Starfield's "exclusive PC partner" has players worried about performance and ray tracing

(Image credit: Xbox)

AMD has announced that it will be the "exclusive PC partner" for Starfield, and that has PC players worried that they're going to be missing out on the superior versions of upscaling and ray tracing tech available on Nvidia graphics cards.

"We've built all new technology for it with Creation Engine 2 and working with AMD on that to make it look great and run great has been really, really special," game director Todd Howard says in the announcement video. "We have AMD engineers in our code base working on FSR2 image processing and upscaling and it looks incredible. You're going to get the benefits of that obviously on your PC but also on Xbox. We're super excited and can't wait to show everybody more."

FSR2 (more properly, AMD Fidelity FX Super Resolution 2) is an AMD-developed, open source technology for upscaling game images. Basically, it's a shortcut to improve performance, where games can be run at lower internal resolutions with better frame rates, but the image you actually see on-screen will be at a sharper, higher resolution. This benefit is available in many PC games, and is used in console titles too.

The issue is that Nvidia's equivalent technology, DLSS (or Deep Learning Super Sampling), usually offers much better results, both in terms of performance and image quality, in the games that support it. Unlike FSR, however, DLSS is locked to Nvidia graphics cards because it relies on specialized chips included on that hardware. That's one of the reasons that Nvidia has taken over the vast majority of the PC GPU market.

Historically, AMD-sponsored games tend not to offer support for DLSS, and PC enthusiasts have long speculated that it's because in direct comparisons between DLSS and FSR, Nvidia's tech wins out every time. While the devs have not confirmed Starfield won't have DLSS - we've reached out to Nvidia for comment and will provide an update if we learn more - fans are getting worried.

As one YouTube comment puts it: "No DLSS for PC then, thanks AMD!" Or, more directly, another says "great let’s lock out features from competitors and push anti-competitive practices, great job friends at AMD!"

"Well, this isn't good," yet another commenter notes. "My first exposure to FSR was in the Resident Evil 4 Remake, and it made the game look like such dogwater to the point where I legit thought something was wrong with my brand new computer. I really hope this doesn't mean that the superior options will be locked out."

If DLSS is held back, the same would likely be true of Nvidia's ray tracing technology, RTX, which like DLSS is implemented through specialized chips on Nvidia GPUs and superior to the versions offered by AMD. We've never had confirmation that Starfield ever had plans to support any form of ray tracing, though a 2022 employee profile briefly hinted at it.

If you're looking for the best graphics card out there right now, we've got a big guide at that link. 

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.