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Ghost of Tsushima's PS5 upgrade is worthwhile but not a game changer

The Director's Cut tech review.

When PlayStation 5 launched in November last year, two Sony first-party developers - Bend Studio and Sucker Punch - tapped into the early cross-generation SDK, allowing Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima to run at 60 frames per second, dramatically improving the experience. Today, in concert with a Director's Cut edition that includes bonus content, Tsushima has been updated once more - no longer is it running under backwards compatibility, now it's a fully armed and operational PS5 title, able to tap into the full horsepower of the machine. So, what has changed and how good are the upgrades?

First of all, it's important to put the improvements to Ghost of Tsushima into two distinct categories. As part of the process, the original game receives a free patch to introduce a number of key enhancements, one of which we consider to be a major upgrade - the ability to enable a target lock-on. The omission of this in the original game was a disappointment and compromised the quality of the combat, so it's great to see that the developer took the feedback on board and added in the feature. In addition, further controller layout options are added. That's the extent of the freebies - and if you're playing on PS5, you'll still be running the PS4 code under back-compat (the 60fps support remains, by the way).

The rest of the Director's Cut content - including the full PS5 upgrade requires an investment from the user. The cost of this varies according to territory and whether you pre-order or not (pre-ordering gives a discounted £16/$20 price) and it gives players access to the new content, including the Iki island expansion and the actual native PlayStation 5 version of the game - and that's where we're focusing our commentary.

Here's the Digital Foundry video overview of the PlayStation 5 upgrades for Ghost of Tsushima.

Two graphics modes are availability, one which favours frame-rate and the other more interesting option that targets a higher resolution. In both modes, it seems that Ghost of Tsushima retains the checkerboarding mode used in the PS4 Pro version of the game, with both targeting 60 frames per second. The frame-rate option sticks to the 1800p checkerboard presentation seen on the PS4 version running under backwards compatibility, while the resolution option sees pixel counts bumped to full 2160p checkerboard, for added clarity. Dynamic resolution scaling can't be ruled out, but everything we've seen and tested so far does indicate a fixed resolution. Performance on both modes is essentially identical. It's 60 frames per second locked to the point where dropping back to the frame-rate mode seems to be pointless.

There are further changes beyond this but the bump from 1800p to 2160p is the key addition really - and while you do get extra clarity, it's not exactly a game-changing improvement. The key improvement over PS4 is the bump to 60 frames per second, and that's still present running the original PS4 Pro game under backwards compatibility on the new console. That's not to say that Sucker Punch hasn't made improvements elsewhere - it's just that their impact is somewhat limited. They're welcome nonetheless: the developer taps into the storage capabilities of PS5 more effectively, meaning that the already very fast loading is now instant. On top of that, 3D audio and DualSense haptics are deployed.

Our original look at the back-compat plus upgrades for Ghost of Tsushima on PlayStation 5.

On top of that, what were previously pre-rendered video cinematics on PS4 are now generated in real-time on PS5, opening the door to proper lip-sync animations with the Japanese soundtrack. All cutscenes now run at a properly frame-paced 30 frames per second, which is interesting as the PS4 version running under backwards compatibility always ran the engine-driven cinematics at 60fps, with only the video sequences at 30fps. I assume Sucker Punch did this for consistency's sake, but I would have preferred to see the whole game play out at the faster frame-rate.

Ultimately, what we have here is a reasonable array of revisions, but it does feel that Sony is charging for the kind of upgrades that other developers and publishers are giving away for free and in actual fact, the biggest upgrade of all - 60fps - was already given away with the original release. While the game is excellent and the improvements obviously add to the experience, there isn't the kind of vast improvement we saw in the likes of Marvel's Spider-Man (which was a paid upgrade) or Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (which wasn't). Beyond the resolution, cutscene and loading boosts, there's not much else to differentiate the native PlayStation 5 version from its back-compat plus counterpart: draw distances are the same as PS4 Pro, effects quality is a match and geometry is unchanged. Art improvements? We caught sight of sparing texture upgrades, but little of actual significance.

Taking a step back and looking at Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut from another perspective, I am happy to see that the whole package can be bought for PlayStation on disc. So for those who are on PlayStation 5, who don't own the PS4 version or may not have owned a PS4 at all, that's a great option - and for collectors of physical games like me, it's good to know that the complete package is available in an archive format.

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About the Author
John Linneman avatar

John Linneman

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

An American living in Germany, John has been gaming and collecting games since the late 80s. His keen eye for and obsession with high frame-rates have earned him the nickname "The Human FRAPS" in some circles. He’s also responsible for the creation of DF Retro.