The Battle of 4K & Frame Rates

With the introduction of the PS4 Pro in 2016 and the coming release of the Xbox One X towards the end of this year, gamers are seeing a jump in graphical fidelity again. Back in 2005 with the release of the Xbox 360, console games had their first taste of HD gaming, and it was glorious. Whether gaming in 720p or 1080p, no one could deny that gaming had taken another leap forward.

Now with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X we have the next jump – 4K. When seeing content and especially games in 4K, the image quality is simply stunning.

But there is often a trade off. In my opinion, sometimes a trade off that is not worth it. To be clear from the get-go I am a person who in most circumstances favours a higher and smoother frame rate over image quality. Once a game is of a high enough resolution then I am happy. Before anyone says “how can you not tell the difference between 1080p & 4K?” I’m not saying that at all. I definitely can tell the difference and 4K is clearly superior.

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With new consoles going for the holy grail of 4K, we must also make our opinion heard of how frame rates are of equal importance. Microsoft’s stance not to force developers to make their games 4K is the right decision. It’s clear some games will have the benefits of 4K/60FPS and others may not with options of 1080P/60FPS, 4K/30FPS etc. In my view, performance is more important than resolution. A locked 30FPS works great in certain games whilst in others it’s less than ideal.

This is even more important with the weaker hardware of the PS4 Pro. Pushing to reach a certain resolution whilst having sub standard frame rates and performance is not something gamers should want. A game such as Horizon: Zero Dawn looks beautiful but I’d rather a frame rate bump than a resolution increase. We should want games to perform their best instead of basing their worth on whether or not they meet a certain criteria ie True 4K.

The huge Twitter storm surrounding the announcement of Destiny 2 being 30FPS goes to show how important the issue is to gamers. In such a crowded genre of games such as first person shooters, and with so many already running at 60FPS+ its nothing short of a missed opportunity from Bungie. These games can require pin point accuracy (especially on PC with little to no aim assist) where the frame rate is hugely important. Even an unstable frame rate is not acceptable leading to a graphical downgrade to get it locked.

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This leads me to the point of dynamic 4K or ‘checkerboarding’, a process of scaling the frame rate higher or lower based on what is happening in the game at that time. Halo 5 uses this technique in order to keep it at 60FPS with a maximum resolution of 1080P. The dynamic 4K technique is out in full force on the PS4 Pro with the hardware struggling to deliver True 4K at 30FPS or 60FPS for graphically intensive games. Xbox One X will perform much better but seeing all games at True 4K/60FPS will just be setting yourself up for disappointment.

The resolution of the game also doesn’t determine how great a game looks. Ryse, an Xbox One launch title, runs at 900p and is still one of the best looking games on modern consoles. Texture detail and art style can have a large impact on how good a game looks.

The biggest problems these days in relation to 4K resolutions and differing frame rates is the one thing we can control.

Us. The gamer.

Too often does the discussion spiral out of control with fanboys on all sides proclaiming how their system is superior to the next. PS4 had a performance advantage over the Xbox One. There is no disputing that. Xbox One X is superior to PS4 Pro and, if money is of no concern, a powerful high end PC will outperform an Xbox One X.

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These new mid-gen consoles are more geared towards delivering higher resolutions than their predecessors. For gamers sake though, I hope developers take into account the strengths of each platform and tailor their games to take advantage of them for the benefit of their paying customers. If we are getting an inferior product then we should voice our opinions and concerns or vote with our wallets. Each system shouldn’t be held back by another especially if it’s a competing platform.

The debate which rages regarding resolution & frame rates should also not become so important we forget all else about a game. Games can also be highly enjoyable even if they don’t perfect their technical side or aren’t at the cutting edge. We shouldn’t expect to crucify a game based on these issues, especially if we haven’t played them yet.

Game consoles by design are a set hardware platform to. On my hand, gamers know that, as the hardware ages, it will struggle to keep up with the latest games when compared to a modern PC. In saying that, developers of course are also aware of this closed environment so we should expect them to optimise and tweak their game to the strengths of the console it is running on.

I hope developers use these strengths so they, and us gamers, can see their games running at their absolute best on each platform.

As mentioned previously, we gamers can be the problem sometimes but we can also be the ones to push developers to do their best work.

But when we speak with one voice, we get heard…loudly resulting is better games.

-MaxPower

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