The ninth generation of consoles began with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S two years ago, in November of 2020. There were production issues due to silicon shortages because of the pandemic and other reasons, and even to this day, these consoles are not readily available everywhere. The biggest problem with these systems, though, is that even after two years, there are barely any games that leverage their power and performance and deliver us a true “next-gen” experience. Don’t get me wrong; there are some games here and there, but nothing that truly harnesses the power of these systems and gives us that “holy crap, that looks good” moment yet. So, what does that mean? Are these consoles useless? No actually. While there may not be any visual showcases on display here, there are benefits to playing your old games, especially the ones that have been optimized to use the extra horsepower here. But that doesn’t justify the $500(now $550 for the PS5) price tag. If all I’ll be doing is playing old games, you may be wondering what it does, and doesn’t, and you may be surprised to see some of these benefits in action. Faster load times, better textures, higher frame rates, and other improvements are made across the board for some of the older games you can play here, and that can make all the difference to you.
Let’s take a look at a handful of games from the last-gen that are optimized for the current-gen. I have only picked a handful here, some got optimizations, while others are cross-gen games, and a few here and there want you to buy another copy because some publishers can’t keep their greed in check. There are a lot more than the ones I am mentioning here, so here are some of the games that’ll play incredibly well on your shiny new Xbox Series consoles or your PS5.
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt
One of the most recent examples of a game that got a current-gen patch. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” by CD Projekt RED was remarkable when it came out all the way back in 2015. The game was highly detailed, incredibly gorgeous, and quickly became one of the best RPGs ever made. Almost eight years later, CDPR updated this game for the new consoles with a free “next-gen” upgrade that was released very recently on December 14th. As I mentioned before, this game was gorgeous when it came out and barely needed anything, and yet the wizards at CDPR somehow made it even better.
If you are on the PlayStation 5 or the Xbox Series X, you get the choice to play the game in either quality mode or performance mode. The performance mode lets you play the game at dynamic 4K resolution at 60 fps. Increased frame rates are always welcomed, especially on consoles, and seeing “Witcher 3” run at a smooth 60 fps here is truly a sight to behold. Let’s just say you are not into higher frame rates and want a more visually pleasing experience, then Quality Mode is for you, which drops the game down to 30 fps and gives you raytracing. On consoles, you get two ray tracing features: ray-traced global illumination and ray-traced ambient occlusion. That means that the light from any source will bounce off naturally and create a more believable and vibrant picture.
Ray Tracing is cool, and 60 fps is awesome, but other than that, you can also expect textures that are completely redone, new, improved, and denser, as well as new weather states, alongside a new camera angle and a bunch of quality-of-life improvements. The game looks transformative here and is truly the definitive version of “The Witcher 3,” and it’s surprising that CDPR did this for an almost 8-year-old game for free. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” was one of the best games that came out and is truly a must-play, and now on the current-gen consoles, it looks, feels, and plays even better than before.
Another CD Projekt RED game, we all know the story of “Cyberpunk 2077” ‘s disastrous launch and have talked about it over and over, so let’s skip that part. We have a review for the game here on our website, so feel free to check that out if you are interested. “Cyberpunk 2077” was a glorious concept that didn’t quite live up to its expectations and did leave a lot to be desired, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. One of the worst offenders, when it came to the game’s issues, was that the last-gen consoles were holding it back. CDPR released a free “next-gen” update early this year to make the game a current-gen experience and demonstrate how it was supposed to be in the first place. Did it deliver, though?
On many fronts, yes, but at the same time, it wasn’t very “next-gen,” if you ask me. The best thing that came with this next-gen upgrade was how stable the game became and how well it performed. Gone were the days of terrible frame rates, screen tearing, and rendering issues as the game became more of a cohesive package and used the horsepower of the new hardware to its fullest. In terms of full-fledged features, you have a quality mode and a performance mode, just like in “The Witcher 3,” and while it’s a toss-up of your personal preference there, here, I think it’s safe to assume that the performance mode is the default option you should stick with as it delivers rock-solid and smooth 60 fps at dynamic 4K, whereas the quality mode drops it down to 30 fps and adds ray tracing. Ray Tracing is cool, you may be thinking, and yes, it is, but here, it’s a missed opportunity. They only included ray-traced shadows here, which is fine, but this game would have benefited a lot from something like ray-traced reflections or global illumination. I know this game is very taxing on the hardware and even makes high-end PCs sweat, so that could be a very good reason to exclude those features, as the game’s biggest issue was not its visuals but its performance.
“Cyberpunk 2077” is a good game, and it’s played best on current-gen consoles if you are a console player. While this update doesn’t do the game much justice, it’s incredible that you can play the game steadily and at a solid 60 frames per second. There are still issues present here that will take you out of the experience and break your immersion, but CDPR has been committed to fixing this game, and the next-gen patch was surely a major step up. Hopefully, things will get even better with the upcoming “Phantom Liberty” expansion.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
“The Division 2” was a gorgeous game when it came out, and while there’s not a lot to talk about here or in the next couple of entries as well, I still feel compelled to include it here because of the one thing it adds. This game runs at a dynamic 4K resolution and a solid 60 fps on current-gen consoles. The world of Washington, DC, and all of that sweet MMO action are taken to new heights here on current-gen consoles, all thanks to 60 fps. Frame rate matters and this console generation has shown us that, and I feel like games like “The Division 2” are perfect examples of how developers can improve old games by just updating them a tad. Massive kudos to Ubisoft for doing this for a bunch of their games, as “Division 2” is solid here on current-gen.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint
Another one we can keep short and sweet as it is yet again a Ubisoft title that they update to run at 60fps on current-gen. Everyone can agree that “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint” is not as good as “Ghost Recon: Wildlands.” But the game is gorgeous, and if you are playing with friends, it is worth checking out. On current-gen, much like “The Division 2,” this game runs at a buttery smooth 60 fps at 1440p resolution, I think. There is even a quality mode that ups the resolution to 30 fps, but that mode can be ignored as the game looks good in performance mode and plays the best. I don’t know what else to say as this game and franchise as a whole have a very polarizing fanbase, so it’s nice to see that the definitive version of this game on console is here on a current-gen system that you can play if you like.
