Up until this year, I was under the impression that I was pretty adept at video games. After all, I’ve spent most of my life around them. But a few months ago, Sony proved me wrong with the announcement of their upgraded PlayStation 4—the PlayStation 4 Pro. It was then that I realized I was a mere amateur to the company, a laughing stock to the community. The only way I could validate my “professional” status to the rest of the world was plopping down $400 USD for Sony’s triple-decker console.
Jokes aside, the PlayStation 4 Pro is finally here, ushering in a brave new era of console wars. See, this isn’t the next PlayStation console—but at the same time, it totally is. Unlike the Slim, the Pro actually offers more than the vanilla model, boasting features not present in that incarnation. It’s undoubtedly a different machine. Yet there’s no actual Pro-exclusive software, and from the sound of it, there won’t be. The games will be the same. On top of that, the user interface is identical, and the console itself looks almost the same, outside of an extra “layer” on top. For all intents and purposes, the Pro is still very much the same console you bought back in 2013, just a little bigger.
What you’re buying, then, is a beefier version of that system. The Pro offers a big boost in terms of raw processing power, as well as the ability to upscale games to 4K resolutions. No, this isn’t actual 4K gaming—let’s be honest, it’ll probably be a decade before a home console can offer something even the most premium PC currently struggles with. Much like the Xbox One S, the Pro uses High Dynamic Range (HDR) to upscale games to a higher resolution. Essentially, it makes use of that multi-thousand dollar TV you probably won’t buy for another few years but doesn’t fundamentally alter the games themselves.
That is, in some cases. Ratchet and Clank and Uncharted 4, for example, merely get upscaled for higher resolutions. Those are already gorgeous games, though, and to the average bear, there won’t be much of a difference. Where you’ll notice differences, then, in are titles like Rise of the Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics’ masterpiece ends up being the definitive console version of the game on the Pro. Players can choose three graphical options: 4K resolution, better texture quality, or faster framerate. This is something PC players have been hip to for years, but is new to home consoles. The higher framerate alone makes this a better version than the original release, and the difference feels like night and day to me. Other games get performance bumps, too. Dishonored 2, for example, looks noticeably sharper and less aliased than other console games, as does Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. For me to go from my primary platform (PC) and come away impressed by the anti-aliasing capabilities of a console… well, that speaks for itself.
While a good PC is still leaps and bounds better than any console on the market (sans the dearly departed Wii U,) people who might not have the dosh for that won’t come away disappointed. The upgraded CPU and GPU (a 2.1GHz 8-core Jaguar and 4.2 TFLOP AMD Radeon, respectively,) enable the average consumer to play prettier, faster games at a relatively inexpensive cost. Hopefully more developers will take advantage of this, and we won’t get as many thoroughly garbage console ports in the future. The Witcher 3, I’m looking at you.
Other upgrades just sweeten the deal. The PS4’s notoriously awful internal modem has been thrown out, and it shows—download speeds and online connectivity are noticeably snappier. Same goes for the Bluetooth, which has been bumped up to v4.0, meaning historical input lag problems have been solved. There’s also an additional USB slot thrown in, which PSVR users should be happy about. Speaking of VR, the Pro also offers some enhancements for that as well, with most of the games getting tweaked visuals, faster framerates, and all sorts of other trimmings. The Pro seems to have been built with PSVR in mind, and as a moderately happy owner of a headset, I appreciate that.
So, will the PlayStation 4 Pro validate your desire to be acknowledged as a true gaming professional? That remains to be seen. Is it a definitive upgrade to Sony’s flagship system, and a worthwhile purchase overall? I’d hazard to say yes. Certain games do look prettier and perform better, and the internal upgrades (modem, Bluetooth, and USB,) fix my longstanding issues with the system. If you don’t have a PS4, this is the one to get. If you do, and you’re incredibly anal about certain design flaws, this will make for a holiday wish list addition.
Now, if only Sony could do something about the thing sounding like a leafblower during certain games…