Get this, plebs: the other week, I descended the solid bronze staircase from my emerald castle, rummaged in my top hat for a few thousand pounds-worth of gold coins in loose change, then threw them at a tramp and told him to go forth and buy me the most popular advanced console there is. And a Christmas goose for everyone!
(That’s right: I’ve gone and bought myself a cheap second-hand PS4 Pro on eBay. And a load of dead geese!)
The Pro has been around for a while now of course, but I suspect many of you are in a position much like the one I was in when I took the plunge: my original PS4 was busting at the seams with data, I’d got myself a 4K telly in the past couple of years anyway, and I’ve been increasingly tempted by the growing number of ‘enhanced’ games for the Pro.
The tipping point for me, other than not fancying my hand at a hard drive upgrade, was the imminent arrival of the Pro-enhanced Red Dead Redemption II and its obscene file size – a corpulent 100+ GB. Justified as, of course, nothing is more important to modern gamers than the data-heavy, ultra-detailed textures needed to render horse genitalia and dirty cowboy chaps in 4K.
The minimum hard drive on the Pro is a whopping 1TB – double the 500 GB of the original PS4 – so you can see the appeal there. And yes, I know hard drive upgrades are supposed to be relatively easy on the PS4, but the last thing I tried to upgrade was the air intake fan on our old cooker. This? This did not go well.
Despite the repair allegedly being a simple case of swapping out a broken part for an identical replacement and hooking up a couple of wires, I forgot to turn the mains off before I opened the cooker up and thus electrocuted myself.
This caused me to yell our oven was a ‘hot metal bastard’ loudly enough for our neighbour to hear and come round, thinking we were being attacked by a burglar (who, I assume, they must have thought was a sexy yet villainous robot).
To make matters worse, after all that I went and fitted the fan backwards so it pumped the kitchen full of greasy hot air. This meant I had to open it up all over again and, in my haste to do so, re-electrocuted myself in the exact same way.
Consequently, although I can now charge batteries just by looking at them, my DIY attempts at anything involving wires are probably best avoided.
But back to the PS4 Pro. Now I’ve got one, the big questions are was it worth it? And do I think it would be worth it for YOU?
To which the answer for both is a decidedly non-committal hmmmmmmmmm.
The problem is, unless you have a stupidly opulent gaming setup you’re never going to see the picture from a Pro next to the picture from a vanilla PS4 simultaneously. So while all games on the Pro have some degree of benefit from HDR colour, lighting and so on, you simply won’t notice much difference a lot of the time because you have no immediate frame of reference.
This is all the more true in the heat of the action when you’re not paying attention to (graphical) detail.
It’s like mineral water and tap water: if you’re thirsty, you’re probably not going to care that the former has been filtered through igneous rock in the Andes before being collected in a crystal bucket by an ‘artisan aqua barista’, rather than spurting out into your kitchen sink in Stevenage via a plastic drainpipe.
Don’t get me wrong – there are times when it’s obvious you’ve got something with way more power. Running Shadow of the Colossus in performance mode so it’s hitting a constant 60 frames a second is beautiful, and going back to a janky 30 fps afterwards is akin to regressing from a SNES to a NES and then watching it through a zoetrope.
Equally, some of the games that offer specific graphic-enhancement modes really lay the pretty on thick. Horizon: Zero Dawn being one: you can see a lot more detail, see it from a lot further away, and with much lovelier, more realistic lighting. It’s not game changing at all for sure, but it’s definitely game enhancing.
Because while we all know graphics aren’t everything, they clearly are something – if it really didn’t matter what stuff looked like we’d all still be happily clonking about on ZX Spectrum +14s, 8-bit colour clash and all.
However…the jumbo bag of eye candy isn’t so lovely that I can hand on heart say ‘this is the next generation’. Because let’s face it – it isn’t. It’s still a device for playing PS4 games, albeit ones that are nicer looking to varying degrees that don’t suffer framerate drops, and the PS4 has been around for yonks now.
In that, it’s an upgrade to what you know, not a jump to the next level – it’s buying a regular car with air con, heated seats and a turbo, not a private jet.
Take a game like Destiny 2. That’s a good-looking game anyway, but is HDR-enhanced on the pro. Yet all I can honestly say I noticed is that it’s a bit darker and the colours are more saturated – something I could have done a fair job at replicating by accident just by sitting on my remote control.
There are also potential downsides too. Depending on your telly, it’s a pain in the HDMI port to configure everything correctly to make sure you get the best possible picture.
Turns out it also doesn’t integrate properly with the original-generation PSVR headset (which, inevitably, is the version I own), meaning whenever you want to use it you have to do a marathon amount of faffing about with cables – undoing everything you did to get the best picture in the process.
Worse still, I’ve had more system lock-ups in a week with the Pro than in 6 months with my old PS4. Though I have got lucky with the noise factor – my Pro is actually much quieter than my original PS4, which is remarkable given a quick Google search shows that some Pros sound like you’ve installed an Airbus testing facility in your lounge; it seems what you get in this regard is basically pot luck.
All this means the value of the proposition is going to depend on a lot of factors.
If you have a capable TV, need more storage, play a lot of the titles that have the best enhanced modes like God of War and Spider-Man anyway, and can get a deal/trade in your old PS4? Yeah, like me you’ll probably be happy – assuming you don’t get a ‘loud boy’.
If you don’t have a 4K TV though, or aren’t fussed by something approaching gaming PC level smoothness and nicer lighting?
Despite my being a sucker for new hardware, I’m inclined to say don’t bother.
The chances you’ll notice any improvements are minimal, and – crucially – you still get to enjoy the exact same games. There are no PS4 Pro exclusives, and that’s not ever likely to change.
In the right circumstances, then, it’s an undeniable upgrade. In others, I can easily see someone wondering what on Earth all the fuss is about. Now, can I interest you in a used goose?
VERDICT: 500 GB out of 1TB