Guardians of the Galaxy made a big impression after our tests on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The game itself is simply fantastic and a highlight of 2021 — but it’s also clear that Dawn Engine requires console hardware. All of this begs the question: How did previous generation machines 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 from the current console experience – so the option to choose between a 30fps quality mode and a 60fps performance alternative is out of the question. It’s 30 frames per second and that’s its terrain, similar to the Xbox Series S. Reducing resolution and frame rate is another obvious way Guardians of the Galaxy can resize: So the base PS4 renders with a dynamic resolution range of about 900 pixels to 972 pixels, while Xbox One point is up to 720p (DRS is a possibility here, but all counts up to 720p, oddly enough). Due to the temporary smoothing in the game, the lower the resolution, the less sharp the image, but it is still a good looking game: only the hair and fur elements are really affected.
Moving on to the improved hardware of the previous generation, the Xbox One X is a real surprise, with a massive increase in picture quality – as you’d expect from a dynamic resolution range of 1440p to 1890p. Image clarity is greatly improved, and hair and fur crafts are much less of a problem. It was also nice to see that texture quality, anisotropic filtering, shadows, and even drawing distance were all improved on the base Xbox One. The PS4 Pro also aims for 4K with a similar DRS range to the Xbox One X, with the difference that the dynamic pixel count is usually lower.
At this point it’s worth updating our review of PS5 and Series X quality modes, which also run at 30fps – it’s actually native 4K for the vast majority of the game, but DRS can drop to 1,800p. Most interesting is the developer’s choice to set the S-Series to 1080p30 – an odd choice considering that both the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X look noticeably cleaner due to the higher pixel count. The S series is a next generation and yet any close hair or fur plan shows that the One X, in particular, offers a huge advantage in resolving sub-pixel detail. However, perhaps predictably, the resolution is not the complete narrative. In fact, despite the lower pixel count, the S Series commands higher optical settings. Shadow quality has been marginally improved on the newer device and most notable is the increased texture quality in the S-series – an odd situation given the lower resolution.
There are other questions to be answered as well – assuming the PS5 and Series X offer twice (or more) GPU power to the upgraded hardware from the previous generation, how is the display resolution relatively close? The answer here is predictable: the graphics quality is much more impressive. The texture quality is greatly improved, the drawing distances are increased, the shadow quality is higher, and the geometric density is also greatly improved. Leaf physics is also included in the new consoles, possibly taking advantage of the extra power provided by the CPU.
There’s also the performance issue to consider – there’s a real issue with the previous generation machine base here. At the base is the PlayStation 4. Even with a dynamic resolution of 900p-972p, frame rates take a hit in cinema and combat, where they can drop as low as 20fps. It’s great for exploration, but the more action there is, the more obviously the game has problems. Given how each new battle introduces a new mechanic, a new guardian, or more abilities – such as the initial rounds – it’s unnerving to see that they are getting progressively more problematic. The Xbox One also has issues, but its 720p resolution appears to provide a smaller performance drop. Overall, the Xbox One handles most areas better than the base PS4, but it’s still far from ideal. Image quality, blocking, geometric pop – they all remain a serious issue to experiment with.
However, if you’re playing on the Xbox One X, Guardians of the Galaxy hold up admirably, offering similar performance to the S series overall – it’s basically a 30fps lock, though there’s some obvious hits streaming from time to time, When moving between areas or during camera changes in kinetics. It has single-frame drops, intermittently – while the worst cinematic drops briefly into the high twenties. Again, this isn’t perfect, but it’s a huge improvement over the previous generation versions. There’s not much to say here, except that it’s quite impressive that the One X does all this at a higher resolution than the S series. As far as the previous generation versions are concerned, this is the one to buy, and it’s totally playable.
On PS4 Pro, it’s a two-part game: On the one hand, it’s a fun 30fps combat experience, which maintains that level of performance through most of the exploration as well. On the other hand, there are in-game moments and cinematics that inexplicably descend into the twenties. The PS4 Pro is best described as a combination: again, it’s highly playable, and the image quality is worthy of the name. You can think of this as an Xbox One X-like experience, only with a slightly less stable frame rate in the cinema and at unexpected 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 gaming, with the Xbox One X being the preferred choice for all devices from previous generation. Both optimized consoles deliver a reasonable 30fps performance with a sharp picture that looks good on 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 delivering the worst result at native 720p.
Final thoughts: The Guardians of the Galaxy drive is clearly demanding console hardware, but looking at the score on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, it was surprising how well the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro handled. It’s a great version and if you’re still playing on any of those devices, you’ll still have a good experience. My last thought? Given the Xbox One X’s presentation, hopefully the developers will bring a higher resolution upgrade to the S Series – it might not have the raw power and bandwidth, but 1080p30 seems like a pretty deep cut for the small Xbox Series console.
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