Cyberpunk 2077: How the FSR2 upgrade improves visual quality

Cyberpunk 2077: How the FSR2 upgrade improves visual quality
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Cyberpunk keeps getting better with every patch. From bug fixes, additional performance and ray tracing modes on PS5 and Series X, input lag improvements in patch 1.6, and even the Series S getting a 60fps performance mode – the game continues to evolve. Developer CD Projekt RED goes even further with a new patch 1.61 that adds AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution, version 2.1 to the game. This is of course good news for PC owners, but FSR2 is also integrated into console rigs – what improvement does it bring?

If this is new to you, FSR2 is a smart upscaling technique developed by AMD, ideally just using the internal 1080p resolution to render a good-looking 4K output image, dramatically improving performance in the process. By switching to FSR2, each console has the ability to adjust native rendering resolutions. However, native resolution targets on consoles generally appear unchanged in my tests, and dynamic resolution scaling is still in effect. For example, the Xbox Series S’s quality mode targets 1440p, although the lowest possible resolution changes to 1080p from the 1296p seen in version 1.6 in this new patch.

It should be noted that the typical display resolution between these points on the S Series is similar. Similarly, the S Series’ performance mode once again targets 1080p as the maximum possible figure, with the S Series’ performance mode approaching 1344×756 for the lowest point in GPU-taxing areas – down from the 800p we noted before the patch. As for PS5 and Series X? They each continue to run at constant native 1440p in their respective ray tracing modes as before. FSR2 then reconstructs it to look like 4K footage in static moments, quite convincingly I’d say. And in performance mode, the resolution is more flexible, adjustable between 1728p and 1260p.

Digital Cast analysis of Cyberpunk 2077 patch 1.61 focuses on FSR2 upgrade improvements.

The key to the 1.61’s boost in image quality isn’t in those raw pixel counts, but in its use of FSR 2.1’s image processing, and that has many pros and cons. First of all, it should be noted that there is no switch or option to enable FSR on console like there is on PC. Rather, it is fixed in place, replacing the old default temporary anti-aliasing method used, CDPR. Fortunately, for the most part, there really isn’t a downside to this. FSR2 really improves image quality, whether in static shots, motion, aliasing or disocclusion – when foreground objects move, revealing previously hidden details.

Taking 30fps ray-tracing mode as an example, the entire image is sharper and clearer, with better resolution of sub-pixel detail – and detail in general. A long shot on the outskirts of a night city shows this particularly well; more detail is noticeable in the range, including wording on shop signs and a definition of swaying plant life. It’s not all about increasing detail, though. Another strength of FSR2 is that it logically recognizes the elements of the screen that need to be assembled. Any elements with visual noise, aliasing or judder need to be addressed – and FSR2 does this more effectively overall – if not completely eliminated. Indeed, in the case of barbed wire fences (see the video above for more on this), sometimes the flickering artwork looks worse than the old TAAU solution, but in the end it’s a net gain for image quality.

As for the game on the move? Well, here is a significant improvement for the treatment of fine elements such as hair. There’s simply less distortion and more temporal stability that FSR2 processing brings to those fine, sub-pixel details that help reduce distraction. FSR2 also thankfully improves, or at least significantly reduces, ghosting artifacts from the previous CDPR solution. In other words, the obvious banding marks left behind by moving objects are reduced, if not completely eliminated.

In our last Cyberpunk 2077 piece, we looked at the added 60fps performance mode for the Xbox Series S – which has now been improved with the latest patch.

Fast movement is the ultimate test for high-end people, and again, the FSR2 manages to increase overall clarity as we walk or even speed along. Given how the FSR2 works, there is inevitably some fragmentation in lateral movement. During shooting, FSR is fed with new visual information from the edges of the screen, and during fast scrolling, most of the information in the frame will be completely different from the last. Even with such limitations, Cyberpunk 2077 is still better with FSR2 than without, but when switching to performance mode, the internal resolution is reduced and therefore the effect of the algorithm is more limited. The performance modes of FSR2, Series X and S on PS5 still push the overall clarity. It’s also worth noting that doubling the frame rate here to 60fps gives the temporal-based solution more data to work with, meaning the FSR2 has more success with motion in this mode.

The performance carries some notes. We’re used to seeing a trade-off between visuals and frame rate, so the question is: with all the advantages of FSR2, is there any difference in how PS5 or Series consoles play? The truth is that consoles always lose the most performance in crowded places – such as the market – which is probably a CPU bottleneck that is not affected by FSR2. And if we take PS5 as an example in 60fps performance mode, it is still valid in patch 1.61. Along with our last tested patch – 1.5 update, there is a difference, although not consistent. Patch 1.61 sometimes makes progress and sometimes lags behind. Subsequent shots show that the new patch drops into the 50fps region more often. But then, it can be random – a given gameplay cannot be synchronized all the way.

In general, the PS5 and Series X tend to exhibit a similar performance profile in patch 1.61. As before, downloads of 50 frames per second and lower are possible. Adding FSR2 doesn’t help close the gap up to 60fps, but the evidence suggests it doesn’t hurt it either. Meanwhile, there’s some evidence (especially around mirrors) that the Xbox Series S runs a touch faster with FSR2, though that could be down to dynamic resolution and/or AMD’s implementation of upscaling. It’s not a radical difference, and certainly later tests inside the night city don’t show the advantage as clearly. The highlight for the PS5, Series X and S is undoubtedly the improved image quality.

Overall FSR2 is a net win for all new consoles, smartly picking out the details we want to improve while also fixing visual issues such as motion ghosting and hair shaking. There’s more stability, fewer distractions, and a greater push for detail at distance. The only downside is that the algorithm is still in development, AMD is trying to improve the technology. Image fragmentation is still an issue, and in fact, the S Series has moments where the image is momentarily distorted, particularly during key forward motion. Cyberpunk has come a long way since its launch. Each new patch — even incremental ones like 1.61 — has the effect of showing that CD Projekt RED isn’t done with the game.

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