The first moments with Sony’s new console might leave a lasting impact.
When you boot your PlayStation 5 for the first time, it won’t be long before you start smiling. For me, it was the first time I heard Astro Bot’s carbon foot-patter in the palms of my hands. I took the DualSense to my ears and sure enough. I could hear my favorite robot pal clanking his way through the pipe below.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the DualSense (and the PS5) can do. One of the first stuff I attempted in Astro’s Playroom – the game that comes pre-installed on the PS5. Was a vending machine, but when I pulled the left trigger to yank the crank, I was sure that my controller was broken. There was a peculiar sensation of stiffness, almost as though I had nodded an arrow. In actuality, the DualSense was just trying to tell me I didn’t have any coins.
It’s so hard to verbalize the descriptions behind the haptics – they’re too good. You’ll feel the crunch of the box you’re cracking to get coins. You’ll experience the ring as the coin enters Astro Bot’s mental cortex. As he walks into different terrain. The effort of the weeds he passes through. The crash of the water jumps out of the controller. To remind you that this is the next generation of games. In Remembrance Meadow, you can also imagine the precise way the breeze is coming from as it tries to blow you from the platform to the early grave.
Freight trains will take you past Astro Bot on the SSD Speedway. And you will be buffeted by the force of the breeze, with a tingling feeling in your hands. When you pull the ensconced rope. You can feel like every single coil snaps out of place when you open up the next section of the stage. Okay, now I’m going to stop offering examples. Let’s just say it’s revolutionary, and I’m in love!
The controller sounds like the essence of the console, the epitome of Sony’s next-gen aspirations. Frankly, I’m a lot more interested in how game studios are going to nurture immersion in this amazing piece of gear than I’m about breaking up the hair with fidelity in the future.
It doesn’t really seem like a gimmick to get you to know all the new features, as some would have predicted. In reality, this is a full-blown platformer with oodles of collectibles and objects to be found based on the peripheries and consoles of the Sony vault. I found a PS2 controller earlier, and if we were going to discuss graphics for a second, I could see the dog-nosed granular texture of the thumb sticks in amazing detail.
Beyond that the elegant curved white-over-black box reminds me of the ecological architectural creations of Santiago Calatrava, the maker of New York’s WTC Oculus. This is in stark contrast to the Xbox Series X style, which is similar to the Soviet-era constructivist office block as re-imagined by Syd Mead.
Ironically, all consoles have a comparable overall volume, approximately 447 cubic inches for the PS5, while the chunky Xbox Series X is approximately 432 cubic inches. But only the PS5 feels like a possible living room logistic problem. Even, it’s a bold artistic statement, and it looks fantastic from every perspective. It’s obviously intended to be a sculptural conversation piece, rather than an anonymous piece of black stereo rack equipment.
The SSD workhorse guarantees that you miss just a few seconds until your death, and that the audio quality is luxurious. I especially enjoyed the jumping SSD Speedway soundtrack, which has a robotic voice out of NieR Automata screaming “S-S-D” every so often to remind you where you are.
To zoom out a bit, I think we should talk about the actual look of the console itself. I unboxed it for the first time next to the X Series, and it’s definitely a little bigger than its competitor. It’s a lad, because I’m going to have to go away and dream about where it’s going to be in my living room. To be honest, though, I don’t really mind for aesthetics. Where the Xbox is reserved and fine for all, while the PS5 is modern and more reflective of this ludicrous medium. Curved sides and tiny features like the embossed symbols really give it a lavish feel.
What is inside this enormous gaming console
And it was right to be concerned about that. The strong new PlayStation 5 console overwhelms its ancestor, both mechanically and in its forward-looking graphics capabilities. Its AMD-powered GPU can process 10.28 teraflops compared to 1.84 teraflops in the original PS4 (each TF represents about 1 trillion operations per second). It’s tall, too. Very high. It has a vertical location of 16 inches (40.6 cm). Judging by the front of the package and Sony’s promotional art, that’s how the company expects you to do it.
Not enough people are going to get this kind of headspace. Luckily, the dual-use plastic stand provided in the kit allows to comfortably place the console in both vertical and horizontal positions. The stand isn’t great (and has to be screwed in vertically with a metal screw), but it works.
Within the tower, the PS5 is powered by AMD components—like the PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. In this case, it is a custom 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU and a GPU based on the AMD RDNA 2 graphics architecture. You can read a much deeper look into the components of the new gaming consoles here but the new PlayStation and Xbox systems are based on somewhat similar architectures. Both now offer default solid-state drives for storage compared to the 2013 PS4 and Xbox One rotating disk drives) and this results in a significant increase in loading times. Technically, the PS5 has a higher throughput speed than the Xbox Series X from its SSD, but once again the Xbox GPU can count more operations per second on paper.
