A game that prioritizes art style and level design over high end graphics.
The Last Guardian is one of the most anticipated games of all time and the last PlayStation 4 exclusive to release this year but perhaps what makes its launch even more interesting is that it’s launching with PlayStation 4 Pro support. Under development for over 9 years, The Last Guardian does not manage to leave up to the massive hype it carried for so long but it does manage to live up to the legacy of its predecessors, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.
From a technical standpoint, there isn’t much here to impress us. Given the development hell this game was stuck in, The Last Guardian clearly looks like a title that was stuck in transition between the PS3 and PS4. The game’s use of low resolution textures and the engine’s incapability to render foliage without any sort of pop in can drag down the experience by a bit. However the star of the show is the creature itself. Trico has been intricately designed with one of the most realistic animal animations we have seen in a video game till date. Trico reacts to each and every action of the player…be it the boy shoving or petting him or it jumping from one place to another. It truly is a sight to behold when Trico is in action.
Shadow quality for the most part is decent and ambient occlusion has been employed to create a soft feel to them. Lighting is also one of the standout features of the game. A limited physical based rendering pipeline has been employed, especially on Trico’s feathers which react to light dynamically and as per its movements. The only downfall to the lighting render is the visual noise it generates on plantation. It could be quite irritating to the eyes as it results in an uncomfortable level of brightness which once again could deteriorate the experience when a lot of foliage is around. The Last Guardian also supports HDR lighting and for the most part it does a decent job in balancing out the colors on the screen but its impact is not noticeable during the indoor environments due to obvious reasons.
The Last Guardian targets a 30 fps cap regardless of the platform you play on. We played a few sections of the game on the PlayStation 4 and it seems that the game is running at 1080p resolution with some drastic frame rate drops in between and in one particular sequence, the screen frozed before the engine stabilized the renderer and everything was then back to normal. On a 4K TV and the PS4 Pro, the engine renders the game at 1800p resolution and 30 fps. For the most part performance is stable in 4K mode but we were quite surprised by the lack of a true and native 4K resolution. The Last Guardian does not look like a game that is stressing out the PS4 Pro GPU so the problem perhaps lies within the engine itself which undoubtedly has gone under several modifications over the last many years. We also tested the game on a 1080p TV and PS4 Pro which resulted into better performance overall compared to the base version.
In the end The Last Guardian isn’t really setting new standards in visual benchmarks…except for Trico’s animations which are absolutely superb. But that’s always been the case in the past with this developer with games like ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. The Last Guardian’s prioritizes art style and huge vertical level structures over AAA high end graphics and this where the game’s visual beauty lies. And to be honest, we are totally okay with that.