It's been six months since the release of Cyberpunk 2077's 1.5 update - the milestone patch that finally added native support for current generation consoles. CD Projekt RED has not been idle though, the new 1.6 'Edgerunners' update arrived last week, tying in with the new anime. A raft of new content features are added, but the focus of this piece is on a brand-new Xbox Series S performance mode, along with optimisations to the 30fps ray tracing mode on PS5 and Series X, where long-standing complaints about high input lag are finally addressed. Going into this one, we had two separate objectives - to put Series S's new 60 frames per second mode through its paces and also to quantify the latency improvements on the more powerful consoles.
Until the arrival of the new patch, Series S only ran at a capped 30fps at a dynamic 1440p resolution, going down to 2304x1296 lowest via dynamic scaling. There was no mode toggle like on PS5 or Series X - no option to choose between quality and performance. Adding to the disappointment, Series S had no option for ray-traced shadows either. Patch 1.6 doesn't add the RT features, but at least the option to switch between fidelity and frame-rate is there.
Quality mode on Series S today works pretty much just as it did before the patch, in its default mode: it runs the gamut from 1440p down to around 1296p, with a reasonably tight 30fps lock with consistent frame-pacing. The new performance mode - inevitably - degrades some settings. In terms of pixel metrics, we're looking at a range of 1080p at peak, going down to 800p lowest, most obvious in the areas where the game can't stick to its 60fps target. As ever, CDPR's engine also uses a form of TAA and reconstruction to produce a final 1080p resolve.
Ultimately, it looks softer than the 1440p quality mode but it still holds up, with the increase to fluidity an obvious win. The biggest blemish to the presentation comes from fine sub-pixel elements, like wire fences, for example. The TAA upscaling doesn't have enough data to work with, resulting in a shimmering mesh - most notable on the outback area. Within the city though, this is less of an issue.
Overall, first impressions are strong. Image quality takes a hit, but we're locked to 60fps in most cases and in our stress test scenarios, the game still acquits itself reasonably well - with any performance drops well within the VRR window. I think Series S is in good shape with this update. We get parity from a performance standpoint with PS5 and Series X, even if resolution does take a hit to 1080p and below.
Beyond resolution, there are some other compromises made to get Cyberpunk 2077 operating at 60fps. There are strategically targeted drops in quality to shadows, and textures. Interior lighting generally flags more pixellated, rough edges, depending on the angle, and the light's distance to an object. The second big change for the Series S performance mode is its lowered NPC counts, with the density of crowds significantly dialled back. The same things happens on PS5 and Series X, with this change lowering the burden on both CPU and GPU. This end result is so effective on Series S that it makes you wonder what extra challenges the team at CDPR had in reaching 60fps, and why it took so long for this feature to arrive.
The other key area of testing for this patch is in improvements to input lag in the Series X/PS5 ray tracing mode. I used a 240fps camera to record myself taking 50 shots with a handgun, measuring the time taken from button press to muzzle flash when firing the weapon. On patch 1.6, Series X has an average latency of 136ms. That's still on the high side, honestly, but definitely an improvement over patch 1.5's remarkably high 163ms. That's an input lag reduction of 27ms on average across the 50 measurements. On PS5, the average came in at 135ms on patch 1.6 - another 27-28ms improvement. This is easily noticeable and a great improvement over the older version of the game. If you're looking for the most responsive experience though, performance mode is still a big improvement, with my result on Series X coming in at just 51ms - an excellent result.
In summary, I'm delighted to say that the Edgerunners update brings only good news all round. Improving input lag in PS5 and Series X RT mode is welcome, of course, but the addition of 60fps to Series S is an excellent addition. It's really solid and the sacrifices to achieve it feel fair too I think. The res drop, reduced shadows, and lower NPCs are all trades I'm happy to make. Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most technically demanding games out there, so the idea of a £250/$299 console delivering that experience at 60 frames per second is brilliant.
Meanwhile, work continues on the game with the Phantom Liberty expansion coming next year - and only for PC and the current generation consoles. We've always felt that the game was held back by the need to support older consoles. Hopes are high that the game will continue to push its technology going forward, unencumbered by the need to accommodate older hardware.