God of War’s 4K resolution mode isn’t the best way to play

God of War is a stunning technical achievement for its single-take presentation alone. Less impressive, however, is the game’s 4K rendering mode on the PlayStation 4 Pro. It doesn’t seem able to maintain a solid 30 frames per second, and in an action game like this, that just doesn’t get the job done.

PS4 Pro users have two different rendering options for God of War: “Favor Resolution,” which runs the game at 4K resolution using checkerboard rendering, and “Favor Performance,” which displays the game at 1080p resolution. If you aren’t playing on a 4K television, the Resolution mode will use supersampling to run the game with increased detail on your lower-resolution display. The Resolution mode targets a frame rate of 30 fps, while the Performance mode unlocks the frame rate with a cap of 60 fps. (The graphics mode option is grayed out if you’re not using a PS4 Pro.)

This is a different setup than the one that Guerrilla Games used in Horizon Zero Dawn, which is perhaps the PS4 Pro’s finest 4K showpiece to date. In that open-world game, the frame rate was limited to 30 fps in both Resolution and Performance modes. The idea behind dropping the resolution to 1080p for the Performance mode was to let the game deliver a smoother 30 fps experience (i.e., fewer frame rate drops). But Horizon Zero Dawn already ran at a very solid 30 fps in its Resolution mode — which delivered 2160p resolution using a custom checkerboarding technique developed by Guerrilla — so the Performance mode ended up not being worth the resolution trade-off.

In God of War’s case, the increased resolution isn’t worth the frame rate trade-off. We tried the 4K mode during our review period, and found that the game sometimes failed to maintain its 30 fps target. The drops happened often enough — both in combat and in merely exploring the world — to make us want to switch to Performance mode. The frame rate was more variable there; it didn’t stay locked at 60 fps, which would be a lot to ask. Yet the game almost always ran far above 30 fps on this setting, and we preferred the increased responsiveness, especially in battle. Check out the difference in the brief side-by-side clip above.

What’s more, we could scarcely tell the difference in fidelity between God of War’s two modes. The game would have to look significantly more detailed at 4K in order for us to choose that setting over Performance mode, and to our eyes, that didn’t appear to be the case. Even though 2160p resolution offers four times as many pixels as 1080p, we didn’t notice much of a benefit from the Resolution mode — at least, not when playing on a 1080p TV with supersampling.

Here are some comparison screenshots, with Performance mode (native 1080p) on the left and Resolution mode (checkerboard 4K supersampled down to 1080p) on the right. Does one look way better than the other to you?

SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Kratos’ character model and his Leviathan Axe seem to be just as detailed in both modes, and the differences in overall image quality are very minor, if they exist at all. Of course, if you’re playing on a 4K display, then you might actually prefer the Resolution mode — to match the screen’s pixel count — over Performance mode’s 1080p upscaled to the TV’s 4K resolution. As always with these kinds of things, your mileage may vary. But we recommend prioritizing frame rate over resolution, especially when the image fidelity is so similar and the 4K mode doesn’t have the most stable frame rate.

You’ll be able to decide for yourself next Friday, April 20, when God of War launches worldwide on PlayStation 4. For more on the game, read our full review and check out the video below.

Russ Frushtick and Dave Tach contributed to this article.

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