PlayStation 5 – Two Months Later
In the two months since its November 19th release in the U.K, I have had the chance to test out the PlayStation 5 and see how it performs. For reference going forward in this post, I have the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. While it doesn’t come with a disc drive, every other technical aspect is the same across both the standard and digital versions of the PS5 console.
To help break down and highlight where the PlayStation 5 succeeds, I will be focussing on four key areas of the console. Those will be the hardware, the controller, user experience and games. Overall though, I can say that Sony has delivered a fantastic console experience that truly excels when compared to the PlayStation 4 generation. While it sticks the landing, it isn’t perfect. Here is what I think the PlayStation does well and where it could improve.
Let’s not beat around the bush, this console is massive. Not only is it the largest PlayStation console ever it is one of the biggest consoles ever created. Standing 39cm tall when vertical, it dwarfs the PlayStation 4 Pro which stands at 29.5cm. Bear in mind that the 39cm doesn’t include the base stand that you will likely want to use. The aesthetics of the console have also proven to be divisive. While I personally like the futuristic, two tone look, I appreciate that it absolutely isn’t for everyone. What everyone can agree on though is that the PlayStation 5 is fast, really fast. Load times of games are dramatically quicker compared to the PS4 and PS4 Pro. With titles such as Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the open world loads faster than any system to date.
This level of performance is pretty consistent across the entire system with games not only loading quicker but running at improved frame rates and resolutions too. This applies to new releases with specific PS5 versions, as well as titles running via backwards compatibility. Arguably the biggest improvement that Sony made with their latest PlayStation system was in the cooling though. This might not sound like a killer feature, but the PlayStation 4 generation was plagued by cooling issues and subsequently an extremely loud fan. So loud that it was dubbed a ‘jet engine’ by many users. PlayStation users will be thrilled to learn that these issues are a thing of the past with the PS5. Clearly the size of the system is partly responsible for this but regardless, the PlayStation 5 runs whisper quiet if not inaudible even during taxing gameplay.
Unfortunately, one area of the PlayStation 5 that doesn’t quite excel is storage. The PS5 comes with an 825GB SSD however only 667GB is usable space. With modern open world games regularly reaching around 100GB in size, this SSD can fill up extremely quickly. What’s worse is that PS5 games have to be stored on the internal SSD. PS4 games can be stored and run from an external storage device but PS5 optimised games can not. There currently is no way to upgrade the internal storage either. While this will be changed via a firmware update to allow additional SSD’s to be installed, for now you are stuck with the 667GB.
Where the PlayStation 5 absolutely excels though is with the controller. The new DualSense controller is arguably the new killer feature of the PS5. The redesigned controller not only is slightly larger and more comfortable to hold, it packs in some really great new tech. The highlights of these are the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Haptic feedback is an advancement on traditional rumble found in controllers. It allows for more precise and detailed rumble that can be specific to certain areas of the controller as well as offering a much larger range of intensity. This can result in some truly next generation feedback such as the pitter patter feeling of rain or the rumble of an on-screen object transitioning from the left to the right on the controller.
The adaptive triggers also offer a significant technical advancement compared to other controllers. The closest example is found in the Xbox One controller. These offer rumble feedback within the triggers which helps offer added feedback. The adaptive motors in the DualSense take things to the next level. The DualSense triggers can be fully programmed to change tension levels, implement stoppers as well as offering rumble feedback. The example being used the most is the feeling of a bow. When pulling the trigger to aim with a bow you gradually feel an increased tension the more you pull, just like you would with a real bow. Another example is trigger stops for guns in Fortnite and Call of Duty. These allow you to freely pull the trigger slightly before meeting a firm resistance. Pulling through this resistance will allow you to take the shot, simulating the trigger of a real gun.
These features combined with others such as the speaker, microphone and ergonomics all add up to a controller that is drastically improved over the DualShock 4 and arguably makes it the best controller on the market, excluding high end custom options.
With the DualSense offering a great input method for the PlayStation 5, the user interface has to live up to the same advancements. While not being revolutionary compared with the PS4’s UI, the PS5 introduces some welcomed improvements as well as a new visual design. The cross bar we know that provides access to games is still present but now each game will trigger a full screen information page when highlighted. Media apps have now also been separated out into their own tabs, similar to the games cross bar. A welcome addition is that the PS store is now integrated into the system itself instead of a separate app. This drastically increases the responsiveness of the store and makes navigation much easier.
Possibly the biggest features added to the PlayStation 5 UI is the revised control centre and the addition of cards. While control centre acts similarly to on the PS4, allowing quick access to key settings and features with in the PS5, it now is orientated along the bottom of the screen and offers slight customisation. Cards are PlayStation’s dive into contextual information and guides. These cards appear above the control centre once the PS button is pressed and can offer access to various things depending on what you are currently doing. Trophy information, chat settings, news and game information all appear here, with the most relevant cards appearing first in the list. PlayStation has also implemented game help which appears in these cards. These are PS+ exclusives that provide hints and tips based on what you are currently playing. These videos can be pinned to the side of the screen while you play for added convenience. While game help is currently limited to a handful of games this will likely expand as the PS5’s lifecycle continues.
Speaking of games, Sony is continuing its success from the PS4 with an incredible line up for the PlayStation 5. Over the PlayStation 4 generation Sony gradually took its time to build up an incredible catalogue of titles. While they didn’t deliver these consistently at the start of the lifecycle, after a few years Sony was releasing several amazing games every year. With the PlayStation 5 they don’t look to be hanging around. At launch we had two incredible titles in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and a beautiful remake of Demon’s Souls. This line up will only grow in 2021 as Sony is set to release four major titles in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7 and the much-anticipated sequel to God of War. Sony has really made their first party offerings a key strategy in recent years and with a line up like this, they seem to be doubling down on that commitment. For those of you that do manage to pick up a PS5 be sure to also check out Astro’s Playroom, which comes pre-installed on each system. While only a few hours long it is a delightful platformer and one that really shows off the potential of the DualSense controller. Developers Team ASOBI! and Japan Studios have also hinted there may be more to come. If that turns out to be a fully fleshed out game, the PS5 could have another huge hit in store for fans.
While the size and appearance may not be to everyone’s taste, the PlayStation 5 excels at playing games. New and old titles run incredibly well on the system and while it may not offer much storage, the speed increase offered by the SSD cannot be understated. Sony has taken some big risks with the PlayStation, especially when it comes to the DualSense. In my opinion, they absolutely pay off and I only hope that developers choose to focus in on the potential to help maximise what it is capable of. Fans of any genre are sure to have a great experience with the PS5 but it really exceeds when paired with PlayStations first party titles. With Sony pushing their hardware teams as much as their software teams, I truly think we are in for a fantastic generation with the PlayStation 5.