Sony has confirmed with Wired that PS2 emulation is indeed being worked on for PlayStation 4. “We are working on utilizing PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation," a representative for the company told Wired. "We have nothing further to comment at this point in time."
It appears that PlayStation 4 finally has the long talked about ability to run select PlayStation 2 games, with the PS2 Star Wars titles included in the Star Wars Classics bundle seemingly running through an emulator, rather than being ported to PS4 hardware.
Certain versions of Star Wars Battlefront on PS4 come with four classic Star Wars games - Super Star Wars, Star Wars: Racer Revenge, Jedi Starfighter, and Star Wars Bounty Hunter. The latter three are all PlayStation 2 games originally, and Eurogamer's digital foundry has found a number of things to suggest that the original PS2 code is being run through an emulator:
The one potential piece of evidence against these games being emulated is that they now have Trophy support, something that Sony didn't introduce until PlayStation 3. However, Sony filed a patent back in 2013 for a method of adding Trophies to games without making any alterations to the original code, by having software respond to certain triggers in games.
Eurogamer's report also makes note of visual and performance improvements for the games. They appear to be running at a native resolution of 1292x896, more than double the 512x448 and 640x448 commonly used by PS2 games, before being upscaled to 1080p. The report describes the 3D elements are "substantially improved", though the upscaling of 2D artwork doesn't work quite as well. Performance-wise, the games actually run smoother than on PS2, with Jedi Starfighter reportedly hitting 60fps.
You can see the improvements in action in this Digital Foundry video:
PS2 (and PS1) emulation on PS4 is something that's come up a few times since the PlayStation 4's launch. In January 2014, Eurogamer published a report from a "well-placed source" stating that Sony were working on this alongside PlayStation Now, and in September this year, PEGI listings hinted at PS4 releases of a few PS2 games, like Dark Chronicle and Ape Escape 2. More recently, a number of users found references to PS2 games in the beta test for the now-released PlayStation 4 system software update 3.00 - namely, Siren and War of the Monsters.
The implications of this are significant: with system-level software enabling PS2 code to run on PS4, any PS2 game could be brought over to PS4, licensing issues and the like notwisthstanding, without the need to go through lengthy, costly porting process. This is exactly the process used for PS one Classics and PS2 Classics, which have been available on PlayStation 3 for years.
There's still no official word from Sony on the matter, but they will be holding their next big press briefing at PlayStation Experience early next month, so they could be preparing to make some sort of announcement then.
This all comes just after Microsoft has released its own backwards compatibility solution for Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, with just over 100 titles supported. Unlike Sony's PS one and PS2 Classics for PlayStation 3, Xbox One Backwards Compatibility doesn't require the re-purchasing games, with supported games tied to your Xbox Live account being readily available to download on Xbox One. Disc-based games can also be used, with the disc unlocking a download for the emulated game through Xbox Live.