A little while back, we reported that a minority of PlayStation 4 Pro titles were experiencing performance issues that resulted in some games running at a lower performance level than standard PS4 hardware during stress points. The good news is that almost all the titles we highlighted - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Mantis Burn Racing and Watch Dogs 2 among them - have received patches that help to set things right. Mantis Burn Racing even got an HDR upgrade in the process. At the end of last week, Naughty Dog released an update for The Last of Us Remastered that similarly sets out to address our concerns. There's some great work in this update, so why isn't everyone happy?
Initially, there was some confusion about what the new code actually delivered. Patch notes for the update are not particularly helpful, citing 'miscellaneous bug fixes' only, when the reality is that this update features a remarkable optimisation push. There's no post about it on Naughty Dog's website either - but a post tucked away on the PlayStation community forums gives us a little more information:
"We introduced bug fixes and optimisations that will ensure a consistent and high level of performance on the PS4 Pro," says Scott Lowe, senior communications manager at Naughty Dog. "Now, when running The Last of Us Remastered on the PS4 Pro on a standard high-definition display, the game will run natively at 1080p and offer high-quality shadows when running at its high-framerate mode."
This actually presents a bit of an issue for PlayStation 4 Pro users with full HD displays. These users got a bit of a bum-deal with reduced performance in update 1.07, but some are now refusing to upgrade to the latest code as it eliminates the ability to super-sample the game's framebuffer from 1800p (60fps mode) and 2160p (30fps mode) down to 1080p for enhanced anti-aliasing.
We'll go into depth on this shortly, but further questions remain unanswered - in losing super-sampling, have 1080p users actually gained anything and to what extent has the 4K 60fps mode been optimised? Does it still have a performance deficit against the same title running on base PS4 hardware? Let's just say that there's good news and bad news here - winners and losers. It's a rather complex set of variables and permutations we had to test, so let's go through each scenario.
Good News - PS4 Pro's 4K 60fps mode is fixed: Our biggest issue with version 1.07 of The Last of Us Remastered was that the 60fps mode for 4K display owners ran at a lower frame-rate than base PS4 hardware in certain scenes - an equitable trade perhaps because the game looks so good, but not so much of a win if you have a 1080p display: you gained the ability to super-sample for improved image quality, but the game wasn't as smooth as it should have been. 4K display owners can relax - The Last of Us Remastered now runs just as well as the original PS4 version. In fact, it's actually a touch smoother, which makes the next point extremely puzzling.
Bad News - 1080p users lose super-sampling on both 60fps and 30fps modes and we don't understand why: This just doesn't make sense. Despite handing in exactly the kind of optimisations required for a mostly silky smooth experience, Naughty Dog has completely cut off access to The Last of Us Remastered's higher resolution mode when the Pro is attached to a full HD screen, meaning that the enhanced super-sampling anti-aliasing is now completely gone. Adding to the frustration is that this applies also to the 30fps mode, which never had any performance issues at all. It's perplexing and we're not entirely sure why Naughty Dog has done this: simply rolling out the 4K optimisations would have kept everyone happy, regardless of the screen their Pro was attached to.
Good News - PS4 Pro now has a completely locked 1080p60 mode: On the plus side, there is a new mode entirely specific to 1080p displays to replace loss of super-sampling. Run the game connected to a full HD screen (or set your video display settings output to 1080p if you have a 4K screen) and you get the fastest, smoothest version of The Last of Us ever released, along with the higher resolution shadow-maps that were previously locked to the 30fps mode. We put this game through the wringer in even the most intense scenes the game offers and could not see a single dropped frame. The only issue is that the high-res shadow-maps have some glitching issues that need addressing but overall, this is really cool stuff. The issue is this though: bearing in mind that 4K performance issues are improved, why was super-sampling removed as an option for 1080p users? This mode is great, but why couldn't it have been an option for all Pro users?
On balance, The Last of Us Remastered patch 1.08 offers an improved experience and adds a new gameplay mode that we find highly valuable - but many players with 1080p displays are now at a net loss after this update and are rightfully unhappy. Those who used the 30fps mode are particularly disadvantaged - they gain absolutely nothing with the new update and lose a cool feature: super-sampling anti-aliasing is gone when there was nothing to stop Naughty Dog retaining the mode for those that wanted it.
Similar to our experiences with The Last Guardian in recent days, we don't understand why choice is being taken away from gamers when multiple Pro implementations are contained in the game. Segregating functionality based on the user's choice of display is a really bad idea. It only affects a minority of titles for now, but really we'd like to see an end to it altogether. It's surely better for everyone to adopt the kind of menu options seen in Rise of the Tomb Raider and the inFamous updates, allowing Pro owners to sample each mode regardless of what screen they may own, and stick to the one that suits them best. This set-up isn't just limited to those titles either - even Knack has an option when the game boots that allows players to switch between high performance and a higher resolution output. It offers choice to users and gives access to all Pro modes to everyone. Surely this is the best way forward for all PlayStation 4 Pro releases going forward?