Five Games That Make The PS4 Pro Worth It

Image: Supplied

I only bought the PS4 Pro because Sony told me to. Sure, I knew what 4K was, and I could spell HDR, but that was about it. My TV at the time was still merely “full” HD (a descriptor I’d since learn to be a vicious lie) and I always figured 30fps was about the best a console scrub could hope for.

So what exactly was the PS4 Pro for then? It wasn’t clear. It’s what was next. So I bought it.

Then came the purchase of a shiny new 65” UHDTV, and with it the chance for Sony to finally reveal its bright vision for a 4K HDR future. A host of games, both brand new and recently remastered, promised to harness the PS4 Pro’s increased power to completely blow my arse out with more pixels, more frames, more dynamic range and generally Make Gaming Great Again.

Does it? On the right setup, can HDR and the resolution bump really transform your PS4 gaming experience? And if so, which games really deliver? After extensive testing, below are five PS4 titles that can made my Pro investment worthwhile, in order of awesomeness.

5. Uncharted 4

It’s no surprise Naughty Dog’s latest would end up looking amazing on PS4 Pro. What’s most striking though is how well the added colour range enhances outdoor scenery – from the way light hits the leaves, to the shadows of trees, reflections in the water or the game’s spectacular skyboxes. Everything is amped up to an even more shamelessly lush degree on the Pro, making it a great choice to show off your new gaming setup.

The developers have clearly favoured lighting, post-processing and texture clarity here over pure resolution, as the Pro renders the game at 1440p (not full 4K), but it hardly matters. The extra processing power may not revolutionise the game in any way, but there’s certainly a sense that it enables the developers to bring you their very best vision of an already exceptionally beautiful game.

4. Ratchet & Clank

Image: Kotaku

In contrast to Uncharted’s enhanced-reality aesthetic, if you could play a Pixar movie, there’s a fair bet it would look like Ratchet & Clank. You know a game’s production values are sky high when you can barely tell the gameplay from the cutscenes. The PS4 Pro patch for Ratchet & Clank brought with it HDR, better anti-aliasing and a “much higher resolution” thanks to a technique hilariously referred to as “Temporal Injection”.

Whatever that is, the results are stunning. The Solana galaxy has never looked more vibrant and alive, the game’s colourful cast of characters look even smoother and more polished, and the overall experience edges ever closer to feeling like big-budget CGI, rather than a real-time game engine. It still runs at 30fps, suiting the free-flowing platform gameplay perfectly well.

3. ABZU

Image: Kotaku

Abzu, the enchanting adventure game from Giant Squid Studios is the Journey of the PS4 generation. And like Journey, the point isn’t so much to beat the game but to enjoy the ride. What makes Abzu shine on PS4 Pro is the way the game exploits 4K to enhance the sense of scale and immersion you feel as one lone diver swimming through its vast underwater world.

As weird as it sounds, doubling down on resolution absolutely transforms the sensation of being lost in an ocean of sparkling reefs, looming caverns and teeming ocean life – which is essential for a game that’s mechanically little more than a swimming-forwards simulator. The game still looks fine at 1080p, but feels normalised and flat compared to the Pro version, making 4K absolutely instrumental to the full experience.

2. Resident Evil 7

Image: Kotaku

Resident Evil 7 is a welcome return to form for Capcom, and in addition to the much vaunted option to run the whole stomach-churning gauntlet in VR, it’s the game’s approach to HDR that deserves the most attention. Darkness is everything in horror, and the developers have truly harnessed the PS4 Pro’s increased colour range to bring the Baker family homestead to grotesque life with deeper shadows, more nuanced lighting and a thicker, more oppressive atmosphere than ever before.

They take it so seriously that the game even features a special HDR calibration tool at the start, just to ensure every jump scare and spouse decapitation is seen exactly as the designers intended. Since most of the game is played in confined spaces, the 4K bump doesn’t make anything particularly clearer, but frankly, for a game that thrives on grime, entrails and filth, that’s probably a kindness.

1. The Witness

For my money, the single greatest showpiece for the PS4 Pro is Thelka’s technicolour indie puzzle epic. This might seem like an odd choice, but as it turns out, a slow-paced, atmospheric exploration game is by far the best showcase for the subtle ways 4K and HDR can be used to truly enhance the minute-to-minute gaming experience.

The rich colours, foliage and minute environmental details of Jonathan Blow’s abstract island are gloriously enhanced by the wider colour palette and sharper resolution, giving you even less of an excuse to miss the multitude of visual hints and cues designed to help you solve the game’s puzzles and prevent you from screaming hopelessly at the TV. This still happens, by the way. It just looks prettier while you’re doing it.

The Witness offers three display options for PS4 Pro – standard 1080p at 60fps, 1440p at 60fps and full-bore 4K at a reduced frame rate of –gasp!- 30fps. The 4K option is absolutely gorgeous and by far the best choice. Save your fancy 60fps for Overwatch.


