The dust has settled, and a lucky few managed to get their hands on a shiny new PS5 on its release in mid-November. One month on, it has become clear that there are some good and bad aspects to the new console. As TGA’s resident PlayStation aficionado, who has been using the PS5, the controller, and the 3D pulse Headset since day one, I have compiled a list of what I liked and disliked about Sony’s new offering.
The AI Voice during set up.
The initial setup of the console is fairly simple, but it wouldn’t be a shock to learn that maybe one of the top Google searches in November was, “How to turn off the AI setup voice of a PS5?” A very annoying automated female voice helps you set up the new console, but once done, still continues to drone on over everything the icon passes. This included typing in a username or password, with the letters the pointer passes over being called out. Yes, that means if you need to type Q, and then U, the voice announces, Q, W, E, R, T, Y, U as you move to the next letter! Not a great first impression.
The User Interface System.
Once you have turned the voice off, the next issue becomes apparent, that being how chaotic, confusing, and downright unfriendly the UI of the new system is. It’s not very intuitive at all. Having experienced new consoles since the PS2 onwards, it normally doesn’t take long to figure out how to work your way around the system, and to be able to get to where you need to go to operate it; but not so with the PS5. A good example, and one to think about if/when you get your hands on it, is quite simply how to turn the system off. You could of course just press the off switch on the console, but in terms of turning the system off via the controller, my best effort so far at the fewest amount of button presses is 7, involving two menus and some scrolling. This is only available when you know where to go in the first place to “turn off the system”, but if you don’t know where to go, it’s even more confusing.
The new features like switcher, game base, and other icons that are the most useful are actually the smallest icons in the system, whereas the new “cards” that take up a third of the screen to highlight trophies, player parties etc, don’t really do that much at all.
Apply that sort of logic to all other system functions, and it soon becomes apparent that navigating around the PS5 UI is not the best. In fact, I would go as far to say, it’s one of the worst UI systems ever.
The Price of PS Games.
It’s quite galling that, after you have spent in the region of £450 for a new console, some of the games now cost £70. We are not talking about the special edition of games at £70 either; this is the base game price! If you think about that for a moment, that means that for the cost of just over six new games, it would be enough to buy a whole new console! As great as the new console is, having to take out a mortgage to play anything on it is not encouraging. The base games of Demon Souls and Godfall are currently £70 on the PS Store in the UK, and it’s really hard to justify that amount of money for a piece of software. Undoubtedly, the developers and industry will cite rising costs of the new technology, along with longer lead times to make games. In these hard times, though, saving up £70 for a run-of-the-mill game or indeed a broken incomplete one will become very old very quick, especially for digital versions that you are unable to re-sell.
To rub salt into the wound, if PlayStation owners then look at the excellent and affordable opportunities given to Xbox users via its incredible game pass system, or the already cheaper PC market which sees constant sales on new releases. It’s not difficult to imagine some, if not a lot of PS owners jumping from one system to the other, simply due to affordability, where there should be parity. In short, even though the console is just out, Sony is already walking a very thin line of acceptability of costs, and could easily be thrown off balance were just a few exclusives to fall short.
A few other things that are less than optimal about the new console are;
- The size of the console – make no mistake, the PS5 is an enormous console, and it will likely need some rejiggering of your setup to fit it in.
- The lack of internal SSD storage – after the system allocation, the PS5 only has 667.2 GB of its 825 GB SSD available for storing games. It’s possible to completely fill the drive with less than 10 games.
- Not all the Apps from the PS4 to PS5 have carried over – hopefully, they are being updated for the new console, but in the meantime, we’re missing useful apps like NFL Gamepass.
Instant PS Plus Games.
One of the rewards of owning a new PS5 is that you are given instant access to download some of the greatest PS4 games for free in a new PS Plus membership feature. It is understood that this library of games will grow from the 20 or so games it currently holds, but with games like God of War, Uncharted, Days Gone, Detroit: Become Human and Bloodborne all included for free, there should hopefully be a few new games for you to play as part of your PS Plus membership.
Old game improvements via backward compatibility.
When buying new hardware, especially games consoles, you want to “see” what your money is getting you that it couldn’t before. Although not a technical person myself, it’s noticeable from the moment you start using old PS4 games just how much better the hardware runs games you have been playing on the PS4 for months or years. The best showcase of this that I have seen is Ghost of Tsushima.
I had played around 7 hours of the game on a PS4 Pro, and enjoyed it immensely, and was quite used to how the game looked, played, and felt during that time. However, when I put the same game into the PS5, with no special settings adjusted, suddenly the game looked, played, and sounded better. I have always been a proponent of frame rate is king over resolution, but here I have both. Ghost of Tsushima at 60 fps (locked at 30 on the PS4) makes a monumental difference. The reason being, as the in-game assets are now moving much more smoothly, they appear more realistic and therefore, by default, look better even without the 4K upgrade. Grass now waves realistically in the wind, which wasn’t as convincing in the PS4 version. Explosions look better, as they are more defined, and the player movements are more accurate. Adding 60 fps on top of stable 4k visuals feels like having my cake and eating it!
