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Digital Foundry's guide to PS4 Pro game upgrades • Page 2

UPDATE: Diablo 3's 4K upgrade looks beautiful on Pro.

Digital Foundry's ongoing mission is to test out all PS4 Pro upgrades in order to get a grip on what the new hardware is capable of.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3

  • Resolution: Checkerboard 2160p
  • Additional features: Variable performance at 4K, enhanced on a 1080p screen
  • HDR: No

It's been pleasantly surprising to see developers revisit some of the older titles in the PS4 library, upgrading them to take advantage of the PlayStation 4 Pro's additional power. One of the biggest surprises has been the upgrade for Black Ops 3 - Treyarch's exceptionally popular COD shooter. Already a technologically ambitious title on base hardware, the Pro version takes that one step further with an implementation of full 2160p checkerboard 4K. Artefacts are numerous, but in common with many titles, they're mostly visible only in still shots taken from captures - ultra HD displays tend to lose the issues owing to lower motion resolution combined with high pixel density.

There's a filmic look to the game with plenty of post-processing. This, combined with plenty of darker levels in the campaign, serves the dull the impact of the higher resolution somewhat, but the overall effect is of a clearly cleaner title overall. Performance is the main issue though - the adaptive sync of the base PS4 title is gone, and the game seems to employ a straight double-buffer v-sync, meaning that intense set-pieces with screen-filling explosions or other dense effects work can see frame-rate dip to 30fps - much lower than the same scene on the standard PS4.That said, less intense scenes actually run much smoother on the Pro.

Treyarch must surely now be deep in production on their next Call of Duty title, so it was surprising to see an upgrade for Black Ops 3 at all. It's nowhere near as slick and consistent in performance terms as Infinite Warfare and the performance dips are an issue in the campaign at least. The base PS4 version uses a dynamic scaler, but screenshots taken in stress points seem to still resolve at 2160p on the Pro, which perhaps explains some of the performance differential in these tricky areas.

UPDATE 29/11/16: Some interesting 1080p analysis from VGTech, suggesting that running the game on a 1080p screen boosts performance significantly. We've confirmed this - the PS4 Pro at 1080p runs smoother than both base PS4 and Pro, as you can see in this screenshot. Maybe Sony should be mandating that different modes should be accessible to owners of all screens, similar to what we see in Rise of the Tomb Raider and the InFamous titles.

An overview of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 on PS4 Pro. It's a brave effort for checkerboard 4K on a challenging title, but performance is variable - sometimes slower than the base PS4 version.

Battlefield 1

  • Resolution: Dynamic checkerboard, up to 1656p (possibly higher)
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, visual upgrades and improved performance
  • HDR: No

There's a vast array of improvements for PlayStation 4 Pro owners with this tentpole release from Electronic Arts. Battlefield 1 enjoys a dynamic resolution upgrade that takes the title far beyond 1080p, depending on content, while performance is also improved. Visual features are also added: terrain detail is improved, effects in the post-process pipeline are upgraded.

Even textures are upgraded too. The base PS4 version appears to operate with a mixture of medium and high art when compared to the PC version - now it seems we're locked at the high preset across the board. The result still falls some way short of the PC version operating at its ultra preset, but DICE has struck a good balance between performance upgrades and increased visual quality, to the point where the 1080p presentation looks great, even if it is just super-sampled down from the mode designed to support 4K screens.

Further tests we carried out in the multiplayer mode's 64-player stress test scenes demonstrated a massive advantage here for PS4 Pro owners, while less taxing multiplayer scenes are likely to see the new console hand in more consistent 60fps gameplay overall.

Dave Bierton strikes back with everything you could possibly want to know about how BF1 on Pro compares to the PC and PS4 versions.

FIFA 17

  • Resolution: Native 4K
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: No

A plain and simple upgrade here, with FIFA 17 enjoying a straight 4x boost to resolution on PlayStation 4 Pro with little in the way of further embellishment, aside from some small improvements to grass draw distance in replays, and an improvement to depth of field quality. Curiously, stadium 'jumbotrons' seem to gain a small banding artefact, but we're nit-picking here.

There's an often an argument that 4K is so pixel-dense that anti-aliasing isn't really required. Well, it all depends on the content and that argument can be shot down by playing FIFA 17 - there's a lot of pixel-pop and shimmer here, whether you're playing on base hardware at 1080p or on Pro at 4K. If AA is in effect here, its effects are minimal, but the impact is reduced by running the Pro version on a full HD display.

No bells and whistles here, but a native 4K output with a consistent 60fps during gameplay is an impressive feat.

Ratchet and Clank

  • Resolution: 2160p temporal injection
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: Yes

Insomniac's re-envisaging of the franchise is absolutely beautiful on base PlayStation 4 hardware (where it also receives an HDR upgrade) but is also well worth checking out on PlayStation 4 Pro, where resolution is vastly improved thanks to the implementation of a technique the developers calls 'temporal injection'.

