As we predicted a few months back, Sony's had a right job on its hands this holiday. Its two latest products – PlayStation VR and the PlayStation 4 Pro – are difficult to sell, because they need to be seen first-hand in order to be truly appreciated. We spent the best part of a year waxing lyrical about the power of virtual reality, and it's only in the past few weeks that people have started to realise that we were right. Sony's supercharged console doesn't innovate in quite the same way, but it still delivers a big and beautiful step forward that needs to be seen to be believed.
We got to spend an entire day with the system earlier this week, and while the advantages may not play in a 720p livestream without HDR, they are vast in person. The fact of the matter is this: PS4 Pro, whether you're playing it on a 1080p television or a 4K television, is superior to what you've got now. But the real genius of the product is that it's still a PS4 at heart; Sony may have struggled to find the right balance between selling the product and keeping its existing install base content, but that was never going to be an easy task. The unit itself, though, is spot on.
Indeed, having spent several hours going hands on with titles like Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, and The Last of Us Remastered, we can safely say that the PS4 Pro is bringing brand new beauty to games that you know and love – without fundamentally changing the experience at the core. Joel and Ellie's adventure is a great example: the narrative and combat encounters all remain unchanged, but running in native 4K with HDR lighting enabled, it almost looks like a brand new game. There are details on display here that were lost in previous versions.
And upcoming releases like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Days Gone, and Gran Turismo Sport fare even better. The former already looks exquisite on standard PS4 hardware, but with HDR enabled its skyboxes look significantly more dramatic. Days Gone, meanwhile, is able to render individual leaves off in the distance thanks to its increase in resolution, while Gran Turismo Sport's lighting is elevated to a whole other level when running on the PS4 Pro. And while it may not be running at native 4K, the upscaling methods employed result in razor sharp image quality.
But it's absolutely worth stressing that these improvements, while not quite as pronounced, will extend to 1080p televisions as well. Supersampling occurs when a frame is rendered at a much higher resolution and then shrunk down, and this means that even if you're playing on an HDTV, you're going to see the jump in image quality courtesy of a much cleaner overall picture. Some developers are even incorporating 1080p specific modes, with Rise of the Tomb Raider implementing extra visual bells and whistles for those less interested in the resolution boost.
PlayStation VR will also see improvements via the PS4 Pro, although it's worth stressing that the resolution of the headset is fixed, so the picture's not suddenly going to become crystal clear. That said, we went hands-on with Farpoint and Gran Turismo Sport, both of which are using the PS4 Pro to boost texture quality and in some cases employ supersampling as described above. It means that your virtual reality experience, while not massively different, is still going to be better on the new piece of hardware.
And thus Sony has executed on what it set out to do here: deliver an enhanced PS4 experience mid-way through the generation. The improvements to image quality cannot be understated, particularly when viewed on a 4K television with HDR enabled. But those with 1080p televisions and PlayStation VR are going to notice a difference, too. And this is all being delivered via a very reasonably priced box that doesn't split the install base in any way.
If you're not interested in the extra layer of polish, then you can happily ignore PS4 Pro knowing that nothing's changed. But if you do want the very best visual fidelity, then the future of play has arrived. And it's pretty impressive to say the least.
Will you be snagging a PS4 Pro at launch next week? Do you have any questions about the new console? Supercharge the comments section below, and let us know.