Thursday’s 1.0.4 patch for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the first big update for Ubisoft’s latest massive open worlder – and a crucial one, delivering a vast array of gameplay improvements and bug fixes, but of course, the Digital Foundry focus is more on technical validation for what has been the most contentious of the next generation launch line-up. For all of its spec advantages, Xbox Series X ran with a performance penalty against PlayStation 5, while Xbox Series S launched without the signature next-gen 60fps support. The 1.0.4 patch aims to address of all of this – and indeed, it does – and also adds a 4K30 quality mode too.
First of all though, we need to tackle an interesting wrinkle that has emerged from the arrival of the new patch. While there’s broad consensus that the performance situation is much improved on Xbox Series X, another narrative has emerged suggesting that the PlayStation 5 version now runs worse than it did. To clear this one up straight away, we could only find one example of this actually being the case – the introductory cutscene takes an occasional, small drop to frame-rate we didn’t see in our first test. In every other stress test we have, PlayStation 5 runs at the same frame-rate with the same dynamic resolution result as it did previously.
Where there has been change is with Xbox Series X, where Ubisoft has made great strides in addressing the performance deficit, significantly reducing the intrusive screen-tearing. It’s not completely gone, but it’s certainly hugely improved and in the most stringent of our stress tests, Xbox Series X can now outperform PlayStation 5. How Ubisoft has achieved such a huge turnaround in so short a time may sound like a technological miracle, or the result of some gigantic optimisation push, but the solution is simpler than you might think.