The end result is a 4K presentation that may not be 'native' in the strictest sense, but offers the vast majority of the benefits of ultra HD resolution and looks precise and beautiful. The game runs at a capped 30fps and holds its performance level too - even when the screen is crammed with enemies and flying bolts. HDR is supported and it's an interesting one. John Linneman reports only limited returns on an LG OLED, but on the office mid-range Panasonic DX750, Ratchet and Clank looked much better than running it in SDR mode. It's perhaps not a revelatory improvement as such, but definitely a more 'correct' presentation.

Ratchet and Clank is a beautiful showcase for both the standard PS4 and the Pro.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided

  • Resolution: 1800p to 2160p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, better reflections, general performance improvements
  • HDR: Yes

This was one of the games singled out in our report on PlayStation 4 Pro titles running slower compared to base hardware in some scenarios, outperforming it in others. A more detailed analysis revealed that by and large, the game is improved - removing tearing completely, boosting performance in some areas and adding more detailed reflection work. Also, the resolution boost is huge here. However, strange stutter not seen on base hardware did cause some concern.

Since producing the video below, developer Nixxes has taken another look at this excellent game and improved Pro performance. Much of the stutter has gone now, but this has been achieved by reinstating the adaptive v-sync, so you will see tearing now.

An overview of the improvements made to Deus Ex Mankind Divided. Performance has since been improved in the latest patch.

Overwatch

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Additional features: Locked 1080p resolution, no dynamic scaling, improved texture filtering and depth of field
  • HDR: No

One of the slightest PS4 Pro upgrades available, no improvements are made to base resolution and frame-rate is already locked on base hardware, meaning no real enhancement on Pro. All you really get is additional texture filtering and a 4K HUD, along with a small improvement to the game's depth of field effect. For Pro users with 1080p screens, dynamic resolution scaling is no longer an issue - but then, it wasn't really a noticeable problem to begin with.

Let's just say that the enhancements here are somewhat... barebones.

InFamous First Light/Second Son

  • Resolution: 1800p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p or unlocked frame-rate at native 1080p
  • HDR: Yes

Developer Sucker Punch delivers a solid Pro upgrade here with benefits not just for 1080p display users, but also for owners of original hardware with HDR-capable screens. The principal improvement comes in the form of a much higher resolution - the base 1080p of the original releases is boosted to 3200x1800 via checkerboarding. It's a really successful implementation, with very little in the way of noticeable artefacts.

Frame-rate holds its own at much the same level as the original game (perhaps a touch slower in less busy scenes, funnily enough) but there's also the option to trade pixels for performance via a secondary mode that runs the game at a slightly unstable 60fps. Both titles also support high dynamic range rendering, with First Light's neon power effects looking particularly superb here. Along with HDR upgrades on other titles, this particular feature rolls back to standard PlayStation 4 hardware too.

Both InFamous titles offer up improvements in either resolution or performance. Here's a look at First Light.

Watch Dogs 2

  • Resolution: 1800p checkerboarding
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, far superior anti-aliasing
  • HDR: No

Watch Dogs 2 was another title we singled out for sub-optimal performance on PlayStation 4 Pro compared to base hardware. We're happy to report that frame-rate wobbles during traversal and mid-20s performance dips during police chases are now resolved in the 1.04 patch, though we want to take time out at some point to see if it's a pure optimisation improvement or whether there may have been some tweaks to the game's visual make-up.

This title resolves at 1800p using the checkerboard upscaling technique and it's a substantial upgrade over the base PlayStation 4 game in terms of image quality, owing to the fact that the standard game features some highly questionable anti-aliasing. A stipple-like effect is present on both PS4 and Xbox One versions of the title, but thankfully it is not a feature of the 1800p Pro presentation. On top of that, running this title on a 1080p screen offers up lovely image quality - all the benefits of super-sampling along with the apparent omission of the dodgy anti-aliasing.

Since producing this video, Ubisoft has responded with a patch to improve performance in stress point areas.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

  • Resolution: 1560p to 2160p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: No

While controversy continues over the concept of Infinite Warfare, we're happy to report that Infinite Warfare on PlayStation 4 Pro offers up an excellent experience. The PlayStation Meeting showing looked sub-optimal, but the final release code is something else, with a superb dynamic resolution scaling implementation paired with an optimisation effort that finally brings COD much closer to its locked 60fps roots.

The base PS4 version features a locked 1080 pixel vertical with a dynamic horizontal scaler, backed up by temporal super-sampling. The Pro version scales in a linear manner on both axes, moving between 1560p and 2160p with no noticeable artefacting. Resolution isn't actually a key point in image quality in this title - it's actually a more filmic look overall. The key takeaway from this one is that your 4K display is put through its paces, but the concept of a 60Hz COD is back on the table - we thoroughly enjoyed playing it.

Infinite Warfare scales up to a maximum 2160p with checkerboarding, and does so while maintaining an enviable performance level.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered

  • Resolution: 1560p to 2160p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, improved performance
  • HDR: No

Based on what looks like an enhanced version of Sledgehammer's Advanced Warfare engine, Modern Warfare Remastered offers up a 125 per cent boost to resolution over the standard PlayStation 4 release and backs it up with a better lock on the target 60fps performance level. The chosen anti-aliasing method makes for a relatively soft title overall, but there are obvious benefits to running it on a 4K screen. However, it's the more consistent frame-rate that will stand out - for users of 1080p screens in particular.

