Word emerged last week that with a simple mod, owners of the Xbox Series X console were able to revisit The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, and to play it at full 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. The evidence looked compelling and I wanted to try it out - and once confirmed, I had a whole bunch of further questions I wanted answers to. Would the mod work on Xbox Series S? What about PlayStation 5? And as Fallout 4 also supports mods on consoles, I had to wonder whether there was any way to run the game at 60fps there, ahead of Microsoft's official patch set to do the same thing?
The news of a working Skyrim 60fps mod first emerged on Reddit, courtesy of user annathetravelbanana, and looking into it, the story behind the mod doing what it does on Series X is intriguing. The original mod - known as Uncap FPS by Smudgey5000 - seems to be very old, and was actually designed for the original Xbox One. The way it works is to enable a higher frame-rate by disabling v-sync and removing the hard-set 30fps cap. On last-gen hardware, its effects and its overall usefulness are limited. On the intro cart ride, Xbox One X's locked 30fps becomes 33-43fps with a lot of judder and tearing. I imagine it's used in combination with other mods designed to improve frame-rate to push overall output higher. Regardless, on its own, it's not particularly impressive.
The outlook is transformed on Series X thanks to the console's backwards compatibility features. First of all, it's worth stressing that once installed, Skyrim needs to be shut down and rebooted for the mod to kick in - and the improvement is transformative. Most of the game plays out locked at 60fps and the tearing brought about by the mod is completely gone. In effect, the Uncap FPS mod removes the 30fps limit, while the back-compat features in Series X enforce v-sync, giving a mostly flawless presentation. Yes, Achievements are disabled because you're using a mod. However, this can be circumvented simply by disabling the mod and starting the game. Remember, the mod needs a reboot to engage - and it's the same when disabling it.
The good news continues because Skyrim on Series S not only works with the same mod, but actually adheres more closely to 60 frames per second than Series X. This is because it's tapping into the Xbox One S legacy codepath, meaning 1080p resolution. The ratio of improvement in GPU performance is higher moving from One S to Series S than it is from One X to Series X, giving you more graphics overhead in relation to the much lower resolution. There are obvious visual drawbacks, but having this additional overhead means you can pile on additional graphics mods, increase the GPU burden, and stand more of a chance of sustaining 60fps.
PlayStation 5? Well, I did try it. Mods are available, but there is no frame-rate mod that I could find that could do the same job as Uncap FPS on Xbox machines. What you do get is a much tighter lock to 30 frames per second than the PlayStation 4 version of the game, but it is unclear as to whether a frame-rate unlock mod is even possible on the Sony platform. Generally speaking, it's understood that mod support is somewhat more limited, but if the opportunity is there, hopefully showcasing how transformative Uncap FPS is will see a mod arrive.
Returning to Xbox Series consoles, it turns out that Uncap FPS likely tweaks an .ini variable in a configuration file users cannot see, and as Fallout 4 is based on the same underlying technology, I had to wonder whether a similar mod was available. Of course, Microsoft has announced its own plans to unlock the frame-rate for Fallout 4 as part of adding value to its backwards compatibility offering, but it turned out that there is a similar mod out there that can allow Series X owners to run the game at 4K60. Again, it looks like the information was first shared on Reddit, this time by user Winring86. Search for a mod called '720p 60fps' by Tenebris and you're good to go.
This mod was designed to reduce resolution on Xbox One consoles in order to improve performance - again, seemingly by disabling v-sync - but unfortunately, it produces a large bordered effect in the process. However, the resolution tweakery included in the mod does not affect Xbox Series X at all - frame-rate is unlocked and once again, the console's back-compat features kick in, capping frame-rate at 60fps with no screen-tearing. I didn't play this one too much but it does seem to be doing the same job as Uncap FPS - and perhaps it's a preview of sorts of what Microsoft's patch will deliver? The one piece of bad news here is for Series S owners, who get the actual 720p bordered resolution and a host of visual artefacts too. However, my bet is that stripping the resolution bits from the mod would produce an effect just like Uncap FPS for Skyrim, meaning all the frame-rate benefits without the unfortunate side effects on Series S.
All told, the story is a positive one for owners of Microsoft's new consoles. Even modded to the eyeballs, Skyrim is clearly showing its age, but the game itself is golden and running the title at 60 frames per second is an excellent bonus for Series machine owners. Fallout 4 is similarly transformed, and whether it's via Microsoft's upcoming patch or via a tweaked version of the 720p 60fps mod, a solid showing on Series consoles is welcome - especially considering how the game ran into some profound storage and CPU issues on last-gen machines. Access to Zen 2 processor hardware plus solid state storage really lets this game shine.
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