Thanks largely to the use of more consistent and less bespoke architecture in the hardware, console generations aren't as much of a\ clean break these days and Gran Turismo 7 is the latest Sony title to see a cross-gen release. Players on PS4 have access to exactly the same content, and can even join the same online races as their counterparts on PS5, but for a title that prides itself on reaching the highest quality standards, is it ok to settle for anything but the best available?
It's worth noting that I will be focusing on the quality found in photo mode here rather than during gameplay, and the controlled environments of Scapes mode, plus the ability to transfer race replays between consoles via the in-game social share features make that a perfect opportunity for some direct comparisons.
In each case the same shots have been captured on base PS4, running at 1080p, and on PS5 running at native 4K both with and without ray tracing enabled. The PS5 will always apply ray tracing by default when entering photo mode regardless of whether gameplay is using the "Prioritise Framerate" or "Prioritise Ray Tracing" mode, though it can be toggled on / off, and the results of how it affects the image are interesting to say the least.
- AMG GT S // SCAPES -
Things start off quite closely matched here with both consoles and configurations giving impressive realism in GT7's Scapes mode, with the most immediate difference coming from the lower resolution on PS4. Although it is possible to shoot at "high resolution" (4K) on that version of the game, there is currently no means to export the capture and hence 1920 x 1080 is the limit there. By comparison, the native 4K on PS5 looks crisp and renders every detail almost flawlessly.
Enabling ray tracing enhances the shot in some ways, most notably is how parts of the car such as the wing mirror and windscreen reflect realistically in the paintwork, but I must admit that I am not wholly convinced by the way that brake discs pick up more light than they probably ought to in this example.
There is a definite loss of detail elsewhere too. Falling somewhere between the PS4 & PS5 RT-off images, the ray traced shot appears smoothed with a distinct lack of sharpness on panel gaps. This is perhaps as a result of a shimmering effect that can be seen as the RT is constantly computed on the fly, a low-res filter on the RT itself, or even dynamic resolution on the vehicle model, but one way or another it is not perfect.
The setting sun cascades over the car and bounces up to create a reflected image...
It's certainly not all bad news where ray tracing is concerned, and this next example is an area that the technology really comes into its own. Even without it though, the PS5 shows a significant upgrade over PS4 in the lighting department.
As well as the superior detail, the PS5 handles HDR highlights a little better and introduces local occlusion on vehicle bodies to ensure that light doesn't fall on parts that it really should not. Notice the illuminated side skirts and tailpipe here on PS4 for example.
- FERRARI F430 // SCAPES -
With RT-on, a whole extra dimension is added to this shot as the bright light from the setting sun cascades over the car and bounces up to create a reflected image on the shiny underside of the rear wing. The same applies to the car's own brake lights which can also be seen to cast light onto nearby bodywork, creating some very believable depth in the process. Don't miss too, the view in the wing mirror where a generic background is replaced by an authentic look into the cockpit, complete with driver and sun shining onto the headrest of the passenger seat.
"Race Photos" Detail:
Now, after looking at the next shots, you are probably thinking that I have been an idiot and compared completely different times of day or weather conditions on the two machines, and I wouldn't blame you. In fact I spent some time second guessing myself here given that the difference is so stark, but just to reiterate that the images below are all take from the SAME race replay and you can even see that the position of the sun reflected in the headlight lenses is the same in each case.
It is from a run on Super License S-10 to be exact, and the results were identical whether using an imported replay or running the event again from scratch. The same even applies to custom races using matching time of day and weather, and it seems to come down to whether the track surface is wet or not. In dry conditions, the PS4 is able to much more closely match the environmental lighting, but with a wet surface the last-gen machine reverts to a simpler system with less directional light that falls well short of the same scene on PS5.
- PORSCHE 917K // RACE PHOTO -
Of course, that surface water is something of an illusion on PS4 as well, and the same puddles that are clearly evident during the race and when moving the camera higher above the track essentially vanish at low viewing angles. In contrast, the PS5 renders detailed reflections of the car on the water surface to go along with the higher quality surface textures and more intricate surroundings for a drastically better result.
Expect the ray tracing to further enhance the quality of those reflections too, with the non-ray traced version deploying a slightly simplified model of the car in the reflection, or even having no visible reflection in some test cases. The technique also improves shadows cast close to the car, as well as adding visible reflections of things like other vehicles on track, and nearby barriers or kerbs in bodywork and mirrors.
While Gran Turismo 7 can look beautiful on PS4, there are obvious advantages to playing and photographing the game on PS5. Not only do lightning-fast load times eliminate any wait time before races are ready to start, and the adaptive triggers give more precise throttle control & brake response, but the higher levels of detail and heightened realism make all the difference when it comes to getting the best shots.
Whether it is in more subtle light occlusion around parts or totally transformed wet weather conditions, the PS5 is the best representation of Polyphony's high fidelity racer. The implementation of ray tracing does leave room for improvement though and, while it can result in outstanding reflections and light-play, it is not always the best option so be sure to experiment with & without it to see what works best for each shot.
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