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

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The new PlayStation Plus, which brings together the old PS Plus and PS Now subscription offerings 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 gaming and cloud gaming service PlayStation now. This offer now consists of three different subscription levels, called Essential, Extra and Premium. Forgive us for not giving the details of the services included in each level here: we had already done so in a previous article.

The important information to remember is that there is not much new under the paint: these new formulas offer nothing but the merging of the old PS Plus and PS Now. The Essential formula almost replaces the first, the Extra formula adds a collection of downloadable PS4 and PS5 games, and the Premium formula reserves retro games (PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP) as well as cloud games for some of these games.

Cannot sort PS1, PS2 and PSP games in the PS Plus Premium “classic” catalog.

A very perfect 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 in early 3D for cathode ray screens or for a portable console screen cannot be teleported as they are on standard screens today.

Well aware of this, Sony has made sure to do the absolute minimum to adapt the rendering of games to the era of HD / 4K. On the PS5, PS1 games benefit from being rendered with a much higher definition compared to the originals: most are now rendered in 1920 x 1440 px or approaching. However, this increase in definition has been made a little too rough. This is especially true of the 3D elements of the image, while the 2D elements simply do not receive any processing or filtering. They are happy with a simple scaling according to the nearest neighbor method. However, if the technology can have its followers for 100% 2D games such as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, it is extremely unsuitable for hybrid games like Resident Evil Director’s Cut. In Capcom’s legendary survival thriller, the layering of high-definition 3D characters and chunky-pixel 2D backgrounds results in an inconsistent and downright unsightly end image.

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Resident Evil Director's Cut

Resident Evil Director’s Cut on PS5: the sharpness of the watch and the 3D character clash violently with the pixelation of the device.

© Capcom

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

Wild Arms on PS5

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

© Sony Interactive Entertainment

Fortunately, this problem does not exist for PSP games that are already designed for a 60 Hz screen on their original machine. In the course of our testing, we could only try the only PSP game that was available when the service was launched, the definitely very nice Echochrome. The title’s ultra-minimalist aesthetic does not help to form an exhaustive opinion on the way the platform’s game is translated on PS5, but it does at least let us see a fairly effective high definition treatment of the elements 3D here … which again swears for 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 sky game for PS4 games, terribly outdated for PS3 games

The cloud portion of the offer, exclusive to the Premium subscription level, has changed only marginally from what has been on offer in PlayStation Now until now. This change only applies to the catalog, adapted to the margin: a few games added, a few withdrawals. On the technical side, however, there is no service quality update accompanied by the integration with PlayStation Plus. And that’s not good news for PS3 games.

Because the PS4 part of the service has already been updated in April 2021. Since then, it has offered video streams in a maximum of 1080p, with a very decent picture quality despite quite aggressive video compression. By comparison, the visuals and gaming comfort are roughly similar to what we find on the Xbox cloud, slightly below the Stadia, and much below the Nvidia GeForce Now, the technical master of the discipline today.

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Stream God of War with PlayStation Plus Premium

god of 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 obsolete. In addition to a very high latency (between 50 and 60 ms extra delay compared to the game on a local console), the picture quality is frankly mediocre. The stream is stuck at 720p this time, even for the few games that ran at 1080p on the original console. And the video compression gets rough this time: completely flattened details, macro blocking all the timedisastrous motion control … We can always tell ourselves that all this is better than nothing in terms of PS3 backwards 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 an image a thousand miles from 1080p of the original PS3 version.

© Sony Interactive Entertainment

Comparison between Ico Classic HD on PlayStation Plus cloud and 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’s the Premium formula, the most promising on paper, that turns out to be the most disappointing: between starving PS1 and PSP catalogs, cumbersome retro game browsing and the PS3 cloud. . Technically obsolete. , its selling points fall flat one after the other. The extra formula, it can find its raison d’être, but it’s up to anyone to decide whether the catalog of games included, rich but stingy in the news, justifies the price.

For more details, including technical details, on what PlayStation Plus offers, see our complete file with our peers from game cult.

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