Sony’s paid game-streaming service, PlayStation Now, launched a significant update on Thursday with support for current-gen PlayStation 4 games. The feature is live for anybody who pays for an ongoing PS Now subscription, either on PS4 consoles or Windows PCs, and it adds 20 PS4 games to the service’s hundreds of PS3 games.
PlayStation Now, which launched for a variety of devices in 2014, delivers playable games in streaming fashion—meaning, they’re rendered on a server farm and gameplay is streamed to your system of choice. The service recently stopped receiving updates on most of its originally supported platforms, however. Only PS4 consoles and Windows PCs will be able to access the service starting August 15.
Today’s update adds a scant few PlayStation-exclusive games: Resogun, God of War III Remastered, Exist Archive, and Killzone Shadow Fall. The rest of today’s PS4 roster consists of deeply discounted triple-A games (Tropico V, Darksiders II, Saints Row IV), ho-hum games (MX vs. ATV Supercross Encore, Evolve), indies (Nidhogg, Broken Age, Super Mega Baseball), and more.
Interestingly, players cannot go into the service and tap on a button to sort out PS3 or PS4 titles. Today’s update includes a scrolling list of 20 PS4 games, but digging through the general selection brings up a variety of games that saw launches on multiple PlayStation systems: PS3, PS4, and PlayStation Vita. Their descriptions and the service’s menus fail to clarify which origin system any game comes from.
That may be a holdover from the service’s original mission of streaming PlayStation 3 games. Or it may be a hint of what’s to come: eventually, PlayStation games could be distributed via online platforms without any console number attached. This would heavily parallel rival Microsoft’s mission to eventually deliver all things “Xbox” on whatever device you purchase, be that an older Xbox One, a newer Xbox One S, or a Windows PC. However, Microsoft’s path to that future has revolved around converting older games to work on newer systems’ architecture as local, downloaded software as opposed to Sony’s streaming solution (which saves Sony the trouble of emulating its “nightmare” PS3 architecture).
For now, Xbox’s local-rendering answer to preserving its older catalog may be the easier pill to swallow. PS4 games played via PlayStation Now suffer from a resolution downgrade to 720p and streaming-related visual artifacts like pixelation and blur. The same can be said for older PS3 games on PS Now, but the visual impact is much more noticeable for PS4 games designed around 1080p resolutions and 60Hz refreshes.
My brief testing of today’s PS4 catalog revealed that in many cases, the additional latency added by PS Now is entirely tolerable. The twitchy, Defender-like arcade shooter Resogun holds up surprisingly well, as does the first Killzone game on PS4. However, the service shows its limits with Nidhogg, of all games. Yes, the intentionally 4-bit swordfighting game suffers the most because its fencing battles require frame-perfect accuracy, and PS Now absolutely chokes on delivering respectable results here.
In spite of that serious exception, the service’s latency overall feels better than our otherwise-solid 2015 tests. Sony hasn’t been resting on its laurels, but the company still has work to do to prove out a future in which 1080p games can play authentically on PS Now. Sony is currently offering a limited-time first-month rate of $10, which jumps to $20/month or $45 as an every-three-months charge after that. It’s also once again offering a $99/year subscription option, which the company weirdly teases every few months as opposed to leaving as a default standard choice.