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Shadow of War highlights the strengths and weaknesses of PS4 Pro

Monolith Productions returns with the follow-up to 2014’s superb sleeper hit, Shadow of Mordor, with the ambitious Shadow of War. In three years, it takes us from the Lithtech engine to the new Firebird Engine – upgraded code that now supports larger-scale battles, and an expanded Nemesis system. Having checked out PS4, Xbox One, and PS4 Pro renditions this week, it’s clear there’s a pecking order to which looks and runs best. Ahead of the Shadow of War’s Xbox One X support, PS4 Pro inevitably comes out on top on the console front – but with only a month to go, is the bar set high enough on Sony’s ‘supercharged’ console?

The truth is, Microsoft hosted an event a few days ago where we could go hands-on with the X version, and tackling that – and indeed the PC game – is our next port of call, but for now, the available consoles are our focus. Even so, the PC version is worth mentioning, in showing how Monolith handles 4K support. Essentially, PC users running at 4K need to download two add-ons to get the most out of the game. That comes in in the form of a 4K cinematics pack – a 25GB download that replaces all pre-rendered cutscenes with higher resolution movie files. This is available to PS4 Pro users too – and well worth downloading if you’re playing on an ultra HDTV. Just go to the PSN store, download, and make sure it’s installed in the add-ons section.

Sadly, this is where PS4 Pro’s support for 4K assets ends – it’s just the cinematics that get a boost and nothing else. On PC meanwhile, there’s also a 15GB 4K textures pack on offer, which brings a more exciting upgrade to the actual, in-game visuals. It’s a VRAM intensive option, but one that bumps up texture resolution across the board – giving crisper, more detailed surfaces that better fit a 4K output. Tellingly, the minimum requirement for 4K textures is a 8GB card like the GTX 1070, or R9 390 – each with a high level of VRAM that goes beyond the usable memory available on PS4 Pro. It explains its absence on all console versions – at least, until we see Xbox One X’s support.

From the start then, there’s a sense we’re not getting a complete 4K package on PS4 Pro – but to what extent does it matter? Well, in common with its predecessor, Shadow of War offers two options to cater for the PS4 Pro crowd: a toggle to prioritise either native resolution or visual quality. It’s a feature that worked well in the original, and it makes a return here – and the difference between the two is stark.