Digital Foundry's guide to PS4 Pro game upgrades

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The PlayStation 4 Pro upgrades are arriving en masse – to the point where it’s very difficult for us to keep up here at Digital Foundry. We’ll be taking a look at as many games as we can, and since many of the enhancements are simple resolution boosts, we’ve decided to put together a single reference article that contains video analysis and a breakdown of the key enhancements.

We’ve moved our workflow on to 4K in order to fully capture exactly what ultra HD compatible formats like PlayStation 4 Pro and PC offer, but YouTube’s high levels of compression makes getting a sense of the upgrade difficult in many cases. For that reason, we’ve recently launched a Patreon that offers access to everything we do in a pristine ultra HD downloadable format – h.264 at the moment, but we’re currently researching HEVC for the same excellent quality with much lower download sizes. You can check out a sample at digitalfoundry.net.

In addition to covering as many PlayStation 4 Pro releases as we can, we’ll also be updating with relevant patches that improve performance or add other features. We’ve recently revealed that the likes of Watch Dogs 2, Mantis Burn Racing and Deus Ex Mankind Divided had performance issues not found on the original PlayStation 4 and we’re happy to report that patches have been issued for all of them, addressing our issues. In the case of Mantis Burn Racing, a native 4K at a locked 60Hz is confirmed and developer VooFoo Studios has also added HDR support too.

We’ll be presenting these updates in the order that we look at them, with the newest coverage at the top of the page.

Hitman

  • Resolution: 1440p
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p and improved performance
  • HDR: No

Io Interactive’s Glacier Engine is a thing of beauty, and the upgrades in Hitman are palpable. Resolution is the key benefit here, with a 78 per cent increase in raw pixel-count, taking the game up to 1440p. On a 4K screen, it looks fine – a little soft perhaps, but the anti-aliasing solution combined with upscaling works well in filling out an ultra HD pixel-count.

There are other improvements too. Hitman operates either with an unlocked frame-rate, or else with a 30fps cap. The Pro benefits in both scenarios – firstly, the 30fps mode is absolutely locked, with none of the drops seen on PS4 or indeed Xbox One. In the unlocked mode, you get a good 10fps improvement at the minimum in many scenarios – so the wobbly mid-30s seen boost up to 50fps.

Loading times are improved and texture streaming also sees a tangible upgrade, to the point where you may think that the Pro actually has higher quality assets (in truth, they simply take longer to resolve on base PS4 hardware). This is a lovely game with a great Pro upgrade.

A locked 60fps is as elusive as some of the targets, but the overall improvements to Hitman are tangible in all regards.

Rise of the Tomb Raider



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  • Resolution: 2160p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, enriched visuals or unlocked frame-rate at native 1080p
  • HDR: No

Another Pro title that needs a bit of work, but shows huge promise. The base PS4 title is absolutely beautiful, and developer Nixxes has a stunning checkerboard 4K mode that demonstrates just how effective this technique can be. Unfortunately, larger ‘hub’ areas like the Geothermal Valley and the Soviet Installation can see frame-rate drops beneath the 30fps target. That’s a shame because the 4K mode doesn’t just look great on ultra HD screens – it’s easily the best super-sampling implementation we’ve seen yet for 1080p display users.

On top of that there’s further love for those with full HD displays. The unlocked frame-rate mode sees performance touch 60fps in the more linear levels, dropping to around 40fps in the hub areas. The variance isn’t quite our cup of tea, but we’re sure there will be others who will appreciate it. The enriched visual mode retains 1080p image quality (complete with ropey anti-aliasing) but adds improved PureHair tech, better texture filtering, more realistic reflections, higher LODs, sun soft shadows and more dynamic foliage.

Unfortunately, patch 1.05 has nerfed proper frame-pacing on both Pro and base PS4 hardware, giving a jittery presentation that is a huge downgrade compared to the silky smooth consistency we experienced at the Pro’s launch with the title in its 1.04 iteration.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a patch or two away from being one of the greatest titles available on PS4 Pro. Unfortunately, patch 1.05 has introduced frame-pacing issues, resulting in jittery performance on both base PS4 and Pro.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

  • Resolution: 1440p
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: Yes

Naughty Dog’s PlayStation 4 epic is the best technological showcase of base hardware, so you may think that this title would push the Pro too. However, it’s actually a case of more refinement as opposed to a huge boost to image quality. By and large, performance is on par with the base PlayStation 4 version, meaning that there are rare dips beneath 30fps of equal impact when running on Pro. The biggest improvement comes via resolution.

When we saw the title running at the PlayStation Meeting, we noted what looked like checkerboarding artefacts along with some performance drops. The final patch appears to have opted for straight upscaling to 1440p instead, producing a somewhat soft presentation on 4K screens, though the title’s excellent temporal anti-aliasing all but eliminates the kind of edge shimmer typically seen on standard upscaling. HDR is also supported on both base and Pro hardware, resolving more detail and offering much improved contrast – though night and day improvement varies depending on the screen you’re using.

