“Ghost of Tsushima” is 2020′s “The Witcher 3.” It’s not just a beloved open-world game; it has also delivered substantial — and free — support that has only made the title age better over this very long year.

The PlayStation 5 update of “Ghost of Tsushima” offers one of the year’s most beautifully striking games in glorious 60 frames per second. It’s easy to think that you’re playing a “remastered” or “ultimate” port for PlayStation 5. But it’s the same game transformed into an otherworldly experience, once you witness blades of grass and petals wave and float smoothly across the screen.

This is just a cherry on top of several layers of improvements Sucker Punch Studios have made to their game over the last few months since its summer release. Most notably, the “Legends” multiplayer mode has won rave reviews across the board from critics and players alike. Many claimed that it was a better “live service” game than the hundred-million-dollar “Avengers” game that’s already all but consigned to memory.

And it stands in stark contrast to other studios trying different tactics to offer better-looking versions of their beloved older titles on next-gen platforms. Fellow Sony stablemate Insomniac Games is offering a remastered, PlayStation 5 version of 2018′s “Marvel’s Spider-Man” for a $20 upsell version of the new “Miles Morales” release. “Devil May Cry 5,” released March 2019, now has a next-gen-console exclusive special edition on sale for $40.

Both of these titles offer significantly more than “Tsushima.” After about four hours with the updated “Spider-Man,” and having played the original for more than a 100 hours, I can safely say that there are more than enough graphical updates to justify the asking price. Ray-tracing reflections and lighting give New York City more depth than ever before, and everything from Chinese takeout boxes to the city’s population has been given a full makeover. Everything just looks better.

But it also plays exactly the same way. For anyone who’s already had their fill of the game, this isn’t going to inspire anyone but the biggest fans.

“Devil May Cry 5” offers an entirely new playable character, and not just anyone, but Vergil, the handsome, soft-spoken brother of hero Dante and the series antagonist. This is Vergil’s first return to players’ hands since the 2006 special edition of “Devil May Cry 3.” Along with ray-traced graphics, it’s practically an entirely new game with a beloved fan-favorite and long-missed character. But again, it’s still the same game. Vergil runs through the same story chapters while receiving very few updates. Besides, “Devil May Cry 5” was already a stellar-looking title on the older consoles, already hitting the 60-frames-per-second mark that other series are only now catching up to. The ray tracing is nice, but merely a bonus that will go unnoticed; this series doesn’t emphasize graphical fidelity so much as it does performance.

While they provide more overall, neither of these updates excited me as much as the free “Tsushima” upgrade. Because the game relies on parrying sword attacks, higher frame rates mean players will have an easier time judging parry windows. And because of the game’s reliance on wind movement, every frame of the game is quivering with action, which becomes all the more impressive in a higher frame rate.

Backward compatibility on the PlayStation 5 is reportedly not quite as fast and robust as what the new Xbox consoles offer. The PlayStation 5 offers almost 1 to 1 compatibility with the PlayStation 4, save for a few titles, and many of them get minor performance boosts and loading time speeds increased. But Microsoft’s games like “Gears 5” and “Forza Horizon 4” each got tailored upgrades for the Xbox Series X and S consoles, while Sony hasn’t made enough substantial upgrades to its titles to turn it into a marketing point.

Still, Sony should really brag about Sucker Punch’s “Ghost of Tsushima.” It can’t be understated how much better it looks even compared to “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla,” a just-released title built to take advantage of more powerful hardware. It’s almost as if Sucker Punch Studios had an on-off switch for visual upgrades, and they’ve been ready to push it this whole time.

It’s hard for me to discourage upgrading for the other two titles, especially since they’re two of my favorite games of all time. In my eyes, because I love “Spider-Man” and “Devil May Cry 5” each so much, I can see myself easily spending the cover charge of one single last-gen game ($60) to buy both PS5 versions of these titles. But if your enjoyment and budget are different, the smarter thing to do is to wait for sales on both of them, because outside of a few notable graphical upgrades (and of course, Vergil for DMC5), these are still the same old games, the older versions of which still run beautifully on the new hardware.

Meanwhile, Sucker Punch Studios has offered the greatest increase in quality I’ve seen from an updated title, and ideally — a free update is the most consumer-friendly way to do it. Your older PC games just look and run better once you upgrade your PC, without needing to spend extra cash on the game itself, that’s part of the appeal for PC gamers. That Sucker Punch realizes this is going to earn them even more good will for the future.

CD Projekt Red has been coasting on the good will of its many free and substantial “Witcher 3” support, and now its “Cyberpunk 2077” is almost indisputably the most anticipated game of the year, thanks to that reputation. It’s fair to say that whatever Sucker Punch does next, it’ll be greeted just as warmly as they’ve made us feel with “Ghost of Tsushima.”

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