The Last Guardian’s PS4 Pro performance doesn’t bode well for original PS4 owners

When Sony announced the PS4 Pro back in October, it promised that it wasn’t leaving the original PS4 hardware behind. 

Games would still run on the three-year old PS4 console, but if users wanted increased functionality like 4K output or other graphical improvements, they could opt to upgrade to the Pro. 

But already games are emerging that run less-than-adequately on the original PS4, such as The Last Guardian, while suffering from none of the same performance issues on the more powerful PS4 Pro. 

Framerate drops

In our full review (conducted on a launch PS4) we expressed concern about the game’s frequent framerate drops, which can leave more action-packed segments of the game feeling like a 'juddery mess'. 

We’re not alone, as Digital Foundry has also noted that the game frequently drops below its 30fps framerate on the launch console. 

Switching to the PS4 Pro at 4K reveals similar performance issues, unless you go into the system-level menus and switch your console’s output to 1080p rather than 4K. 

We should stress that these a system-level settings. You’re not able to change resolution within the game at all, suggesting that this isn't a problem the developers anticipated. 

Optimisation challenges

That such large performance differences have emerged between the new pieces of hardware this early on in the PS4 Pro’s life is not reassuring, and speaks to the inherent difficulty of releasing a game on two pieces of hardware. 

Two pieces of hardware means two rounds of QA testing if developers want to ensure that games run acceptably on both. 

If a big-budget game like The Last Guardian can’t get that right (although granted the game has the difficulty of already having been ported from PS3 to 4), then that doesn’t bode well for smaller developers with more limited QA budgets.

Continued support

It might not seem important to continue to support older hardware, but a key part of Sony’s messaging around its consoles is the amount of years they’ll continue to support them for. 

According to Sony, this continued to be the case despite the announcement of the PS4 Pro, since the original hardware’s life-cycle would not be impacted and would continue to see the same games released. 

But if the kinds of performance issues seen in The Last Guardian are present in other games going forward, then the PS4 Pro could end up being an essential upgrade for all PS4 owners, whether they want to make the jump or not. 

In the long run it may even discourage people from buying a PS5 when that eventually releases, because people will assume it will only be supported for three years like its predecessor, hence reducing its value by as much as a half. 

We'll have to wait and see whether either Sony or developer Team Ico are able to resolve these issues with a future patch, but for now few are likely to be happy. 

  • For a full breakdown of the differences between the two consoles - check out our guide to the PS4 Pro vs PS4.
Jon Porter

Jon Porter is the ex-Home Technology Writer for TechRadar. He has also previously written for Practical Photoshop, Trusted Reviews, Inside Higher Ed, Al Bawaba, Gizmodo UK, Genetic Literacy Project, Via Satellite, Real Homes and Plant Services Magazine, and you can now find him writing for The Verge.