Checkpoint: PlayStation 4 Pro Edition

Checkpoint: PlayStation 4 Pro Edition

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After a week or so with the PlayStation 4 Pro, I’m happy to report that I think it’s worth the upgrade if you can sell off or find another use for your old PlayStation 4. The PlayStation 4 Pro  is luxury upgrade in the strictest sense. 

Pro Mode Impressions

I’ve only played two PS4 Pro enabled titles and the differences ranged from refinement to barely noticeable.

  • TitanFall 2 looked and performed fine on the regular PlayStation 4 with only occasional dips during the more chaotic multiplayer scenes. The Pro patch added a coat of polish that is not dissimilar from moving onto a PC version. Supersampling produced an exceptionally clean image and those dips in framerate found in multiplayer were eliminated. 
  • Overwatch’s Pro patch yielded very minor changes. I noticed the improved anisotropic filtering for textures but I thought they improved lighting and character models as well but alas, Digital Foundry noted no such changes on the latter. 

There are other Pro enabled titles that show off more significant differences (Rise of the Tomb Raider, Battlefield 1) but there are also a handful of titles that perform worse because of the increased pixel count (The Last of Us: Remastered, Skyrim: Special Edition). Although those numbers are small, I hope that developers are doing what they can to remediate those performance issues. I would rather they not issue Pro mode or make very subtle changes if driving for 4K resolution negatively impacts performance. That or give users the ability to force Base mode.

Power Consumption & Noise

Digital Foundry found that the PlayStation 4 Pro consumes less power than the original PlayStation 4 during base mode, idle and system operations. When running in Pro mode, it exceeds the original PS4’s power consumption by a bit but it’s still reasonable.

In practice, the noise profile is in line with my old PlayStation 4 which I was okay with. The true litmus test would be Doom but I haven’t found the opportunity to test that game yet — that awesome game sent my PS4 to overdrive.

Other Niceties

Minor increases in loading times and the ability to capture 1080p screenshots and videos are two other luxuries that I appreciate. The 720p video captures were always on the soft side and made for embarrassing showings on a screen larger than 4 inches. 

Is It Worth It?

If you have a 4K HDTV or enjoy a cleaner image on certain games then the PS4 Pro is worth the upgrade price — especially if you have plans for your old hardware. If you are happy with the PlayStation 4 and aren’t enamoured with what you’ve read, I’d stay the course and ignore Sony’s newest revision.

Speaking of TitanFall 2, I wrapped up the campaign on Friday. It’s a quality campaign that’s both predictable in story and surprising in gameplay ideas. I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw despite all hints people dropped about it being full of variety.

Impressions of E3 2016 Press Conferences

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Electronic Arts

TitanFall 2 and Battlefield 1 were the big tentpole titles that bookended Electronic Art’s press conference. Between the two EA shooters and Activision’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, I am throwing my hat in the TitanFall 2 camp. The multiplayer looks looks like a hell of a time and the promise of free modes and maps seals the deal.

Battlefield 1 looks like a technical masterpiece but it didn’t register an excitement on my end. It looked like Battlefield + WW1 which was exactly what I expected and that’s why it was so disappointing to me. The shift to a more mobile and able player makes the grounded approach to Battlefield 1 look static to me. I guess what I wanted was a sequel Battlefield 2142 with mechs, wall running, jetpacks and other ridiculous possibilities and not the dirty grit of World War I.

They showed off Mass Effect: Andromeda but it’s so tough to muster any excitement for a game that we’ve seen so little of. I need to see a Bethesda style 20 minute blowout session of the game.

B-

Bethesda

Quake is back in hero shooter form and since I have no reverence for that series whatsoever, I came away indifferent. I’m more interested in the fact that Bethesda are doing their very best to revitalize id Software’s franchises. They teased a new Wolfenstein which is by far the most exciting reveal of the conference.

The highlight of the show was Dishonored 2 receiving same gameplay showcase that Fallout 4 received last year. It’s a great looking game and the fact that I haven’t played the first Dishonored is a crime. I’m going to pre-order it but I have no idea if I’m going to keep that pre-order or just wait for a Black Friday discount. It does look very impressive though.

