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DF Direct tackles the Sony Showcase and PS5 cross-gen upgrade pricing

A brace of new episodes covering the latest gaming and tech news.

Two DF Directs in one week? Our filming slot for the weekly show is Thursday morning, but we went into this one knowing that Sony's PlayStation 5 Showcase would be kicking off 12 hours later, but as we had so much material to work with, we went ahead with our normal weekly show and added in a Direct special to cover off the Sony event - and let's start by taking a look at the PlayStation 5 showcase, where beyond the reveal of some exciting new PS5 titles, the emphasis really was on cross-generational fare from both first and third-party studios.

I described it as a game of two halves - an assortment of third party trailers followed by a procession of first-party wares. This was essentially Sony's E3 2021, pushed back a couple of months and presented as an online show. Unfortunately, a procession of trailers and CG visualisations presented in sequence doesn't quite cut it. Publishers and platform holders seem to think that a procession of imagery for successive titles running one after the other works, but it doesn't really. There's no vision, no context, no exploration of the interactive element. There's a lot of 'what' - what the game is essentially - but no 'why' or 'how'. Instead, we get a sequence of curated imagery that rarely managed to leave a lasting impression.

The new Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic got a CG trailer, but even with the after-show interviews, we're still wondering what the vision for the remake actually is. GTA5's delay was announced, but a trailer apparently telling us we're getting an improved experience didn't tell us or show us how it's actually better. Forspoken is looking very, very interesting - and did stand out, particularly as it seems to be based on Square-Enix's under-utilised Luminous Engine and maybe that's enough for now, but I'd love to know more about the game. Project Eve? Throwback hyper-sexualised main character apart, the imagery was impressive and solidifies UE4 as a major player of the generation. The barrage of trailers was such that when something fresh and interesting comes along, it amplifies attention: Tchia: A Game Inspired by New Caledonia was a highlight.

John Linneman, Rich Leadbetter, Alex Battaglia and Audi Sorlie convene for this 4K video covering off last week's Sony software showcase.Watch on YouTube
  • 00:00:00 Introduction + Grand Theft Auto 5 PS5
  • 00:03:39 Gran Turismo 7
  • 00:09:33 Uncharted 4 + Lost Legacy PS5 and PC Remasters
  • 00:17:45 Marvel's Spider-Man 2 + Marvel's Wolverine
  • 00:23:13 God of War Ragnarok
  • 00:28:06 Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Remaster
  • 00:33:19 Project Eve
  • 00:29:54 Forspoken
  • 00:42:24 Tchia - A Game Inspired by New Caledonia
  • 00:49:13 Trailer after Trailer after Trailer after Trailer + Conclusions

The first party games arrived later and hit the spot, by and large. Marvel's Spider-Man 2 shown running on PlayStation 5 looked impressive and enticed by showing both Peter Parker and Miles Morales working as a team, before revealing the debut of Venom. Meanwhile, the CG Wolverine trailer may not have showcased much, but we had the sense of a closer, more intimate and visceral game than its Marvel stablemate. Gran Turismo 7? Polyphony concentrated on incredibly clean imagery, obvious hardware accelerated ray tracing and the kind of lighting fast menu systems we've seen from a GT game for a long, long time.

From a technological perspective, God of War: Ragnarok looked superb, and easily 'up there' with the third-party games in the showcase - but its cross-gen underpinnings have been a bone of contention. Perhaps it's to be expected as we suspect it was always built from the ground up to look great on PS4 which may in turn have limited its prospects on PS5, but in retrospect, perhaps our comments on Horizon Forbidden West being similarly limited owing to its multi-generational support were hasty, as it does look a generation beyond the first Horizon. Perhaps the trailer-only, context-free gameplay trailer simply didn't sell Ragnarok's strengths - the new God of War is likely far more than just a graphical showcase. Much of its appeal relies on its character and story and to be fair, Sony's after-show interviews did concentrate on how Santa Monica Studio aims to progress the narrative.

