PlayStation 4 Pro - Brutal Backlog

September 14, 2020
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Brutal Backlog is a semi-regular feature where the JDR team play through some of the unplayed games on their shelves (both digital and physical), disregarding their age or the technical limitations of their era. Only the very best titles will stand up to scrutiny today.

It’s official: I’m bored. Although we’re only a few weeks into this whole quarantine thing, during those weeks, my entire life has become almost too easy. I no longer need to drive down to my college for classes, I don’t even need to show up virtually to most of those classes to get an A in them, I’m now getting hazard pay at my day job and Rob’s even started to send me review keys instead of me having to ask for them. I’ve got what seems like unlimited free time now, and even after clearing one of the biggest games in my backlog, I’m looking for more games to play but I have none on my PC that seem to be interesting.

Fortunately for me, the United States government already realized that I’d probably be bored during COVID-19 and sent me a cheque for $1,200. Although I think I was supposed to spend this on bills or something, I live at home with my parents so my bills are limited to whatever vodka I need to get through my Slavic Folklore class. As such, I’ve chosen to impulse buy a PS4 Pro along with a large handful of games to keep me occupied until The New York Times offers to publish my bit on Arma, or until hell freezes over (which is an equally likely scenario).

One Day In

Over the past few hours, I’ve been setting up the PS4 Pro, getting my account sorted and have been flipping through a few games to try to see what the console is capable of. After doing all of these things, I have to say, I’m passively impressed. Getting the console set up was stupidly easy; all I did was plug it in, open a beer and follow some prompts that were all straightforward as can be. I didn’t have to Google anything, I didn’t have any issues getting to the main menu and it all just kind of worked. I’m sure this is par for the course with consoles, but as someone who hasn’t touched a slim black box in over 10 years, it beats the heck out of the frustrating process of getting a PC up and running.

I’ve started playing Death Stranding, and bloody heck is it a strange introduction to the possibilities of the PS4 Pro.

I’m pleasantly surprised at just how easy it’s been to get used to the PS4’s controller, too. In all my years on my PC, I’ve exclusively used a keyboard and mouse, so I was expecting the transition to something handheld to be a lot more difficult. However, I’ve been playing the tutorial levels of a few shooters and I’m hitting most of the things I’m aiming at. I’m not a huge fan of trying to type games into the PS4’s search menu, but that’s a pretty minor nitpick all things considered.

The last thing I’ve noticed is over the past few hours is just how little the 30FPS cap really matters for games that are designed around it. I’ve played a little bit of the old Uncharted games, whatever the new Killzone is called and started playing Bloodborne. I can notice the difference between these games and what I’m used to playing at 144FPS on my PC, but it doesn’t bother me too much. The games don’t really require the instantaneous response of games that are meant to be played at a high frame rate, and I kind of enjoy that. I wouldn’t say any of these games are relaxing, but they’re a bit more slowed down than what I’m used to which is a good thing. I’ll have to play more than a few tutorial levels to see if this all holds up, though.

One Week In

Over the past week, I’ve actually managed to complete a handful of the PS4’s biggest hits, and I have to say, I’m really falling in love with the console. From a technical perspective, everything seems to be about on-par with my somewhat dated gaming rig: games look pretty good, the controller is surprisingly useful and I haven’t experienced any crashes or other technical issues at all. It’s nice having a gaming device that just plain works and doesn’t need toying with every few days for whatever reason.

Uncharted 4 has been one of the better games I’ve played on the console, which is saying a lot.

However, right now at least, the much bigger draw of the console for me has been how bloody fantastic the exclusive games are. At the time of writing, I’ve beaten a decent list of games thanks to not having anything better to do. I’ve gone through The Last of Us twice, the first three Uncharted games and am currently playing through Detroit: Become Human. Although I’m plenty used to fantastic games on my PC, all three of these games are just genuinely amazing. Admittedly some of the Uncharted games are a bit dated, but there’s just nothing like any of these games on other platforms. The Last of Us in particular is easily one of the best games I’ve ever played, and with the second one coming soon, I’m already inclined to think that the console was worth the price.

