release for example, texture quality is a setting lower – but Switch still benefits from newer assets compared to the original Xbox 360 edition.
The only real compromise as such comes in terms of frame-rate. Whereas the current-gen consoles get a presentation that targets 60 frames per second, Switch runs at 30fps – effectively on par with the last-gen versions at their best. In fact, it terms of overall consistency, Switch is significantly better. Performance locks to 30fps almost permanently, only blighted by occasional irregularities in frame-pacing. On top of that, there are big improvements to image quality thanks to running it all at higher resolutions.
All three titles in the collection target 1080p while docked, dropping to 720p in portable mode. However, a dynamic resolution scaling system is used to keep the game running smoothly. Looking at the original BioShock and its sequel, pixel counts can drop to 972p in heavier scenes while docked, while the technically more challenging BioShock Infinite can see a ballpark 810p in more taxing combat scenarios. It’s worth it. While all three titles exhibit some very minor frame-pacing issues (fleeting drops seemingly over-compensated for by similarly fleeting ‘extra frames’), the overall sense is of a smooth, consistent 30fps throughout the duration of the game – and this is the case whether you’re playing docked or in portable mode.
Dynamic resolution scaling and a halving of frame-rate carry out the vast amount of the Switch ports’ heavy lifting. There are cutbacks elsewhere necessary, of course, but these aren’y overly intrusive. Reflection quality is reduced – notably in Infinite – when compared to the premiere Xbox One X experience. Equally, expect downgrades in shadow and LOD settings on Switch, creating some extra pop-in as you approach busy areas, but by and large, the scope of the original games (and their last-gen origins) combined with the remasters’ new artwork effectively allows Switch users to enjoy the best of both worlds, 60fps gaming apart. The texture filtering quality doesn’t hold up to scrutiny – but this is also the case on the other console remasters too. At least in the case of Switch, the system’s more limited bandwidth makes this particular compromise more understandable.
The takeaway is rather straightforward then – the BioShock Collection makes for a genuinely great package, with the Switch conversions of every title hitting all of the right notes. And of course, it goes without saying that this particular release does something none of the other consoles can: portable play. It’s particularly pleasing to see that all three games hold up well, despite the drop in graphics horsepower and bandwidth. After the issues found with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions, we did have our concerns about how well the trilogy would transition across to Switch hardware, but rest assured – this is a solid remaster that’s well worth checking out.