With Resident Evil Village one of the most highly anticipated games of the next few months (for those with a stomach for horror games, anyway), gamers have been pouring over every detail they can possibly get their hands on. Two Resident Evil Showcases have celebrated the upcoming game and the series’ 25th anniversary, we’re now onto the second FOMO-inducing gameplay demo for Village, but I think it’s safe to say that everyone was left scratching their heads about what the technical specs detailing the game’s resolution and frame rate on a variety of games consoles. What on Earth does 4K at 45fps mean? Is… is that a good or a bad thing?
From 900p at 30fps on the base Xbox One up to full 4K at 60fps on PS5 and Xbox Series X, Resident Evil Village is catering to a whole host of games consoles, and includes options on many to prioritise performance or visuals. It’s with the introduction of ray tracing on the new generation systems that we were left befuddled with the mention of 45fps frame rates.
As a quick refresher, frame rate typically boils down to multiples of 30, with LCD TVs and computer monitors having a refresh rate of 60Hz. If a game isn’t running at 30fps or 60fps, even for a moment, then frames are duplicated, screen tearing introduces partial frames and an ugly split across the screen, and potentially just a bad and juddering experience. Some people prefer that though, with something between 30 and 60 more responsive to your inputs than a game locked at 30, and a new technology called Variable Refresh Rate has the screen matching the output of the game, instead of the other way round. You also have higher refresh rate screens, most commonly targeting 120Hz, but potentially going higher.
Still, unless you have VRR enabled, which you can do on Xbox Series X with a compatible screen, but cannot currently do on PS5, the worry was that 45fps would be a juddering eyesore.
Thankfully, I can tell you that, from the Resident Evil Village gameplay demo set in the Village, you don’t need to worry too much. The non-ray tracing mode is absolutely locked to 60fps from what we’ve seen, while the 45fps label seems to simply mean that the frame rate is unlocked. Ray tracing mode is very often much closer to a solid 60fps than a wobbly 45fps. Now, I’m not going to pretend it’s perfect, and even just wandering through the village area sees frames drop sporadically into the high 50s, and as soon as you engage with just a single enemy in the wheat field, it’s hovering in the low to mid-50s. By comparison, the 4K60 mode is just a flat line at 60fps.
A frame rate in the 50s does give a good experience though, so long as you’re not too sensitive to this issue. We would expect that, as and when Capcom throw some busier scenes into the game with more enemies, the frame rate will drop further to 45fps and maybe even below. So the choice is there for you to make.
To be honest, it still feels pretty daft that there is only a single setting here. 4K60 without ray tracing is fantastic, and the ray tracing mode gets very close, but it would still be better to have the options to run at 1440p with ray tracing locked to 60fps (similar to how Spider-Man Miles Morales does it), or have 4K ray tracing locked to 30fps for those who want that.
Personally, I also feel that the difference between ray tracing and no ray tracing is quite slight in this game. This game’s implementation is all about the accuracy of the shadowing and lighting, as opposed to flashy reflections in the sides of sky scrapers, and it’s really only when putting the two captures side-by-side that I feel that the ray tracing provides a small amount of added illumination to the image. In general the game’s visual design has to bridge the generational divide and ray tracing is a subtle added bonus. Either way, it looks fantastic.
So there you go. 4K60 on PS5 is great, and the ray traced lighting is surprisingly close behind it. The 45fps label really doesn’t tell the whole story.