PlayStation Plus new formula: our opinion on Sony's revamped subscription service

PlayStation Plus new formula: our opinion on Sony’s revamped subscription service

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The new PlayStation Plus, bringing together the old PS Plus and PS Now subscription offers under a common banner, has been available since June 22 in Europe. Here is our opinion after a few weeks of trying the Premium formula with a PS5.

It has now been almost a month, at the time of writing, that Sony launched the new version of its PlayStation Plus subscription offer in Europe, which replaces both the “old-school” PS Plus and the on-demand games and cloud gaming service PlayStation Now. This offer now consists of three distinct subscription levels, called Essential, Extra and Premium. Forgive us for not giving here the details of the services included in each level: we had already done so in a previous article.

The essential information to remember is that under the varnish does not really hide much new: these new formulas do not offer anything other than the aggregation of the old PS Plus and PS Now. The Essential formula almost replaces the first, the Extra formula adds a collection of PS4 and PS5 games available for download and the Premium formula reserves retro games (PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP), as well as the cloud gaming for some of these games.

Unable to sort PS1, PS2 and PSP games in the PS Plus Premium “classic” catalog.

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A very perfectible PS1 and PSP emulation

The big news that accompanies the launch of this reinvented PlayStation Plus is the availability of PS1 and PSP games on modern consoles – a real bonus over the previous generation. But the emulation of these platforms today is not trivial: these titles designed at the very beginning of 3D for cathode-ray screens, or for a portable console screen, cannot be teleported as they are on standard displays. of today.

Well aware of this, Sony has made sure to do the bare minimum to adapt the rendering of games to the era of HD/4K. On PS5, PS1 games benefit from rendering at a greatly increased definition compared to the originals: most now render in 1920 x 1440 px or approaching. However, this increase in definition is done a little too rough. In particular, it concerns exclusively the 3D elements of the image, while the 2D elements simply do not receive any processing or filtering. They are satisfied with a simple scaling by nearest neighbor method. If the technique can have its followers for 100% 2D games such as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, it is however extremely ill-suited to hybrid games like Resident Evil Director’s Cut. In Capcom’s legendary survival horror, the layering of high-definition 3D characters and chunky-pixel 2D backgrounds results in an inconsistent and downright unsightly final image.

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Resident Evil Director's Cut

Resident Evil Director’s Cut on PS5: the sharpness of the clock and the 3D character clashes violently with the pixelation of the decor.

©Capcom

On top of that, the European variant of the service suffers from the fact that most of the PS1 games offered are in their PAL 50Hz version, while PS4 and PS5 are only capable of outputting a 60Hz video signal on their HDMI output. The desynchronization between the frequency of the game and that of the console causes, depending on the title, either ghosting effects (doubling of the image) greatly reducing visual clarity in motion, or a roughly jerky animation. The good news is that this issue should normally be short-lived: Sony has already promised that it will soon give users the option to download NTSC 60Hz versions of games instead.

Wild Arms on PS5

Wild Arms on PS5: on horizontal scrolling, we perceive a duplication of the image due to the technique of mixed used for conversion from 50 Hz to 60 Hz.

©Sony Interactive Entertainment

Fortunately, this problem does not exist for PSP games, which are already designed for a 60 Hz screen on their original machine. For the purposes of our tests, we were only able to try the only PSP game available when the service was launched, the certainly very nice Echochrome. The ultra-minimalist aesthetic of the title does not help to form an exhaustive opinion on the way in which the games of the platform are translated on PS5, but it does at least let us see there too a rather effective high definition treatment for the elements 3D… which again swears with 2D elements, designed at the time for a 4.2 screen in 480 x 272 px, and therefore very uncomfortable on an Ultra HD screen.

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Decent cloud gaming for PS4 games, horribly outdated for PS3 games

The cloud portion of the offering, exclusive to the Premium subscription tier, has changed only marginally from what’s been on offer in PlayStation Now until now. This change only concerns the catalog, adjusted to the margin: a few games added, a few withdrawals. On the technical side, however, no quality of service update has accompanied the integration with PlayStation Plus. And that’s not good news, as far as PS3 games are concerned.

Because the PS4 portion of the service has already been updated in April 2021. Since then, it has been offering video streams in maximum 1080p, with very decent image quality, despite fairly aggressive video compression. By way of comparison, the visual and gaming comfort is roughly equivalent to what we find on the Xbox cloud, slightly below Stadia, and very much below Nvidia GeForce Now, the technical champion of the discipline at this day.

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Stream God of War with PlayStation Plus Premium

God of the war and streaming

©Sony Interactive Entertainment

On the PS3 side, on the other hand, it seems that nothing has changed in depth since the very first days of PS Now in 2014. And it is an understatement to say that eight years later, the gaming experience offered is completely outdated. In addition to a very high latency (between 50 and 60 ms of additional delay compared to the game on a local console), the image quality becomes frankly mediocre. The stream is stuck at 720p this time around, even for the few games that ran at 1080p on the original console. And the video compression this time becomes coarse: completely flattened details, macroblocking all the timedisastrous movement management… We can always tell ourselves that all this is better than nothing in terms of PS3 backward compatibility, but in fact, it is very difficult to find pleasure in playing under these conditions.

Stream Ico Classic HD with PlayStation Plus Premium

Ico Classic HD streaming: video compression produces a picture a thousand miles from the 1080p of the original PS3 version.

©Sony Interactive Entertainment

Comparison between Ico Classic HD on PlayStation Plus cloud and on PlayStation 3

Ico Classic HD

©Sony Interactive Entertainment

In the end, the new PlayStation Plus therefore seems to have missed its target. The saddest symptom of this is that in the end it is the Premium formula, the most promising on paper, which turns out to be the most disappointing: between starving PS1 and PSP catalogs, laborious browsing in retro games and the PS3 cloud. technically obsolete, its selling points are falling flat one after another. The Extra formula, it can find its raison d’être, but it is up to everyone to determine whether the catalog of games included, abounding but stingy in novelties, justifies its price.

For more details, in particular technical details, on what PlayStation Plus offers, consult our complete file with our comrades from At Gamekult.

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