After tearing the PlayStation 5’s guts apart earlier this week, Sony confirmed nearly everything we’d like to know on Friday about how its new console, launching November 12, will interface with PS4 games via backward compatibility.
We should probably start with the big news that Sony has not cleared up just yet.
Today, we received our first indication that PlayStation 5 will ship with something known as “Game Boost,” which its Friday news post suggests “may make [select] PS4 games run with a higher or smoother frame rate.” This suggestion doesn’t come with a handy footnote pointing us to a list of affected games or features, however.
Sony did not immediately respond to our request for clarification, so I’m left pointing to my recent deep dive with Xbox Series X’s backward compatibility suite. What I found there was compelling: Most games play nearly identically on Xbox Series X as they do on Xbox One X, since console games are typically coded with hard limits on technical aspects. But in the case of games that launched on PS4 with “unlocked” frame rates and dynamic resolutions, well, the sky might be the limit.
Will PS5 let those older, uncapped games tap into the full PS5 architecture or will certain CPU and GPU aspects be limited for compatibility’s sake? I found that Xbox Series X was generally quite generous to the minority of games that could tap into increased horsepower, but there’s no guaranteeing Sony will treat its older games the same way, in order to prioritize compatibility over upgrades. Additionally, will current-gen PlayStation VR games see their own boosts? “PSVR” is referenced repeatedly throughout today’s new document but not in the brief mention of Game Boost.
Just deal with it
While we’ve yet to see a list of “select” games affected by Game Boost, we now have a small list of 10 games that stand out as exceptions for PS5’s back-compat suite. Sony seems confident in saying that the “overwhelming majority” of over 4,000 PS4 games will play on PS5, so we’ll start by pouring one out for the following 10 games that will not:
- Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma, Volume One
- TT Isle of Man – Ride on the Edge 2
- Just Deal With It!
- Shadow Complex Remastered
- Robinson: The Journey
- We Sing
- Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
- Joe’s Diner
Only one of those appears to be a PSVR exclusive, and the games’ commonality is otherwise difficult to ascertain. That weird list is also a possible hint that the metric for “playable” might be a fuzzy one for PS4 games, since Sony is already saying things like the following:
Although many PS4 games are playable on PS5 consoles, some functionalities that were available on the PS4 console may not be available on PS5 consoles. In addition, some PS4 games may exhibit errors or unexpected behavior when played on PS5 consoles.
That warning is followed by stern advice from Sony: before buying DLC for a game that you want to take from PS4 to PS5, test the game out on PS5 first “to see if you are happy with the play experience.” Hmm. We’d sure like to see more explanations or examples of how PS4 games on PS5 might leave players unhappy—should we expect loading pauses, frame rate stutters, or outright glitches? Or are we talking more about tolerable differences like mild audio hiccups or color-grading issues? Right now, we have no idea.
Speaking of color-grading: “HDR is automatically switched on for PS5 consoles,” Sony says, but this doesn’t confirm whether we should expect any “auto-HDR” treatment for older PS4 games, like Xbox Series consoles offer for older Xbox software. (This automatic HDR switch won’t happen on TV sets that don’t support the standard, and Sony says it can be disabled if you prefer.)
A sense of shock
Existing PlayStation VR hardware seems to be entirely compatible with PS5, with Sony confirming once again that users will need a PlayStation Camera adapter to connect to PS5—and that those adapters will be free. How exactly PSVR owners will get those adapters remains to be seen.
The matter of PS5 controller compatibility is a bit more complicated than Xbox Series’ pledge of total forward and backward compatibility (with the exception of Xbox One Kinect, RIP). As has previously been hinted, PS5’s new DualSense controller will work with older games, but PS4’s DualShock 4 gamepad will not work with PS5 games. (Yes, you can still connect a PS4 DualShock 4 to play PS4 games on PS5. Whew, that’s a mouthful.) In good forward-compatibility news, if you already bought an expensive add-on controller, Sony assures you that “specialty peripherals [from the PS4 era], such as officially licensed racing wheels, arcade sticks, and flight sticks,” will work with PS5 software.
When playing the PS4’s library of PSVR games on PS5, Sony encourages users to stick with DualShock 4 as a gamepad, suggesting that the older gamepad offers the “best experience” in PSVR. This implies, but doesn’t confirm, that DualSense will not work the same way as a DualShock 4 in PSVR games like Astro Bot, which relies heavily on gamepad motion sensing via tracking elements like its “light bar.” (You can also use existing PlayStation Move wands in PSVR games on PS5.)
Certain PS4 system features have been scrapped when moving forward to PS5. The DualShock 4’s “share” button now brings up the PS5’s built-in “create” menu, which appears to do all the stuff that “share” did on PS4 but with a few additional button shortcuts. And PS4 social features like tournaments, “in-game live,” and second-screen app functionality have all gotten the axe.
And as Sony already confirmed last month, if you were holding out hope that any of your PS1, PS2, or PS3 discs would work on the PS5, you should stop that at once.