If there’s one thing that Bethesda nailed for the past two years is the pace of the press conferences. Even when they’re talking about a game that I have no interest in, they make it entertaining and brisk.

B+

Microsoft

Microsoft’s entire press conference lineup leaked and I still came away entertained and informed.

That Xbox One S is beautiful. I don’t see myself picking one up but I am glad it exists. I just wish it didn’t start at $399 CAD because that’s the exact same price as the original which isn’t the case in the U.S where it starts $50 lower than the old Xbox One.

The two standout games for me — and not in a positive way — were ReCore and Scalebound. ReCore looked a little rough from a tech perspective and Scalebound just looks boring.

On the flip side, Gears of War 4 and We Happy Few impressed. I’m ready for a new Gears of War 4 and it’s good to see a disconcerting dystopian adventure game featuring clowns.

Project Scorpio’s confirmation for 2017 and its promise of 4K gaming and VR in a console was the showstopper and makes me wonder what Sony are going to do with their Neo. This upcoming Xbox will be more powerful than Sony’s Neo so how will they pitch it. They had the tech advantage with PlayStation 4 and if the rumored specs target are true, then Project Scorpio will have that talking point.

A-

Ubisoft

Ghost Recon: Wildlands? South Park? For Honor? None of those resonated — especially with their canned demos filled with unrealistic banter. The South Park demonstration went for far too long. Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch_Dogs 2 are Ubisoft open world games and For Honor doesn’t look like my cup of tea. There was even an entire Assassin’s Creed movie segment that I took a washroom break for because the entire conference up to that point was plodding along at a snail’s pace.

The highlight of the show for me were Aisha Tyler, the enthusiasm of LeVar Burton for Star Trek VR and the reveal of Grow Up. But outside of those handful of moments, the Ubisoft press conference was disappointing.

D+

Sony

Sony enjoys announcements and so do I which is why I was a fan of their press conference. They didn’t showcase as much PlayStation VR as I thought but that was perfectly fine by me. There’s a new God of War which appears to be a reboot of the franchise. Resident Evil VII looks interesting by being first person and more intimate. Kojima’s new game was weird and perfectly Kojima.

The most impressive demonstration was Horizon: Zero Dawn. They showed off everything they needed to show without overstaying its welcome. Sony’s Bend new game Days Gone was one of the less impressive titles shown but it was new and needed a person pitching it.

The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was okay; I wasn’t sold on it. The Spider-man exclusive by Insomniac Games was a genuine surprise to me. Rumors were pegging Sucker Punch as the developer of the game so seeing Insomniac Games’ logo was quite the swerve. They made Sunset Overdrive so I’m optimistic that they can pull off an open world title but it’s been a LONG time since we’ve seen a decent Spider-man title.

Overall, this was the best conference of E3 2016. It was brisk with plenty of announcements and game demonstrations.

A

 

Checkpoint: Console Hardware Revision Edition

Checkpoint: Console Hardware Revision Edition

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Sony are working on a PlayStation 4.5 according to Scoops. It will be a more powerful PlayStation 4 equipped with an upgraded GPU to handle 4K gaming.

Do I believe the rumors? Yes. I do not doubt Patrick Klepek’s reporting. But there’s a lot to unpack with this idea of a more powerful “mid-cycle” revision.

Improved GPU

How much of an improvement are we looking at with this hardware revision? 4K gaming is such an ambiguous term because very simple games can be rendered with the current PlayStation 4’s GPU. Are Sony aiming to render games like The Order 1886 in 4K? Or perhaps they’re simply including a hardware scaler that will upscale 1080p to 4K?

The PlayStation VR would be able to take advantage of more GPU power but what would that mean for PlayStation 4 owners who will be purchasing the VR headset this fall? Surely Sony don’t intend to divide a niche segment of their audience even further.

Gradual Obsolesce

I have no problems with introducing a more powerful hardware after 3 – 4 years. The PlayStation 4 is approaching its 3rd birthday later this year, and the Netbook class CPU and 2013 mid-range GPU will be exposed even further as newer and cheaper PC parts make their debut.

