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PS4 Pro gives Battlefield 1 gamers a multiplayer advantage

Smoother and more responsive.

UPDATE 16/11/16 10:02am: We've seen reports and discussion of reduced performance on PlayStation 4 Pro since the introduction of patch 1.04 yesterday, leading to speculation that the Pro features are disabled in the new update. Temporal anti-aliasing has been been tweaked, but we can rule out the disabling of Pro enhancements as our data is taken from the game running the 1.04 update. We've also just re-ran a small section of campaign tests and see no obvious impact to performance.

Original story: Battlefield 1 running on PlayStation 4 Pro offers a tangible performance advantage over standard PS4 owners, potentially offering a gameplay advantage to owners of Sony's upgraded console hardware. In our tests, there's anything up to a 47 per cent frame-rate advantage in scenarios where the Frostbite engine is under the greatest stress.

We came away impressed with the PS4 Pro enhancements to the Frostbite engine when we tested campaign mode a few days back, but the lingering question was just how much the performance advantage would fold into the multiplayer game. Increased frame-rate means lower latency, meaning crisper response as well as a smoother experience. This offers a tangible advantage to Pro players, seen at its peak in 64-player games, where the Battlefield 1 engine typically faces its toughest processing challenges.

Actually testing the multiplayer mode and coming up with anything like accurate metrics wasn't easy. Simply replaying the same level in two different sessions simply wouldn't work: gameplay is so dynamic between any given session that the results would be meaningless, especially when the 64-player modes in Battlefield titles have traditionally presented profound CPU - as well as GPU - challenges to the current-gen consoles.

Our solution? We acquired a second copy of the game and played PS4 Pro and PS4 side-by-side in the same session, with players locked into the same squad, one closely following the other. This more closely equalises GPU load, while CPU stresses should be very similar - CPU tasks such as physics and behind-the-scenes processing of player movements should be close to identical as both consoles are running in the same game instance, computing the same action.

PS4 and PS4 Pro footage from the same multiplayer game captured and analysed.

Based across an assessment of the run of play, PlayStation 4 Pro offers up a 10-15fps advantage - a lead which seems fairly consistent regardless of how low the standard PS4 drops, so for example, a 32fps minimum reports as 47fps at the same point on Pro - a 47 per cent increase in performance (accepting some margin of error, bearing in mind that the rendering is not entirely like for like). Also interesting is more consistency in frame-times for Pro owners. Battlefield 1 is v-synced, meaning that the target frame-time is 16.7ms - 60 frames per second. However, performance drops can see 33ms or even 50ms frame-times on standard PS4 hardware - in our tests, the Pro never exceeds 33ms. In the heat of the action, PS4 Pro offers more visual feedback and crisper response, though clearly a locked 60fps is still off the table in demanding scenes.

The dynamic nature of the gameplay makes visual comparisons difficult, but in addition to the performance uplift, Battlefield 1 also retains its resolution advantage on PlayStation 4 Pro, and it's not exactly a stretch to think that its other campaign enhancements - improved textures, effects work and terrain detail also extend into the Pro mode. All of these improvements benefit the player whether they're running on a 4K screen or in 1080p mode (where the higher resolution image is super-sampled down to full HD).

While player skill is obviously the key factor in how well you're going to perform in Battlefield 1, high-end players will get more out of the game running from Pro hardware - it's simply smoother and more responsive as a result. Our stress tests are based on 64-player servers - but it stands to reason that the improvements will extend throughout the game. More typically, we would expect the Pro version to stay at the target 60fps more consistently than the base PS4 version. It is a strong upgrade for Pro, but does it upset the concept of a level playing field for console multiplayer? It will be interesting to see how the Battlefield community responds, and Eurogamer has approached EA for comment.

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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