What works and what doesn’t with PlayStation 4 Pro

Just over a month has passed since PlayStation 4 Pro arrived in the Digital Foundry office – and we’ve been gradually working our way through its . The quality of Pro support varies from title to title but at its best, the new console absolutely delivers in providing an enhanced PlayStation experience worthy of a 4K display. Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1, FIFA 17, Ratchet and Clank, Hitman, inFamous, Robinson: The Journey, Titanfall 2 – and doubtless many more – all provide a palpable, compromise-free upgrade. However, it’s fair to say that it’s also been a rocky road for the Pro and with Project Scorpio on the way, we can sure that Microsoft is watching intently, tweaking and refining its own 4K proposition based on feedback to the new PlayStation.

So with the benefit of experience, what works and what doesn’t with Sony’s new console? At the most basic level, the platform holder has demonstrated that there is demand for a mid-generation PlayStation refresh, and the time is right for a machine that targets 4K displays. Ultra HD screens are shipping in volume, the prices on new panels are often irresistible and while there are still aspects of TV technology that require refinement – principally HDR support or the lack of it – we’re at the point now where even bargain-basement branded screens offer excellent value and performance.

Beyond the Pro’s spec, there are two major achievements to highlight that will change console gaming going forward: it has taken 4K gaming (or an approximation of it) to the mainstream and it has also prioritized and started to deliver on the promise of full high dynamic range rendering. And in both respects, it has managed to leapfrog PC – the usual pioneer in gaming innovation – in terms of wider-scale consumer adoption. Back in April, I saw some exceptional HDR software at the GTX 1080 launch – but it’s Sony hardware that is now delivering HDR games in reasonable volume. By the time Scorpio arrives, HDR support should be commonplace in new games and TV implementations to support it should be more robust. But let’s be clear – it’s Sony that has been the catalyst here.

Face-Off: Forza Horizon 3

Could this be our first look at how Xbox One titles will look on next year’s Project Scorpio? Forza Horizon 3 represents a fascinating balance between looking good and running well on current generation console hardware while at the same time scaling up to provide an improved experience on high-end kit. Combined with the cross-platform nature of the new Play Anywhere system, what’s clear is that Microsoft is laying the foundations for Scorpio’s arrival right now – and it looks great.

It helps that the Forza Horizon engine is so solid to begin with, to the point where it looks so good at 1080p, you can’t help but wonder whether we actually need a new wave of consoles at all. If there was one takeaway from this year’s E3, it was that the first party wares from both Microsoft and Sony are punching seriously above their weight, compared to the outputs we’ve seen from equivalent PC kit.

Forza Horizon 3 builds upon the key technical successes of its predecessor and retains the superb image quality – 4x MSAA on a console title is virtually unheard of these days – while ramping up the environmental detail to new levels. It also goes without saying that the car modelling is exceptional, and though enhancements vary from vehicle to vehicle, the PC version does offer the ability to run more detailed in-game models, adding further to the spectacle.

Microsoft on Project Scorpio, PS4 Pro marketing and Xbox tweets

Albert Penello leads planning for Xbox, which means he’s heavily involved when Microsoft works out what it’s going to do next in video game land. It also means he keeps a keen eye on the competition – and right now that competition is Sony’s recently-announced PS4 Pro and slim.

Microsoft, with its own recently-released Xbox One S and the upcoming Project Scorpio, is ramping up its comeback after the original Xbox One suffered in comparison to the rampant original PS4. After Sony confirmed neither the PS4 slim nor the PS4 Pro play 4K Blu-rays, Xbox was quick to point out that Xbox One S does.

And after Bethesda came out with a strongly-worded statement pointing the finger at Sony for the lack of mod support on the PS4 version of Fallout 4, Xbox took to social media again to stress that the Xbox One version of Fallout 4 does.

Microsoft’s bullish response to Sony’s PS4 Pro and slim

Last night Sony announced the and the . The slim is pretty much the same as the original PS4, except it’s smaller, and the Pro is more powerful than the original. There’s a lot more detail in .

Both new PS4s are set to go up against Microsoft’s new range of Xbox consoles. At E3 this year, Microsoft announced the Xbox One S, a smaller version of the original Xbox One, and Project Scorpio, which it bills as the most powerful console ever. That’s due out at some point in 2017.

Now Sony has showed its hand, Microsoft has responded, highlighting some of the key differences between the new PS4s and the new Xbox One consoles. Chief among them: neither the PS4 slim or the PS4 Pro play 4K Blu-ray discs.

Xbox console sales down as Xbox One S and Scorpio loom

It looks like people are waiting for the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio before buying an Xbox One.

Microsoft reported its financials for the fourth quarter of its 2016 financial year, so for the three-month period ending June 2016, and said gaming revenue decreased $152m, or nine per cent, primarily due to lower Xbox hardware revenue.