The worry for many people is that current PlayStation 4 owners will be left behind if developers target the new hardware. But will that make sense from a developer or publisher perspective? Are the most successful iOS developers only targeting the latest and greatest hardware? Of course not and that’s what I believe will happen if the console manufacturers turn to a more iterative pace with hardware.

I see the API maintaining backwards compatibility like iOS but eventually developers and Sony will choose not to support older revisions. I can see Sony maintaining support for two revisions at a time.

  1. PlayStation 4 (2013)
  2. PlayStation 4 (2017)
  3. PlayStation 4 (2021)
  4. PlayStation 4 (2025)

1 & 2 will be supported, then 2 & 3, then 3 & 4 and so on.

How would developers take advantage of new hardware? If the PlayStation 4 (2013) runs games at medium equivalent PC settings, I can see the PlayStation 4 (2017) running games on high equivalent settings. It’ll involve more testing and resources on the developers perspective but they have the option to make better looking games.

Why would developers do this though? Why would they invest resources on something extraneous? They don’t have to. If they wanted to target PlayStation 4 (2013) and optimize for that, they will have the widest possible audience available to them. But that will be the case for games launching near the second PlayStation 4 revision. Sony will stop selling PlayStation 4 (2013) and eventually PlayStation 4 (2017) will grow to a sizeable share and may even become the dominant segment of the market share. At that point, developers may want to push boundaries and move onto supporting the newer revision.

$399.99 Forever?

I have no problems buying a new hardware revision every 4 years for $399.99 USD. You don’t need to buy the new revision on day one, in fact I can see PlayStation 4 (2017) receive a price drop in 2019 like the PlayStation 4 did in 2015. But this will allow Sony to keep a higher priced game console forever. They can offer the older revisions for $299.99 but they need to make it clear that it may have a shorter life span ahead.

Interesting Times Ahead

This may end up being nothing more than a thought experiment by the hardware manufacturers but even if it amounts to nothing, I am glad they are considering this possible route. It’s been an interesting idea to dissect.

The Division. Fire Emblem. The Division. Fire Emblem. Repeat. I’m almost done with the latter and making progress with the former. I’ve been doing the side missions as they appear and not burning through the main content so as not to create an imbalance of boring content in the end.

 

Savestate: New Retail Exits XL

Savestate: New Retail Exits XL

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New Nintendo 3DS XL

I’ll likely pick up a New Nintendo 3DS XL but not for $229.99. I’ll wait for it to hit the $179.99 price point or something. I’m not going to migrate to the new one because I’m going to pass the “old” Nintendo 3DS XL to my brother.

Do I even need it? Probably not. I don’t even have a Nintendo 3DS game of interest on the horizon.

There’s a bit of controversy behind this “New” Nintendo 3DS XL. First, only the XL version is coming to North America. I’m guessing the regular sized ones weren’t selling as well as the XL — or — the profit margin for the 3DS XL is higher than the regular size one. Who knows? Second, that $229.99 New Nintendo 3DS XL will not include a power adapter which is bonkers in this market. Nintendo have been omitting the power adapter for other regions like Europe and Japan but kept it North Americans consumers happy by including it. Now we’re just like the rest of the world.

I’m a fan of the XL size so, the lack of regular size didn’t phase me. The power adapter omission was also a non-issue for me because, like Nintendo insinuated, I have extra power adapters since I own an old 3DS XL and a Nintendo DSi.

If I were to hazard a guess, I believe I’ll get one at my preferred price point by the end of 2015.

Sony Store & Target Exiting Canada

I’m disappointed by the departure of Target. It barely got off the ground and now it’s already leaving. I was hoping Target would end up being a viable competitor to Walmart but with a compelling online presence. But I guess losing $2.1 billion since day one isn’t a recipe for success. Then again, opening 100+ stores in 22 months may have been a tad aggressive on their part. It’s a real shame that they’re departing Canada. A real shame.

Sony also announced they’re leaving the retail market in Canada but I don’t think anyone would miss their presence. It was never a hot bed for deals.

 

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