The shiny new tiered PlayStation Plus subscription service has been available in Asia territory countries for a little bit now, and so while the service isn’t launching locally until late June we’re starting to see a healthy amount of information and analysis come through from those who have access.
While it’s exciting to see these services launch, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing and there are already some pretty glaring negatives that Sony will need to contend with if it’s serious about its offering. Teething issues such as “accidentally” overcharging users for upgrades are one thing, but if a recent breakdown video from Eurogamer’s video game tech experts at Digital Foundry is any indication there are some major issues with PlayStation Plus’ new library of classic PS1, Ps2 and PSP titles.
Emulation is always a tricky thing to get right, especially when trying to cram a couple decades’ worth of systems with varying display technologies onto one platform in a consistent and feasible way. To that end, I don’t think anyone was expecting the PS5/PS4’s ability to play titles spanning two generations of PlayStation home console and a handheld to be perfect, but the reality seems more bewildering than anything.
Starting with Ape Escape, DF’s John Linneman opens the analysis video with the disappointing news that the current library of PS1 games on the service is mostly comprised of PAL region versions. This is immediately an issue as, if you’re like me and old enough to remember, PAL region equipment ran at a lower 50Hz refresh rate compared to 60Hz in NTSC regions. What this means is that, now that new machines like the PS5 and PS4 all output at a minimum of 60Hz these emulated versions of the games perform with inconsistent frame pacing and judder on top of the games themselves literally moving 17% slower than intended.
More problems arise with the provided emulator’s rendering features, which include options for different aspect ratios and screen filters to adjust things to players’ liking. Linneman notes that the option to upscale games to a (roughly) 1920 x 1440 resolution actually works fairly well and doesn’t destroy 2D elements as much as it might have, but that it also causes a lot more instability in certain 3D elements. Meanwhile, provided options to change the aspect and pixel ratio in PS1 and PSP games seem to make little sense and not actually do what they describe. Digital Foundry was especially concerned at the fact that modes like “1:1” and “Square Pixels” actually cause pixels to be narrower, resulting in a squished image that nobody would want.
Meanwhile, PSP emulation in the one available game (Echochrome) seems decent enough with 3D elements upscaled to 1080p, although anything 2D looks to be filtered and blurred to an annoying degree. The same retro filters and screen aspect options apply here, something that DF rightly notes is odd because why on earth would someone add CRT scanlines to a PSP game?
PS2 emulation, with the only available games being the four Jak & Daxter titles already available as PS2 Classics on PS4, is probably the least interesting as it literally just transposes those same Classics onto the PS5, warts and all. The Jak games for instance perform worse than their original PS2 iterations and carry none of the upscaling or filtering options of the PS1 and PSP releases.
All up it seems like a cavalcade of oversights on Sony’s part to actually provide fundamentally better versions of these games on the service. I’ve personally tried my hand at Ape Escape and Toy Story 2 so far on the service and while it’s a novelty to be able to play these natively on my PS5, especially with the ability to rewind gameplay, create save states and earn Trophies, it definitely doesn’t feel like enough effort has been made here.
Check out Digital Foundry’s full, 20-minute video below if you’re keen to know more about this in-depth: