When we reviewed Firewatch here at Thumbsticks – we loved it, by the way – we weren’t surprised to find that the Firewatch PS4 version looked less pretty than the PC version; that’s just the natural order of things.
What did surprise us, however, was by just how much.
As featured in our full and spoiler-free Firewatch review, here’s a screenshot comparison of the discrepancies in the levels of detail between the Firewatch PS4 and PC versions:
What we can clearly see there is a reduction in the number of tree models, and also a big reduction in the level of detail on what trees are there, on the Firewatch PS4 version. The PC version, while obviously still stylised, looks a lot more plausible as a bunch of real foliage. There are also issues experienced around frame rate drops, occasional full stalls, and things clipping and popping in an odd fashion.
Keen to assuage any audience fears that the team at Campo Santo went, “Ah screw it, that’ll do!” when looking at the clearly somewhat inferior Firewatch PS4 version, Sean Vanaman took to a Reddit thread to explain:
Couple’a updates. One is that we’re in pipe with SCEA to get a patch into the game but it’s like 99% strange content fixes we’ve found as lots of people play the game on PC. So that’s coming but we’re at the mercy of the console patch process.
Secondly, we’re currently talking with both Sony and Unity (the creators of the engine the game is built in) to continue to optimize performance of the game on console. Unfortunately, it’s a process that requires all three parties to be involved unlike a typical bug that we can quickly fix on our own (we’re pretty good at that). We’ll definitely be patching all platforms with every little content and performance fix we can find so folks can rest assured we’re doing everything we can (and WILL for a long time. We want the game that’s on Steam/PS4/anywhere to be the best possible version even after we’re out out of the excitement of the launch window).
As for why this issue might of occurred? It could come down to the discrepancies between retail and dev-kit PS4 units, or possibly between different software/hardware iterations of the retail consoles themselves.
I’ve played the game for hundreds and hundreds of hours on PS4, and maybe because it’s on test-kits and some retail boxes are different I personally didn’t experience these things. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I want to unequivocally say it wasn’t like we sat in a room, saw this stuff and went “eh, screw it, sell it anyway.” We’re super fucking bummed that this is happening for some people and we’re working actually, literally, around-the-clock on it.
The guys at Campo Santo aren’t 100% sure what’s caused the Firewatch PS4 performance issues, but they’re working on a fix. Apologies for the language.