It’s been a little over a week since I picked up my PlayStation 5 from GAME, and I thank my lucky stars I was able to get an in-store pre-order without having to rely on delivery services. I’ve been able to spend plenty of time with Sony’s chunky machine, and as this is the first time I’ve been able join a new console generation from day one, it’s time to share my thoughts.
On the hardware side of things, my pre-order comprised the disc version of the console itself, an extra DualSense controller and the charging stand, while for the software I picked up Demon’s Souls and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla along with Control Ultimate Edition which includes the new-gen upgrade.
Once home, the setup of the console involved screwing the stand into place to allow the machine to operate in its upright position. I’ve seen some people complain, or just make snarky comments about this step, but we live in a world where any reasonably sized TV or monitor requires some manual intervention to complete the assembly. It’s par the course for modern technologies.
After turning on the machine, I was welcomed by screen reading functionality enabled by default, which is certainly a positive step for the industry. The rest of the setup process was fairly painless with prompts to insert a game disc to start the game installation process while some final system updates were downloaded, again a nice touch to put you in the best position possible to start playing games once the machine is ready for you.
I was also very impressed with the functionality to transfer game data from my PlayStation 4. I chose to transfer the data for Red Dead Redemption 2 and Tony Hawk’s across via wireless, a transfer which ultimately took quite a while but happened in the background.
All in all, getting the machine up and running wasn’t any problem and I was soon enough presented with the new PlayStation 5 home page. With the games and media sections neatly split into separate tabs, the interface is immediately easier to use and more visually interesting that the old PlayStation 4 interface.
One of the biggest attractions of the PlayStation 5 is the new DualSense controller. It certainly feels much nicer in the hand that the old DualShock, and the pre-installed Astro’s Playroom does a nice job of showing off the features. The haptic feedback feels a step up from the Switch JoyCons, but it is the adaptive triggers which really make a world of difference and are shown off in a smart fashion in Astro’s Playroom. This pre-installed title is more than just a tech showcase for the new controller, it’s also a whimsical nostalgia trip through the history of PlayStation and a charming little platformer in its own right. You would be foolish to get a PlayStation 5 and not play Astro’s Playroom.
Another welcome feature is the in-built microphone which has a solid speech-to-text feature, something that is very handy when sharing screenshots to Twitter (the below was written with speech-to-text).
Demon's souls, or Skyrim… pic.twitter.com/jxixDt8HkV— Chris 'Evo' Evans (@chrisevoevans) November 21, 2020
Some outlets have made a big deal around the lack of out of the box support for Variable Refresh Rates and 1440p support, but personally I haven’t been impacted by their absence. My TV handles 4K, but not to my knowledge VRR, and as such the PlayStation 5 meets my requirements of playing games which look gorgeous at a consistent frame rate. Some early adopters might be more clued into the nuts and bolts of the tech, but I imagine that a vast percentage of the people who will pick up a PlayStation 5 in the lifecycle of the console will only care that their games look great and won’t know much (if anything) about VRR, 120hz refresh rates or appreciate the difference between upscaled and downscaled 1440p outputs.
In a similar way, while some hardcore fans might find the 640GB of usable space a bit limiting, I wonder in the grand scheme of things whether the vast majority of prospective owners will actually care. If they’re just picking up the odd Call of Duty, FIFA and requisite Ubisoft game, then they won’t have any problems.
I’ll make a point of mentioning that I haven’t had any problems with the rest mode (despite regularly using it), and having bought all of my games on disc I’ve been fortunate to not experience any problems with downloading the wrong version of cross-platform games from the Store.
Of course it is the games which really count when it comes to the launch of a new console, and across both sides of the aisle things are somewhat lacking for big new generation exclusives. It feels like Sony are missing out by not having Gran Turismo ready to go, while sadly the WipeOut series has long been laid to rest, a shame as I often find racing games a great showcase for the power of a new machine.
Demon’s Souls truly feels a cut above, looking absolutely stunning while running in performance mode. Loading times are lightning fast, and the frame rate is very stable. Unfortunately it doesn’t make quite as much use of the DualSense controller as Astro’s Playroom, but when the game is as good as it is you can forgive it for not embracing every last facet of the new technologies.
I haven’t carried out a barrage of backwards compatibility tests (look to Digital Foundry at Eurogamer for that), but when I took Red Dead 2 for a spin, I was blown away. The visuals might not be anything beyond the level of the PlayStation 4 Pro experience, but having been living in 1080p land for so long, the increased clarity from the resolution boost is appreciated. More than that, the lightning fast loading times make the general experience of the game so much more enjoyable. It makes me wonder what The Outer Worlds is like when installed on the PlayStation 5 SSD as the tortuous loading times there are what led me to racing through the last third of the game.
It’s also worth giving a shout out to the PlayStation Plus Collection which is offering up a range of good to great PlayStation 4 titles. It doesn’t hold a torch when compared with the Game Pass offerings from Microsoft, but shows that Sony are aware the launch line up is a bit thin and that giving PlayStation Plus subscribers access to this back catalogue is a small gesture. If Sony could arrange a similar package as Microsoft have with Game Pass and EA Play, that would go a long way to further establishing the PlayStation Plus offering.
All told, I am certainly feeling happy with my purchase of the PlayStation 5, but with so many titles like Miles Morales appearing cross-gen, I can understand why some people might be put off. Of course, getting your hands on any of the new generation machines is going to be tricky for the next few months, and once stock is more widely available you might find the new generation exclusive titles landing in greater numbers. Despite the lack of generation exclusive titles at the moment though, I still recommend finding a PlayStation 5 if you can, just be prepared to build an extension to house it.