Insomniac Games shared some information on Monday related to the "performance mode" for Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a PlayStation 5 game that so far feels like the most important next-gen launch title.
Despite the implication that this optional gameplay mode will showcase the upper-end graphical capacity of the PS5, something about the specifications don't hold up to some of the bolder claims that've been made about the power of next-gen consoles. This may be a hint that some of the more impressive technical capabilities of next-gen consoles might be exclusive to special modes made specifically for that reason — rather than something that comes standard for a game.
"Swing through the city like never before on PS5 with an optional 4K / 60fps Performance Mode," a July 20 Insomniac tweet reads. While it's great to see the game running at a higher resolution and framerate than is typically possible on current-generation hardware, it's also worth noting that for a "performance mode" on a next-gen platform, these specs don't really seem all that spectacular.
Insomniac didn't go into further specifics about default graphics, so we don't know the resolution or framerate that Miles Morales will normally run at. It appears that the game will be pushing for resolution over frame rate though if the performance mode is only at 60 FPS. Sony has teased that the PS5 can support up to 8K resolution as well as larger worlds with its SSD and impressive lighting with ray tracing, but we've yet to see any of that in action — or hear about it.
It seems that with Spider-Man Miles Morales, Sony is more interested in taking advantage of features like ray tracing rather than drastically increasing the frame rate. Could this announcement also mean that most first-party PS5 games may settle for 30 FPS instead of the consistent 60 FPS gameplay that many are expecting from next-gen consoles? Will most games opt for performance modes that have better frame rates, empowering the player to choose what they want to prioritize?
The performance mode framerate for PS5 so far seems to be dragging a bit behind the Xbox Series X, which Microsoft claims can achieve 120 FPS with games like Gears 5. Even Microsoft will have to consider how games will run on weaker hardware like Xbox One and the rumored cheaper but weaker Project Lockhart. During this transitional period between console generations, games can't quite be designed exclusively for next-gen. There has to be a middle-ground between the new and the old that ensures game can run on current- and next-gen platforms.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Microsoft's Matt Booty compared this to PC gaming where "diversity of hardware choice in PC has not held back the highest-fidelity PC games on the market." In other words, just because not everyone has a high-end gaming PC, doesn't mean that developers need to aim for high-end graphics.
The Inverse Analysis — Going into next-gen, it appears that players will have more options at their disposal when playing any given game. Do you want to push the resolution and graphics to their highest and settle for 30 FPS, or do you want games to run at a super smooth 120 FPS at the cost of only being upscaled to 4K?
Games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales show that players will still have to choose between either better visuals or better graphics, just like they have to on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X right now. The games that really take advantage of next-gen hardware will be impressive, but it seems like the earliest next-gen titles may not make the biggest strides forward in the frame rate department.
I enjoy playing games at higher frame rates, so I'll be sticking with performance mode when I try Miles Morales later this year. As PS5 games aren't being scaled down to support PS4 though, I can't wait for Sony's developers to get more familiar with the hardware and start producing games that run at 4K and 60 FPS by default, rather than me having to switch over to a "performance mode" for it.
Marvel's Spider-Man Miles Morales and the PS5 will be released during the 2020 holiday season.