It’s one of the most important parts of the PlayStation 5 experience – and yet we knew so little about it until today’s test embargo. How good is the backward compatibility of the new console? Do we get the same experience with older titles, including their performance limitations? Or is the news more positive: Does the PlayStation 5 reflect the Xbox Series X’s remarkable ability to dramatically improve existing games? Today the puzzle is finally solved, and there is good news: the PlayStation 5’s backward compatibility is excellent.
While you get the feeling that it looks a bit rougher in some scenarios and you don’t enjoy the full range of bonus extras that Microsoft lavishly uses with the Series X, the PlayStation 5 delivers where it matters. If a game is running at an unlimited frame rate or has the option to turn off a 30fps cap, you get the same transformative experience as the Xbox Series X. In fact, the performance multiplier is, for reasons we’ll go into later, higherwhen comparing PS5 versus PS4 Pro with Series X versus One X. Additionally, there’s the same revealing boost in CPU performance, meaning the often lackluster “high frame rate” modes found in many PS4 Pro games are now all hitting their 60 frames per second.
All of this still closes Not with the fact that Sony has started to release specific PlayStation 5 patches for important first party titles. We’ll take a closer look at these in the future, but the headlines are simple enough: Sucker Punch’s impressive Ghost of Tsushima is now running flawlessly on PlayStation 5 at 60fps – and it’s just brilliant. The PS5 patch for Bend Studios Days Gone is just as transformative: here, too, there are wonderfully stable 60 frames per second. It’s just a matter of time before The Last of Us Part 2 gets a similar upgrade?
If we look at older titles that have not been improved, the PlayStation 5 handles CPU-bound games just as well as the Xbox Series X in almost all scenarios. Take, for example, the high frame-rate mode of Rise of the Tomb Raider (and its sequel, Shadow) on the PS4 Pro. The old Jaguar CPU cores simply couldn’t keep up in more demanding areas, which led to greatly fluctuating performance. The same thing happens in the Lite mode of Final Fantasy 15 and also in Hitman’s Paris level when the frame rate is unlocked. In all of these CPU-limited situations, the PlayStation 5 consistently delivers a completely stable frame rate of 60 frames per second. And of course we also watched Just Cause 3 again. It is legendarily CPU-limited, with large explosions and physical events that send the frame rate below 20 frames per second. Unsurprisingly, the PS5 stubbornly stuck to its original target of 30 frames per second from start to finish – and I have to say, I love the game. Dark Souls 3? Fixed 1080p60.
We also tested Crysis Remastered which has a 1080p performance mode for the PS4 Pro that essentially reduces the rendering resolution and then releases the frame rate. The Pro has a pretty stormy time – and in the village level in the second mission, the performance drops to below 30 frames per second. If we leave out checkpoint stutterers, the PlayStation 5 renders the game at a constant 60 frames per second. We can only hope that Crytek will update the game to keep the performance in all Unlock modes, including quality and ray tracing options. We suspect the PS5 (and indeed the Series X) will run all of these modes at full frame rate.
In terms of the GPU, the numbers look promising. The PS4 Pro came with a 4.2TF GPU, while the PS5’s 10.3TF effectively deliver a 2.45x multiplier in computing power. This is higher than the increase observed in the Series X, while the Pro titles also usually ran at lower resolutions than corresponding Xbox One X games. To put it bluntly: fewer pixels to render and a higher multiplier in graphics performance mean that the performance gain over the Series X is improved. Check out Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It ran with no frame rate cap on the PS4 Pro, and it used checkerboard rendering to reach 1800p, while the One X delivered the same number of pixels with native rendering. The bottom line is that the PS5 achieves 60 frames per second, while the Series X delivers more of 50 to 60 frames per second. In this case, Sekiro has an excellent checkerboard solution that does a great job of rivaling the Xbox native rendering – but the performance improvement is noticeable.
In the video embedded on this page, other titles were tested (playing Knack at 60 frames per second in high-definition mode while the PS4 Pro only managed between 20 and 30 was pretty fun), but the overall impression is that the PS5 – Backward compatibility works. However, it lacks the subtleties and extensive tests of the Microsoft solution. There is no real alternative to the Xbox’s innovative Auto-HDR technology, and the 16x anisotropic filtering is not enforced on compatible titles on the PS5 to the same extent as is the case on the Series X / S consoles. With a small selection of titles like Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition or Doom Eternal (both went well for us), a warning message sometimes appears when you start them.
With some games, however, the feeling arose that they could not get the full performance of the new PS5 processor. The legendary disc version of Assassin’s Creed Unity with its unrestrained frame rate creates a flawless experience on the Xbox Series X at 60 frames per second. A similarly unlimited frame rate is also included in the PlayStation 4’s disc code, but performance drops in certain game areas and in cutscenes with great depth of field – sometimes even in ranges between 30 and 40fps. Could it be that there is a compatibility mode that limits the GPU clock speed to the PS4 base spec? We know this is an option that developers now have as they certify their new PS4 titles for the PS5. And maybe that explains what’s going on with AC Unity. Fortunately, users of the patched game with its 30fps cap will have no problem with it.
Of course, it’s worth highlighting the backward compatibility limitations – and it’s the same here as with the Xbox Series X. Games that are already meeting their performance goals on the PS4 (be it 30fps or 60fps) won’t see any improvement on the PlayStation 5. All games at 30fps will not automatically run faster on the PS5 unless the developer jumps in with a patch – quite unlikely for games that are not up to date. To put it simply, no, you can’t run Bloodborne at 60 frames per second, let alone solve the questionable problems with frame pacing.
In the end, however, we had a lot of fun picking out games from the PlayStation library and seeing how well they run on the PlayStation 5, especially since the results were so consistently positive. The OG disc version of The Evil Within originally had a really terrible performance – the PlayStation 5 fixes that. Remember how bad Until Dawn’s performance was on the PS4? Yes, this game also runs at 60fps on the PS5. Or would you prefer to enjoy Assetto Corsa Competizione at 60fps? The resolution is very low compared to the Xbox One X / Series X, but said frame rate is a sure thing even with 20 cars in the pouring rain.
So after some confusing messages from Sony a while ago, followed by months of radio silence, the outlook is good. The PlayStation 5 offers a comparable backward compatibility with titles of the last generation, as is the case with the corresponding function from Microsoft. Sony’s solution lacks the finesse and sky-high resolutions of the Series X when it comes to playing One-X versions, but it clearly has its own strengths. Before the Xbox One X launched in 2017, many Xbox games hit 900p resolution versus their 1080p PS4 equivalents. The Series X cannot exceed this 900p limit, whereas 1080p is available on the PlayStation 5. PS4 Pro games have to put up with lower resolutions than the One-X equivalents, but the performance boost will be higher with unlimited frame rates.
But the gist of this article is that PS4 users who want to upgrade to the PS5 can relax. Your games will work – and even more than that.
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