Even at a meagre 512MB, Fallout 4's new patch has a surprising impact on the console experience - restoring a good chunk of its 30fps performance in places, while other spots still don't flatter. As covered in our initial PlayStation 4 test of the Corvega factory, update 1.02 ratchets up the frame-rate for one of the game's most taxing sequences. But going beyond the factory walls on PS4, just how far-spread are its benefits, truly? And do similar tests on a fully patched Xbox One bear out similar gains?
To start, the good news is PS4's improvements aren't limited to one targeted section, but rather, the game at large is now better optimised for Sony's machine. In particular, any combat that puts a strain on PS4's memory bandwidth - via the usual flurry of effects-work - now gets a marked boost on patch 1.02. The gains are remarkable in one early Deathclaw battle for example, going from lengthy lulls at 25fps and under when using the mini-gun on nearby sandbags, to a practically faultless 30fps with the update.
As the PS4's version's primary weakness at launch - particularly in comparison to Xbox One's 30fps delivery in this scene - the frame-rate boost in battles is a big deal. Drops are still an issue of course, and an encounter with Paladin Danse outside the Cambridge police station has PS4 and Xbox One dropping under 30fps. However, it's a clear benefit for PS4 compared to the launch day's patch's mid-20fps delivery. And between the two fully-patched versions, frame-rates are now equal, or in several cases during the Corvega section, much smoother on PS4 in identical tests.
Make no mistake, substantial drops remain on console with patch 1.02. Traveling between areas creates the same cadence in frame-rate, a matching pattern in our test graph as assets are shuttled through the pipeline for the next section. Equally, complex spots like Diamond City shows zero performance gains on PS4 or Xbox One, and a timed run round its centre once again puts Sony's console ahead for the long haul.
Unfortunately, all signs point to Xbox One staying largely unmoved in its frame-rate delivery of Fallout 4, even with patch 1.02 installed. Tests between its launch day 1.01 and this update show few differences in the open world overall, many of which are lost within the margin of error. That said, one clear exception is in its handling of the Corvega factory, where previous drops to 25fps in the initial sewers area now resolve at 30fps on patch 1.02, albeit with a few minor drops. At least here, this patch has beneficial effects that mirror those on seen PS4 - though again Xbox One falls short in direct comparisons.
Outside of this factory though, Xbox One's gains on patch 1.02 are simply not as profound as those on PS4. The upshot of this is Sony's machine catches up in scenarios where it previously fell short; primarily when engaging in battle. As a result, there's a comprehensive frame-rate advantage on PS4 as it stands now, though it's fair to say some sore points linger on each console.
One curious side-effect of patch 1.02, as highlighted in our initial PS4 test by our readers, is the removal of shadows in the Corvega factory interiors. Specifically, this relates to a room at the 1:14 mark of this analysis, where the new patch renders a depthless, barren room shorn of any shading. To be clear, the time of day is identical for each side of this PS4 test, and yet shadows are entirely stripped out on this latest update.
We can confirm this is the case on Xbox One as well. However, on close inspection, the rest of this factory shows no likewise issues with shadows. The high-rises of the building still produce the same quality and rendering range of this setting, and across the world at large, there's little evidence this is a far-reaching cut-back to Fallout 4's visuals. It's our suspicion this is a one-off bug, isolated to this room, rather than a targeted move to tackle performance. However, we'll report back if it transpires other areas are also affected.
Patch 1.02 can otherwise be seen as a success, but it does leave one major stone unturned. A recurring bugbear of Xbox One experience, this update doesn't address the glaring 0fps stutter seen on this console when using its stock HDD. Moving between the war-torn skyscrapers near Diamond City, or drawing weapons for the first time in battle, still produces hiccups to playback on Xbox One. It stalls the experience for a split-second or more - a streaming issue that also causes gunshot sounds to delay if a weapon has been inactive for too long.
Equally frustrating is the lengthy delay on drawing a gun on Xbox One, once hot-swapped via the d-pad menu. Again, this occurs around built-up areas - while PS4 doesn't experience this to nearly the same extent. Even in switching to an entirely different Xbox One machine, patch 1.02 doesn't solve a problem that still tops our wishlist of fixes for Fallout 4.
The lasting impression of patch 1.02 is that it adds more than it takes, especially so on Sony's flagship console. The mystery of the absent shadows aside, this is a nimble update bolsters PS4's shakier handling of effects, giving it a marked boost over the frame-rates at launch. We're pleased with the turnout, but with drops to 20fps there's clearly still a clash between Bethesda's engine design, and the hardware at hand.
We're hoping there's still headroom to eke out a more from PS4 and Xbox One - and certainly, the storage issue we identified on Xbox One really needs to be addressed - but for now this is a positive step. Fallout 4 may not be perfect in its console delivery, but patch 1.02 at least bridges some of the gap towards its intended 30fps experience