Stray plays best on PS5, as shader compilation stutters impact another Unreal Engine game on PC

Stray plays best on PS5, as shader compilation stutters impact another Unreal Engine game on PC

Charming puzzle platformer Stray is turning heads for all the right reasons right now, putting players in the paws of a cute ginger cat exploring a beautifully realized cyber city mysteriously devoid of human life. The game is available on PlayStation 4, PS4 Pro, PS5 and PC, so how does each platform compare? Do the latest-gen consoles stand up to the PS5 version, and how does it score with the PC version and its rumored stuttering issues? Let’s find out.

The first thing you’ll notice about Stray on PS5 is its install size – at 7GB it’s remarkable to be nearly half of the 13GB install on PS4, likely thanks to more data compression effective on the new system. Despite its relatively light profile on the PS5’s SSD, Stray offers a great sense of scale and atmosphere, and each location is meticulously layered with ornamental detail. The world design is what makes Stray really special; a cat-meets-cyberpunk aesthetic that proves striking on any platform you might own. The color palette is sometimes reminiscent of big names in adventure like The Last Guardian or Ico, and is further enhanced with Unreal Engine 4 effects: screen space reflections on city streets, volumetric lighting smoky and physical objects. Combined, this creates a world that feels ruinous, oppressed by the elements – and yet all at once alive and tangible.

Our tech breakdown shows Stray’s visual highlights – and frame rate quirks – on PS4, PS5, and PC.

Let’s start with the basics: you get native 1920×1080 and 30fps presentation on PS4 (and PS4 Pro, for that matter), while the PS5 is optimized for native 3840×2160 and 60fps output. Remarkably, this jump to 4K and 60fps means the PS5 renders eight times more pixels per second than its last-gen equivalent – a drastic upgrade. Dynamic resolution scaling is in effect on PS5 at rare points, however, reducing GPU load where necessary, and the lowest resolution spotted is 3360×1890. Curiously, when testing a similar DRS range on a base PS4 and PS4 Pro, it turns out that each tends to stick more stubbornly to their 1080p targets, although DRS may be possible. Beyond resolution and frame rate, the changes between the PS4 and PS5 versions are otherwise subtle. The premium machine uses a higher quality bokeh depth of field effect and potentially longer draw distances during fast transitions, but shadows, texture mapping and much of the world detail looks very close across all three machines. Playstation.

Watching the PC version on Steam helps reveal some of the settings used on console. Running at 4K resolution with high settings for shadows, textures, effects, and meshes on an RTX 3060 Ti, the PS5 comes extremely close by comparison. That said, the PC’s high setting for shadows gives it a definite edge. Tree shadows are lighter on Stray’s high preset, pushing higher resolution outlines onto the ground during the game’s opening tutorial area – whereas the PS5 uses the medium setting. Other? The PS5 is closely matched to the PC’s best output in many ways, including its high texture setting. Again, there is potential for improving the quality of the mesh – to plot distances – but these are less clearly distinguished in action.

Stray on PS5 looks great at max PC settings, but shadow quality may be better on PC.

We’ve already mentioned the frame rate targets for each platform: 30fps for PS4 and PS4 Pro and 60fps for PS5 – but how well does each platform meet them? Looking at the PS4 to begin with, we get a locked 30fps 99% of the time – but sadly there are some noticeable sub-30fps issues as we move between zones. The main cause for this is Stray’s autosave mechanism, which triggers between key areas. Sometimes it’s just a few dropped frames, but occasionally we see spikes of up to 120ms. It’s not ideal, but thankfully it doesn’t affect the platforming action itself – where 30fps is well preserved. The PS4 Pro has a similar issue with autosave issues. the upgraded machine doesn’t completely fix it, but at least minimizes their impact in places.

As for the PS5? Well, Sony’s next-gen console has some big wins here. First, the autosave issues are nearly overcome, sometimes disappearing completely and sometimes manifesting as a single dropped frame. It’s harder to spot, and the result is much smoother and distraction-free. Along with that, of course, we get a much more responsive 60fps platforming experience. Combined with 4K presentation and Dualsense support (via the use of adaptive triggers when interacting with objects), the PS5 edition comes very highly recommended.

In theory, the PC version should offer an even better experience on a high-end PC. We’ve established that Shadows are getting an upgrade on PS5 – along with the ability to push 4K and 60fps. Unfortunately, Stray on PC is not a sincere recommendation at this time. The problem? Shader compilation stutter, a recent bug in Unreal Engine 4 releases, is back with a vengeance. Gameplay footage provided by my colleague Alex Battaglia running on an ultra high-end RTX 3090 graphics card shows infrequent but jarring frametime spikes when performing new actions or entering new areas . Note that this is a separate issue from the autosave drops we most obviously see on PS4; here the problem can also occur when walking in an open environment or in the middle of a platform. A fix is ​​then required, but judging by the trend of this shader compilation issue, it appears to be beyond the remit of any specific developer – and work may be required by Nvidia, AMD and Epic itself .

Misplacing PS5 versus PS4.

There is an improvement in clarity on PS5 compared to PS4, but both games hold up well.

For those looking for the smoothest way to play Stray, the PS5 currently offers an excellent smooth 60fps option. As it stands, the PS5 has the fewest and least noticeable issues of any platform I’ve tested. Beyond that, the PS4 version turned out surprisingly well too, with a world that remains intact even on Sony’s 2013 hardware. On PS4 Pro the game runs very well – honestly – but it could offer more adventurous upgrades at scale with its more powerful hardware. As for the PC, we will have to monitor this space. Apart from the stuttering shader compilation, it’s a well-optimized build – but I can’t recommend this build in its current state.

I suspect Stray will sneak into many December games of the year lists. Its charming feline role and inventive, mysterious world mean it has all the makings of a cult classic. It’s a real surprise for 2022, and played on a PS5 especially right now is highly recommended.

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