The Last Guardian can run at 60 frames per second on PlayStation 5, making it the ultimate way to play the game. That’s the headline and the video on this page speaks for itself. We’ve never seen director Fumito Ueda’s creation run so smoothly on any platform, and certainly not on its original release back in 2016. In fact, by default, the game runs at 30fps on PS5, requiring access to the original gold master version of the title – preserved on Blu-ray disc – to let this classic title spread its wings on Sony’s next generation hardware.
There are many legacy PlayStation 4 titles that see transformative improvements when run on PS5 under backwards compatibility, but The Last Guardian is special simply because of how challenging it is to run well on either of Sony’s last-gen machines, with frame-rates often dipping well beneath the 30fps target. And just why the game ran so poorly was always a point of contention too. On PS4 Pro, whether you ran at native 1080p or via its 4K output mode, there were still performance bottlenecks – though you clearly got a smoother ride with the console set to full HD output. Inconsistency remained, however, suggesting that graphics may have only been one particularly limitation – and that the CPU was often taxed to its limits too.
Installing the game on PlayStation 5 fully patched resolves any slowdown issues, giving the expected lock to 30 frames per second, but it’s the gold master code that is of more interest to us, because the 1.0 rendition of the game does indeed run fully unlocked, the result being that all of PS5’s Zen 2 CPU and 10.28TF GPU power can be deployed in running the game as fast as possible, up to the 60fps cap imposed by v-sync. However, it’s also interesting to see PS4 Pro hardware running this original code too, where the limitations of the machine are laid bare. As you’ll see in the embedded video below, where we test all the various iterations offered by the 1.0 and current 1.3 patches, the difference is often stark. And with performance often dipping into the mid-20s on PS4 Pro, PS5’s almost flawless 60fps delivers one the most impressive multipliers in gen-on-gen frame-rate seen yet.
As I said, the footage speaks for itself, and while later stages of the game may cause more issues for the PlayStation 5, I could only find one section that gave the new hardware pause, dipping into 50s. Clearly, it’s a radical improvement over the compromised PS4 and PS4 Pro versions, but there are plenty of caveats to contend with. The first one is simple: this is the original rendition of the game, meaning that later improvements made to The Last Guardian are completely absent: while 4K rendering and PS4 Pro support is in, HDR options are not. Tweaks to the analogue sticks’ deadzone when dealing with camera motion were also made, as were a bunch of bug fixes. By sticking to 1.0 code, you don’t have access to these improvements. Not only that, but as long as you are online, the PS5 badgers you to update the game every time you boot it – and as the patch is quite small, you have to be quick off the mark in pausing it.
Beyond that, the question is why The Last Guardian runs unlocked in the first place, and whether this quirk could be re-engaged in a future patch that delivers both the full performance capable by PlayStation along with the various features, improvements and optimisations made in the current 1.3 title update. To get answers on the first point, we consulted Lance McDonald, responsible for the totally unofficial Bloodborne 60fps patch. Lance shared with us a snippet of lua script code from the game which shows that The Last Guardian was always meant to run capped at 30fps, even on the gold master version of the game. For whatever reason, the frame-rate cap function call in the 1.0 code didn’t work or wasn’t engaged, a possible oversight that opens the door to PS5 being able to run the game so smoothly.
Regardless, the 30fps cap function not working as it should does seem to demonstrate that running the current version of The Last Guardian at 60fps on PlayStation 5 needn’t be too onerous. Performance is so smooth on PS5, it cements the need for an official patch to make 60fps possible, along the lines of the updates supplied for Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima. The hardware is clearly capable and the ability for all PS5 users to access the game at this performance level would give an often overlooked last-gen classic a new lease of life. From a logistical perspective, the question is how difficult it would be to move the game onto the latest Sony SDK – which has the cross-generation support – and whether there is an appetite within SIE to invest the time and resources to get the job done.
However, running the original game from disc sees The Last Guardian finding the hardware it needs to fully realise its ambition – and perhaps to actually exceed it. After all, every piece of pre-release media we’ve seen going back to the game’s original debut shows it capped at 30fps, while PlayStation 5 takes us one stage beyond that. I always felt that this was a special release and this unintended performance upgrade is the icing on the cake. Meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder if any further titles from SIE will receive these unlocked frame-rate upgrades. Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima already have them, but there is the sense that transformative upgrades could be offered for other first-party juggernauts. After all, the gold master code of God of War also has an unlocked frame-rate, giving us a beautifully smooth checkerboard 4K presentation, but only if you have the original disc version of the game. Having sampled that, I’d really like to see that functionality restored to the latest version of the game – especially as, like The Last Guardian, it’s a part of the PlayStation Collection given away to PS5 users who subscribe to PlayStation Plus.