Finally, we had the surprise announcement of an Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy remaster coming to both PS5 and PC (thanks to an assist from Iron Galaxy) with a trailer showing the game running on console at 1440p60. It's led to people asking whether they'll get an upgrade path from the existing PS4 version and what the pricing will be - obvious questions that Sony should have anticipated and clarified. From a Digital Foundry perspective, the key question for us is how the game will be improved aside from the frame-rate boost - something that could be achieved via a patch for the existing PS4 version. A 4K30 quality mode sounds like a good move, but to what extent can a game hand-crafted for PS4 be enhanced for PS5? Even with PC ports like Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn, actual scalability beyond resolution and frame-rate has been shown to be limited. We wait with bated breath!

The new DF Direct Weekly! This time it's perpetrated by Rich Leadbetter, John Linneman and Alex Battaglia.Watch on YouTube
  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 00:00:42 New PS5 model
  • 00:11:14 Horizon Forbidden West pricing confusion
  • 00:21:17 Alan Wake Remastered
  • 00:32:18 Quake Remastered
  • 00:42:42 Little Big Adventure returns
  • 00:44:39 DF Content Discussion: Best of all the animals?
  • 00:46:16 DF Content Discussion: DF Retro reveal
  • 00:52:47 DF Content Discussion: Patreon update and retooling
  • 00:55:38 DF Supporter Q1: Would you rather a theoretical PS5 Pro doubled the computer units to 72 or added some kind of machine learning core for better AI upscaling?
  • 01:03:58 DF Supporter Q2: What are the exact differences between mesh shaders and primitive shaders?
  • 01:06:25 DF Supporter Q3: Is getting a reasonably optimised performance from newer PC games starting to require increased hobbiest/technical knowledge again creating a higher barrier to entry for new PC gamers?
  • 01:18:07 DF Supporter Q4: With console reviews of late you often mention running a game not at the maximum resolution supported by a console. This confused me somewhat in that having my Series X connected to a 4K display and then setting output to 1080p just gives me a poor quality image
  • 01:24:04 DF Supporter Q5: DLSS and performance drawback/gains
  • 01:26:47 DF Supporter Q6: Are there any plans to include Crysis Warhead in the Crysis Trilogy collection? If not, why?
  • 01:28:28 DF Supporter Q7: Richard does not seem as attracted to older games, despite the fact that he lived and worked through basically the entire era of 2D gaming. Why?
  • 01:39:12 Credits

Going into our 'standard' weekly DF Direct, I quickly recap the situation with the CFI-1100 model of the PlayStation 5 and how we're collaborating with the excellent hardware site, Gamers Nexus, to get to the bottom of what the more cost-effective cooler actually means for system performance. I talk about that, and also how I introduced the new PS5 to a tiny IKEA Besta media cabinet, ran it flat out at max power draw for two hours and then benchmarked it... and the new model seemed to work just fine.

Beyond that, the whole topic of Sony's paid-for PS5 upgrade strategy comes under the microscope. There's the concept that additional work for extra feature on a new generation of hardware is not that much of an ask, but at the same time, the concept is entirely alien to the PC space - where elements like ray tracing features, enhanced textures and optimised, multi-core aware game engines are expected components of a game, rather than aspects that demand a price-premium. Comparisons to Microsoft's strategy of free upgrades may seem valid on a superficial level, but we must remember that the firm's entire ecosystem is shifting away from the concept of bought-and-paid-for games as the primary revenue driver - it's all about Game Pass.

Discussion in the weekly direct continues with our thoughts on Remedy's Alan Wake Remastered, while we also talk about another superb release - the collaboration between id software, Nightdive Studios and Machine Games for the brilliant Quake Remastered. Owing to staff holidays we couldn't give this the coverage it deserved, but it is superb, the quality of the port is exceptional and Machine Games' new episode is a must-play.

Meanwhile, in our content discussion slot, we reveal Ridge Racer 6 and Ridge Racer 7 as the next DF Retro episode, while we announce changes to the DF Supporter Program that will see the Weekly Direct distributed to all backers on Saturday, with a new bonus podcast for the premium and retro tiers (and yes, proper RSS distribution for all of our discussion shows). Supporter Q+A? Lots to chew over this week, but I think the most interesting question for me was why I apparently have no interest in retro games, which turns into a discussion of how players get emotionally attached to games and hardware, and the extent to which you become emotionally detached from them when they have been part and parcel of your professional life for over 30 years! Hopefully it's worth a watch/listen and I really hope you enjoy our discussion shows as much as we enjoy making them.

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