So Mafia III came out this past Friday, and due to review copies arriving on the day of launch our review is still a while away. Hey, get off my case; it’s a big game and I’m not made of time.
But in the meantime, there was much derision about the PC version shipping with a locked frame rate of 30 frames per second. PC players were understandably pissed off since many of them have probably invested a lot of money in gaming rigs with the intention of making games run at ridiculous frame rates, so a 30fps lock makes that GTX 1080 purchase kind of pointless. Developer Hangar 13 quickly rectified the frame rate cap within a matter of days, creating settings for both a 60fps lock and an unlocked frame rate with the version 1.01 patch. These settings should have been present from the get-go, but hey, that’s a pretty quick turn around for fixing up an issue with a PC port so at least some points go to Hangar 13 for that.
But seriously, PC games should never ship with capped frame rates, just to be clear.
Anyway, the whole thing has brought back the old 30fps vs 60fps argument you occasionally encounter on the likes of Reddit or Twitter, and I just wanted to weigh in on where I sit in this whole mess.
The problem with these discussions is that in the simplified argument of “which is better: 60 or 30fps,” I’m sorry, but 60fps is the clear winner. Jim Sterling, in his cheekily titled video “MAFIA III – 60fps Is Superior And If You Disagree You’re Garbage” (hey, it’s why we love him), outlines quite well the objective reasons why this is so. For a start, the smoother rendering of 60fps makes camera controls feel much better, which is a core gameplay aspect in games like first person shooters so it greatly impacts the experience. This year’s reboot of DOOM wouldn’t play as well as it does if it were running at 30fps, plain and simple. Plus, a smoother image logically makes for a better looking game.
But having said that, 30fps is by no means unplayable and hasn’t ever been a deal breaker for me personally. While I prefer my first person shooters running at 60fps, I’ve played plenty of console shooters running at 30fps and had a perfectly fine experience. Jumping to a different genre, I’ve played third person action games like Batman: Arkham Origins on PC at 60fps and Batman: Arkham City on PS3 at 30fps and I would never have said the latter experience was notably inferior; I had a great time with both.
So even though 60fps is objectively better, and in an ideal world I’d like all my games to run at it, I do count myself one of the people who is perfectly happy with 30fps frame rates. For my money, the main criteria I have with regards to the frame rates of my games is that it remains goddamn consistent.
There is nothing I hate more than frame rate dips. Okay, maybe the prevalence of gambling-like microtransactions in games these days, but frame drops are a close second. Whether it’s 60fps or 30fps, having it suddenly plummet when I turn the camera quickly, or something blows up or whatever else is the worst. It’s that kind of stuff that worsens the gameplay experience, breaks immersion and cheapens the visual quality of a game. I’m not talking drops of a frame or two, I’m talking drops of 10 plus.
I will tweak whatever I have to to get the perfect balance of visual quality and unwavering frame rate. Often that means just lowering the graphics settings until 60fps is perfectly achieved, but there are some instances where I’ve opted to take the lower frame rate to allow for better graphics. For example, when I played The Witcher 3 on PC, my GTX 970 could run it on Ultra settings at 60fps except whenever the camera got close to Geralt’s gorgeously rendered hair, or whenever I panned the camera too quickly while riding Roach around the countryside, the frame rate would plummet to the 40-30fps mark. But The Witcher 3 is so amazingly detailed, so instead of sacrificing any of it I opted to lock the frame rate at a constant, unwavering 30fps. And all that sexy hair was totally worth it.
And thus, I had a great time playing The Witcher 3, totally unimpeded by my eyes twitching whenever the frame rate dipped. But in this instance, it being a PC game, I had a choice to control the frame rate and I was happy with the results. Others might not have been and instead would have gone for the 60fps mark with less of the bells and whistles, and that’s fine too. Everybody has different preferences, so can we all just accept two things and move on:
- 60fps is objectively better than 30fps.
- But preferring 60fps or being satisfied with 30fps is totally fine, so stop having a go at each other over it.
Oh, and a third thing:
- Developers, stop capping the frame rates of PC games.
- Console developers, lock your games to whatever frame rate you want, I don’t care, but make it rock solid.
There, I think that about covers it. Now, back to playing Mafia III…