Reviews PlayStation

PS4 Pro Review: Console Gaming Redefined

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The PS4 Pro is finally out in South Africa, and after a month with the console, doing hands on impressions, gameplay showcasing, and other setup guides and comparisons, the time has come to give a full review on it. Hold onto your wallets until the end of this, as there might be some things you love about it, and some things you might not find appealing at all. I could not be happier with my PS4 Pro, as it has become part of my gaming lifestyle, but those without the extra cash around, might be a bit skeptical about taking the dive. 

4K gaming is taxing on hardware, there is no doubt about that. In order to get a modern-day game running in 4K at 60fps, you will need a good R25K - R25K PC, and even then, you might battle to get it running smoothly. Rise of the Tomb Raider was tested on my GTX 1080, and I could not get it to run at a solid 60FPS in 4K, and that is a high end card.

Sony have done a great job with the PS4 Pro. To create a console that is able to run games at the resolutions that it does, is a great feat. For R6999, you can barely touch ends on the latest GTX range. Sure the PS4 Pro might have some hits and misses with what games run at what resolution, but there is always a some graphical benefit from playing a game on the Pro compared to the standard PS4. This is the selling point of the console, its affordability and power, compared to the equivalent on the market.

Sony have struggled to make the PS4 Pro’s functionality clear in marketing, and the air is still a bit foggy surrounding just what the PS4 Pro is and does. The Pro does not need a 4K TV to function, rather the resolution benefits are seen across the board on HD and UHD displays. If you are playing a game on an HD TV, the image is then upscaled to the resolution meant for the 4K display, then super-sampled down to HD. This always results in a much cleaner and refined image. This in theory puts the quality of the game, on the same level as the UHD output, if not better. The Elder Scrolls Online for example, looks average in 4K, but its 1080p mode, provides stunning water reflections and ambient occlusion, as vast visual upgrade from the 4K in my opinion. 

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It would be the best of both worlds to have a UHD TV to enjoy the Pro on, as the resolution boosts will be quite dramatic, but again, the quality of the game is still the same on HD as it is on UHD. Watch Dogs 2 for example, looks blurry on the standard PS4 with jagged edges on objects, and the view distance being compromised throughout the game. On the PS4 Pro, the resolution is boosted up to 1800p, and there are tons of visual enhancements throughout the game. I saw the same graphical upgrade take place on my HD TV. Super sharp edging, clearer picture quality, and better view distances. 

Most games I played were met with improvements across the board, and when playing them on an HD TV, the same visual improvements were present. For many games, it meant just starting the game up and playing. This goes for games like Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, and Ratchet and Clank, but for others there were actual graphic options to choose from. Final Fantasy XV features a “high” and “lite” mode, that either pushes the resolution up to 1440p, or 1080p with a stable 30fps. Now I am not one for frame counting, as long as it is more or less stable all the time, I am happy. Sure, we would all love to live in a world where 60fps was the standard, but we can’t.

I sat for a good thirty minutes changing between the two modes on FFXV, and in the end the 1440p mode was much better. Although the frame pacing was a bit sluggish at times, it was never an issue. If anything, I think the frame pacing issues in FFXV could be a bug like the one seen in Bloodborne. Regardless, the higher resolution looked amazing, and again, the HD TV version was the same thanks to it being upscaled to 1440p, and then super sampled down to 1080p

We then have the games that just look the same. Overwatch is one these as Blizzard released a PS4 Pro patch a while back, but the resolution stayed at 1920x1080.  The only difference with the game now, is that text and player portraits are 4K, which are overlayed onto the 1080p gameplay. Some other texture rendering has been enhanced, but nothing worth celebrating over. If anything, it was kind of a disappointment to see. The PS4 runs the game at a solid 60fps 1080p, so the Pro would easily boost that up to 4K, or 1800p at least. Sony has not made the Pro optimization mandatory for developers, but I don’t see why a studio would not want their game to benefit from a little extra visual boost. If we have seen games like Knack and Assassin's Creed Syndicate being patched with optimizations, why are games like Overwatch not seeing any improvements?

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It is the few select games that have really looked great, are mainly due to the 1080p enhanced modes, and downscaled rendering under 4K. Rise of the Tomb Raider was one of these, as the game has three options, an upscaled 4K mode, a 1080p 60fps mode, and an enhanced visual mode for 1080p. The 4K TV benefited from the 4K rendering, but it was not until I tested it out on a full HD TV, that the game’s true beauty pierced through, again thanks to the downscale from 4K to 1080p.

The 1080p enhanced modes looked okay on the 4K display, but when plugged into a full HD TV, the visuals were much better. The downscaled picture from 4K to 1080p, got rid of all this nasty sharp points in the foliage, as well resulted in a much crisper image. The console caters for all gamers regardless of their TV sets, 4K or HD.

After dozens of games played and tested, and hours of updating titles to support 4K, two games reminded me why I got the Pro in the first place. Ratchet and Clank, and the Last Guardian. Ratchet and Clank runs at a superb native 4K, while The Last Guardian at close 1800p, and both have HDR compatibility which is beyond anything I can put down in words. I looked at screenshots that I took in The Last Guardian, and they looked so different to what I saw on my UHD TV with HDR. Lights were bright, and dark rooms were pitch black. Ratchet and Clank is a beautiful Pixar-like experience on the Pro, one that upscales to 4K like nothing else I played. These two games are perfect examples of the Pro’s power, and has to be seen to believed. 

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The PS4 Pro is the best PS4 on the market, there is no doubt about it. Testing it on a 4K TV was excellent, and a full HD display showed vast improvement in gaming overall. Sure, the investment in a 4K TV and a new PS4 Pro will break the bank, but the console’s great 1080p visuals already warrant an upgrade to the console itself. Right now, the games look great, but the future of the console looks bright with games utilizing the power of the console to their full potential. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into Horizon Zero Dawn in 4K, or even the 1080p enhanced modes that will come with Nioh early next year. 

Considering that the PS4 Pro is just R6999, for what you are getting for the price, you cannot go wrong. You would want a 4K TV with it, as it would be the most ideal setup, but for those scared of investing in one, the full HD enhancements will leave you wanting more. In South Africa, especially, we have no reason to invest in 4K TVs besides Netflix, and even that needs a fast internet connection.

It is hard to push the PS4 Pro on people, but for me it was the fact that games would just look better on my TV, regardless of 4K or HD. Knowing that I would be playing Watch Dogs 2 with inferior visuals, slowly ate me up inside, as I wanted the best visual fidelity on my console. If you want the best visuals on your console, then the PS4 Pro is the answer. The 4K part of the console, just makes the purchase even better.  

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Marco CocomelloTwitter MWEB GameZoneTwitter | Facebook | YouTube

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