It’s next gen time and I don’t know about you but I needed this. I think we could all use a little joy in 2020 and it has literally been delivered (if you got one delivered that is). I myself was lucky enough to get my hands on a launch day Playstation 5, purchased by myself, not a review or early access unit. If you’re on the fence about getting one, looking for tips and opinions, or just need a little more hype in your life, let’s talk PS5.
Let’s start with the controller because this thing is a literal game changer. I absolutely adore this controller. Its new adaptive triggers add resistance to the shoulder buttons, creating tension when shooting webs in Spider-Man: Miles Morales or resisting the contraction of a spring in Astro’s Playroom. It has haptic feedback that can change the vibration in a shockingly immersive way to reflect the surface a character walks on, or the direction of an explosion. These might seem like small changes but the difference in immersion they create are frankly astounding. Time will tell if these features will actually be taken advantage of by third party developers (I’m skeptical but cautiously optimistic). I’ve seen feedback online from some that these features are distracting or cause hand fatigue. I didn’t have these particular issues but these features can be turned off if you are in that camp. Sony was also able to pack these features into the new controller without an increase in the price of the controller or massive change to the design. That is seriously impressive. Even if these features aren’t for you they’re non-intrusive to your games and your wallet.
On a personal and very subjective note (as if this whole thing isn’t just my opinion to begin with) I love the weight and in particular the balance of this controller. Previous generation Playstation controllers have been both too light as a whole, and too heavy at the top, they felt like they wanted to roll forward out of my hand. While heavier controllers like the Xbox had the weight right I never cared for button placement and they were bottom heavy, feeling like they wanted to flip backward out of my palm. The PS5 Duelsense controller is perfectly weighted to me, flawlessly balanced; it's immediately become the only controller I ever want to play with.
Let’s talk about the console itself (I know, it’s BIG, everybody is talking about how it’s big) but honestly, I don’t find it that big! Granted a lot of this will come down to personal experience, if it doesn’t fit in your entertainment stand then it’s obviously too big for you. But for me it fit comfortably and with adequate ventilation in a TV stand that’s a few years old. In an even more subjective, and perhaps minority opinion, I actually like how it looks. Even though I like it, I do recognize that this design is a big bold decision that will not look right in many people's homes but luckily it fits the decor of my living room.
The console itself runs very quiet and produces very little heat. Even after an 8 hour gaming session it’s barely noticeable that it’s running. I won’t give it too much credit for that though because when systems are new and powerful, but games are not yet optimized to use every byte and flop, it should run quiet and cool. The real test is if it can maintain this over time. The one immediate exception to it being quiet though is running a disc. I was running Watch Dogs: Legion off of a physical disc and once it’s playing it’s quiet but on startup of the game you can hear that disc drive really screaming. It’s momentary, and may just be the necessary sound of physical media, but it is a brief moment of sounding like a painful last gen.
The UI has gotten a bit of a facelift from the PS4 and it takes some getting used to but I think it’s for the better. It’s been streamlined and is very minimal with fewer things to customize. While some might miss custom themes (I will not, please get out of here 99 cent themes in the game store) it’s exchanged for custom music and backgrounds based on the game you're highlighting. There are only 2 tabs to manage; games and media. But you’ll rarely spend time on this home screen now. With the new UI when you press the PS button it pops up a small dashboard on the bottom third of the screen that allows you to access everything you need easier than ever. From this pop up you can invite friends, play music, edit and share screenshots, all without ever leaving a game. Plus they’ve added game specific pop up cards in this menu which will vary depending on the title. Game specific cards can give info like completed and upcoming missions and how long they typically take, which I found wildly helpful.
The stand that is provided with the PS5 is rough, it’s just bad. This is one of the worst physical design elements of the PS5 in my opinion. It feels flimsy and cheaply made. In horizontal mode the stand will be absolutely necessary because of the system's curved sides. In this mode the stand clips onto the back of the PS5, but it doesn’t feel safe or locked in. In the process of pressing the power button (or the Eject button if you get the disc version) the PS5 moves and loosens on the stand. I am concerned that someday my dog walking past and simply tapping it with his tail might cause the whole thing to come crashing off the shelf. In vertical mode the stand has to be screwed into the system. Which does feel much more secure, but unnecessary since the bottom of the console is flat and can stand on its own. The intended purpose of the stand in vertical mode is for optimal airflow but couldn’t it have been designed for optimal airflow without the stand? The only clever piece of design in the stand is that the screw for vertical mode when not in use safely stores inside the stand so it’s not lost.
