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Fallout 4's revised next-gen upgrade tested: fixed on Xbox, new options on PS5

But key issues still need addressing.

Fallout's next-gen upgrade came out of the starting blocks with serious issues on all platforms, but a patch for PlayStation and Xbox systems on May 13th promises to fix the most glaring problems. We've tested the game on PS5, Series X and Series S to see what's changed with the new update, and there is plenty to praise here - though some problems still remain. Crucially, Bethesda has at least provided a working graphics mode selector on Xbox Series X and S - a clearly labelled switch between 'visuals' mode and 'performance' mode that replaces the broken on/off performance toggle we saw before. These modes run with what the developer calls standard settings (on performance mode) or ultra settings (on visuals mode), and each deploys dynamic resolution scale to varying degrees too. That same visuals/performance labeling is applied to the PlayStation 5 version today as well, though these modes at least worked as intended in the previous patch.

There's an extra bonus here. Every current-gen console also gains the ability to independently set their target frame-rate via a new in-game option. We have 30fps and 60fps modes available on standard 60Hz displays - while an additional 40fps display mode becomes available when running with a 120Hz screen connected. Essentially, you can now choose an arbitrary frame-rate target regardless of your graphics mode, and so, we can now even target visuals mode at 60fps. In effect this might make sense when running the game on future PlayStation or Xbox hardware, for example, or to maximise frame-rates in the game's least demanding areas at the expense of frame-rate stability elsewhere. With two graphics modes and three frame-rate options, then, we certainly have a lot more flexibility.

The big question remains though: beyond fixing the obviously broken graphics modes on Xbox, does the May 13th update solve the hitches and performance issues we identified with Fallout 4's current-gen console upgrade? How do all the consoles compare now with the top visuals mode selected? And finally, is it actually possible to run the visuals mode at 60fps, or is there still a need for those lower 40 and 30fps options to get a stable reading?

Some of the differences in the next-gen update are best seen in video form, provided for your convenience above. Watch on YouTube

With the graphics mode toggle now working on Xbox, we finally get to see how all three consoles compare with the visuals mode engaged, complete with those "ultra" settings. With the frame-rate fixed to 60fps, dynamic resolution scaling engages more frequently - often at 1872p on PS5 or Series X - though 4K is possible in many less demanding areas. For many, the 1872p lower bounds here will not notice at a typical viewing distance from a TV. Meanwhile with the 30fps target selected on visuals mode, you can expect a slightly sharper, native 4K image 99 percent of the time. If you want to prioritise visuals and have a 120Hz display, the 40fps mode is also a very decent middle ground option. This qualifies you for a noticeable uptick in motion fluidity (25ms frame times, exactly between 30fps at 33.3ms and 60fps at 16.6ms) while maintaining the higher average 4K resolution of the 30fps mode. Meanwhile, Series S runs between 1080p and 1440p with the 60fps mode enabled, but runs at 1440p almost all of the time in the 30fps or 40fps modes.

Finally, both Xbox consoles also join the PlayStation 5 in offering a 1440p mode. Just set your console's output resolution to 1440p in the system settings, and the game renders at a 1440p maximum on every mode and frame-rate setting. (Of course, this is largely irrelevant to Series S, which targets 1440p max internally anyway!) Running at 1440p doesn't affect game performance radically, as we seem to be more often CPU-limited, but it might make the game run at higher frame-rates or resolutions in some scenarios and is worth having as an option for users of 1440p displays.

Beyond resolution, visual settings now match as promised between PS5, Series X and S. Foliage, objects and buildings render at the exact same range across the landscape on this setting. However, it's worth noting that Xbox Series X and S do actually run with higher building LODs than PS5 when viewed from the top of the Corvega Factory, though this difference is only visible at extremely long range. It's not clear if this is a bug or intended behaviour, as PS5 is below the lowest PC setting here, but it's worth noting regardless. It's also evident that all three consoles are sadly still some way off from max settings on the PC version. Console shadow quality and shadow draw distances are still far off PC's best. Of course, we expect PC settings to generally scale beyond even high-end consoles, but for a game that's nearly a decade old, it's a bit frustrating to miss out on higher-quality shadows and longer-range shadow draw when targeting 30fps.

Despite having so many modes and options available - 36 permutations in all across the three consoles, by my count - Fallout 4's performance is fairly straightforward to summarise. Regardless of your console, a locked 60fps is normally possible even on the most demanding visuals mode, but hitching issues remain. Firing on enemies, triggering mines or moving through urban areas produces noticeable (100ms+) stutters in a largely unpredictable and often distracting manner. These aggressive lurches in performance make combat and exploration less enjoyable than it should be, and again seem to be CPU-related rather than GPU-related. The roof of the Corvega factory seems to be the sole exception here, as we can consistently get frame-rate readings around 50fps on Series X and PS5 and in the upper 40s on Series S. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the less powerful Series S drops a little harder than the Series X and PS5, but all follow a similar trend when it comes to hitching at 60fps.

Running on the performance mode at 60fps helps a little versus the visuals mode, but hitching is impossible to banish completely in this way. Setting the console to 1440p is similarly ineffective, with just a single frame's difference in our testing at the top of the Corvega rooftop, so we must resort to more drastic measures. Targeting 30fps or 40fps lowers the performance ceiling, and this is seemingly the best solution for typical frame-rate drops. It keeps most of these drops invisible - barring the 100ms+ hitches - but of course you're paying a heavy price in terms of responsiveness and visual fluidity.

Sadly then, even in the very best case, none of modes fully solve Fallout 4's console performance problems. The hitching points to a more deeply-rooted engine-level issue in moments where PS5, Series X and S attempt to draw in lots of complex geometry. It's a problem to solve in another patch update perhaps. At the very least, Xbox consoles - Series X and S - get parity with PS5's features today, and the graphics mode toggle works. Still, there's a lot that needs fixing beyond this, not least ultrawide support on PC which still has certain UI elements stretched. It's something we'll be keeping an eye on, and we'll report back if we see any significant changes.

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