Uncharted 4’s upgrades are limited to a 1440p resolution bump and HDR support.

The Last of Us Remastered

  • Resolution: 1800p (60fps mode), 2160p (30fps mode)
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, worse performance than base hardware in 60fps mode
  • HDR: Yes

There are plus and minus points to The Last of Us Remastered on PS4 Pro – firstly, we must say that the HDR implementation here really is beautiful, really making the most of the intricate artwork. It’s a feature on both base and Pro versions of the game, of course. The Pro benefits from 3200×1800 resolution in 60fps mode, providing an impressive upgrade – but at a cost. Stress points in the game offer worse performance than the standard PS4 version, something we hope to see Naughty Dog address, especially as it means that Pro owners with 1080p displays get lower frame-rates than base hardware. This is something that isn’t meant to happen.

However, the Pro release still has much to commend it. The 30fps mode sees The Last of Us reach the zenith of its visual appeal. The PS4 Pro plays host to a full native 4K presentation, and it looks absolutely beautiful. In common with the standard PS4 version, this mode also features greatly improved, higher resolution shadowmaps. In summary, this is a beautiful looking PS4 Pro title, one patch away from being perfect – but it’s difficult to believe that Naughty Dog weren’t aware of the performance deficit before the patch was launched.

The Last of Us Remastered, presented here in both 30fps and 60fps formats.

Battlefield 1

  • Resolution: Dynamic checkerboard, up to 1656p (possibly higher)
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, visual upgrades and improved performance
  • HDR: No

There’s a vast array of improvements for PlayStation 4 Pro owners with this tentpole release from Electronic Arts. Battlefield 1 enjoys a dynamic resolution upgrade that takes the title far beyond 1080p, depending on content, while performance is also improved. Visual features are also added: terrain detail is improved, effects in the post-process pipeline are upgraded.

Even textures are upgraded too. The base PS4 version appears to operate with a mixture of medium and high art when compared to the PC version – now it seems we’re locked at the high preset across the board. The result still falls some way short of the PC version operating at its ultra preset, but DICE has struck a good balance between performance upgrades and increased visual quality, to the point where the 1080p presentation looks great, even if it is just super-sampled down from the mode designed to support 4K screens.

Further tests we carried out in the multiplayer mode’s 64-player stress test scenes demonstrated a massive advantage here for PS4 Pro owners, while less taxing multiplayer scenes are likely to see the new console hand in more consistent 60fps gameplay overall.

Modern Warfare Remastered offers tangible resolution increases and a better performance level overall.

FIFA 17

  • Resolution: Native 4K
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: No

A plain and simple upgrade here, with FIFA 17 enjoying a straight 4x boost to resolution on PlayStation 4 Pro with little in the way of further embellishment, aside from some small improvements to grass draw distance in replays, and an improvement to depth of field quality. Curiously, stadium ‘jumbotrons’ seem to gain a small banding artefact, but we’re nit-picking here.

There’s an often an argument that 4K is so pixel-dense that anti-aliasing isn’t really required. Well, it all depends on the content and that argument can be shot down by playing FIFA 17 – there’s a lot of pixel-pop and shimmer here, whether you’re playing on base hardware at 1080p or on Pro at 4K. If AA is in effect here, its effects are minimal, but the impact is reduced by running the Pro version on a full HD display.

No bells and whistles here, but a native 4K output with a consistent 60fps during gameplay is an impressive feat.

Ratchet and Clank

  • Resolution: 2160p temporal injection
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: Yes

Insomniac’s re-envisaging of the franchise is absolutely beautiful on base PlayStation 4 hardware (where it also receives an HDR upgrade) but is also well worth checking out on PlayStation 4 Pro, where resolution is vastly improved thanks to the implementation of a technique the developers calls ‘temporal injection’.

The end result is a 4K presentation that may not be ‘native’ in the strictest sense, but offers the vast majority of the benefits of ultra HD resolution and looks precise and beautiful. The game runs at a capped 30fps and holds its performance level too – even when the screen is crammed with enemies and flying bolts. HDR is supported and it’s an interesting one. John Linneman reports only limited returns on an LG OLED, but on the office mid-range Panasonic DX750, Ratchet and Clank looked much better than running it in SDR mode. It’s perhaps not a revelatory improvement as such, but definitely a more ‘correct’ presentation.

Ratchet and Clank is a beautiful showcase for both the standard PS4 and the Pro.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided

  • Resolution: 1800p to 2160p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, better reflections, general performance improvements
  • HDR: Yes

This was one of the games singled out in our report on PlayStation 4 Pro titles running slower compared to base hardware in some scenarios, outperforming it in others. A more detailed analysis revealed that by and large, the game is improved – removing tearing completely, boosting performance in some areas and adding more detailed reflection work. Also, the resolution boost is huge here. However, strange stutter not seen on base hardware did cause some concern.

