Until today, the huge quest game Final Fantasy XV offered at least one “smooth” visual option for every single platform it was released on, meaning, one option with a locked-down, mostly consistent frame rate. The pitfall has always been that PlayStation 4 Pro players had to choose the simplest “lite” switch (which removes all special visual enhancements) to enjoy this stable 30 frames per second refresh.
However, a new patch for the game went live on Monday, and owners of the more expensive PlayStation 4 Pro may want to skip it if they hate stuttering.
Unlike Xbox One and standard PS4, the PS4 Pro version of FFXV prompts players to choose from one of two visual modes. One of these boosts the resolution to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1800p and adds other visual effects, but the frame rate is hampered by “frame pacing”, with the otherwise accurate 30Hz refresh constantly interrupted by consistent vibrations. The other, “lite” mode originally dropped the resolution and other elements to achieve a locked-down 30 fps.
Today’s 1.05 patch changes lite mode by removing a pretty important element: the frame rate limit. Now the lower resolution mode renders frames as fast as possible, usually at 45 or 50 fps. That may sound like an upgrade, but the problem, as Digital Foundry’s video analysts point out, is that most TV screens can’t display video frames in a pattern other than 30Hz or 60Hz (with the exception of some PAL-minded 50Hz sets in different parts of the world). So an inconsistent frame rate seems to look worse and respond less to taps on game buttons than even the “slow” 30Hz option.
Worse, Square Enix has also taken the bizarre step of removing the frame rate limit as a switch, while still leaving the “high” 1800p mode with the same horrendous frame-pacing issues. The result: until Square Enix comes out another patch, no mode in Final Fantasy XV will look or feel smooth on PlayStation 4 Pro systems. Owners of more expensive hardware are left with an inferior experience, and this violates Sony’s rules about Pro versions of its PS4 software.
In a future generation of TVs and consoles, this may not be an issue as variable refresh rates are baked into the HDMI 2.1 standard (which would remove the jumpiness that FFXV‘s new patch currently being introduced). However, current gaming systems are unlikely to be compatible with HDMI 2.1.
This article has been updated to clarify HDMI 2.1.