Eurogamer.net

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

UPDATE: Resident Evil 7, Steep, Gravity Rush 2 tested - and Assassin's Creed Syndicate fixed.

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.

The Last Guardian

  • Resolution: 1890p
  • Additional features: Native 1080p mode with more consistent performance and some higher quality textures, 4K mode boots into an 1890p presentation
  • HDR: Yes
  • Buy from Amazon

Years in the making, The Last Guardian offers two PlayStation 4 Pro modes - and which one you get is entirely dependant on what video mode your hardware is set to. If your console is configured for 1080p output, the game operates at full HD resolution with much smoother performance than Pro's 4K mode and indeed base hardware. If your console is set to 2160p output, a full-on 1890p presentation - upscaled to 4K - is what you get.

Our preference is actually for the native 1080p mode, and we've put together instructions on how to access this higher performance mode if you have a 4K screen - though Sony should be offering all modes to all users regardless of the screen they own. The 4K mode looks beautiful, but aliasing issues at 1080p are more than offset by a far higher level of performance.

As a side-note, HDR is quite remarkable on this title, and works on both Pro modes just fine - and base PlayStation 4 hardware is obviously supported too.

A look at The Last Guardian's dual Pro modes, plus the performance profile of each.

The Last of Us Remastered

  • Resolution: 1800p (60fps mode), 2160p (30fps mode)
  • Additional features: Completely locked 1080p60 mode with higher quality shadows when console is set to 1080p output
  • HDR: Yes
  • Buy from Amazon

There are plus and minus points to The Last of Us Remastered on PS4 Pro - firstly, we must say that the HDR implementation here really is beautiful, really making the most of the intricate artwork. It's a feature on both base and Pro versions of the game, of course. The Pro benefits from 3200x1800 resolution in 60fps mode, providing an impressive upgrade - and patch 1.08 resolves prior performance issues that saw this game operate at lower frame-rates than base hardware in stress-point areas. The 30fps mode - which adds higher quality shadow-maps and runs at native 4K is also quite beautiful.

However, patch 1.08 perhaps isn't so good for 1080p display users. Version 1.07's super-sampling option mysteriously vanishes, which is particularly hard-hitting on users who were using the 30fps mode. On the plus side, a new mode that runs at native 1080p and never drops from its 60fps target is added, with higher quality shadows added to the mix too. But the fact that developers are now locking out Pro functionality depending on your display is a disturbing trend that surely can't be allowed to continue.

The Last of Us Remastered's contentious 1.08 patch is analysed in depth here.

Final Fantasy 15

  • Resolution: Checkerboard 1800p
  • Additional features: Improved visuals in 1800p mode, 1080p30 lightweight mode (1080p60 mode in development)
  • HDR: Yes
  • Buy from Amazon

Before we begin, we should state that Pro support on Final Fantasy 15 is very much work-in-progress. However, what we've seen so far is looking impressive. First of all, Square-Enix deserves kudos for one of the most vivid, impressive, breathtaking implementations of high dynamic range we've seen. Combined with a properly configured 4K screen, this is a treat. This is backed by higher resolution in the form of an 1800p checkerboard solution along with improved image quality via tweaked LODs, improved shadows and improved texture filtering. It should be said that the combination of checkerboarding and temporal anti-aliasing does produce a somewhat soft image, despite the higher resolution.

There's also a 'lite' mode that pares back the Pro to standard PS4 visuals, albeit with far fewer instances of dynamic resolution scaling. Think of it as a cleaner version of the base game. Right now, frame-rates are pared back to the standard 30fps, but apparently the developer is working hard on a 1080p60 mode. The big issue right now is performance. The base PS4 version and the high resolution mode on Pro suffer from bad frame-pacing issues that make the 30fps update look distractingly jittery, actually giving the illusion of a lower frame-rate.

The Pro can mostly avoid this issue by invoking the lite mode - you're effectively locked to 1080p30 and frame delivery is mostly consistent, with only minor stutter intruding. And even then, it's mostly on the cut-scenes. In our opinion it's the best way to enjoy a consistent experience and the game still looks incredible, but we can't help but hope that Square-Enix fixes this issue on both base PS4 and indeed the high resolution Pro mode.

This 4K video is based on the recent Japanese demo, but the Pro features and performance are identical in the launch game, and you get to see how the checkerboarding holds up on the 4K output.

Dishonored 2

So here's a weird one. Dishonored 2 does offer a nice resolution boost, scaling up to 1440p resolution. However, based on our tests, this only happens when the PS4 Pro is connected to a 4K display. When hooked up to a full HD screen, native resolution settles at 1080p - so there's no super-sampling advantage here for those that don't have ultra HD televisions. It's highly strange, especially as performance seems to be identical in engine stress-points (perhaps suggesting a CPU bottleneck).