Since producing the video below, developer Nixxes has taken another look at this excellent game and improved Pro performance. Much of the stutter has gone now, but this has been achieved by reinstating the adaptive v-sync, so you will see tearing now.

An overview of the improvements made to Deus Ex Mankind Divided. Performance has since been improved in the latest patch.

Overwatch

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Additional features: Locked 1080p resolution, no dynamic scaling, improved texture filtering and depth of field
  • HDR: No

One of the slightest PS4 Pro upgrades available, no improvements are made to base resolution and frame-rate is already locked on base hardware, meaning no real enhancement on Pro. All you really get is additional texture filtering and a 4K HUD, along with a small improvement to the game’s depth of field effect. For Pro users with 1080p screens, dynamic resolution scaling is no longer an issue – but then, it wasn’t really a noticeable problem to begin with.

Let’s just say that the enhancements here are somewhat… barebones.

InFamous First Light/Second Son

  • Resolution: 1800p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p or unlocked frame-rate at native 1080p
  • HDR: Yes

Developer Sucker Punch delivers a solid Pro upgrade here with benefits not just for 1080p display users, but also for owners of original hardware with HDR-capable screens. The principal improvement comes in the form of a much higher resolution – the base 1080p of the original releases is boosted to 3200×1800 via checkerboarding. It’s a really successful implementation, with very little in the way of noticeable artefacts.

Frame-rate holds its own at much the same level as the original game (perhaps a touch slower in less busy scenes, funnily enough) but there’s also the option to trade pixels for performance via a secondary mode that runs the game at a slightly unstable 60fps. Both titles also support high dynamic range rendering, with First Light’s neon power effects looking particularly superb here. Along with HDR upgrades on other titles, this particular feature rolls back to standard PlayStation 4 hardware too.

Both InFamous titles offer up improvements in either resolution or performance. Here’s a look at First Light.

Watch Dogs 2

  • Resolution: 1800p checkerboarding
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, far superior anti-aliasing
  • HDR: No

Watch Dogs 2 was another title we singled out for sub-optimal performance on PlayStation 4 Pro compared to base hardware. We’re happy to report that frame-rate wobbles during traversal and mid-20s performance dips during police chases are now resolved in the 1.04 patch, though we want to take time out at some point to see if it’s a pure optimisation improvement or whether there may have been some tweaks to the game’s visual make-up.

This title resolves at 1800p using the checkerboard upscaling technique and it’s a substantial upgrade over the base PlayStation 4 game in terms of image quality, owing to the fact that the standard game features some highly questionable anti-aliasing. A stipple-like effect is present on both PS4 and Xbox One versions of the title, but thankfully it is not a feature of the 1800p Pro presentation. On top of that, running this title on a 1080p screen offers up lovely image quality – all the benefits of super-sampling along with the apparent omission of the dodgy anti-aliasing.

Since producing this video, Ubisoft has responded with a patch to improve performance in stress point areas.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

  • Resolution: 1560p to 2160p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: No

While controversy continues over the concept of Infinite Warfare, we’re happy to report that Infinite Warfare on PlayStation 4 Pro offers up an excellent experience. The PlayStation Meeting showing looked sub-optimal, but the final release code is something else, with a superb dynamic resolution scaling implementation paired with an optimisation effort that finally brings COD much closer to its locked 60fps roots.

The base PS4 version features a locked 1080 pixel vertical with a dynamic horizontal scaler, backed up by temporal super-sampling. The Pro version scales in a linear manner on both axes, moving between 1560p and 2160p with no noticeable artefacting. Resolution isn’t actually a key point in image quality in this title – it’s actually a more filmic look overall. The key takeaway from this one is that your 4K display is put through its paces, but the concept of a 60Hz COD is back on the table – we thoroughly enjoyed playing it.

Infinite Warfare scales up to a maximum 2160p with checkerboarding, and does so while maintaining an enviable performance level.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered

  • Resolution: 1560p to 2160p checkerboard
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, improved performance
  • HDR: No

Based on what looks like an enhanced version of Sledgehammer’s Advanced Warfare engine, Modern Warfare Remastered offers up a 125 per cent boost to resolution over the standard PlayStation 4 release and backs it up with a better lock on the target 60fps performance level. The chosen anti-aliasing method makes for a relatively soft title overall, but there are obvious benefits to running it on a 4K screen. However, it’s the more consistent frame-rate that will stand out – for users of 1080p screens in particular.

Modern Warfare Remastered offers tangible resolution increases and a better performance level overall.

