Console Gaming Needs Graphical Settings More Than Ever
Developers, I love you, but this conversation is overdue. Your choice of graphical settings consistently suck in console games, and it’s time to just hand over the reigns to the end user.
I know, I know, this isn’t what consoles are all about. Just buy a PC, right? But these new consoles are powerful enough to do native 4K, 60FPS, and definitely not both. But why?
On PC, players can make their own compromises, working out the kinks on as many different hardware configurations as it is possible to imagine. For consoles, there are three: The PS5, the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S. It doesn’t seem like it should be impossible to, at least, come up with a graphical mode that is both high resolution and high framerate, accepting that there will be areas where other compromises will be made.
I want to choose to make my game look bad in return for 120fps – and that doesn’t seem like a crazy thing to be asking for with these bits of hardware.
Graphical Updates – Slow and Steady
This is something that is slowly coming to some games, and in particular Xbox’s FPS Boost is exciting on this front. Titles that are double or quadruple their original framerate will soon be playable on Series X. So far only Super Lucky’s Tale has been “upscaled” to 120fps, but that’s just a taste of the buttery smoothness to come.
The most impressive thing about this feature is it requires no editing of game code, no work on the part of the developer. It tricks the game into running more quickly than it thinks it is, and should work so long as the framerate isn’t tied into the game’s logic.
But these are older games. It’s nice to have the choice, and it’s nice that it doesn’t require any developer intervention (because it means something might happen). But it’s not like I have much choice in the matter – it’s either on or it’s off.
Most of the games announced so far are locked at sub-4k resolution too. That’s a problem for a different day, and this isn’t a complaint about the service, but on PC you probably could have jerry-rigged something for both.
Futureproofing is one of the biggest reasons to have control over your own games on console. It is mad that it takes clever engineers working behind the scenes to figure out this problem. It does, and we appreciate them for it, but we wish their work wasn’t necessary.
My Spidey Sense is Tingling
But it’s not just about looking to the future. Gamers have a host of different TVs and preferences. When it comes to resolution vs framerate, there are no right answers. Sometimes it’s as simple as liking the smoother performance, other times you like the sharpness of 4K. Ideally you’d have both, even if it meant butchering some of the other options.
The recent Spider-Man remaster on PS5 handled this the right way. The way they packaged it is still lousy, but the choice of graphical options is fantastic. You can have top of the range, beautiful visuals, less nice visuals at 60fps, or a true 60fps mode with higher pedestrian count and resolution.
Do aimless casuals get caught up on the 60fps mode and then moan their game isn’t pretty enough? Have these modes introduced game-breaking bugs that destroy your console? The answer is a resounding no. Gamers just got to choose.
To take the chore out of testing three different modes, I propose we just have a performance mode, a fidelity mode and “custom”. Custom could just be a list of simple options, toggled on or off, and an estimated framerate. For those with VRR, that’d mean the choice between locked 60FPS with certain settings, or an almost seamless 55fps with better visuals.
It’d mean we could improve the things we value, while reducing the things we don’t.
There’s something to be said for artist’s vision, of course. But since they’re already compromising by releasing on anything other than the highest of high end PCs, it doesn’t seem too big an ask.
I’m not suggesting developers leave everything to us plebs. That’s a surefire way to blow up your new console. But some fine-tuning, under locked conditions, couldn’t hurt.
It’d make games more attractive to a wider audience, it’d let us enjoy things in our own way. And ultimately, if the customer is happy, your bosses are happy.