Why Playing Marvel’s Spider-Man on an AMD GPU Disappoints

I’ve been singing the praises of AMD’s FSR 2.0 (FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0) ever since I first saw it in Death Loop. It’s a great performance improvement tool, and testing Marvel’s Spiderman PC port, I expected to see it bridge the gap between playing the game on an AMD and Nvidia GPU.

But Marvel’s Spiderman The PC port shows another side of gaming on AMD – and sadly, it’s a part that doesn’t look quite as impressive in comparison.

A litmus test for FSR 2.0

Marvel’s Spiderman is a very different FSR 2.0 game. Since launch, five games support FSR 2.0: Chernobylite, Deathloop, Farming Simulator 22, God of War, and Tiny Tina’s Wonderland. Sony’s latest port is a whole different beast. Not only is it an open-world game with a vast horizon of buildings, but it’s also extremely fast.

Navigating the island of Manhattan is more fun than ever on PC, but FSR 2.0 puts a damper on the experience. Each forward zipper results in a complete drop in image quality, as FSR 2.0 struggles to fill in missing detail. Pixel staring is one thing, but there’s a noticeable dip in resolution each time you move forward while flying over the city. And if there’s something you’re gonna do a lot in it marvel’s Spider Man, it flies around town.

Spider-Man flying through the city.
For a brief moment, that’s what you’ll see even in 4K with motion blur turned off.

In fairness, this drop is something that Nvidia’s own DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) implementation also struggles to do. wonderSpiderman, also, which you can see in the screenshot below. It’s a lot less harsh than FSR 2.0, though, and it’s hard to spot on the move.

Spider-Man heads for a rooftop.
DLSS shows some artifacts, especially around canvases, but they’re not as bad.

FSR 2.0 has proven to be a valid alternative to DLSS, especially when you take into account the lackluster image quality of FSR 1.0. Marvel’s Spiderman suggests it may not be an equal comparison, however. Ever since we saw super temporal resolution (TSR) in Ghostwire Tokyo, I was ready to move on to general purpose temporal upsampling which doesn’t require specific hardware. But Marvel’s Spiderman is a sign that DLSS still has an advantage in some cases.

DLSS, FSR 2.0, and tools from developers like IGTI in Spider Man are all based on temporal data (based on time). Previous frames provide the information needed for oversampling in future frames.

Lower image quality is one aspect of AMD’s upsampling tool that we haven’t seen yet.

As you progress through a game like Spider Man, however, there just isn’t enough detail, leading to lower resolution (or what you might call temporal artifacts). FSR 2.0’s ensemble algorithm cannot keep up with these increases, while DLSS seems capable of extracting more detail with its machine learning backbone.

That doesn’t mean you should throw away FSR 2.0. Marvel’s Spiderman is a litmus test, and it pushes FSR 2.0 to its limits. FSR 2.0 is still incredibly impressive, and in most games it’s just as good as DLSS. But, there can be downsides in image quality in rare cases, which is one side of AMD’s latest upsampling tool that we haven’t seen yet.

The Benefits of Machine Learning

Although TSR and FSR 2.0 are remarkably close to DLSS in terms of image quality, Nvidia’s AI-based technology still has advantages. Marvel’s Spiderman exposes this, not with DLSS itself, but with the new Deep Learning Anti-Aliasing (DLAA).

Anti-aliasing comparison in Marvel's Spider-Man.

DLAA is essentially DLSS with the scaling removed. It has the same structure as DLSS, but the game runs at your monitor’s native resolution. It’s supposed to make a native image look sharper, not make a lower resolution image look native. And as you can see in the screenshot above, DLAA makes a huge difference.

That’s something that hasn’t been done so far with algorithm-based anti-aliasing, which adds further evidence that Nvidia’s insistence on machine learning isn’t just about hot air.

Always very efficient

Performance for oversampling tools in Marvel's Spider-Man.

If you pick up Marvel’s Spiderman, you have three options for improving performance: DLSS, FSR 2.0, and Isomniac’s own IGTI. Isomniac’s tool actually originated the in-game dynamic resolution option, but the developer decided to expose the setting on PC even if you don’t want to use dynamic resolution. It’s awesome.

FSR 2.0 may struggle with the speed of Spider Man, but it still displays numbers. In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen it clearly beat DLSS (if only by a bit).

IGTI offers the best performance, but it’s not worth the trade-off in terms of image quality. You can see all the tools side-by-side with their Ultra Performance presets below, and IGTI is by far the worst.

Scaling comparison in Marvel's Spider-Man.

Otherwise, all three tools are tight. From quality presets to ultra performance, they are all within a few frames of each other. IGTI may be similar to FSR 1.0 in image quality, and FSR 2.0 may struggle with fast motion in Marvel’s Spiderman. But there’s no denying that gamers are spoiled with performance-enhancing options that aren’t always present in PC ports.

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Peter Parker clinging to a building in Marvel's Spider-Man.

Marvel’s Spiderman pushes FSR 2.0 to its limits, and we finally see the oversampling tool hit that wall. During my testing period, Insomniac actually patched FSR 2.0 support to improve image quality, and there is still work to be done. This could be a sign that adding FSR 2.0 to a game might not be as easy as we thought for some games.

Hopefully AMD will continue to refine its algorithm to handle heavy motion such as Marvel’s Spiderman imposed. There’s no denying that FSR 2.0 is a hugely impressive tool that finally puts some heat on DLSS. But it’s not perfect, and the relatively slow adoption rate means we haven’t seen it under pressure in a wide range of games.

If you have an Nvidia GPU, I recommend using DLSS. If you don’t, FSR 2.0 is still a solid option – just try aiming for the more faithful performance modes.

As I wrote in my previous ReSpec entry, FSR 2.0 still has incredible potential, and Marvel’s Spiderman don’t change that. But this port pushes FSR 2.0 to its limits and shows where there is still work to be done.

This article is part of ReSpec – an ongoing bi-weekly column that features in-depth discussions, tips and reports on the technology behind PC gaming.

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