Now, Microsoft doesn’t reveal sales for the Xbox One or the Xbox 360, but considering , we can assume the bulk of its Xbox hardware revenue comes from the Xbox One.

Video: What does Project Scorpio mean to Xbox One?

Greetings, Eurogamers. We’re fully recovered from the news onslaught that was E3 and taking time to digest it all. And by digesting it, we mean frantically googling what actually is a teraflop anyway.

That’s because Microsoft announced not one but two consoles within the space of one conference: the svelte Xbox One S, arriving this year, and the more powerful and ominously named Project Scorpio, coming in late 2017. We attempt to make sense of the whole thing in the video below.

One of the better games we played at E3 was Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It plays out a bit like a co-operative Metal Gear Solid 5, minus the narrative weirdness and rad 80s soundtrack. Here’s Show of the Week on Wildlands and those hyper-competent Ghosts.

Are 4K visuals really the best use for Project Scorpio and PlayStation Neo?

With the reveal of Microsoft’s Project Scorpio and Sony’s PlayStation Neo, the platform holders find themselves at a crossroads. Whether it’s a 2.3x or 4x increase in processing power compared to their predecessors, the question is, just how should these resources be used to improve the games we play? As things stand, we’ve been told to expect higher resolutions, increased fidelity and more stable frame-rates, but the ambition here sounds limited when the hardware is capable of so much more.

The bottom line is this: both Sony and Microsoft are effectively selling us the status quo in terms of gameplay, the idea being that they can create a two-tier market – existing console hardware caters for those with 1080p displays while the new machines are best experienced paired with a 4K UHD screen. But fundamentally, it’s the same software, and in order to ensure that owners of existing systems are “not left behind”, the chances are that they’ll play much the same too. Indeed, actively prohibit game-makers from providing exclusive features for the Neo hardware.

Cards on the table here – I’m not entirely sure that this is the best way forward, but I am one of the few to have had a preview of this kind of next-gen experience – and I was blown away. At the recent Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 launch, I played Rise of the Tomb Raider at native 4K with HDR enabled and with quality settings that, while not quite maxed, easily out-strip the Xbox One version. Aside from what looked like a wobbly 35-40fps (something easily fixed) the experience was simply magnificent. Improved effects, higher detail texture work, brilliantly vivid colour – this was the best Rise of the Tomb Raider experience it’s possible to have, and compared to the existing console version, there was undoubtedly a ‘next-gen’ feel about it.

1080p Project Scorpio games “will look different” and some “run a little better” than on Xbox One/S

that if you use a 1080p TV for gaming then the new and more powerful Xbox, Project Scorpio, “is not going to do anything for you”.

“Scorpio is designed as a 4K console,” he said, “and if you don’t have a 4K TV, the benefit we’ve designed for, you’re not going to see.”

But in a more recent interview with , Spencer wiggled and said that a Scorpio-powered game “will look different” and may “run a little better” than on Xbox One or the Xbox One S.

Microsoft’s mixed messages at E3 aren’t pretty for Xbox One owners

During the video for Project Scorpio, two minutes of puffery dedicated to Microsoft’s bright Christmas 2017, there is a man who speaks with his mouth but betrays everything with his eyes. “This doesn’t mean we’re leaving the Xbox One behind,” he says, but the truth is there to see as his eyes flick away from the camera. Microsoft began its E3 conference by revealing the redesigned Xbox One S – and then, it still amazes me now, closed the show by telling everyone they’d be fools to buy any kind of Xbox One.

E3 conferences are about a lot of different things, but for a platform-holder one goal is paramount: make your hardware desirable, at once keeping the owners happy and making the non-owners want to buy it. Microsoft offered up iterative fare like Gears of War 4 (very pretty) and Forza Horizon 3 (which looked amazing), alongside a look at more original hopes like ReCore and Scalebound (not a great showing, though I keep the faith). All of these games are now subject to the Xbox division’s bizarre new interpretation of the word ‘exclusive,’ which now means cross-platform.

With little fuss, the Xbox division has split its focus over both console and PC. This may be entirely down to Microsoft’s wider Windows 10 strategy, but it’s also a welcome opportunity to retreat from a head-to-head battle that Redmond is losing. Xbox is moving from being a box into being a brand of PCs-in-boxes that run Windows 10, with regular hardware upgrade cycles.

Xbox boss Phil Spencer: the big interview

Microsoft’s E3 media briefing was strong, I thought, although its impact was dulled by a pretty spectacular set of leaks that not only revealed the existence of the and ahead of time, but the running order of the show.

On stage, Xbox boss Phil Spencer was determined to tell the whole story, and he did well, announcing Xbox Play Anywhere, which should help boost the potential player base of all those “Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive” games we heard about this week.

And yet, the announcement of the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio left plenty of questions unanswered. Perhaps chief among them is this: with Project Scorpio looming over the horizon, who in their right mind will now buy the Xbox One S?