I then decided to replay some of the old games that I knew had performance issues to see how they played on the new-gen. Ubisoft’s winter wonderland game, Steep, often would stutter and have frame rate issues, but on the PS5, there was just velvety smoothness. This meant that some of the in-game challenges became easier to achieve, owing to the improved performance of the game which enabled me to be more accurate in the gameplay. It wasn’t long before I was smashing new records or completing tasks I previously couldn’t. Simply put, the powerful new hardware brings old games to life.
A proper next-gen experience.
There is always something that allows a new generation console to showcase what it can do. Something that makes players sit back and go, “wow”. That eureka moment on the PS5 comes when you play the free pre-installed PS5 exclusive, Astro’s Playroom.
For anyone who has experienced the game (and the game is to be experienced, not just played), you will soon realise why some commentators enjoyed the game so much that it was shortlisted for Game of the Year. If you watch gameplay of Astro’s Playroom online, you may wonder what all the fuss is about, as just by viewing the game, you are not getting the interaction the game has with the player via the haptic feedback in the PS5 controller. Being a bit of a sceptic, I didn’t think a mere rumble here or there in my hands would be that big a deal, but how wrong could I be! It’s incredible!
Astro’s Playroom is not only a jolly-good-fun platformer in itself, but it’s a wonderful tech demonstration of how the feeling of a game can manifest in the player’s hands with just a little bit of thought, and with the PS5’s Haptic feedback controller.
The Dual Sense Controller
The haptic feedback of the controller not only makes pulling the trigger of a weapon feel exactly like the real thing (I’ve fired a real gun and it’s uncanny how accurate it is), but the feedback extends all over the controller to everywhere where your hands touch. A glorious first example of this is at the start of the game. You swipe the touch pad up, which on-screen lets sprites jump into your controller. The controller in your hand then bumps and moves, and feels alive as though there is something in it. You then have to shake the controller, and the sprites inside it feel like they are all tumbling around in your hand into a ball. Then, when you stop shaking the controller, you can “feel” the ball unravel as the sprites inside unpeel themselves from the ball; they then get angry again, and it’s back to the feeling of them being alive in your hands.
This is just a small sample of all the different ways they have made the controller feel part of the game. Other examples would be the tinkling of icy rain, not only via the speaker in the controller, but in the way the feeling of raindrops plinking in your hand matches the raindrops on-screen. The tension of pulling a rope, the explosion of being hit. You “feel” it all in your hands as well as see it on screen. It’s remarkable to experience.
Tempest 3D audio
But it doesn’t end there. The proprietary inbuilt 3D audio adds to this experience. You don’t need the Sony Pulse 3D headset to experience it, as the console delivers its own unique 3D audio sound with any good headset, that literally feels like it puts your head into the middle of the sound experience. Now, your ears can pick out individual sounds from different places so that simple things sound so much more realistic. An example would be on Ghost of Tsushima, with 3D audio settings applied, this showcased when for the first time playing the game on the PS5, on horseback, the sensation of trotting through a bamboo wood felt so realistic in sound that when I heard the trees crack with strain from the wind, I jumped out of my skin with fright! I had heard these same trees do the same thing on the PS4 Pro version, but here on the PS5 version, it’s been cranked up, not just a notch, but a whole new level of immersiveness.
A few other things that I’ve enjoyed during my time with the PS5;
- The Crunchyroll App has been updated, and interactions are much better.
- PS5 has a huge fan and heatsink, and as a result, it’s a very quiet console.
- Convenient vacuum points have made it very easy to clean dust out of the inside of the console.
- I like the styling of the console as Sony have at least tried to make the console look different and futuristic, rather than a black plastic box.
The whole point of next-gen consoles is to provide players with new and amazing gaming experiences through their updated hardware technology, which I certainly hoped for with the PS5, and wasn’t disappointed. When you sit back after these bitesize experiences over the course of a month and consider that this is what they have accomplished from day one, I can’t help but wonder how immersed I will be when developers really start to flex their muscles with all the interactive technology on the PS5 hardware. Horror games you can feel with the controller? Shooter games that shock, all in glorious 4k and 60 fps?
Using the PS5 already feels akin to a VR experience without the headset, and it is only going to get better when Sony releases the next-gen of PSVR. Yes, it has a few issues, as mentioned above, but when the gaming experience nails it, like it has with Astros Playroom, it suddenly all seems worth the expense. The PS5 is magnificent, and a wonderful next-gen experience for gamers.