While the results of all the games tested varied from barely noticeable to flat-out gorgeous, the success criteria for this list remained the same – was the look of the game immediately different and noticeably better running on the PS4 Pro, and was the investment worth never returning to the “standard” non-pro version? Each of these five games easily met that standard.

Still, it’s a little too early in the Pro’s lifecycle to unconditionally recommend the upgrade – after all, it’s tough on developers to commit serious resources to servicing a pretty niche portion of the PlayStation ecosystem. Regardless, these games give a powerful sense of what’s possible on the new hardware – it remains to be seen how much further Xbox’s Scorpio is willing to push the arms race when Microsoft gets their turn in June.

Rick Salter is a Sydney-based indie developer. He's also the producer of the Devils and Details podcast for Business Insider, which is published by Kotaku Australia's parent company Allure Media.


Comments

    I kinda want it, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. There's no way this wasn't planned well ahead of the original PS4 launch, it was obsolete by the time it launched and I refuse to believe they didn't know that.
    It kind of feels like a stab in the back.

      When I first saw the original PS4 I felt like it wasn't a big enough jump from the PS3, now that makes sense if the pro was in the works at the launch of the original PS4. I was dissapointed when I learnt it was still going to be 30fps on alot of games.
      I would have preferred an across the board 1080p 60fps PS4 rather than a HDR 4K PS4 that requires patches to enable it.

      Say what?! There's no way Sony could offer something like the Pro back then. The tech that is in there is based on the latest AMD features, at least with the GPU. The process is 14nm, which would have been damn expensive. FinFET was barely out of the gate, so to speak, and certainly wasn't available in 14nm.

      Now is the only time that Sony can provide a machine like the Pro. It's not a stab in the back. It's reality. Saying the PS4 was obsolete at launch is disingenuous.

    2. Resident Evil 7

    Er, no. RE 7 could have been presented on the ol' Build Engine and it will cause profits to sore for Depends.

    What sold RE 7 is not the graphics; it was the atmosphere.

    As someone that bought a PS4 Pro, but only because my Day 1 PS4 broke and I figured "I need a new one anyway, so might as well", it's 100% not worth it if you don't have a 4K TV.

    The one exception there might be if you don't already own any flavour of PS4, in which case if you have the extra cash it's a "might as well". Even then, the fact it doesn't have a 4K Blu Ray player is annoying.

    I'm still salty it doesn't support 1440p natively though - I don't have a 4K TV but do have a 1440p monitor, and I would've loved to at least play at that resolution. It's still a significant difference over 1080p.

      The one exception there might be if you don't already own any flavour of PS4, in which case if you have the extra cash it's a "might as well". Even then, the fact it doesn't have a 4K Blu Ray player is annoying.

      More than annoying, it defeats the purpose. Then again, I'm the kind of guy who would still buy 4K BluRay even if I was on the NBN - mainly because I want the content to be viewable on my time and not a copyright holder's discretion.

      The only valid use I can think of is if one owns a PSVR; the extra processing should keep things smooth down the line but at the same time, like the NES classic and iPhones, stock levels are kept artificially low thus completely deterring those who might have wanted the unit.

      Don't get me wrong, I actually have a PSVR and it's a nice headset. But like 3D its introduction is the same as the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic and its is now too late to get a reasonable market foothold.

      The other issue is more on a personal level; why the hell are there no dials to adjust the lenses in the headset? I should not have to wear my glasses; the headset should be adjustable to my 20/18 vision (means I see the same at 18 metres as others would at 20).

      Last edited 20/02/17 11:45 am

        Oh, you and me both. I have NBN and I'd still prefer to watch 4K Blu Rays - doesn't use your bandwidth that you could put to other uses, less compressed, the copyright holder issues you mentioned, and I just like having physical media.

        Unfortunately I haven't tried a PSVR, so can't really speak to that - but from what you've said it's certainly an immature technology.

          Sorry, I was overly brief. I'll to be concise as this is off topic.

          Just a heads up, I have not tried an Oculus nor a Hive but I will concede they are technologically superior (the screens have a higher resolution than the VR).

          My eye physiology aside, I think it is a well constructed unit. First, the exterior is mostly plastic and the interior is rubber. That makes it easy to clean and there is no special paint work, etc, on the outside that dislikes moisture.

          The unit has around 9 nights on the set which are used by the PS Camera to detect where the user is in the room but at the same time, it still has some internal gyroscope so it can track one's head if one is out of the view of the camera.

          I found this out by sitting on a side chair. I got a warning prompt but otherwise the tracking was still there.

          Now, despite the lower resolution, the emersion is still very effective. Especially when the headphones are connected.

          I'm not a horror person but I did try Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. At first, I though it was just a typical rail shoot like Panzer Dragoon and House of the Dead.

          Then I hear someone singing right in my ear and (when turned) there was this zombie girl right in my face. How I didn't soil myself I'll never know.

