OPINION: During the lead up to the PS5’s launch, Sony threw a lot of exciting buzzwords our way to drive up hype.
We were told that the console would be capable of 4K, frame rates beyond 60Hz and emerging ray tracing technology. The latter was the most exciting of the bunch, allowing for high-fidelity lighting, reflections and shadow effects, which had never been possible on a console before.
But once the PS5 turned up in our homes, we all found out that while the PS5 was indeed capable of such features, it wasn’t powerful enough to deliver on all three simultaneously for the vast majority of AAA games. That, at least from my point of view, was a huge disappointment.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales was the launch game that best showed off the stunning ray tracing effects, with skyscrapers seeing jaw-dropping reflections and puddles glistening in the sunlight. However, such effects came at a significant trade-off, locking the game’s frame rate at a low 30fps. That had a detrimental effect on the performance of the game, with high-speed motion (whether that was for swinging or combat) looking jarring.
As a result, I personally preferred to switch ray tracing off to ensure a smooth performance, but it was a great shame that I had to miss out on one of the PS5’s most exciting features in order to do so. Insomniac did at least release a new RT performance mode for Miles Morales which enabled both ray tracing and a higher frame rate simultaneously – but it then reduced the screen resolution as a compromise, wasting the powers of my 4K TV.
This isn’t a problem unique to Spider-Man. Very few AAA games on the PS5 have been able to achieve the holy trinity of 4K visuals, 60fps performance and activated ray tracing effects at the same time. And so despite being one of the most powerful gaming consoles in history, the PS5’s limitations are clear.
Step in the fabled PS5 Pro. While Sony has not confirmed the existence of the PS5 Pro console just yet, Inside Gaming reports that a recently-published patent indicates that a new PlayStation console (apparently set to launch in 2024) will look to “accelerate” ray tracing performance.
By improving the efficiency of the ray tracing performance, it’s possible that a future PS5 Pro would be capable of running these realistic lighting effects, while also being able to maintain a 4K resolution and high frame rate performance.
This would represent a huge improvement to the PS5, no longer requiring gamers to make compromises to either the visual quality or performance of a game.
But whether Sony is actually able to achieve this is another matter entirely. Even Nvidia’s RTX 4090 graphics card, which costs an extravagant £1679/$1599, is only able to hit 44fps when playing CyberPunk 2077 in 4K with max-out graphics and ray tracing activated.
It’s going to be a difficult task for Sony to create a new affordable gaming console that makes it possible to benefit from ray tracing without forcing users to make sacrifices. But if Sony can finally deliver on its new-generation promises, then a PS5 Pro will be a very tempting upgrade indeed.