One of the biggest advancements of the PS5 and Xbox Series X has been the ability to consistently play console games at 60 frames per second. But less than two years into the ninth generation of video game consoles, two of the biggest games in October have failed to meet that benchmark.
The games in question are Gotham Knights and A Plague Tale: Requiem. Both games came out without any sort of performance mode, or the ability to play at 60 fps. Gotham Knights refuses to go beyond 30 fps, while A Plague Tale: Requiem maxes out at 40 fps — but only if you’re playing on a 120 Hz TV or monitor.
In short, these framerates are hugely disappointing. That's especially true when you factor in that neither of these games launched on PS4 or Xbox One. In theory, these titles could take full advantage of the latest gaming hardware without having to accommodate last-gen consoles, which are almost a decade old. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.
A higher framerate is no longer just a helpful extra. Instead, a minimum of 60 fps is a fundamental feature, and all PS5 and Xbox Series X games should offer it. The first two years of the PS5 and Xbox Series X have sold me on the dream of a 60 fps future, and I’m not letting it go without a fight.
60 fps isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity
There's a lot about the PS5 and Xbox Series X that impresses me: the super speedy SSD load times, the PS5’s innovative DualSense controller and the Xbox Series X’s convenient Quick Resume feature, to name a few examples. However, the flagship feature that I've enjoyed most is that 60 fps has become the standard framerate across the board.
Playing current-gen launch games, such as Demon’s Souls and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, at 60 fps was glorious. But the tricky thing about playing in 60 fps is that once you’ve experienced it properly, it’s hard to go back. Earlier this week, as an experiment, I played a short session of Spider-Man Miles Morales on PS5 at 60 fps, and then switched to 30 fps. Calling the difference "night and day" would be an understatement.
Across almost all genres, from open-world action games, to racers, to fighting games, to first-person shooters, 60 fps adds noticeable smoothness to gameplay. Just the thought of playing the PS5-exclusive bullet-hell shooter Returnal, or the brutal action/RPG Elden Ring in anything but 60 fps feels instantly off-putting. And that’s the case for the vast majority of PS5 and Xbox Series X games I’ve enjoyed over the past 24 months.
The problem with 30 fps
From my perspective, 30 fps is inferior to 60 fps in almost any situation. Given the choice between the two, I'll always pick the latter, even if that means sacrificing resolution or graphical features, such as ray-tracing. However, I should note that games that run at 30 fps are not technically unplayable or unenjoyable.
I reviewed Gotham Knights earlier this month. While the performance was one of the game's main drawbacks, I enjoyed the whole thing enough that I’m still chipping away at it now. It’s just a shame that I can’t go crime-fighting in Gotham City with twice as many frames.
Gotham Knights is also frustrating because there doesn't appear to be any reason that it couldn't run at 60 fps on PS5 or Xbox Series X. I would guess that it's an optimization issue rather than a hardware limitation. At least A Plague Tale: Requiem has the excuses of stunning visuals, and the need to render literally thousands of moving rats onscreen at once.
There are also certain types of games where 30 fps isn't particularly detrimental. A narrative-driven adventure game such as The Quarry is a great example — especially since it aims to mimic the look of a Hollywood movie.
However, any game with zippy combat or a sense of speed feels limited by a lower framerate, and that description covers a huge portion of the most popular games on either console.
Will 30 fps games make a comeback?
To date, the majority of big-budget games on Xbox Series X and PS5 have either offered 60 fps as the standard framerate, or given players a choice between performance and fidelity modes. However, Gotham Knights and A Plague Tale have inspired some speculation that the return of 30 fps gaming on consoles is only a matter of time.
I don't believe that 30 fps gaming will ever become the standard once again, as it was on PS4 and Xbox One. But it’s not hard to envision a future in which 30 fps framerates are significantly more common. The biggest publishers are finally starting to ditch previous-generation hardware, and it may be easier to develop current-gen exclusives with a 30 fps target.
Several high-profile games in 2023 will launch across console generations. These include highly anticipated titles, such as Hogwarts Legacy, Diablo 4 and Assassins Creed Mirage. But other games, such as Dead Space Remake, Alan Wake 2, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League will be exclusive to PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles (and PC, of course).
We may soon discover that so many early PS5 and Xbox Series X games offered 60 fps options because they were cross-gen titles, and therefore capable of running on older hardware. As such, these games could leverage the power of newer hardware to bump up the framerate without sacrificing visual quality. Now that developers are creating games for the PS5 and Xbox Series X from the ground up, they may utilize the additional power in other ways.
Developers will surely want to take full advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X to create more lifelike graphics, craft bigger open worlds, implement ray-tracing and design more complex gameplay systems. It’s not unthinkable that developers might want to drop 60 fps modes to compensate. After all, it’s a lot easier to advertise a game based on how pretty it looks than by boasting about its higher framerate.
Player choice is the solution
Developers shouldn't have their creative vision curtailed, and games shouldn't be restricted based on a mandatory framerate benchmark. But for a lot of players, 60 fps is a big deal, and it’s not something that developers should trade away lightly in the name of making games prettier.
Instead, let each individual player decide if they want to prioritize a higher framerate or better resolution. If adding ray-tracing will force a 30 fps cap, then let me disable the lighting feature.
Modern video games already look pretty darn fantastic. Many native PS4 and Xbox One games are still downright jaw-dropping. I don’t especially need video games to look better than Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Last of Us Part II. But I do want that level of visual fidelity at a higher framerate.
For now, I hope that Gotham Knights and A Plague Tale: Requiem are not a sign of things to come. I’ve had 60 fps, and I never want to go back.