On a quick note of storage, the 1TB PS5 will actually have 667.2GB of functional storage after the OS files. The PS5 does have an expandable storage slot that will fit any standard M.2 SSD on the market so you can expand your storage. However, don’t go buying extra storage just yet because the slot is currently disabled by Sony until a future software update.
Transferring your saved data from one generation to the next is supposed to be a breeze, with the PS5 offering several different ways to move your PS4 data to the next gen. But unfortunately Sony’s promise doesn’t yet follow through. When you start the PS5 the series of setup prompts offers several ways to move over your PS4 data, including full games and apps, either through wireless network or tethering the two. I opted not to do this step. Partly because I had seen issues cropping up online of people attempting this and after a day of failures having to just start from scratch. I also prefer to start from scratch anyway when I get new electronics, whether it be a phone or computer, I want to lose any old junk I had installed and start fresh. But the one thing I do want to carry over is save files. This is where I ran into an issue. On the PS4 you have the ability to move your save files into Sony’s cloud storage, which I had been doing automatically for some time. Then on the PS5 you have the option of downloading those saves from the cloud. However, at the time of writing this article every attempt to retrieve the cloud files of mine has resulted in errors.
The work around I eventually got to work was downloading cloud saves to the PS4, moving those to a USB drive, then moving them from USB drive to the PS5. This seemed to work on most titles I tried. This is an issue that I believe can and likely will be fixed by Sony through updates. But for now if you’re in the middle of a story driven PS4 game and want to continue your save on PS5, you might need to jump through some save file hoops and pray to the god of save files (But don’t kill that god because then you become that god. Learn from Kratos).
Let’s talk about games and their performance on the PS5. I’ve been playing a lot of Spider-Man: Miles Morales and it is gorgeous and loads wildly fast. Sidenote, not to get into too many details or a review of the game but if you liked the last Spider-Man game or think you’ll like this one, you will, it’s the most ‘as advertised’ game you can imagine. Spider-Man: Miles Morales has two different visual setting options, Fidelity or Performance. In Fidelity it activates ray tracing and higher end lighting/VFX. Adding a richness to reflections and the detail of the world. However the Performance Mode removes ray tracing to instead favour 4K, 60 FPS, along with a few other visual settings. It moves smooth and is visually stunning and is one of those “wow, this is next gen” moments to be felt.
Loading times are astonishing! If you played the last Spider-Man game for PS4 you may remember that if you fast traveled you’d get these cute interstitials of Spider-Man awkwardly riding the subway, as fun as it was to swing everywhere in that game it was worth fast travelling once in awhile just to see those loading pages. So imagine my surprise in Spider-Man: Miles Morales where there was none. I mean none, zero, zilch, zip, goose egg, no loading times. Fast travelling resulted in me selecting a subway station, and then Miles was walking out of that subway station. I want to say I’m going to miss games like Spider-Man having charming loading screens, but actually, I will not miss loading screens. That’s not to say that all games will be this fast or will stay this fast. I played Watch Dogs: Legion on the PS5, which I had been previously playing on the PS4 and Ubisoft offers a free next-gen upgrade for. On PS4 Watch Dogs: Legion was a fun game where I dreaded fast travel, changing characters, or any other long loading screen because they could last over a minute. I would usually have time to get and eat a snack. PS5 load times are around 10 seconds, leaving me enough time to just drink some water.
I quickly want to talk about Astro’s Playroom because you should not sleep on this game. It comes free with the system and is pre-installed so you can play it right away while downloading any other games you might want. It’s an absolutely brilliant demo of the PS5’s Dualsense controller but it’s also just a fun, simple, and genuine platformer. It feels like something Sony designed to be played at retailers like Best Buy to demo the PS5, but also like they accidentally made the most pure Nintendo-like thing Sony has ever made (Sorry Crash).
THE BUY IN
Should you get one? … I don’t know I’m not the boss of you. But personally, despite some nitpicky flaws, the speed, visuals, UI, and controller (hell the controller alone) have made me really love this system. In the week I’ve had it I’ve already had several “wow, this is next gen” moments. It’s brought some joy into a mostly garbage fire year. So if it’s in the budget and you can get it, all I can say is that I don’t regret a thing.