Guardians of the Galaxy made a great impression after our tests on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The game itself is simply a cool, true feature of 2021 — but it’s also clear that Dawn’s engine requires console hardware. All this raises the question: How do the machines of the last generation deal with the game? In a world where PS5 and Series X struggle to maintain 1080p60 in performance mode, can any PS4 or Xbox One deliver a good experience?
There are obviously changes coming from the current console experience – so the option to choose between a 30fps quality mode and a 60fps performance alternative is off. It’s 30 frames per second and that’s your lot, similar to the Xbox Series S. Decreasing the resolution and frame rate is another obvious way Guardians of the Galaxy can scale it: So, the base PS4 renders at a dynamic resolution range of 900p to 972p, while it drops Xbox One to 720p (DRS is a possibility here but all counts at 720p, curiously). Due to temporary smoothing in play, the lower the resolution, the less distinct the image is but it’s still a good looking game: only the hair and fur elements really suffer.
Moving on to the improved last generation hardware, the Xbox One X is a real surprise, with a massive increase in picture quality – as you’d expect from its 1440p-1890p dynamic resolution range. Image clarity is greatly improved, and these hair and fur handicrafts are far less of a problem. It was also nice to see improved build quality, anisotropic filtering, shadows, and even drawing distance on the base Xbox One. The PS4 Pro also supports 4K with a similar DRS range to the Xbox One X, the difference being that the dynamic pixel count is usually lower.
At this point it’s worth updating our analysis of PS5 and Series X quality modes, which also run at 30fps – it’s already native 4K for the vast majority of gameplay, but DRS can drop to 1800p. Most interesting is the developer’s choice to link the S Series to 1080p30 – an odd choice considering that both the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X look noticeably cleaner due to their higher pixel count. The S Series is an advanced generation, however, and any close-up of hair or fur shows the One X in particular, providing a huge advantage in resolving sub-pixel detail. However, perhaps predictably, the decision is not the whole story. In fact, despite its lower pixel count, the S Series pushes higher optical settings. Shadow quality has been marginally improved on the newer device and most noticeable is the increased texture quality on the S-series – an odd case considering the lower resolution.
There are other questions to be answered as well – assuming that the PS5 and Series X offer two times (or more) GPU power compared to the last generation’s improved machines, how come the display resolutions are relatively close? The answer here is predictable: the graphic quality is more impressive. The texture quality is greatly improved, the drawing spaces are pushed out, the shadow quality is improved, and the geometric density is greatly improved. Leaf physics is also included in the new consoles, possibly taking advantage of the additional CPU power available.
There is also the issue of performance to consider – there is a real issue here with the last generation core hardware. The bottom of the barrel is the base of the PlayStation 4. Even with the 900p-972p dynamic resolution, frame rates struggle in cinematic and combat scenes, where we can drop 20 frames per second. Exploration is good, but any time the action gets intense, the game clearly has issues. Considering how each new battle introduces a new mechanic, a new guardian, or more skills – like the initial rounds – it makes sense to see that it gets progressively worse. The Xbox One also has issues, but the locked 720p resolution seems to provide less severe drops in performance. In all respects, the Xbox One handles most areas better than the vanilla PS4 but it’s still far from ideal. The image quality, the splicing, the pop-up geometry – it all still remains a serious blight on the experience.
However, if you’re playing on the Xbox One X, Guardians of the Galaxy are impressively enduring, offering similar performance to the Series S overall – it’s basically a 30fps lock, although there are some obvious streaming hurdles from time to time. , when navigating between regions or during camera changes in scenes. It has one-frame dips intermittently – while the worst scenes drop briefly in the high twenties. Again, this isn’t perfect, but it’s a huge improvement over other last-generation versions. There’s not much to say here, except that it’s impressive that the One X pulls all of this at a higher resolution than the Series S. As far as the latest generation versions go, this is the one to get, and it’s very playable.
PS4 Pro is a game of two halves: on the one hand, it’s a fun 30fps battle experience, and it maintains that level of performance through most of the exploration stages as well. On the other hand, there are moments in gameplay and stories that inexplicably drop into the twenties. The PS4 Pro is best described as the combination: again, it’s very playable, and the image quality is trustworthy. You can think of it as a similar experience to the Xbox One X, only with a slightly less stable frame rate in individual scenes and moments.
At this point, we’ve covered all seven versions of the console from Guardians of the Galaxy, and the bottom line is that the PS4 Pro is the ‘minimum console spec’ we can recommend for smooth game play, with the Xbox One X being the best option out there. Everyone is last generation machines. Both optimized consoles give you a reasonable 30fps performance with a crisp picture that fits well with 4K screens. Both miss the high-quality detail, foliage, textures, shadows, and physics of the PS5 and Series X – but they do a really decent job. With base consoles, you’ll have to put up with regular drops of 20fps – especially on PS4 – with a huge impact on resolution too, with the Xbox One coming in at its worst at native 720p.
Final thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy is clearly demanding console hardware, but considering the uptake of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it was surprising how well the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro handle the game. It’s a great version and if you’re still playing on any of these devices, you’ll still have a good experience. My last thought? Given the Xbox One X showcase, hopefully the developers will offer a high-res upgrade to the S Series — it might not have the raw horsepower and bandwidth of the Scorpio Engine, but 1080p30 seems like a pretty deep cut for the Junior series console.
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