          Above all though, the unit is very light weight; weighs no more than the visor for VR capable mobile phones.

          Admittedly, it takes a while to celebrate (especially like me as reflections on my prescription lenses can cause artefacts) but once done it is a very effective experience.

          If you are still interested, best ask around to see if someone will let you try their own first; as well as stock levels artificially kept down, the units are also over priced (not as much as other offerings but still over priced all the same.

            Actually, Sony's having a hard time fulfilling the demand for PSVR, I genuinely think that production of the units just isn't at a fast enough pace yet. It's a complex product which hasn't been manufactured on a large level before so I think the pipeline is just slow.

              I don't know about it being a complex product. VR has been around for some time so the technology must be mature by now.

              If not, then what on earth has been going on? VR has been around since the early 90s (and potentially the 80s if some tales about Atari are to be believed).

              Regardless of complexity and maturity, Sony are setting themselves up for a fall.

              If production is slow, they need to find out why and fix it quickly. Public demand doesn't wait forever and it is highly likely many will give up waiting and look for an alternative.

              I got lucky so I'm happy but at the same time my commenting about the device (while accurate) is also working against Sony. I'm certain I'm in the minority who will wear prescription glasses inside the headset (though I wonder if I'll be fine without them given my rating) but the majority will not and be put off by it.

      The new Boost Mode once publicly available changes that though.

    Traded my Launch PS4 day one for a Pro. Zero regrets.
    I'd add Battlefield 1 to that list.... 64 PvP runs a dream on the pro with a 4K bump to the resolution.

    Happy PS4 Pro owner here. I agree Uncharted 4 and Ratchet and Clank took great. I'd add to that list Tomb Raider (though no HDR) as the benefits to frame rate are not insignificant.

    It is not clear in the article but be aware the base PS4 fully supports HDR.

      Yeah the comparison seemed a bit unfair, stock ps4 with less than hd tv to a pro ps4 with a 4k tv

    To those saying that the PS4 Pro doesn't do much to increase framerates and requires specific game patches to work, version 4.50 of system firmware will add a "boost mode" which fixes just that: http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/3/14499188/ps4-pro-boost-mode-firmware-4-50

      Why is it an option and not something turned on and left on by default?

        Because it can be buggy in some games that were built around specific specs when it comes to cpu and ram.

        They're leaving it optional (or so I heard) because it can cause issues where the frame rate is tied to the in-game physics. I believe this happened in the original port of Dark Souls on PC where someone unlocked the frame rate and characters started disappearing through floors and stuff because the FPS was much higher than expected.

      Boost mode only speeds up older games with unlocked frame rates. It's fair to assume the results are going to be mixed at best.

      I shudder to think what an unlocked frame rate will do for multiplayer Dark Souls, for example, where different console tiers could be playing each other. Hitbox nightmare.

    This list is incomplete. IMHO the best PS4Pro games are......

    - Battlefield 1
    - For Honor
    - COD and Titanfall 2 were glorious in 60Fps on higher settings
    - Steep is great
    - Tomb Raider was great too

    The only game that really makes me want to upgrade is Nioh... But to be honest I find the graphics to be more than sufficient in action mode on Standard PS4. PS4 Pro still feels like a half measure to me, I will be very interested to hear about Scorpio when we get some final specs, specifically the CPU, which is the biggest bottleneck in both consoles this generation.

      I tested Nioh for this article - the PS4 Pro maintains a steady 60fps @ 1080p, but at 4K it plummets to 30fps which pretty unplayable by comparison.

      Especially since the visual improvement at 4K is pretty negligible. You're mostly just seeing muddy textures with sharper edges.

    One thing that doesn’t make the PS4 worth it. THE CONTROLLER

    I’m one who’s had a PS, PS2, PS3 since 1998 & have used a PS4 controller. I switched to Xbox when is was clear the PS4 controller had poor battery life (avg 8hrs), half that of the PS3 (16hrs) & still had to be tethered by a short cable to recharge. All because they reduced the battery from 1800mah to 1000mah to make room for a pointless, intrusive & annoying light bar. An obsolete form of motion detection tech replaced by superior laser based systems. BTW they never addressed any of these issues with the Pro & that's poor.

    On the Xbox One controller I’m getting over 24hrs of play time (3x the PS4) on 2x1900mah Eneloops. When they die, they go into the charger & are replaced with pre charged ones (2x2 batteries on rotation) so I can play wireless & untethered always. There’s the build quality that leaves PS4 for dead with no issues of thumb stick padding wearing off etc. Oh & better design, like real triggers that protrude forward & go flush when pulled. Unlike PS4’s idea of vertical flaps that curl under the controller & felt weird that’s why you always made the upper shoulder buttons the main triggers.

    I don’t care if the other car is more powerful, if it has a steering wheel made of rope, I’m not driving it.

    Last edited 21/02/17 10:04 pm

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