A surprise update has recently arrived for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, giving the best of both worlds for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles: a high resolution that looks great on 4K screens, plus a 60fps goal. And if frame rate consistency isn’t good enough for you, the 1080p performance mode remains. In our opinion, the revised quality mode is the way to play, and the differences in how the PS5 and Xbox Series X deliver it is intriguing.
Basically, Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Xbox Series consoles now enjoys an official ‘series X/S optimized’ patch tag, suggesting a native application, while the update continues to be flagged as a PlayStation 4 title when running on PS5 . However, it’s pretty clear that despite the new Xbox tag, the game continues to run on the older XDK – it hasn’t been adapted for the new GDK and therefore doesn’t take advantage of the more advanced features of the RDNA 2 GPU. because the game looks and runs exactly as it ran through Microsoft’s FPS Boost update: performance is identical, resolutions are the same – 2016p on Series X, 900p on Series S. The difference for Microsoft machines is that a progression bug introduced by FPS Boost is now fixed. In effect, FPS Boost is made official by Square-Enix and the bug disappears.
The changes to PlayStation 5, which runs the game under backwards compatibility, are more interesting. The resolution mode runs at 1872p with a 30fps limit on PS4 Pro and until the patch arrived, it was the same on PlayStation 5. However, Square-Enix has changed things now: Pro still runs at 1872p but PS5 runs at 2160p, with improved performance through the acceleration system that is checkerboard rendering. It’s an interesting choice on the developer’s part – the suggestion is that 60fps couldn’t have been achieved by keeping the original version. Checkerboarding reduces the pixel count but allows the PS5 to deliver a higher level of performance.
Although the resolution mode has as target 60fps – and do a good job in general – neither the PS5 nor the Series X are able to stick to that figure, so the 1080p performance mode still has a role to play, albeit a minor one. It essentially removes all other bottlenecks at the GPU level and gets a smooth 60fps lineup, with the only remaining performance dips coming from small slips linked to camera cuts during kinematics. Many games do this: it’s a way to start rendering effects like motion blur, and even physical effects, with an extra frame to safeguard and ensure TAA treatment for every frame.
As for how the Series X and PS5 stack up in their respective resolution modes, the Microsoft machine is loading far more pixels than its Sony counterpart, giving an overall marginal lead in image quality. Meanwhile, PlayStation 5 is significantly approaching the 60 frames per second target, thrashing only in areas with lots of transparency effects – the flood sequence at the start of the game is the ultimate effort.
The X Series is basically the same, but with less stability and more performance drops. Once again, alpha effects are the main culprit: the crashing waves and even the very transparent forest areas leave the console running continuously in the 50s. It’s great to see the resolution stay in line with the Xbox One X version, but you can’t help but feel as you pay the price for it – although if you’re playing in a variable refresh rate view, the impact is diminished.
When comparing the two consoles in resolution mode, we are given an interesting contrast. There’s no doubt that the PS5 delivers smoother performance: the 4K checkerboard technique works well and generally allows for a firmer lock at 60fps. The X Series has a sharper image – closer to true 4K in raw detail, but in motion, the separation of detail seen with checkerboard rendering on the PS5 is masked by the game’s TAA and motion blur. It’s a strong use of technique that brings it close enough to pass as a native performance. The savings the PS5 achieves in terms of frame rate can also be accentuated. At some points, we see an advantage of around 10fps in favor of the PS5, and that seems to us to be a better experience at 60fps.
Of course, we should also mention the Xbox S Series. The reality of this version is that it reaches 60fps without any problem, at least since the first hours. Even the worst affected areas on the Series X don’t cause problems for the Series S. It’s a magnificent lock at 60fps, but the 900p resolution is a bit low: you don’t get artifacts, you just get a decrease in sharpness. It’s a little too unfocused. The end result isn’t too flattering to see on a large 4K screen, although at least a smoother frame rate is blocked. In fact, a 1080p60 option would have been a nice bonus.
Finally, this is an interesting update. On Xbox Series consoles, the Shadow of the Tomb Raider 2.01 patch essentially makes the FPS Boost update official, offering identical performance but addressing the progression bug. However, the PS5 changes are more substantial – it’s one of the few backwards compatibility updates we’ve seen that actually change the resolution beyond removing the frame rate cap. Checkerboarding works well both in reducing the resolution with a minimum of hitting the image quality, while allowing the console to run at a speed of 60fps mostly blocked. However, regardless of platform, a great game has been given an even better way to play it – it’s a new excuse to play it if you haven’t already, or to revisit it if you’ve already played it. The game still looks stunning and benefits tremendously from the performance upgrade.