Activision made headlines at the next generation console launch by adding 120fps support To Call of Duty: Warzone on Xbox Series X – an extra that was not mirrored on PlayStation 5, which continues to top out at 60Hz. Confusion followed, but clarifications came when Rocket League developer Psyonix revealed that Sony does not allow 120Hz support on legacy PS4 apps running on PlayStation 5. It’s a shame to not see it yet, especially since other enhancements have been delivered to PS4 games through back-compat (most notably on Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima, which both now run at 60fps on PS5). And so, we wondered to what extent Warzone has been improved when running on both next-gen machines. 120fps support is allowed on Series X, but is there any other advantage here? The answer? Absolutely yes.
To get the comparison data we needed, we leaned into Warzone’s crossplay functionality, which allows up to four different gamers using any supported console or PC to play together on the same server. Not only that, but we can actually get precise, lined up shots of gameplay from all systems by allowing all members of the squad to perish, then sync capture in spectator mode. Four consoles, four gamers all recording footage of the same player. From there, the analysis can begin proper.
First things first, we can confirm that Warzone is indeed a backwards compatibility title, even though Xbox Series X and S versions receive ‘optimised’ status, presumably owing to their 120Hz support. However, running matched feeds of Xbox One X and Series X side-by-side, it’s pretty clear that this is effectively the same game – though there are some interesting improvements, mostly delivered by the efforts of the Xbox compatibility team. First of all, the Series X hardware essentially eliminates the dynamic resolution sub-4K rendering seen on Xbox One X, which scales between 1920×2160 all the way up to 3840×2160. In every pixel count we carried out, Series X delivers full ultra HD resolution – even in scenarios where Xbox One X drops well beneath 60 frames per second. In essence, Warzone fully taps out back-compat support, with a 2x resolution multiplier – impressive stuff.
Call of Duty: Warzone – the next-gen back-compat showdown, with bonus 120Hz action on Xbox Series consoles.
There are further enhancements, too. Again, it seems likely that the console’s baked in compatibility features are brought to the fore, with 16x anisotropic filtering engaged on Series X, significantly improving the quality of ground textures. Also notable is that grass draw distance also seems to get a boost. it doesn’t affect gameplay – but a clear upgrade over the original One X rendering of a scene. It appears everywhere too. The icing on the cake is that no matter how we tried to push the game, Warzone locked to 60 frames per second on the Series X. It has the extra horsepower to tap into and we’d expect that DRS is still there as a last resort. All told then, it’s effectively a locked 4K60 by default, assuming you are running on a 60Hz screen.
What of the PS5? On the PlayStation Store, the game is marked as a PS4 title, confirming that 120fps gaming is off the table based on the information gleaned from Psyonix – but this still leaves the door open to the kind of enhancements we saw in Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima. Sadly, high resolution texture pack aside (which is available on last-gen systems too, by the way), the only enhancements we get on PS5 are side-effects of bringing extra horsepower to the table – otherwise we’re looking at PS4 Pro spec. It means that Warzone runs at the PS4 Pro’s maximum of 2716×1528 resolution, meaning no 4K support on the newer machine. PS5 has no way to push beyond 1528p, despite the GPU increase, but you are basically locked to 60 frames per second. Also, the system level features Series X enjoys courtesy of its compatibility team are not available for PS5 users, meaning no boost to grass draw distances or anisotropic filtering.
As for Xbox Series S, it’s a bit of a strange situation. Microsoft’s junior next-gen machine inherits the older, weaker One S settings and therefore runs with dialled back post-effects quality, and operates at 1080p resolution, maxing the original code’s DRS window. There’s a lot more potential in this version, and as it stands right now, it looks a little rougher than it really should given the power on tap. At the very least , you are getting the same locked 60 frames per second as seen on the other next-gen machines. Also fascinating is that just like Series X, if you run the game connected to a compatible display, Series S can break free of the 60 frames per second limit, delivering frame-rates up to 120fps.
Bonus analysis: a look at how Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War runs on all next-gen consoles.
The high frame-rate mode was stealthily added by the developer – and only came to light after Warzone players let the game run with Series consoles’ 120Hz mode toggled in the system menus. It actually works too, but it comes with a pretty hefty caveat in that you do take a resolution hit on both machines. Due to the higher frame-rate target, it seems the DRS kicks in to conmstantly drop Series S to its lower bounds of 960×1080, while likewise, Series X is typically forced down to 1920×2160. Meanwhile, actual frame-rate operates in a 80fps to 120fps window. Combined with a variable refresh rate display (we tested on an LG OLED CX) you do get a noticeably smoother presentation and lower input latency, but with VRR disabled, v-sync judder is off-putting to the point where dipping into the Xbox display menu to select 60Hz may prove to be a better bet. One curious point is that while both consoles can deliver the same performance level in 120Hz mode, we did note stretches of matched gameplay where the Series S is actually faster. Despite the resolution cut, Series X still holds up in terms of the quality of its presentation, but the same cannot be said for Series S, where the reconstructed 960×1080 image can look rather murky, the hit to quality suffering too much.
In essence, what we have here looks very much like a holding pattern of sorts – with Infinity Ward leaning into backwards compatibility support features to get next-gen players into the existing game. The evidence suggests that Microsoft’s existing support for 120Hz displays across the console generations allows the developer to tap into a new high frame-rate mode, while the work of the Xbox compatibility team allows for the extra horsepower of the Series consoles to deliver more consistent frame-rates in 60Hz mode, alongside bolstered texture filtering quality. PS5 doesn’t have the same level of feature support for PS4 apps, meaning no 120Hz gaming. Also, the dynamic resolution scaling limits of PS4 Pro are retained for PS5, effectively meaning that while Series X can hit full 4K, PlayStation 5 cannot.
There is some irony here in that Xbox One X traded frame-rate for pixels up against PS4 Pro: it looked cleaner, it ran at a higher resolution, but it didn’t adhere as closely to the 60fps target as the Pro. The additional horsepower and compatibility features of Series X clean up the performance issues of the last-gen version and deliver the only 4K60 presentation on consoles, with ‘up to’ 120 frames per second gaming as a nice bonus extra for those with compatible displays. Of course, what we’d really like to see is a true next-gen app upgrade for the game. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War looks and plays beautifully at a locked 120 frames per second in its multiplayer modes and I’d love to see that experience brought to Warzone for all of the next-gen consoles.