“The human eye can’t see more than 24 frames per second,” Those Internet People say. “Tests found fighter pilots watching a 250fps video of playful kittens will grow furious if you slip in one single frame of Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties,” Others insist. “If a game ran at 500fps it would seem so real that if you died in the game you would die in real life,” I’m also told. I thought I’d heard it all in The Great Framerate Debate that rages eternally across the gameosphere. Dear, sweet, naive Alice.
Some Ubisoft chaps have declared that 30fps “feels more cinematic” than 60fps. Gosh.
To be quite clear, this is in reference to the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Assassin’s Creed Unity running at 30fps. Ubi haven’t said yet whether the PC version will suffer this fate or not but, given how many PC ports of multiplatform games do run at 30fps, it’s worth highlighting this absurd attitude. I’ll accept ports running at 30fps with a grumble, but let’s not pretend that particular framerate is in itself a sound artistic decision here.
“At Ubisoft for a long time we wanted to push 60fps. I don’t think it was a good idea because you don’t gain that much from 60 fps and it doesn’t look like the real thing,” world level design director Nicolas Guérin told TechRadar. “It’s a bit like The Hobbit movie, it looked really weird.” Pushing twice as many pixels is “not really that great in terms of rendering quality of the picture and the image,” he said.
Creative director Alex Amancio added, “30 was our goal, it feels more cinematic. 60 is really good for a shooter, action-adventure not so much. It actually feels better for people when it’s at that 30fps.”
Oh, what a load of old rot! It’s fine that they want to make a game look so pretty it wouldn’t run at 60fps on consoles — “If the game looks gorgeous, who cares about the number?” asks Amancio — but let’s not pretend we’re better off with low fps. To drag up these hoary old arguments again, recorded film is not the same as rendered game. Film looks dandy at 24fps because of its natural motion blur, while a low-fps game is far jerkier. Jerkiness changes how a game feels, of course, but in a very different way.
Why do these PC ports run at 30fps anyway? A shiny gaming PC could do so much more. Often, it’s because they wouldn’t work right otherwise. Some games build systems like AI and physics around updating 30 times per second, and wig out if this is changed. Hacking Dark Souls to raise the cap to 60fps, for example, will see you rolling shorter distances and possibly falling through the world on ladders. Not every game has such problems, mind. To state the obvious, 30fps limits exist because changing them would be more work than devs and pubs want, or can afford, to commit to in a port.
In related news, Bethesda said yesterday that The Evil Within will be locked to 30fps and a letterboxed 2.35:1 aspect ratio because devs Tango Gameworks have “worked the last four years perfecting the game experience with these settings in mind.” They will share debug commands to change this if you fancy, though. Spooky horror, now there’s a genre where low fps might be desirable to make things jarring and unpleasant.
Games running at 30fps, while less than ideal, are at least understandable from an economic perspective. Weird comparisons to film are less comprehensible.
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Propelled towards mass popularity by virtue of its superb Battle Royale refresh, Epic Games' Fortnite has recently been enhanced still further with the inclusion of an optional 60 frames per second mode - a potential game-changer for a fast-paced shooter like this. Now, we've seen a range of 'performance' modes in the past that target 60fps on Sony and Microsoft's enhanced consoles, but generally, they fail to deliver. The good news here is that Epic's work is the real deal - and it's by no means exclusive to the more powerful consoles, with owners of the standard models getting an equally impressive boost.
Based on information gleaned from social media and patch notes, the developer's approach in delivering this impressive buttery-smooth experience involves a combination of new Unreal Engine 4 graphics technologies paired with some intensive CPU optimisation. The results pay off as looking at frame-rates across both base and premium consoles, the new mode locks at its 60fps target for the vast majority of the duration. Consistency is generally excellent, holding up well throughout both traversal and intense gunplay, with all platforms running smoothly with the minimum of hitching.
It's not quite perfect though - moving into the more graphically complex towns can see some minor drops and a little tearing at the very top of the screen, but beyond that, the impact on gameplay is limited to brief moments of stutter that quickly pass. Fortnite at full frame-rate also passes muster as a premium experience on all consoles too - 60fps is 60fps, after all - although small dips in performance occur a little more often on the base Xbox One across a general run of play. It's only a subtle difference though, and we'd still take the new mode over the older 30fps standard.
