Warzone 2.0 crossplay: are last-gen console players at a competitive disadvantage?

With Warzone 2.0’s servers now live for a few weeks, it’s clear that the PS5, Xbox Series X and Series S will run the game brilliantly at 60 frames per second – or even 120 frames per second. But what about the older consoles, the millions of PS4s and Xbox Ones still in use? And what about the improved consoles, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X? To find out if any of these last-gen options are competitive with today’s consoles and PC, in frame rates or in settings, we returned to Al Mazrah for more testing.

Let’s start with the base PS4. This console is surprisingly well optimized for both the campaign and 6v6 multiplayer, and is more or less locked to 1080p at 60fps. But Warzone 2.0? That’s another story, unfortunately. 60 fps is possible while in flight or during 2v2 gulag battles, but when you’re out in the world frame drops are inevitable and texture pop-in becomes hard to ignore. Frame rates of 40-60 frames per second are common, and this drops into the 30s during the most frenetic moments of combat.

Here is the full download of last generation Warzone 2.0, in video format.

This despite the fact that the resolution falls on both horizontal and vertical axes, at the lowest 960×540 and scaled to 1080p with TAA; in the campaign scaling only affected the horizontal access. The lack of definition makes it difficult to pick out distant players, and ensures that those on the PS4 are at a disadvantage.

We expect even poorer results on the Xbox One, as this is the most power-constrained last-gen console and one that doesn’t feel like a likely leading platform for development efforts. And indeed we see a lower 900p resolution target, scaling from a minimum of 800×450, resulting in a muddy image. However, settings such as shadows, textures and leaf density remain the same as on PS4, suggesting that there are no custom “lower than low” Xbox One settings.

Here’s an early look at performance – which is anything but a locked 60 frames per second on most last-gen platforms.

The lower resolution means that shimmer on grass and noise on fine texture work is more apparent, and also doesn’t prevent pretty serious texture pop-in. Oddly, the Xbox One also suffered from audio issues in my testing, with certain channels in the mix – music, ambient effects – cutting out completely for a few seconds until the world finishes loading. Framerates are also exceptionally poor, averaging 10fps lower than the PS4 version, so 30-50fps is the norm, complete with tearing at the top of the screen – something I also saw on the Xbox One X.

In turn, the low frame rate has a detrimental effect on input latency. Turning, firing or picking up weapons occurs with a noticeable delay, putting it at a serious disadvantage against enemies on any other platform. So Warzone 2.0 then runs on Xbox One in the loosest sense of the word – and is best avoided if you have any options. (In related news, the Series S has dropped as low as ~£190 recently, and would make a fantastic upgrade over the original Xbox One.)

The two premium consoles, One X and PS4 Pro, fare much better. PS4 Pro runs the game at a steady 50-60 frames per second in dynamic 1512p, usually scaling on the horizontal axis to 1536×1512. This isn’t a locked 60fps, but it’s surprisingly close. The Xbox One X, on the other hand, aims for a full 4K image and drops as low as 1080p, but this relatively steep target resolution can cause it to fall below the PS4 Pro and even the PS4 in some leaf-heavy scenes.

Playstation 4
PlayStation 4 Pro
Xbox One
Xbox One X
All the last four generations compared to the spectator camera. In terms of resolutions, the Xbox One aims for 900p, the PS4 guns for 1080p, the PS4 Pro aims for 1512p, and the Xbox One X aims for full 4K – although dynamic scaling pushes all of these pixel counts much lower, at times significantly.
Playstation 4
PlayStation 4 Pro
Xbox One
Xbox One X
The image quality visibly divides the four latest generation machines. SSR quality is also improved on the newer Pro and One X models, although core world details are largely matched.
Playstation 4
PlayStation 4 Pro
Xbox One
Xbox One X
The texture quality is identical across the board. However, base PS4 and Xbox One both struggle to load texture assets, leading to pop-in. This leaves a blurred texture map in place for several seconds. Also note the difference in grass cover over the floor, favoring the Pro and One X.
Playstation 4
PlayStation 4 Pro
Xbox One
Xbox One X
A bonus image of reflections. Honestly, SSR up close is similar between all four machines.

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Looking at a four-way comparison, Al Mazrah’s geometric layout is identical among last-generation consoles, while shadow detail and grass spacing are also relatively close. The biggest differentiating factor is resolution, with the One X far ahead in image clarity and the Xbox One far behind. However, the PS4 Pro is the most balanced option that is most likely to deliver 60 frames per second.

A final point concerns the field of view (FOV) setting in the PS4 version. The default 80° is pretty narrow, so does a wider setting incur a performance penalty? Based on two tests comparing 80° and 120° settings, yes – but it depends. We detected a minor drop of 1 fps in a less challenging scene, but a relatively variable drop of ~5 fps looking towards the intruding gas. For the best frame rate, keeping the narrow default FOV is the way to go, but overpowered consoles can go up to 120° without significant negative effects – so this might be a better call for current-gen consoles and PC.

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Looking at all four Xbox consoles, it’s clear to see the wide range of fidelity in which Warzone 2.0 is rendered on a Microsoft platform. The Series X/S maintains a locked 60 fps, while having greater grass density and longer grass distances. Interestingly, the image quality on the Series S is not as sharp as on the older One X.

With this test behind us, the scalability of the IW Engine is (as always) hugely impressive. The fact that we see such a range of differently specced machines producing the same world is truly remarkable. But there’s a sense that its true potential is rooted in the past – especially with the Xbox One struggling to keep up.

The bottom line? Warzone 2.0 doesn’t hide Infinity Ward’s intentions. It’s writ large in the drops below 40 fps on Xbox One and texture pop-in hitting even PS4. It’s a project that’s moving away from its last-gen focus in favor of building the optimal experience for PS5 and Series X/S. It also talks about the future of the Call of Duty franchise, which is rumored to have no major release in 2023. Warzone 2.0, meanwhile, will make the series’ fans a major cross-platform, cross-generational bet. After that? Who knows, but I hope we see an unashamedly next-gen Call of Duty in 2024.

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