Really, my only problem with the PS4 Pro at present is that I haven’t found any games to play during boring online lectures that I can’t also play on my other gaming platforms. Bloodborne is the closest I’ve gotten to a game that I can play while not being totally mentally engaged, but I’m also getting the crap beaten out of me, so I’m not sure it’s the best choice. I know I could always resort to playing a non-exclusive game like Call of Duty, but that takes a lot of the fun out of the console for me. Hopefully I can find something soon before I beat all of the platform’s exclusives and the console becomes a glorified coaster. 

One Month In

I’ve officially had my PS4 Pro for just over a month, and I’m now starting to see why I didn’t buy one earlier. Although everything I’ve said positively about it previously still applies, that minor annoyance of not having any exclusive casual games to play has now become a borderline dealbreaker. I want to emphasise just how bloody fantastic the platform’s exclusives are. Regardless of how JDR reviewed them, I’ve loved almost every single one of them, with a few even being some of the best games I’ve ever played. However, the problem is that it seems like those games are really the only string to the platform’s bow.

When I’m not using it to play through fantastic and depressing games, my PS4 Pro serves as a glorified coaster for all of my assorted electronics.

As I’m starting to work more often, I’ve been searching almost nonstop for something to play after my tiring shifts, and I just can’t find anything. I suppose I could bite the bullet and buy PlayStation Online, or I could pick up something like Stardew Valley, but I don’t see the point when I already have those on my main gaming/work rig. A few of those aforementioned exclusives are enjoyable enough to play in small chunks, but they’re few and far between. I’ll have to see what I think of the console after summer, but as of right now, it seems like the console is a tough sell for anyone looking for a more casual gaming experience.

Six Months In

It looks like I was right about the PS4 Pro being a somewhat dumb impulse purchase on my end. Over the past few months, I can count on one hand the amount of times that I’ve used it. I turned it on to play a bit of Days Gone at the beginning of summer, then beat The Last of Us Part 2 in one sitting, and recently went back to play a bit of Spiderman, but that’s it. Whenever I found myself wanting to play something on it, I realised that I’d probably have to commit 20 hours to whatever game I started, which kept me on my PC more times than not.

I want to reiterate one more time that the games the platform does offer are nothing short of amazing. Regardless of what Matt said, The Last of Us Part 2 is far and away the best game I’ve played this year. I’ve been thinking about it daily since I beat it four months ago, and the same is true for games like Uncharted 4 and Death Stranding. But when I’m not in the mood for a long game that forces me to reflect on the nature of mankind, I simply haven’t found any reason to turn on the console. I wouldn’t say that I regret buying it simply because of how great most of the exclusives are, but the console definitely isn’t as useful day-to-day as I was hoping.

Seriously, The Last of Us Part 2 is amazing.

The other thing that’s made me somewhat regret my purchase over the past few months is the announcement of the PS5. Although there’s no set price or release date at the time of writing this, it is officially a thing, and it’s a thing that could make the PS4 Pro totally obsolete in a few months. The PS5 is rumoured to have backwards compatibility with all of the PlayStation consoles, too, so once it comes out the only real advantage that the PS4 Pro will have is its inevitably lower price. For a broke college student like me this is a pretty big advantage, but I wish I would’ve considered it before picking up the PS4.

Final Verdict

At the end of the day, though, the PS4 Pro is still an impressive bit of hardware and one who’s only real flaw is a lack of casual games. Almost every game on the system looks good, runs well and is pretty much bug free. The console’s exclusives, too, are hands down some of the best games that have ever been made. It’s somewhat annoying that there isn’t a wealth of casual games like there is on PC, but considering just how phenomenal the platform’s flagship games are, it’s not a huge dealbreaker. If you don’t want to shell out what will likely be an exorbitant sum for the PS5, the PS4 Pro offers enough enjoyment to keep you entertained to be a generally worthwhile investment. 

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Worth playing? YES - it's still enjoyable today.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.