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Opinion: If all we get from PS4 and Xbox One is 60 frames per second, I’m OK with that

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Playing Bioshock: Infinite on PC was a revelation for me.

Of course, I’ve played console games that run at 60 frames per second before. The Call of Duty series prides itself on keeping both the singleplayer and multiplayer portions of the games running at a smooth framerate while certain fighting and racing games, almost by necessity, must be uncompromising in the speed at which their visuals are delivered on-screen.

So why was Bioshock Infinite on PC so different?

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- The Call of Duty series has always run at 60fps, even on console


Playing regular first-person shooters and action adventure games over the last six or seven years on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 has usually meant that a solid (and in most cases, not so solid) 30 frames per second could be expected. Anything less and even casual gamers can start noticing a difference, if not by sight then by feel and input.

If a game slows to a crawl or starts skipping frames, it doesn’t matter how many times you press a button to jump or squeeze a trigger to fire, because the game is going to intermittently ignore your attempts to evade death or take down an enemy, resulting in your failure. Framerate affects more than what you can see – the ‘feel’ of a game can be ruined and the experience made utterly frustrating.

So let’s answer that question: What was different about Bioshock Infinite on PC?

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- Bioshock Infinite ran at a smooth 60fps on PC, and looked great doing it


Using a more than moderately powerful PC, I chose to play Bioshock Infinite with an Xbox 360 controller which essentially transformed it into a super high definition console experience – over twice the visual fidelity and crispness of a console game, all running at 60 frames per second, which was definitely not the case on PS3 and Xbox 360.

Not only did everything look great, but input was sharp, too. Playing a game like Battlefield 3 up to that point on Xbox 360 had its charms, but feeling Infinite react to my inputs more rapidly than any previous console game I had played was a major improvement. We’re talking split-seconds of difference here, but for someone who grew up playing instantly snappy platformers and action games on earlier consoles and delighted in the direct feedback on PC in shooters like DOOM, this difference was exceedingly apparent.

I had my fun with Bioshock Infinite on PC but promptly returned to the world of console gaming, and just in time for games like The Last of Us which, while running at 30 frames per second, delivered an astounding production that simply wasn’t available on PC. As the console world tumbled ever closer to the launch of the next-gen PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, though, there was a lot of talk about how these systems would deliver visuals the likes of which we’ve never seen, running at 60 frames per second.

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- The Last of Us is an astounding achievement on PS3, but still runs at 30fps


Now after launch, we know the truth: Developers of games on both Xbox One and PS4 are having a tough time creating games that far exceed our expectations for the visual leap from the previous consoles. Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Killzone and inFamous all look spectacular but hardly run at a solid, dependable 60 frames per second.

What about the games that do run more smoothly than their previous generation counterparts?

Playing Battlefield 4 on PlayStation 4 was, once again, something of a revelation. After playing the game on Xbox 360 for a number of hours, stepping up to PS4 to not only see the full complement of 64 players online and much improved visuals, but the increased frame rate, too, was all once again very noticeable – input was snappy and guns fired as soon as I squeezed the trigger.

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- Playing Battlefield 4 on PS4 at 60fps was another revelatory moment for me


The same experience translated to Need For Speed: Rivals, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed IV and Strider, previous gen games that felt smoother and looked better on the new gen. Now after buying a new PC recently and playing Titanfall with full details at 60 frames per second, it’s going to be difficult going back to anything less…

… but will we be going back to less?

I still expect game developers to come up with new and exciting gameplay mechanics and scenarios that we can barely conceive. I still fully expect these self-same developers to continue to push the graphics envelope on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and deliver realtime visuals that eclipse what we’ve come to expect. But for me, if all I get out of the new generation of consoles is a smooth 60 frames per second and even mildly improved graphics in the interim, I’m perfectly fine with that.

And with companies like Sony making a play for virtual reality with Project Morpheus – a technology that essentially requires games to run at 120 frames per second to negate the side effects of current VR headsets – the issue of framerate in games is going to become even more contentious as developers squeeze every last drop of performance out of the new consoles with visuals remaining roughly on par with what we already know. Is that the end of the world, though?

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- VR technologies like Oculus Rift require much higher framerates to be effective


What is the most important thing for developers to improve on with the new generation of consoles going forward? Are improved graphics worth trading in for more responsive gameplay experiences?


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