An excellent move, or a nightmare scenario?
Just over a month ago, Sony finally released the long-rumored PS4 Pro. Capable of displaying 4K visuals, offering an improved PSVR experience, a 1TB HDD as standard, an improved Wi-Fi receiver, and new-look controller, the system is a mid-generation upgrade over the vanilla PS4.
Upon its reveal, players were somewhat divided on the Pro. Some considered it to be a worthwhile upgrade that would allow them to get the very best gaming experiences without having to shift to PC. Others considered its lack of a UHD Blu-Ray drive and the decision to go with upscaled 4K instead of native 4K a half-baked effort.
One month in, the dust has settled and players have been able to spend a significant amount of time with the PS4 Pro. So just how is the Pro holding up so far?
Let’s start with the the most immediate and obvious advantage: the enhanced 4K resolution. At launch, there was a grand total of 44 games that would be compatible with the PS4 Pro. While some games like InFamous: Second Son, Shadow of Mordor, and Rise of the Tomb Raider saw drastic improvements and are prime examples of how studios should be utilizing this extra power, there are others such as Overwatch that struggle to show any sign of improvement. This is symptomatic of a bigger problem.
There’s seemingly no criteria that must currently be met by developers wanting to make use of its enhanced power. Because of this, picking up a PS4 Pro compatible title can either be mind-blowingly beautiful or, as seems to be the case more often than not at the moment, just a slightly cleaner, crisper image.
Of course, the level of enhancements the Pro can provide varies completely dependent on what display you have. While a 1080p display isn’t going to allow you to experience 4K, some games can be patched to run smoother and have enhanced detail at 1080p. Unfortunately though, some 4K displays from last year don’t have HDR, again limiting the potential output of the system. Finally, you have 4K HDR displays that will allow your Pro to output the best possible image it can.
PS4 Pro adopters can expect to see much prettier visuals when a slew of first-party titles release next year. The likes of Horizon Zero Dawn and Gran Turismo Sport were already destined to be beautiful games, but will certainly benefit from the enhanced power of the PS4 Pro.
If you want to see for yourself, try and find a way to watch the Horizon Zero Dawn trailer below on a 4K monitor and you’ll likely notice the stark contrast in display quality. With more time to work out how to use the PS4 Pro’s power better, it’s likely that the its true potential will be fully utilized by upcoming titles, rather than forward compatible titles that offered a lackluster patch on day one.
The PS4 Pro will be great for consumers once developers work out how they can better tap into the additional power it provides and develop a game from the start with it in mind. It’s also a smart ‘future proofing’ move from Sony, as 4K displays will eventually become more affordable and will be more common in homes around the world. The PS4 Pro and its library of games are ready to roll right now as 4K adoption numbers continue to rise.
Improvements over the original PS4 don’t just come in the form of prettier visuals though. Sony’s latest first-party release, The Last Guardian, is running noticeably better on the new system, while the vanilla PS4 is seemingly struggling to maintain a steady frame rate.
Of course, the PS4 Pro isn’t all about the 4K experience, be it with games or with media streaming services like Netflix and YouTube. One of the rarely talked about improvements is its enhanced PSVR experience. Having tried this first-hand with games that have been patched for Pro support, the improvements were very noticeable, more so even than non-PSVR games. Details in the environment were clearer, the general image was crisper, and the whole experience was smoother too, making for a less nauseating experience. With promising signs of support from VR developers in the PS4 Pro’s early months, it’s likely we’ll see VR titles running smoother and looking crisper in 2017, too.
One month down the line, the verdict is still out on the PS4 Pro. While it has a list of compatible games, many of them don’t utilize its capabilities to their fullest, and that’s disappointing. As we move into 2017 and Sony’s first-party offerings trickle in with baked-in PS4 Pro support, the PS4 Pro will come into its own. For now, however, we’ve seen glimpses of the PS4 Pro’s brilliance from the likes of Rise of the Tomb Raider and The Last Guardian, unfortunately though, they’re just too few and far between in a sea of other games’ mediocre enhancements.