Remember way back when, like, a couple days ago, when PlayStation 4 exclusive Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was the most gorgeous game to ever grace a game console? Yep, that was a much simpler time: The PS4 Pro–previously code-named Neo–hadn’t been officially unveiled, and Sony had yet to prove that Nathan Drake’s postcard-perfect adventure could actually be made even prettier on the new hardware.
While our up-close and personal time with the PS4 Pro didn’t quite make the original Uncharted 4 look bad by comparison, it certainly lent some merit to many of the lofty claims made by the console-maker during their preceding on-stage reveal of the system. Supporting 4K and HDR tech–as well as featuring a GPU twice as powerful as the PS4’s, a clock speed-boosting CPU, and a 1TB hard drive–the PS4 Pro, according to Sony CEO Andrew House, promises an “unprecedented level of detail and visual precision.” In layman’s terms, that roughly means it’s not as capable as, say, the Death Star, but it makes the PS4 look about as powerful as a George Foreman grill.
Our behind-closed-doors demo of Naughty Dog’s cinematic action-adventure offered an eye-popping tease of this potential. Toggling between a standard 1080p version of the game and a build patched to take advantage of the PS4 Pro’s polygon-pushing prowess, Senior Community Manager Scott Lowe pointed out the sand at Drake’s feet. On the PS4, it looked like more than serviceable videogame-world sand; on the new machine, however, it popped with a realism only our Cancun vacation photos could match. More color variations, crisper details, and even some defined grains combined to clearly up the immersion.
While Uncharted 4’s receiving some PS4 Pro love via a “forward-compatible” patch, in-development games, such as Horizon: Zero Dawn and Days Gone, are able to leverage much more of the visual-enhancing hotness beneath the hardware’s hood. Showing off the latter title, Sony Producer Victor Harris expressed how he and his team were utilizing the HDR support to display “a more vibrant color palette, as well as a wider range of hues.”
The open-world, biker-themed zombie game features a dynamic day/night cycle, and Harris showcased how the PS4 Pro can ratchet up the visual details regardless of where the sun’s sitting in the sky. Positioning protagonist Deacon St. John in direct daylight, Harris pointed out the patches on his leather vest. Running in standard 1080p, they sported a modest amount of detail, but their lettering was muddled; with the PS4 Pro’s HDR enabled, however, we could clearly read “Enforcer” on Deacon’s cut. As fans of biker culture, we can confirm that that title is far more badass than a blurred scrawl.
Switching to a nighttime scene, Harris began chucking Molotov cocktails into a sea of enraged zombies. The undead baddies were barbequed by flames that all looked exactly the same in 1080p, but the fires consuming them in the PS4 Pro version featured far more variation. Numerous shades of red and orange cooked the corpses extra crispy, while different degrees of brightness conveyed the variations in the rapidly spreading flames’ heat and intensity.
Days Gone’s meatbag-melting fires were easily the prettiest we’ve seen rendered on a game console, but we’re not entirely convinced anyone outside the “targeted hardcore gamer” House referenced will pony up for the PS4 Pro. That could change, though, once we see what games specifically built for the system can do. We witnessed some of the magic 4K and HDR can conjure–even retroactively, in Uncharted 4’s case–but the console is capable of more than just spitting out higher resolutions, rainbow-shaming color palettes, and better defined details. Increased framerates and the ability to render more on-screen effects are also in the cards for future PS4 Pro-powered titles.
Of course, when it lands on November 10th for $399.99, the PS4 Pro also promises to enhance Sony’s PS VR experience, increasing the crispness of scenes, cranking up frame-rates, and displaying richer special effects in our virtual worlds. Whether under the VR goggles or clutching a Dualshock in front of a standard HD display, the PS4 Pro will offer some degree of enhancements for everyone. That said, the killer combo that could truly justify an upgrade is a 4K- and HDR-enabled TV paired with the PS4 Pro. A comfy chair and a shovel to scoop your eyeballs from the floor wouldn’t hurt either.
Are you content with your ugly old copy of Uncharted 4 or do you need to see every grain of sand excruciatingly detailed beneath Nathan Drake’s boots? Let us know in the comments below.
Image: Sony Computer Entertainment America