Performance mode has destroyed the point of video game consoles

Are computer games too realistic nowadays?

Are you frustrated by performance mode options in games and argues that their use is undermining the key benefits of having a console.

Choice is not always a good thing. Not when it comes to technology. So much of modern marketing and social media is about pretending you can have things however you want; you’re encouraged to think the world revolves around you, even when companies know it’s just a sham. As a general concept choice is, of course, what everyone wants but sometimes the lack of choice is what’s actually more convenient.

A lack of choice is the whole principle behind video game consoles and always has been. At least until last generation, every console is the same everywhere in the world. It plays the same games in exactly the same way and you always know that you are getting the best possible performance that the console, or at least the developer, can provide.

You don’t have to worry about graphic card settings, controller compatibility, or resolutions – the game is what it is. If you do want to spend two hours getting a game to work before you play then fine, you have got the choice to buy a PC. But for me, the beauty of consoles is that you start the game and that’s it, you’re straight into the game and never have to spare a second thinking about the hardware. Or at least that’s how it used to work.

The PS4 Pro and Xbox Series X are what started it all. Suddenly, halfway through the generation, two new consoles appeared that promised more power but were very vague about what that actually meant. There was a lot of talk about 4K resolution, though, as if that was the one technical standard all gamers had always wanted – despite it barely ever having been mentioned before that time.

Suddenly you had to make choices before starting a game, between resolution and performance. You couldn’t just have both. The game hadn’t been made with one mode in mind, to run the best possible way with the hardware at hand. Instead, the developers had given up all attempts at optimisation and shifted the problem onto the player. If it’s not high enough resolution, that’s your fault. If the game isn’t running smoothly, that’s because you made the wrong choice.

This situation got even worse in the new generation, where games are suddenly filled with four or more different modes, prioritising a range of contradictory choices, primarily 30fps or 60fps frame rates but also things like ray-tracing and 120fps. Unlike the 4K resolution decision these differences actually matter, and you’re forced to make a decision between a game that looks great or plays great. You can’t have both.

There’s rarely any intermediate choice, it’s got to be one extreme or the other, and I’m just sick of it. I don’t want to have to make the least worst choice before I even start playing a game. I want the game to have been designed to make full use of the console, not for the difficult choices about optimism to have been foisted onto me.

When I play a game nowadays, especially a multiplayer game, I am no longer safe in the knowledge that everyone else is playing with the same limitations as me. Heck, with multiplayer games they could now just as easily be a PC player with a vastly more powerful machine, mouse and keyboard, and cheats installed.

I am sick of choice. Especially as it’s never the one I want. I want the choice not to play with PC owners or people using a keyboard, but no… that one’s not allowed. If that’s the case I wish they’d take away the choice of performance mode from everyone. If you want to fiddle about with settings all day buy a PC, if you want to play a game instantly and without constant worry that you’ve picked the wrong performance mode you should be able to. But that choice is no longer available.

Imagine how much worse it’s going to be next generation or even just with the PS5 Pro. More and more decisions diluting the whole purpose of having a console, until there’s no difference between it and a PC. The worse thing is, I’m not even sure if Sony and Microsoft realise that’s the future they’re racing towards, but they are destroying the whole point and purpose of consoles and I really wish there was a choice I could make to stop them.

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Joanna Fletcher
Live Events Reviewer


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