Modern Warfare Remastered offers tangible resolution increases and a better performance level overall.

Skyrim

  • Resolution: Native 4K
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, worse performance than base PS4 in some scenes
  • HDR: No

This is a difficult one to assess really. On the face of it, we're looking at a substantial upgrade for Pro owners - the base resolution gets a 4x increase to native 4K, while the performance is, for the most part, matched at a capped 30fps. There's also evidence that foliage draw distances are improved too - small, but neat little bonus.

However, on a minority of scenes, particularly ones heavy on alpha transparency effects, the Pro clearly operates with a performance deficit compared to base hardware. The game actually features very good temporal anti-aliasing on the standard PS4, to the point where the super-sampling visual improvement isn't so pronounced. So with that in mind, Pro owners running this on a 1080p screen are essentially getting worse performance overall.

Skyrim's native 4K output is impressive - but the performance drops need to be addressed.

Titanfall 2

  • Resolution: Dynamic resolution up to 1440p
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, slightly smoother performance
  • HDR: No

Respawn Entertainment built scalability into Titanfall 2 via the inclusion of dynamic scaling technology. The title does have upper and lower limits, but generally speaking, it tends to render at around 1000p on base PlayStation 4 hardware. However, in more detailed and intense scenes, we've seen the pixel count drop as low as 720p. It's all in pursuit of as close to a locked 60fps as possible and in this sense, trading pixels for frames is the right way to maintain playability.

PlayStation 4 Pro simply expands the upper and lower bounds of the resolution scaler - but here's the thing, for the vast majority of the duration (certainly in the single-player campaign), the game stays locked to its top-end 1440p. Combined with the temporal super-sampling technology, the end result is slightly soft on a 4K screen, but still a huge improvement over the base PS4 release. And its simple approach to Pro support pays off for those with 1080p screens too: super-sampling down results in a really clean image on a full HD display.

This isn't a hugely ambitious PlayStation 4 Pro update (PC's superior ambient occlusion and shadow draw distance still elude the Pro) but it delivers enhancements that count on what is already a fantastic console shooter - and one of the most fun experiences we've had in recent times.

This game was already pretty spectacular on base PS4 hardware - the principal improvement here is much higher detail levels via a higher base resolution.

Batman: Return to Arkham

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Additional features: Higher frame-rates
  • HDR: No

A topic we mulled over a while back, what would happen if you could allocate Pro power to base PS4 titles that haven't been patched? Batman: Arkham City - a part of the Return to Arkham package - initially gave us some idea, retaining the same visual look but unlocking performance - with variable results. Meanwhile, Arkham Asylum effectively runs identically between base and Pro hardware.

A recent patch has introduced improved performance to lower frame-rates on both sets of PlayStation 4 hardware, but the unlocked mode in Arkham City has completely gone. Both titles in the collection are now locked to 30fps, meaning that the differential between base and Pro amounts to more stable 30fps performance on the new console. Otherwise, everything remains the same, right down to the culled pixel-count in GPU-heavy scenes. Put simply, one of the more pitiful Pro implementations we've seen.

The latest Return to Arkham patch is great news for base PlayStation 4 owners, but not so good for Pro owners.

Mantis Burn Racing

  • Resolution: Native 4K
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: Yes

If you hanker for some old-school Micro Machines-style action, Mantis Burn Racing is the game for you. It's a top-down scroller with online and local split-screen support, paired with all the 'progression' and upgrade features you'd want from a modern title. On top of that, it's a full, native 4K title operating at 60fps.

In our original analysis, below, we mentioned that the title had some performance issues compared to the base version of the game, which runs at 1080p with 2x MSAA. The latest patch 1.02 solves the stuttering we encountered, adds a whole host of bug fixes and enhancements and also introduces HDR, which should work on both Pro and base-level PlayStation 4 hardware.

An overview of Mantis Burn Racing on PS4 Pro. Developer VooFoo has since corrected the performance hiccups on PS4 Pro, and added HDR support.

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In summary, PlayStation 4 Pro is a curious piece of hardware. At best, with titles like Ratchet and Clank, FIFA 17, Infinite Warfare and Rise of the Tomb Raider, we're looking at a machine capable of handing in a viable 4K gaming experience. Meanwhile, it's interesting to note just how many games are coming in with a 1440p framebuffer. When we built a PC with a GPU running to the PS4 Pro's graphics spec, this did seem to be the natural resolution for the hardware, but we didn't quite expect to see so many titles appear with this exact pixel count.

That said, it is early days for the new console, and developers have been sharing their higher resolution techniques and technologies, so we fully expect to see improvements generally across the months as game-makers become more au fait with the new hardware. In the short term, it's also been heartening to see many developers take our criticisms about sub-par performance onboard, releasing timely patches to address the issues. We'll be keeping this guide updated frequently, so look out for more analysis soon.

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