Assassin’s Creed Origins & Odyssey
This entry is not one but two games, and once again, Ubisoft, thank you. “Assassin’s Creed Origins” introduced the RPG formula that the “Assassin’s Creed” games are going for these days and gave us Ancient Egypt as our playground. “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” on the other hand, was built on top of it and turned the series into a full-blown RPG and took us to Ancient Greece. Both of these games are gorgeous and fun to play in their own right, so to see them retain their visuals and then double the framerate to 60 fps is just plain awesome. The combat benefits here the most, and the exploration and traversal are much smoother. Ubisoft deserves a ton of praise for taking their old games and giving us better frame rates for them just because they could or because players wanted that, and thanks to all of that, most, if not all, last-gen Ubisoft games are best played here on current-gen systems.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
The first crossgen “Assassin’s Creed” game that was pretty much a launch title for the ninth-gen consoles, “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla,” took players on a journey across England. The world here is massive, dense, and rich with detail, and the gameplay is incredibly fun if you ask me. Other than a few bugs, it was surprising to see a game of this caliber run so well on last-gen consoles with impressive textures and lighting and an absurdly large world, but the crutch was that it was locked at 30 fps there with varying resolutions on different consoles.
The current-gen version, on the other hand, got rid of all those issues and gave us a game that runs at 4K resolution at 60 fps with improved draw distances, increased LODs, better textures, and so much more. They added a quality mode later that locked the game at 30 fps while running at native 4K resolution and increased the other things a little, but for my money, the default mode, which is now the performance mode, is the definitive way to play “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” on consoles. Sixty fps is awesome, and the way the game looks is breathtaking. There is a ton of detail here, and the lighting is just incredible, and to see all of that working so well at higher resolution and frame rate without the game or the consoles breaking a sweat is a treat to your eyes.
“Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” is a cross-gen game just like “Assassin’s Creed: Mirage,” and we won’t be seeing a truly current-gen “Assassin’s Creed” game till “Codename Red” drops, so it’s nice to see that Ubisoft focused more on performance here alongside making some improvements to the visuals of course, and they simply nailed it here.
Grand Theft Auto 5
I would never have thought that I’d add “GTA 5” here on this list as it’s not a free upgrade like the other games mentioned, and this game is almost a decade old. The “enhanced and expanded” edition that they advertised was neither enhanced nor expanded and was a shameless cash grab, in my eyes at least. While I still share that sentiment, I must admit that this game is played best here on current gen, especially if you are a regular of “GTA Online,” and all of that is thanks to a new thing they very recently added that truly makes this experience transformative. You have your performance modes here with 60 fps and your quality mode with ray-traced shadows, but recently, they added ray-traced reflections to the quality mode, and I must say, if they had done this, to begin with, this game would have benefited from that. The city of Los Santos comes even more to life thanks to the added reflections.
Rockstar is working on “GTA 6,” and this game has spanned almost a decade and across three generations, so it’s time for them to stop milking this cow. I absolutely hate that the upgrade here isn’t free like other games, and you have to buy it. A game this popular definitely delivers its definitive version here on current-gen consoles, and you can check it out if you can find it for a heavily discounted price.
Another Ubisoft game and another launch title of sorts for the ninth-gen consoles. “Watch_Dogs: Legion” is extremely underrated, just like “Watch_Dogs 2,” and is a game you should definitely play. While it looks and plays fine on the last-gen, this game shines on the current-gen, and all of that is thanks to ray tracing. Look, I am not a crazy fan of ray tracing unless it’s global illumination or ambient occlusion, as they truly transform the experience, but overall I feel like ray tracing is a cool technology that is a little overrated. However, this game proves my idea wrong by adding ray-traced reflections, and my god, this game looks good with that.
The interpretation of London in “Watch-Dogs Legion” is full of reflective surfaces and very neon, so the added ray-traced reflections here truly make that world come to life. Everywhere you look, something is being reflected off of another thing. You’ll see the reflections of people walking on the sidewalk on the glass windows of stores. You’ll see cars reflecting on the wet pavement and on other cars with glossy paint. You’ll see reflections of light bouncing from one surface to the next. All of that just brings it to life and makes it pop even more than it already does. The RT mode here is just fantastic, and despite it locking the game to 30 fps, it is my preferred way of playing this game. If you are into higher framerates, then feel free to switch the game to performance mode and enjoy everything running at a smooth 60 fps. Here the world looks much flatter because of the lack of RT reflections, but overall, this is a solid experience at double the frame rate. “Watchdogs Legion” is superb, and I had a blast playing this game. This game is a very good example of what these current-gen machines can do when implementing features like ray tracing.
These are just some of the games that benefit a lot from current-gen architecture and patches, and trust me; there are a lot more. Better loading times, better textures, better draw distances, and all the other bells and whistles are definitely working their magic. While I am eager to get my hands on the true “next-gen” experiences that are slowly but surely popping up, it’s nice to see old games getting some love and utilizing all that power. As I said, there are a lot more games to cover in this category, so keep an eye out for part 2 of this sometime in the future. Happy holidays, gamers! See you at the next one!