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The Witness, Nioh get PS4 Pro upgrades, show how developers can use Sony's updated console

With the official launch of the PS4 Pro less than a week away, we’ve started to hear how developers will use the increased horsepower available to improve existing titles. Sony has released a list of all the games that’ll formally support the PS4 Pro at launch, but we’ve got some specific information about how indie hit The Witness and the samurai-themed title Nioh will change when the improved PS4 hits store shelves. The Witness’ lead designer, Jonathan Blow, had already told fans to expect HDR support and that 4K (or 4K scaling) would be available without sacrificing frame rates, but now we know more about the specifics of the title.

The Witness will offer several options (HDR will be available in all cases, if you have an HDR-capable television):

If you own a PS4 Pro and connect it to a 1080p television, The Witness will render at 1080p at 60 FPS with 4x MSAA. The original version of the game ran at 900p and 2x MSAA, though it also had a 60 FPS target frame rate. That’s a significant upgrade from the PS4 version, both in terms of render target and overall MSAA level, and the difference between the two should be fairly easy to see.

If you attach the PS4 Pro to a 4K TV, you get to pick between a 1440p version of the game that’s upscaled to 4K (text and UI rendered at 4K natively) with 2x MSAA and the same 60 FPS frame rate or a native 4K resolution for the entire game with the same 2x MSAA and a locked 30 FPS frame rate. According to Blow, this latter option was a relatively late addition, but fans had clamored for it and the game looks gorgeous in this mode.

The Witness can likely hit its native 4K target because the game is designed as a first-person puzzle-solver, rather than a gun-heavy shootfest (the fact that the original hit such high frame rate targets also points to a relatively modest GPU workload). The game won rave reviews from multiple outlets, and while puzzle titles aren’t my personal cup of tea, this seems to be one of the best ones to pop up in recent years.

The Witness

Meanwhile, the upcoming samurai title Nioh by Koei Tecmo has released some details of its own PS4 Pro capabilities. While that game won’t be available until next year, it’s going to offer four distinct modes on top of the three modes planned for the PS4. The base PS4 will be able to play the game in “Movie Mode” (focuses on resolution over frame rate, with a locked 30 FPS cap), “Action Mode” (Lower resolutions, locked 60 FPS) and “Movie Mode (Variable Frame Rate)” which combines higher resolutions and an unlocked frame rate that “may go over 30 FPS.”

With the PS4 Pro, the options change. Customers with 1080p televisions can use the new “Movie Mode” (high quality anti-aliasing, 1080p, and a locked 30 FPS frame rate) or “Action Mode” (1080p, locked 60 FPS frame rate). PS4 Pro owners with 4K screens can choose between a 4K title locked to 30 FPS or the same 1080p option locked to 60 FPS. Nioh doesn’t mention anything about HDR support in its latest update, so we don’t know yet if the company will adopt that technology.

We’re starting to get a better sense of why Sony didn’t talk much about the 1080p capabilities of its new platform: How much the upgraded horsepower will matter depends on what kind of enhancements the developer chooses to make. The Witness should see a visible improvement to visual fidelity at 1080p, while the benefits for Nioh at that resolution are less clear.

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