Cyberpunk 2077: how the FSR2 upgrade improves visual quality

Cyberpunk 2077: how the FSR2 upgrade improves visual quality

Cyberpunk keeps getting better with every patch. From the bug fixes, the extra performance and ray tracing modes on PS5 and Series X, the 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 further with the new 1.61 patch, which 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 the console builds too – so what kind of improvement does that mean?

If this is new to you, FSR2 is a clever upscaling technology designed by AMD, the ideal being to render a nice looking 4K image with only an internal 1080p image, drastically improving performance in the process. With the move to FSR2, there is an option to adjust the native rendering resolutions on each console. However, in my tests native resolution targets on consoles generally appear unchanged and dynamic resolution scaling is still in effect. For example, on the Xbox Series S quality mode, we’re targeting 1440p, although the lowest possible resolution seems to shift, from 1296p in version 1.6 to 1080p on this new patch.

It’s worth emphasizing that the typical rendering resolution between these points on the Series S is similar. And similarly, the Series S performance mode again aims for 1080p as the highest possible figure, while for the lowest point in GPU taxing areas, the Series S performance mode drops closer to 1344×756 – lower than the 800p we recorded before the patch. As for PS5 and Series X? They each continue to run at a constant native 1440p in their ray tracing modes, as before. FSR2 then reconstructs it to appear as a 4K image in static moments, quite convincingly I’d say. And in performance mode, the resolution is more flexible, adjusting between 1728p and 1260p.

The Digital Foundry analysis of Cyberpunk 2077’s patch 1.61, focusing on the FSR2 upscaling improvements.

The key to correcting 1.61’s boost in image quality lies not in these raw pixels but in the use of FSR 2.1’s image processing, and there are several pros and cons to this. First of all, it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t a toggle or option on console to enable FSR, as there is on PC. Rather, it is fixed in place and replaces the older default method of temporal antialiasing that CDPR used. Fortunately, in most cases this really has no downside. FSR2 really improves image quality, whether in static images, in motion, in the handling of aliasing or even in cases of disocclusion – where objects in the foreground move and reveal previously hidden details.

Taking the 30fps ray tracing mode as an example, the whole image is much sharper and clearer, better resolution of sub-pixel detail – and just detail in general. A long view of the outskirts of the night city highlights this particularly well; more details are noticed in the assortment, including the wording on shop signs and the definition of swaying plant life. However, it’s not just about improving details. FSR2’s other strength is in logically recognizing the parts of the screen that need to be dialed down. Any element of visual noise, aliasing or flicker needs to be addressed – and FSR2 does it more effectively overall – although not completely eliminated. In the case of barbed wire fences (see the video above for details on this), the flickering artifact sometimes looks worse than the older TAAU solution, but in the end it’s a net gain for image quality.

As for gameplay in motion? Well, here there is a real upgrade in the treatment of fine elements like hair. It’s simply less breakup and more temporal stability with the processing that FSR2 brings to that finer sub-pixel detail that helps reduce distraction. FSR2 thankfully also improves – or at least greatly minimizes – ghosting artifacts from CDPR’s previous solution. In other words, the obvious band tracks left behind by moving objects are reduced, but not completely eliminated.

In our latest Cyberpunk 2077 piece, we took a look at the 60fps performance mode added for the Xbox Series S – which is now improved with the latest patch.

Fixed motion is the ultimate test for upscalers, and once again the FSR2 manages to increase overall clarity when we’re walking, or even driving fast forward. Inevitably, there’s some breakup to lateral movement, but really that’s to be expected given how the FSR2 works. During a pan image, the FSR is fed new visual data from the edges of the screen – and during a fast pan, most of the data within the frame will be completely different from the last. Even with such limitations, Cyberpunk 2077 is still better with FSR2 than without, but when entering performance mode, the internal resolution is reduced and therefore the effect the algorithm makes becomes more limited. FSR2 on the PS5, Series X and S’s performance modes still provide a boost for overall clarity. It’s also worth noting that doubling the frame rate to 60fps here gives a time-based solution more data to work with, meaning the FSR2 has more success in motion in this mode.

Performance is something that is mentioned. We’re used to seeing a trade-off between frame and frame rate, so the question is: with all of FSR2’s advantages, is there any difference in how PS5 or Series consoles play? The truth is that the consoles always lost the most performance in tight areas – the market for example – with this likely a CPU bottleneck that will remain unaffected by FSR2. And using the PS5 as an example in its 60fps performance mode, it still applies on patch 1.61. Side by side with our last tested patch – update 1.5 – there is a difference, but not a consistent one. Patch 1.61 sometimes shoots ahead and sometimes falls behind. Later shootouts show that the new patch falls in the 50fps region more often. But then this can be temporary – given the gameplay, it is impossible to synchronize all the way.

In general, the PS5 and Series X tend to exhibit a similar performance profile on patch 1.61. Slowdowns to 50 fps and below are possible, just as they were before. Adding FSR2 doesn’t help close the gap to a rock-solid 60fps, but evidence suggests it doesn’t hinder it either. Meanwhile, there’s some evidence (around mirrors specifically) that the Xbox Series S runs slightly faster with FSR2, although this may well be down to dynamic resolution tweaks and/or the introduction of AMD’s upscaler. It’s not a radical difference and later tests in night city definitely don’t make the advantage that obvious. For the PS5, Series X and S, the highlight is undoubtedly the improved image quality.

Overall, FSR2 is a net win for any new console, intelligently picking out the details we want improved, while also addressing image issues such as motion ghosting and hair flickering. There’s more stability, fewer distractions and a bigger push for detail at range. The only downside is that the algorithm is still a work in progress, with AMD working to improve the technology even now. Image fragmentation is still an issue, and indeed on the Series S there are moments where the image temporarily breaks up during basic forward motion. However, Cyberpunk has come a long way since its launch. Every new patch – even incremental ones like 1.61 – seems to have an impact, showing that CD Projekt RED is far from done with the game

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