Whether it’s via FPS Boost or bespoke software upgrades, backwards compatibility on the current-gen consoles delivered an unexpected delight – the ability to liberate older console games from their 30fps limits, running them at 60 frames per second or even higher. FPS Boost did the business for Xbox Series consoles on an impressive range of titles, but there was always the sense that PS5 could do more. It’s a hunch that checks out as a range of frame-rate unlocks are available for PS5, covering many must-have games – the major caveat being that only exploitable consoles running on older firmwares are invited to the party.
We’ve talked about Bloodborne running at 60fps in the past, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, DriveClub and Batman: Arkham Knight are transformed via this very unofficial form of FPS Boost, and you can get an idea of how these games look and run via the video I’ve put together below in collaboration with illusion, the modder who’s done more than anyone to unlock performance on older PlayStation 4 titles.
Watching the games play out, it’s hard to believe that Sony and third-party publishers did not do more to unlock performance on a wider range of legacy titles. Red Dead 2 would make millions, Arkham Knight is revitalised and even less prolific games like Just Cause 3 are transformed thanks to the sheer horsepower of PlayStation 5. In releases like Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing Nitro Fuelled, 60fps is the final piece in the puzzle in making these remasters truly shine.
I guess the question is, why didn’t PlayStation 5 get more 60fps upgrades for last-gen titles? If illusion can do it, why can’t Sony and third-party publishers? We don’t have the complete picture here, but our impression is that officially updating PS4 games to run in bespoke performance modes on PS5 required the code to be ported to a later Sony SDK in order to deliver an appropriate patch. And often, developers had updated their development hardware to newer SDKs incompatible with their older games.
To make this happen would require buy-in from Sony, publishers and developers. One potential route forward would be for the platform holder to introduce functions within the PS5 operating system to disable calls for the system level 30fps cap on specific, white-listed titles, which may well be similar to one of the routes Microsoft pursued with FPS Boost. If that sounds extraordinarily impossible to achieve, well, illusion has already done it. It won’t work for all titles, but it should work for many.
Other games would require a lot more work which does question their viability. The now infamous Bloodborne 60fps patch from Lance McDonald doesn’t just remove the frame-rate limit – it ports across support for unlocked frame-rates via code found in From Software’s PS4 Pro patch for Dark Souls 3. In terms of illusion’s mods, patches to DriveClub also required tweaks to support frame-rates higher than 30fps. In the case of Batman: Arkham Knight, removing the 30fps cap actually exposed a faulty 60fps cap that needed to be deactivated.
Any official performance upgrades would also need proper QA before release. Shadow of the Tomb Raider received ‘back compat plus’ upgrades for Xbox Series and PlayStation 5 consoles – but only because the FPS Boost release from Microsoft unearthed a game-breaking bug. We understand that this patch was actually produced by a single engineer as his last project before leaving Square Enix.
Other PS4 titles running on PS5 are already operating under compatibility restrictions. In our initial back compat testing, we found that the unlocked disc version of Assassin’s Creed Unity couldn’t sustain 60fps on PS5 where it could on both Xbox Series consoles (and it received FPS Boost support in due course). This seems to be down to one of three compatibility profiles Sony has in place to ensure that games run as they should.
One profile offers up base PS4 performance with a CPU boost. A second profile is essentially a PS4 Pro set-up with extra CPU and GPU clocks while the third – a kind of last resort option – essentially configures the PS5 as a PS4 with limited CPU clocks. In the video, you’ll see that while Just Cause 3 runs brilliantly at 60fps, its sequel is clearly being held back from accessing the full back compat horsepower of the PS5.
There are complications then, but when you see so many PS4 games transformed via performance upgrades on PS5, you can’t help but feel that there’s a business opportunity here going begging. Sure, some of these games already run at 60fps and beyond on PC, but that won’t help console players – and it obviously won’t extend to platform exclusives. As you’ll see in the video above, Shadow of the Colossus, Gravity Rush 2 and The Last Guardian stand to benefit immensely from performance unlocks. The Last Guardian even has native 4K support (via the shipping 1890p checkerboard solution). It’s built into the game, it runs terribly on PS4 Pro – but there’s genuine utility here with the extra performance of PlayStation 5.
The icing on the cake? Assuming backwards compatibility persists into the tenth console generation, updated games could scale not just onto the hardware of today, but also the consoles coming in the years ahead. I mean, why stop at 60fps? illusion’s already creating patches that offer up 120fps support for PS4 and even older PS5 games. Back compat is great – but as FPS Boost demonstrated beautifully, improving them still further is even more special.
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