Just like the standard PS4 Pro version, Dishonored 2 operates with a 30fps cap, but adaptive sync is completely disabled, giving a perfectly v-synced presentation. Frame-rate can drop beneath 30fps - most notably during engine-driven cut-scenes and in these scenarios, the Pro does out-perform the base PS4 hardware. The performance uplift is especially noticeable in combat situations with several enemies - an area where the standard PlayStation clearly struggles.

A cross-platform comparison of Dishonored 2, including comparisons with PS4 Pro.

Hitman

  • Resolution: 1440p
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p and improved performance
  • HDR: No
  • Buy from Amazon

Io Interactive's Glacier Engine is a thing of beauty, and the upgrades in Hitman are palpable. Resolution is the key benefit here, with a 78 per cent increase in raw pixel-count, taking the game up to 1440p. On a 4K screen, it looks fine - a little soft perhaps, but the anti-aliasing solution combined with upscaling works well in filling out an ultra HD pixel-count.

There are other improvements too. Hitman operates either with an unlocked frame-rate, or else with a 30fps cap. The Pro benefits in both scenarios - firstly, the 30fps mode is absolutely locked, with none of the drops seen on PS4 or indeed Xbox One. In the unlocked mode, you get a good 10fps improvement at the minimum in many scenarios - so the wobbly mid-30s seen boost up to 50fps.

Loading times are improved and texture streaming also sees a tangible upgrade, to the point where you may think that the Pro actually has higher quality assets (in truth, they simply take longer to resolve on base PS4 hardware). This is a lovely game with a great Pro upgrade.

A locked 60fps is as elusive as some of the targets, but the overall improvements to Hitman are tangible in all regards.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3

  • Resolution: 1440p
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: Yes
  • Buy from Amazon

Naughty Dog's PlayStation 4 epic is the best technological showcase of base hardware, so you may think that this title would push the Pro too. However, it's actually a case of more refinement as opposed to a huge boost to image quality. By and large, performance is on par with the base PlayStation 4 version, meaning that there are rare dips beneath 30fps of equal impact when running on Pro. The biggest improvement comes via resolution.

When we saw the title running at the PlayStation Meeting, we noted what looked like checkerboarding artefacts along with some performance drops. The final patch appears to have opted for straight upscaling to 1440p instead, producing a somewhat soft presentation on 4K screens, though the title's excellent temporal anti-aliasing all but eliminates the kind of edge shimmer typically seen on standard upscaling. HDR is also supported on both base and Pro hardware, resolving more detail and offering much improved contrast - though night and day improvement varies depending on the screen you're using.

Uncharted 4's upgrades are limited to a 1440p resolution bump and HDR support.

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

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
  • Buy from Amazon

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
  • Buy from Amazon

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
  • Buy from Amazon

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.

Paragon

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Additional features: Additional geometry, pushed out LODs, procedurally generated foliage, contact shadows, screen-space reflections, volumetric light shafts, bloom, volumetric fog enhancements, camera/object motion blur
  • HDR: No
  • Buy from Amazon

In the wake of recent controversies surrounding Pro functionality locked to specific display resolutions, Epic's Paragon is a title we wanted to try out because there's absolutely no support for 4K displays whatsoever. Instead, the developer has opened the Unreal Engine 4 toolbox to deploy a vast array of graphical upgrades instead. That's not to say that resolution doesn't get a bump - Paragon on base PS4 operates at 900p. The Pro version bumps that up to 1080p, offering a much cleaner presentation, before beginning its onslaught of additional graphical refinements.

These upgrades are legion. Most noticeable is the inclusion of procedurally generated grass, filling out the scene and making the base PS4 version look rather spartan by comparison. Screen-space reflections take shiny surfaces to a whole new level, while certain light sources are enhanced with additional bloom. Complementing the additional resolution is the addition of longer draw distances. Other additions - such as contact shadows and higher levels of volumetric fog - are much more subtle, but welcome nonetheless. HDR isn't supported but we hope that Epic considers adding it.

Rounding off the enhancements is the inclusion of per-object and camera motion blur. Perhaps it's not totally essential on a game targeting 60fps, but again, it's an additional level of refinement. Performance itself is essentially on par with the standard PS4 - operating in the 50-60fps area. We do wonder whether sacrificing a couple of the enhancements could have locked us to 60Hz.

Overall though, Paragon is a fascinating example of a 'what if' - that is, what if PS4 Pro was a 1080p60/ultra settings machine as opposed to a unit designed primarily for 4K support. Pursuing this strategy was perhaps easier for Epic than it would be for other titles running at half-refresh (the base PS4 title targets 60fps too, so it wouldn't hit CPU limits) but regardless, it's nice to see a different approach to utilising the Pro's power. Jump from base hardware to Pro and the upgrade is clear, but it's actually in returning to the standard PS4 game where you realise how much you're missing.

A detailed breakdown the visual enhancements Epic has brought to Paragon on PS4 Pro.

The lost art of video game manuals The greatest loss of the digital age. The lost art of video game manuals

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.

Comments (411)

Comments for this article are now closed, but please feel free to continue chatting on the forum!