When rumours first started surfacing about the prospect of a new and more powerful PlayStation 4 console, I couldn’t help but be a little concerned. Despite the fact that this is a tactic that’s been employed by Nintendo in the past with both its handheld consoles and, to a lesser extent, the various expansions for devices such as the Nintendo 64, I’ve always been a little hesitant about mid-generational upgrades when looking at them from a pro-consumerist standpoint.
For instance, while many games perform reasonably well on both the original 3DS and the newer and more powerful console in its family, there are situations such as the one that occurred with the handheld port of Hyrule Warriors where some games simply do not run as expected on the older hardware. The biggest point of concern for me was of the possibility of something similar occurring with the PS4 Pro and the older, less-powerful machine.
Unfortunately, this looks to be the case with Team ICO’s long-anticipated The Last Guardian.
According to Digital Foundry, The Last Guardian fluctuates wildly between 20 to 30 frames per second on the original PlayStation 4, which results in a game that simply does not feel smooth or fluid to play. To put it simply, playing The Last Guardian on the original PS4 is a sub-optimal way to experience it, which is a damn shame.
Things aren’t much improved on the PS4 Pro in its 4K mode, which suffers from similar issues, albeit nowhere near as heavily. For the most part, the framerate is much better than that of the base console’s, but there are a few moments where it actually performs worse than the less powerful hardware. Either way, performance is nowhere near optimal in this mode, which is a huge let-down.
Even more worryingly, PlayStation Universe reports that the The Last Guardian’s framerate can even dip below 10, although this was seemingly resolved by restarting the entire PS4 console.
In order to get achieve a mostly consistent framerate, you’ll need to play The Last Guardian in 1080p on a PS4 Pro. In this case, the game will render at that lower resolution, so it won’t look as nice as the 4K mode does, but the console will then be able to dedicate the rest of its resources to the game’s overall performance, which in turn ensures that the game will run at a more stable 30 frames per second. This lower resolution mode on the PS4 Pro will still suffer from the occasional dips, but they’re nowhere near as extreme as those encountered on the base console and on the Pro’s 4K mode.
To make things worse, The Last Guardian will not allow players to manually select what resolution they want to play the game in when it’s actually running. You’ll actually need to go into the console’s settings and change the output resolution from there if you want to run the game in a different performance mode. This means that if you’re an owner of a 4K TV, you’ll be playing The Last Guardian with significantly worse performance by default.
I really and truly hope that both The Last Guardian’s framerate can be improved on both the original PS4 and the Pro’s 4K mode and that this sort of situation is the exception rather than the rule when going forward. If anything, I’d love it if the PS4 Pro’s more powerful hardware could just be relegated to being a rather nice — but entirely optional — extra, instead of something that’s going to be a mandatory purchase in order to play games at even 30 frames per second.
The last thing I want is for developers to neglect the older PS4 console in favour of the Pro, as it only harms the early adopters of Sony’s current-gen console and those who simply cannot afford to upgrade to the new hardware.
Even though I was critical of the frame-pacing issues in Final Fantasy XV, it’s at least clear that Square Enix put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that the game runs at a nearly solid 30 frames per second on even the original PS4, with the Pro receiving some relatively minor-yet-welcome upgrades on top of that. Likewise, the soon-to-be-patched-in 60FPS mode for Final Fantasy XV that Square Enix is promising really does just seem like a nice upgrade that improves the PS4 Pro version of the game without adversely affecting owners of the older console. I’d love it if more developers could take inspiration from this, as it ensures that every PS4 owner gets to play a perfectly functional game, while also giving Pro owners a superior experience.