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Fallout 4's next-gen upgrade: bugged on Series X/S, disappointing on PS5 and PC

Weirdly undercooked, despite resolution and frame-rate improvements on console.

In the wake of the massive success of the Fallout TV series, Fallout 4 has received a free next-gen upgrade for PC, PS5 and Series X/S that aims to bring the nine-year-old game up to modern standards. The prospect of native PS5 and Series games is tantalising but unfortunately the update arrives with a number of issues - and even at its best the result is somewhat underwhelming.

The patch notes mention two main graphics modes on console: a dynamic 4K 60fps performance mode running at 'standard' settings and a 4K 30fps quality mode running at PC's ultra preset. The game itself presents this as a performance mode on/off toggle in reality, where the off setting is effectively the quality mode referred to in the notes. Beyond these two basic options, Bethesda also adds additional modes for those outputting the game at 1440p and/or 120Hz from your console system menu. As well as these new options, the patch notes mention bug fixes, new quests, new weapons and, on PC, official 21:9 ultrawide support.

To summarise the PC situation in brief, it's a disappointment on a number of levels. For a start, the new ultrawide display support is seriously lacking polish, with select elements of the UI stretched from 16:9 rather than offering a native 21:9 presentation. Worse still, I've noticed visual bugs in the UI at points, such as while naming your character or setting your SPECIAL stats - it looks wrong and needs a fix.

Here's the video version of this article, showing how Bethesda's next-gen update fares on all platforms. Watch on YouTube

On a more general level, there are widespread reports that the update breaks support for a range of mods on PC. In my time testing this version, it's also apparent that major issues dating back to its launch nine years ago are still not addressed: 60fps remains the maximum frame-rate for Fallout 4 on PC here, with no official means to go higher. Also, Nvidia's PhysX support for weapon debris is still offered as a setting in Fallout 4's front-end menu, but using this option with an RTX graphics card causes crashes. There are no additional graphical features either, so at the moment it seems the biggest change is its the incompatibility with existing, popular mods - so it's no surprise that the most popular recent Fallout 4 mod is one that 'downgrades' to the previous available version.

On console, there have actually been meaningful changes - but these are fairly limited in scope. There's nothing like RT support, which might have made the 30fps mode more attractive, and no HDR support either, with the game contuing to run in SDR instead. Furthermore, the Xbox edition's performance mode toggle doesn't actually do anything at present - you're always stuck on the 60fps performance mode with medium settings regardless of the apparent setting you've chosen.

On PS5, the performance toggle does function correctly, with the 'off' setting activating the 30fps quality mode with its ultra settings and higher average resolution. Comparing PS5 to Series X with both having the performance toggle set to off, it's clear that the Sony machine renders objects, foliage and distant building detail at longer ranges than on Xbox. it's more in line with the PC ultra preset as it should be. The Xbox issue is understood among Xbox users to be a bug that ought to be patched, despite Bethesda tweets to the contrary.

A comparison of the two modes on PS5 and Series X, where the performance mode is currently always engaged on Xbox platforms. This means the game plays at 60fps regardless of selection right now, and runs at what Bethesda describes as standard settings.

This same performance mode bug affects Xbox Series S in much the same way; the toggle does not work and you're left running at 60fps, standard settings - exactly on par with Xbox Series X. The only difference for Series S is it runs at a dynamic 1080p to 1440p resolution range, versus the 4K target on PS5 and Series X (with a noted lower bounds of 2016p on each in taxing scenes). Still, this feels reasonable for the 4TF system.

Comparing all three machines together, one thing is clear: not all settings are a match for PC's ultra presets, as seen on a high-end RTX 4080 PC. Even on PS5, where higher settings do actually engage on its performance disabled mode, there are obvious limits, including a shadow cascade which doesn't match up to the highest PC preset. Instead what we have on PS5, Series X and S - regardless of selected mode - is always equivalent to PC's medium shadow draw setting. It's the same as last-gen machines too. Likewise, shadow quality up close falls below the ultra preset, while geometry LODs across the world still don't match PC at its best.

Despite these cutbacks, the next-gen update does deliver a significant resolution bump on console. We've had mods that enabled 4K 60fps on Series X, but getting 4K 60fps out of the box - with dynamic resolution scaling - is still a big improvement over the previous choices. On Xbox Series X for example, until now we only had a native 4K at 30fps (using the One X codepath) or 1080p 60fps with lowered settings (using FPS Boost). Based on pixel counts, a true 4K is the most typical resolution number on Series X fully updated, again with drops to 3584x2016 as the lowest value in our tests - not bad at all.