Graphics comparison and performance analysis with everything you need to know. Can Fortnite's latest upgrade deliver a faultless 60fps in Battle Royale - and what about the Save The World Mode?
Of course, the move from 30fps to 60fps just looks a lot smoother, but the new mode offers a crucial advantage over Fortnite's main Battle Royale console rival - the Xbox One version of PUBG. Bluehole's early access title struggles to maintain its 30fps target and certain conditions in particular can contribute to some particularly poor moments. And in this sense, there are one or two similarities in how Fortnite's frame-rate is affected and more specifically, what scenarios can cause performance problems.
For example, PUBG's most noticeable frame-rate weakness kicks in when parachuting into the level - and the same process also causes issues in Fortnite. The increased draw distances and environment complexity are possible culprits here, with prolonged, harder stutter perhaps indicating online-based bottlenecks too. This is perhaps to be expected owing to the sheer volume of players in a fairly localised area in these early stages but thankfully, these issues clear up once we hit terra firma, with performance quickly stabilising nicely.
Compromises? Sure, they're there if you look for them. In reducing per-frame render time to 1/60th of a second - 16.7ms - dynamic resolution scaling along with temporal reconstruction plays a key role in accelerating the render pipeline, and this can introduce a combination of softness and some dithering artefacts, with the extent changing on a per-platform basis. However, the balance between image quality and performance is well judged for the most part, allowing players to get a smooth, stable experience during moments where a fixed resolution would cause frame-rates to drop.
In addition to the introduction of a dynamic framebuffer, a few visual tweaks also help to reduce the rendering load, with reduced shadow quality present across all consoles when running at with 60fps engaged when compared to the older half-refresh mode. Motion blur is also removed on PS4, Xbox One and Xbox One X. However, curiously, this is definitely not the case on PS4 Pro, which retains the effect across all modes in the game.
So just how dynamic is that scaler and to what extent does image quality shift across the run of play? The standard Xbox One has the weakest GPU of all the current-gen consoles, peaking at 900p resolution and dropping to something closer to 600p in more demanding scenes. In terms of the most common resolution we saw, 792p seems fairly prolific. The increased frame-rate is still our preferred way to play Fortnite, but it's here where the trades kick in hardest.
By contrast, the Xbox One X is the most powerful console of the bunch and it delivers some really impressive results. Our lowest recorded resolution comes in at 1152p, rising to 1728p at peak, with 1440p the most common measurement we found. The contrast between the base and enhanced consoles is quite remarkable - Xbox One X works nicely on a 4K screen despite its shifting sub-native pixel count, but the lower resolutions on the base model leads to a very soft looking game.
Both PS4 and Pro aim for native 1080p with the enhanced model using the extra GPU power to layer in additional effects, including enhanced draw distances. In complex areas, resolution on PS4 falls to around 756p at its lowest, with Pro coming in at around 900p or just below. However, with that said, pixel counts are generally higher across the run of play, with PS4 regularly hitting 900p, and Pro achieving 1080p.
Players are essentially given a good range of options here: improved image quality on the standard 30fps mode, but a genuinely impressive full-refresh alternative delivered by the new patch. However, one thing to stress is that 60fps is essentially exclusive to the Battle Royale game mode, not the Save the World option that Fortnite originally launched with.Meet the man trying to finish every game on Steam 'I rarely talk about this with anyone.'
There are both negative and positive changes in this tower defence-style mode. There's a new option that allows you to unlock the frame-rate, with Epic being careful not to promise 60fps in the description. That's probably for the best, with the game handing in a somewhat wobbly 30-40fps when we tested it on Xbox One X. As expected, it's better simply to cap at 30fps, which provides a more stable, consistent experience. The dynamic scaling technology is present and correct though, and that's great news as it eliminates most of the jarring performance drops under 30fps we saw when we first tested the X-enhanced patch. The revised code on Microsoft's new console isn't quite as stable as the 1080p Pro alternative, but it's a big, big improvement.
But it's the Battle Royale mode that's the star of the show. This part of Fortnite really has been transformed into a fully viable 60 frames per second experience - not just on the enhanced consoles but on all of them. It's exceptionally impressive stuff in motion. What you lose in pristine image clarity you gain in improved, smoother gameplay - and we're pretty confident in saying that once you've played the game at 60fps, you won't be going back to the older mode any time soon.