This morning I played the opening of Marvel's Avengers on my PS4 Pro, and discovered I could switch on a performance mode that improved the framerate at 1080p. Since my background is in PC gaming, I'm always more excited by higher framerates than higher resolutions (though having both at the same time is obviously the ideal scenario).
While many major games on PS4 Pro did get a performance mode option – God of War and Jedi Fallen Order achieve some decent, if inconsistent results with the 30fps limit removed – a number of exclusive PS4 games didn't.
Spider-Man, The Last of Us Part 2 and Horizon Zero Dawn don't feature an option for 60fps, even if they do offer a resolution boost on the newer PS4 hardware. In retrospect, this seems like a missed opportunity by Sony to sell people on the full benefits of its enhanced console.
My hope, then, is that this is about to change on PS5. Last week, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart developers Insomniac Games confirmed that its PS5 exclusive will have an option to let players enjoy the game at 60fps – those who prefer visual fidelity over high framerates can select the 4K 30fps option instead.
In an interview with @WeeklyFamitsu today we confirmed #RatchetPS5 will offer an option to play at 60fps! https://t.co/HRFKHgDE3c pic.twitter.com/7TdyaTdtAvAugust 28, 2020
This is a big deal, and it's part of mounting evidence that Sony is prioritizing flexibility for players with the PS5.
Why higher framerates matter on console
For big blockbuster games, 30fps has generally been the standard on consoles during the HD era. The big incentive to buy a gaming PC, meanwhile, is to achieve a boost in framerate and graphical quality generally – and having the flexibility to customize the experience to your liking.
It's a lot more expensive than buying a console, and therefore not as accessible to most players as a PS4 and Xbox One, but owning a PC allows you to get more out of third-party blockbusters than you do on consoles.
For example, the ports of Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn to PC enable you to achieve framerates than you simply couldn't on PS4. Once you've seen the difference, it's hard to go back.
The arrival of next-gen hardware, then, would be a great opportunity to offer flexibility to console owners that's usually only reserved for PC players. And so far, Sony looks like it's committed to offering the option to play with higher framerates wherever possible.
It's already been confirmed that Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the Demon's Souls remake and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will have higher framerate options on PS5. These are all major launch window titles for the console, and it's surely meaningful that Sony is letting developers discuss these choices ahead of the console's release.
This bodes really well for PS5 players – and Sony's commitment to this will hopefully encourage more third-party developers to include similar options.
Console players want a flexible future
It's not just Sony making a big deal about games being playable at 60fps on the new consoles. Destiny 2, which already has a PC version that significantly outperforms the PS4 version, will run at 4K 60fps on the next-gen hardware.
Framerate is likely to be a competitive issue on both PS5 and Xbox Series X. In July, Microsoft confirmed that Halo Infinite will support up to 120fps on the new console.
Halo is for everyone. We can confirm #HaloInfinite multiplayer will be free-to-play and will support 120FPS on Xbox Series X. More details will be shared later! pic.twitter.com/9bIrppFiONJuly 31, 2020
The key thing here is choice. If Sony makes a performance mode standard in all of its exclusive titles, it potentially paves the way for a future where developers give players extensive PC-style graphics options on the games they love.
The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X offered a taste of this, but standardizing it would make a huge difference. It's another way to underline the benefits of next-gen hardware – for many players who never bought an enhanced console during this generation, this flexibility will offer them something they've never seen before. And isn't that the point of any new console?