Cyberpunk 2077: How the FSR2 upgrade improves the visual quality

Cyberpunk gets better with every patch. From the bug fixes, extra performance and ray tracing modes on PS5 and Series X, input lag improvements in patch 1.6, and even Series S getting a 60fps performance mode, the game is evolving. Developer CD Projekt RED goes one step further with the new 1.61 patch and adds AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution, version 2.1, to the game. That’s good news for PC owners, of course, but FSR2 is also built into the console builds – so what’s the improvement?

In case this is new to you, FSR2 is an intelligent upscaling technique developed by AMD. The ideal is to render a nice-looking 4K output image with just an internal 1080p image while dramatically improving performance. With the move to FSR2 comes the opportunity to customize the native rendering resolutions on each console. However, in my testing, native resolution targets on consoles appear to be generally unchanged, and dynamic resolution scaling is still effective. For example, in Xbox Series S quality mode, we’re targeting 1440p, although the lowest possible resolution seems to be moving from the 1296p in version 1.6 to 1080p in this new patch.

It’s worth noting that the typical rendering resolution between these points is similar on the Series S. And likewise, the Series S performance mode again targets 1080p as the maximum possible, while for the lowest point in GPU-stressed areas, the Series S performance mode falls closer to 1344×756 – lower than the 800p we recorded prior to the patch to have. 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 that to appear like a 4K image in static moments, pretty convincing I’d say. And in performance mode, the resolution is more flexible and can be adjusted between 1728p and 1260p.

Cyberpunk 2077 patch 1.61 Digital Foundry analysis focusing on FSR2’s upscaling improvements.

The key to patch 1.61’s image quality boost isn’t in those raw pixel counts, it’s in using FSR 2.1’s image handling, and this has several pros and cons. First of all, it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t a toggle or an option to enable FSR on console like there is on PC. Rather, it is built in and replaces the older standard CDPR temporal anti-aliasing method that is used. Luckily, in most cases, this really has no downside. FSR2 really improves image quality, whether it’s static shots, in motion, dealing with aliasing, or even in cases of discrepancy – when foreground objects are moving, revealing previously hidden details.

Taking the 30fps ray tracing mode as an example, the overall image is much sharper and clearer, with better resolution of sub-pixel detail – and just detail in general. A long look at the outskirts of the city at night brings this out particularly well; More detail can be seen from a distance, including the wording on store signs and the definition of swaying plant life. However, it’s not just about improving details. The other strength of FSR2 lies in logically recognizing the elements of the screen that need to be dialed down. Any elements of visual noise, aliasing, or flicker need to be addressed – and FSR2 does so more effectively overall – even if it’s not completely eliminated. Indeed, in the case of barbed wire fences (see video above for details on this case), the flickering artifact sometimes looks worse than the older TAAU solution, but ultimately it’s a net gain in image quality.

As for gameplay on the move? Well, here’s a major upgrade for treating fine elements like hair. There’s just less disruption and more temporal stability with the processing that FSR2 brings to those finer sub-pixel details to reduce distraction. Luckily, FSR2 also improves – or at least greatly minimizes – ghosting artifacts from CDPR’s previous solution. In other words, the obvious streak trails left behind by moving objects are reduced, though not entirely eliminated.

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

Time Lapse is the ultimate test for upscalers, and once again FSR2 manages to improve overall clarity when we’re walking or even driving fast forward. Inevitably, there’s some disruption to lateral movement, although that’s to be expected given how FSR2 works. During a pan, 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 vastly different than the last one. Even with such limitations, Cyberpunk 2077 is still better with FSR2 than without it, but when switching to performance mode, the internal resolution is reduced and the effects of the algorithm are therefore more limited. FSR2 in PS5, Series X and S performance modes still offers a boost to 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 FSR2 has more success in motion in this mode.

The performance deserves some mention. We’re used to seeing a trade-off between graphics and frame rate, so the question is: with all the benefits of FSR2, is there a difference to the game on PS5 or series consoles? The truth is that consoles have always lost the most performance in crowded areas – the market, for example, which is likely to be a CPU bottleneck that will not be affected by FSR2. And using the example of PS5 in 60fps performance mode, the same applies to patch 1.61. Parallel to our last tested patch – Update 1.5 – there is a difference, albeit not a consistent one. Patch 1.61 sometimes pushes forward and sometimes falls behind. Later shootouts show that the new patch falls into the 50fps region more often. But that might be beside the point – the given gameplay is impossible to fully synchronize.

In general, PS5 and Series X tend to show a similar performance profile in patch 1.61. Drops to 50 fps and below are still possible. The addition of FSR2 doesn’t help close the gap to a rock-solid 60fps, but there’s evidence that it doesn’t hinder that either. There is now some evidence (especially around Spiegel) that the Xbox Series S will run a touch faster with FSR2, although this may be due to dynamic resolution tweaks and/or the introduction of AMD’s upscaler. It’s not a radical difference, and certainly later Night City testing doesn’t make the benefit that obvious. For PS5, Series X and S, the highlight is without question the improved image quality.

Overall, FSR2 is a net win for all new consoles, as it intelligently selects the details we want to enhance while also tackling issues with the picture, like motion ghosting and hair flickering. There’s more stability, fewer distractions, and a greater drive for detail at a distance. The only downside is that the algorithm is still a work in progress and AMD is already working on improving the technology. Frame breaks are still an issue, and in fact there are moments, especially with the S Series, where the frame breaks momentarily during basic forward movement. However, cyberpunk has come a long way since its inception. Every new patch – even incremental ones like 1.61 – seems to have an impact and shows that CD Projekt RED is far from finished with the game

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