No Man’s Sky has finally arrived on the Xbox One, and Digital Foundry has put the game through its paces on Xbox One X to see how this version of the game runs, and which of the two available graphical options runs the best on the console.
You can watch the full video above, but there isn’t an easy answer to be found here. The question is more about what you personally want out of the game’s performance, and what you’re willing to give up to get it.
First, how does the game run on a standard Xbox One? The launch model displays the game at a resolution of 1600 by 900, although all the post-processing effects still help make the image look strong. It’s not a bad-looking game on stock hardware.
However, the Xbox One X either runs the game at 4K natively in quality mode — which is a resolution of 3840 by 2160 — or at 2560 by 1440 in performance mode.
So which one should you pick?
It’s a complicated question
I’ve been playing the game in quality mode to enjoy the true 4K resolution, which helps with draw distances and picking out items that are far away from your character. This mode looks stunning on a large, capable 4K display in general, but you will notice some pretty heavy frame rate drops from time to time on complex worlds or when flying into a planet.
The frame rate shifts are not subtle, and some players may find the variable frame rate distracting enough to shift the game over to performance mode. True 4K resolution is pretty to look at, but it’s coming at the cost of pure frame rate. The quality mode may sometimes even perform worse in 4K than the stock Xbox version of the game.
Frame rate is much higher in performance mode due to the drop in resolution, but the game still isn’t able to hit 60 fps reliably. The game is much smoother than in quality mode, and of course the jump in resolution is still noticeable. It’s a good compromise.
Performance mode has a lower resolution than the PS4 Pro version of the game, however, which runs at 3200 by 1800. But in previous versions of the game, the PS4 Pro version also struggled with a variable frame rate. It’s all a balancing act, and there’s no clear “right” answer to how you should play.
The “secret” option
If you mostly care about frame rate and you have a PlayStation 4 Pro or an Xbox One X, is to run the game at 1080p, even if you have a 4K display. Then you can enjoy the enhanced frame rate without the system having to push all those extra pixels.
The issue is that neither the Xbox One X nor PlayStation 4 Pro version doesn’t have a way to adjust the resolution itself if the system sees that your display is capable of running at 4K, so you’ll have to adjust things either on the display or at the console level.
It would be great for the game to offer the choice of running at 1080p to maximize the frame rate and add yet another option for how players can enjoy the new visuals and their upgraded systems. But for now just be aware that the option is there, even if you have to do some tinkering to get to it. Playing the game with a higher frame rate and HDR enabled is a viable option, but you wouldn’t know it from the in-game visual options.
If console games are going to let players adjust the settings between visuals and performance, it would be nice to be given all the options, in case people would like to play a supersampled version of the game at the highest frame rate possible at 1080p.
So what did we learn? The Xbox One X provides the highest possible resolution out of the console versions, but you may want to dial things down to keep the frame rate up. It’s nice to have these options — I just wish players would be given everything possible to make the best choice for how they’d like to play.