Skyrim

  • Resolution: Native 4K
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, worse performance than base PS4 in some scenes
  • HDR: No

This is a difficult one to assess really. On the face of it, we’re looking at a substantial upgrade for Pro owners – the base resolution gets a 4x increase to native 4K, while the performance is, for the most part, matched at a capped 30fps. There’s also evidence that foliage draw distances are improved too – small, but neat little bonus.

However, on a minority of scenes, particularly ones heavy on alpha transparency effects, the Pro clearly operates with a performance deficit compared to base hardware. The game actually features very good temporal anti-aliasing on the standard PS4, to the point where the super-sampling visual improvement isn’t so pronounced. So with that in mind, Pro owners running this on a 1080p screen are essentially getting worse performance overall.

Skyrim’s native 4K output is impressive – but the performance drops need to be addressed.

Titanfall 2

  • Resolution: Dynamic resolution up to 1440p
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p, slightly smoother performance
  • HDR: No

Respawn Entertainment built scalability into Titanfall 2 via the inclusion of dynamic scaling technology. The title does have upper and lower limits, but generally speaking, it tends to render at around 1000p on base PlayStation 4 hardware. However, in more detailed and intense scenes, we’ve seen the pixel count drop as low as 720p. It’s all in pursuit of as close to a locked 60fps as possible and in this sense, trading pixels for frames is the right way to maintain playability.

PlayStation 4 Pro simply expands the upper and lower bounds of the resolution scaler – but here’s the thing, for the vast majority of the duration (certainly in the single-player campaign), the game stays locked to its top-end 1440p. Combined with the temporal super-sampling technology, the end result is slightly soft on a 4K screen, but still a huge improvement over the base PS4 release. And its simple approach to Pro support pays off for those with 1080p screens too: super-sampling down results in a really clean image on a full HD display.

This isn’t a hugely ambitious PlayStation 4 Pro update (PC’s superior ambient occlusion and shadow draw distance still elude the Pro) but it delivers enhancements that count on what is already a fantastic console shooter – and one of the most fun experiences we’ve had in recent times.

This game was already pretty spectacular on base PS4 hardware – the principal improvement here is much higher detail levels via a higher base resolution.

Batman: Return to Arkham

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Additional features: Higher frame-rates
  • HDR: No

A topic we mulled over a while back, what would happen if you could allocate Pro power to base PS4 titles that haven’t been patched? Batman: Arkham City – a part of the Return to Arkham package – gives us some idea. To cut to the chase, there are few enhancements here, to the point where we have to wonder whether Pro support is an easter egg of some sort, or maybe just a mistake.

There are no improvements to resolution, but frame-rate is improved. Arkham City operates with an unlocked frame-rate, with the Pro supplying anything up to an additional 20fps in GPU-bound areas. However, what’s clear is that the title has severe CPU issues, and there the 31 per cent of extra CPU power in the Pro offers up a paltry 6fps boost in performance. It’s interesting to note that Arkham Asylum doesn’t appear to have any kind of Pro mode at all, operating identically to base hardware. Perhaps the laziest Pro upgrade we’ve seen and only really interesting from a technical perspective.

An accidental Pro patch? There are no real enhancements here, just additional performance, ranging from a 6fps boost to a full 20fps.

Mantis Burn Racing

  • Resolution: Native 4K
  • Additional features: Super-sampling down to 1080p
  • HDR: Yes

If you hanker for some old-school Micro Machines-style action, Mantis Burn Racing is the game for you. It’s a top-down scroller with online and local split-screen support, paired with all the ‘progression’ and upgrade features you’d want from a modern title. On top of that, it’s a full, native 4K title operating at 60fps.

In our original analysis, below, we mentioned that the title had some performance issues compared to the base version of the game, which runs at 1080p with 2x MSAA. The latest patch 1.02 solves the stuttering we encountered, adds a whole host of bug fixes and enhancements and also introduces HDR, which should work on both Pro and base-level PlayStation 4 hardware.

An overview of Mantis Burn Racing on PS4 Pro. Developer VooFoo has since corrected the performance hiccups on PS4 Pro, and added HDR support.



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In summary, PlayStation 4 Pro is a curious piece of hardware. At best, with titles like Ratchet and Clank, FIFA 17, Infinite Warfare and Rise of the Tomb Raider, we’re looking at a machine capable of handing in a viable 4K gaming experience. Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note just how many games are coming in with a 1440p framebuffer. When we built a PC with a GPU running to the PS4 Pro’s graphics spec, this did seem to be the natural resolution for the hardware, but we didn’t quite expect to see so many titles appear with this exact pixel count.

That said, it is early days for the new console, and developers have been sharing their higher resolution techniques and technologies, so we fully expect to see improvements generally across the months as game-makers become more au fait with the new hardware. In the short term, it’s also been heartening to see many developers take our criticisms about sub-par performance onboard, releasing timely patches to address the issues. We’ll be keeping this guide updated frequently, so look out for more analysis soon.

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