I’ve been watching Sony add 40 FPS modes to games such as Horizon Forbidden West, Ratchet & Clank and Spider-Man with intrigue, but due to the fact that they’ve all been added post-launch, I’ve never spent a significant amount of time with these modes outside of a quick trial to see how it is.
With the launch of The Last Of Us Part 1 comes the first PlayStation release with a proper 40FPS mode at launch, and I really think that this is the sweet spot for games on the current PS5/Xbox Series X hardware that we have.
If you’ve played a AAA game on a PS5 or Xbox Series X, you’ve most likely been faced with either 2 or 3 graphic modes, having to choose between 60 FPS and a lower resolution (much lower in certain circumstances) or 4K and 30FPS, but Sony has cleverly starting to incorporated a 40FPS mode into its first party games, and I really, really hope that it becomes the normal for upcoming titles such as God of War Ragnarok and that other developers start to use it too as it really does provide the best of both worlds.
Now, in order to take advantage of The Last of Us Part 1’s 40 FPS mode, you need a HDMI 2.1 TV (find our full list of 2022 compatible TVs here), but if you’ve purchased either a Samsung/LG/Sony TV in the last year or two, you’ve likely got (and probably already know about it).
I’m not expert on this at all, and you can read this very good write-up from Digital Foundry on why a 120Hz TV is required as well as why the 40FPS mode feels so much better than 30 HERE.
My basic understanding is that non HDMI 2.1 TVs have a 60Hz display, and in order for the game to match that 60Hz, it needs to run at either 30FPS or 60FPS. The reason why it’s possible to shift to 40FPS on a HDMI 2.1 TV is because 40 goes into 120hz evenly three times which mean the display rates match up. The way these frames are served is also the perfect half way point between 30 and 60FPS.
This results in an image that isn’t quite 60FPS, but it’s a lot smoother than 30FPS, whilst not having to compromise on resolution. Unless you’re playing a twitch shooter, in my opinion, the middle ground that 40FPS provides is barely noticeable from 60FPS.
The PS5’s recent VRR update makes this better again as you’re able to tick a box in The Last Of Us Part 1 that uncaps these frame rates, so you can get closer to 60 in scenes when there’s not a lot going on, without the compromise, and VRR helps keep everything in sync nicely. For mine though, I preferred keeping this off and having it run at a buttery smooth 40FPS.
Something I really liked about this particular implementation is that the graphics menu cleverly changes to display the fidelity or performance modes based on whether you have a HDMI 2.1 TV connected, so it’ll tell you whether you’re going to get 30FPS or the 40FPS modes, without it seeming complicated or confusing.
Now, I don’t know exactly how much extra work it takes to get this mode up and running, but I really hope that we see it more as the reality is, that until we get a PS5/Xbox Series X Pro, we’re going to need to continue choosing between 4K or 60FPS without this middle ground, and nobody really wants to be doing that on their next-gen console.