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Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart - all three graphics modes tried and tested

Should you choose fidelity, performance or performance RT modes?

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart has launched on PlayStation 5 and not only is it a fine sequel for celebrated console franchise, it's quite possibly the best-looking game of the new generation - a release that's only possible because of the enhanced processing power, graphical features and storage prowess found in the new wave of consoles. We've already discussed in depth why we believe that this is a genuinely important release for PlayStation 5, but today we're focusing on the three graphics modes available and which one we think you should choose to play with.

To cut a long story short, if you've already played Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered or Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5 - also from Insomniac, of course - you're in familiar territory. The trio of selectable options on offer are fidelity, performance and performance RT, so let's dig into each of them before offering up our final recommendation.

First of all, the default mode (depending on how your PS5 is set up, of course) is fidelity mode, which caps performance at 30 frames per second. The fixed 33.3ms rendering time essentially allows Insomniac to push visual quality to the max. That starts with native rendering resolution, which has a theoretical minimum of 1296p but actually appears to reside in a dynamic resolution window between 1800p and full 4K - 2160p. Image quality in this and all modes is boosted with temporal jittering, an image reconstruction technique that analyses the last frame, maps the trajectory of every pixel and 'injects' that data into the new frame.

The three performance modes in Rift Apart tested in depth with commentary from John Linneman and Alex Battaglia.Watch on YouTube

Fidelity mode also uses hardware-accelerated ray tracing for reflections, and we consider RT to be a crucial component of Rift Apart's visual make-up: there are so many reflective surfaces, so much curved metal and glass, and it all looks glorious. It's our contention that the artistic vision for the game was built around the concept of ray tracing as a key component - and while Rift Apart looks fine without RT, you're missing something special by turning it off.

On top of that, fidelity mode also increases density in elements like crowds or dynamically generated detail like, say, the amount of spaceships flying around in the background. Finally, Insomniac's impressive hair strand system (used to render Lombax fur, for example) sees the amount of strands running at the max in fidelity mode, and pared back on the performance alternatives. Put simply, fidelity mode is the best-looking rendition of the game there is.

The standard performance mode turns off ray tracing, reduces scene density, and pares back hair strand count in an effort to target 60 frames per second. It's a trade that actually works surprisingly well as the hit to resolution is less pronounced than you may think: the theoretical minimum is now 1080p, but the DRS resolution window is now closer to 1620p-1800p in our tested samples. It's a solid way to play, but again, with RT absent, we don't think it is the preferred route forward.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart - the original Digital Foundry video review, explaining how this game could only have been delivered on a next-gen console.Watch on YouTube

Which leads us to the big one - performance RT mode. This takes the compromises made in the vanilla performance mode but aims to add ray tracing back into the visual mix, doing so by nipping and tucking further at resolution with a 1080p minimum to 1440p maximum dynamic resolution window. The RT looks solid though, with reflection quality tied to the current native rendering resolution - there's little sense that this GPU-heavy feature is being cut back in any other way. Image quality can look grainier, naturally, but owing to a visual aesthetic that more CG toon-like, and more organic than say, Marvel's Spider-Man, this is the mode that works best for us. Insomniac's temporal injection technique does a good job in increasing the perception of detail, and while you are losing the pin-sharp clarity of the fidelity mode, the balance of RT features and 60fps gaming is difficult to overlook.

And as for performance, it's fair to say that the actual frame-rates you're getting are nigh-on locked. Similar to Marvel's Spider-Man, there are slight hitches on scene cuts during engine-driven cinematics, but otherwise the fidelity mode locks to 30fps, performance at 60fps, while performance RT is similarly solid - I only observed one noticeable drop during a non-interactive sequence. There's more though: by default, Rift Apart drops into 120Hz output mode, where the screen refreshes twice as quickly. Our theory about this is that when a frame does drop, the stutter persists for only 8.3ms as opposed to the usual 16.7ms. It's an interesting idea and potentially opens the door to a 40fps quality-based mode too, should Insomniac consider it. If you're finding that your screen resolution drops to 1080p as a result of 120Hz being forced when the game boots, simply disable 120Hz output in the PS5 system menus.

Ultimately then, this is a brilliant game that offers multiple ways to enjoy it. To a man, the DF team reckons that the performance RT option is the way to go, because the way Insomniac deploys the ray tracing technology is so, so impressive - and the alternative, traditional screen-space approximations just don't cut the mustard. With that said though, the options are there to favour higher resolution instead at 60fps or to just go to town on visual quality and lock to 30fps instead. Whichever option you choose, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is well worth your time and money.

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