As for performance results? While the Series X does hit 60fps most of the time, there are still drops under the target, with lurches into the low 50s while panning across the top of Corvega factory. There are also streaming hitches, in excess of 100ms, when charging across downtown Boston at pace. It's still not ideal as an optimised next-gen experience all combined, and these issues are mirrored closely on Series S - mostly 60fps with drops in the same places.

The more glaring problem though, is that because the Xbox consoles are stuck in this 'performance' mode, the visual settings - such as foliage, object and terrain LODs - are actually lower than what we had playing the last-gen Xbox One X version on Series X. For all the build-up to this big next-gen patch - so to speak - the results take us one step forward and one step back. We get 4K at 60fps now, but draw distance settings are worse than what we had before. And with the Xbox app upgraded there is no way to switch back to the last-gen app, to restore these settings.

The situation on PS5 is more positive. For a start, it's an especially big upgrade when compared against the last-gen PS4 Pro code that we had been using on PS5 to this point, which ran via back-compat at 1440p 30fps. That makes 4K 60fps a bit of a revelation on Sony consoles, though again the core world settings - in tree and object LODs - are onlty very marginally improved over what we had before the update.

Here's what console platforms are missing out on. Playing the PC version with everything maxed out shows big improvements to shadow draw, shadow quality and geometry draw over PS5 on its 30fps quality mode. However foliage and object draw are at least on par with PC's best.

Take the 30fps mode on PS5 for example, with performance mode disabled. This should give us the best settings; the promised 'ultra' presets. Comparing it to the older PS4 Pro version running on PS5, we're getting the exact same shadow quality and textures. Even the shadow draw distance remains the same, with a matching cascade to shadows just ahead of the player. Even draw distance settings for trees and objects - the ones that are pushed to ultra on PS5 - are close to the older PS4 Pro version. Switching between the two, there is a minor difference in foliage distribution, but it's really the jump from 1440p to a true 4K that sticks out most.

PS5's performance on its 60fps mode is mostly stable, but just like on Series X it is prone to sudden lurches in unlikely spots - the top of the Corvega factor again sees us go down into the 50s while looking directly down, and there's hitching while running full=pelt through complex environments. The 30fps quality mode tends to avoid most of these drops, by lowering the overall performance ceiling, but it's quite a hit to take.

Interestingly, PS5 offers a couple of extra ways to play on top of these two modes, as Bethesda changes Fallout 4's settings depending on the video output of the console itself. For example, with 120Hz set as the output on PS5, and with performance mode disabled in-game, you get 4K resolution with the higher 'ultra' settings for foliage and object draw, but it's all running at 40fps instead of 30. It runs impeccably well this way, too, with no drops as we see on the 60fps modes. The settings are unchanged from the regular 30fps mode here.

Fallout 4's upgrade on PS5, Series X and S allows for 4K at 60fps - and while often solid at 60fps there are instances like this moment on top of the Corvega factory where drops can occur. Streaming hitches are also a persistent issue while travelling quickly across its world.

Next along, setting the console to output 1440p changes the game logic again. With 1440p set in the PS5 system menu, the game always runs at 60fps regardless of in-game mode, with the higher tree and object LODs. Alas, there are drops under 60fps at points, and the Corvega factory sees a hit to the low 50s. There are traversal stutters too. All round, this gives us four modes in total on Sony's machine - where again, Xbox does not seem to change its setup when 120Hz or 1440p are selected.

The turnout for this next-gen patch on PS5, Series X and S is undoubtedly disappointing then. There are a few wins here at least: the ability to officially run at a dynamic 1440p 60fps on Series S is a nice improvement, while being able to run at 60fps on PS5 is a real breakthrough after being limited to 30fps on the older PS4 app for so long. But there's so much that's being left on the table for a definitive console experience. The fact that the core settings, the world detail and shadows, are still not on par with PC's best - even running on PS5's 30fps mode - is a surprise.

More plainly, the fact that Xbox systems do not work as the patch notes state, with a non-functioning performance mode toggle and missing 120Hz and 1440p modes, needs to be addressed. I'm fully expecting Bethesda to loop back on this in due course, to patch up what are obvious and plain issues on Xbox. It is a free update, but one that comes with a set of compromises - and in some respects it's a step back from the older One X app.

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