The true distinction is one of temperament. The PS5 is a game-at-heart machine, while the Xbox Series is something of a console-as-ecosystem, leaning heavily on graphics, culture, cloud gaming and cross-platform continuity.
One more note. With all the chatter around 8K gaming, this isn’t something you’re going to get on Day 1, if ever. As my colleague Geoff Morrison points out in his excellent explanation here, higher frame rates and variable refresh rates are more important to a decent gaming experience.
The larger central touchpad—more noticeable than the one seen on the DualShock PS4 controller—may have provided the feature more ways to be useful for games and applications, but so far much of what I’ve done is left to open Miles Morales’ smartphone.
Perhaps more important than everything else, the power link on the back is a USB-C plug. Take that one, iPhone 12!
PlayStation 5 accessories
Any new PS5 contains one DualSense controller. Unlike the DualShock controllers, the DualSense has a two-tone style and a more ergonomic design. The controller also features adjustable buttons, a built-in microphone, and haptic feedback, with some games taking advantage of the controller features to offer further immersion.
In addition to operating with the PS5, DualSense will also connect to Android devices wirelessly. The controller can also connect to your PC wirelessly if your machine supports Bluetooth. If this is not the case, you can connect the DualSense to a PC using a USB cable.
The controller is $70, or $10 higher than the DualShock 4. The DualSense is a good successor to the PS4 controller, given all the advancements that come with it. If you still own a PS4 or a DualShock 4 you will also use the controller on the PS5, but it would only work when playing PS4 games.
b) PS 5 HD Camera
If you’re interested in using your PS5 for live streaming video games or sharing your gaming with friends, you’ll want to pick up the $60 PS5 HD camera. It contains two 1080p lenses and a sequel to the PS4 camera. The camera also helps you to delete the context of your camera feed and replace it with something else.
c) PS5 Media Remote
Going on to the accessories, the PS5 still has its own remote media. The PS5 can be doubled as a device for watching movies and videos, or you can watch Blu-ray disks if you purchase the PS5 with a disk drive. The PS5 will have a lot of video applications available at launch, including Apple TV Plus, Crunchyroll, and Hulu, so if you’re looking to watch movies and shows on your laptop, the remote PS5 media will be a good thing to do.
d) Pulse 3D Wireless Headset
Key features: 3D Audio | Battery life: 12 hours | Microphones: Dual hidden mics | Compatibility: PS5, PS4, PC, Mac
A headset can be an instrumental part of any gaming system, and the PlayStation Pulse 3D Wireless Headset seems like Sony’s best one yet. This is Sony’s official PlayStation headset designed to work with the 3D audio features of PlayStation 5. Like the rest of the first crop of PS5 accessories, it looks like the actual machine.
It’s built for long game sessions, complete with discreet noise-canceling microphones, folding earcups, and a customizable head strap. You can change the audio and chat settings right from the headphones, and use this enticing headset for up to 12 hours wirelessly with its rechargeable battery. And even take it to your PS4 if you need a headset that makes sense on that device as well. It can also be used for PSVR if you want to.
Though personally I don’t think I will be using them.
e) DualSense Charging Dock
This the best accessory for DualSense
The battery of the DualSense Controller lasts such a long time. So it’s still nice to have a way to charge another one to back up just in case. The DualSense Charging Station allows you to charge up to two DualSense wireless controllers at the same time. All without having to keep them attached to PlayStation 5.
This lets you free up USB ports from the PS5, and keeps your controllers safe in one location. When you’ve drained one of the controller’s batteries. Lower it to the port, hear the click to know it’s correctly located. Then pick up the other controller with the newly-charged controller so you can hop into your favorite game that much faster. It’s also a perfect choice for families who use multiple controllers paid for gaming sessions at once.
Some things still Don’t Feel Right
Yet there are some things that don’t feel good at all. The option and sharing buttons are small, and the option button—which can make contextual options no matter where you are, always does little. The PlayStation button at the bottom of the controller is no longer a circle, as in the PS4 version. Instead, it’s basically a cut-out PlayStation logo, and it’s even harder to sound that way. By default, it kicks up a lower menu bar of options instead of sending you straight to your home screen. That’s a major change from the old actions of the PS4, and I’m not sure which one I like best yet.
Finally, the Home button is just above the tiny button that flips the built-in microphone on and off, again too easy to click unintentionally when pointing to the Home button.
The Familiar User Interface
If you felt that the Xbox Series X UI was too close to what had happened before, here’s a similar fealty to the historic PS4 menu. A long horizontal line of square icons, each of which adds contextual details below and, in most cases, a complete background picture behind it.
All big consoles could learn much from the utilitarian design of the iOS and Android menu displays. Just show me all my things, let me figure it out and don’t add too many bells and whistles. I don’t have to hang out on the home screen.
Playing PS5 native games
It’s something you don’t see too much but PlayStation 5 comes with a pre-installed app (we used to call this a pack-in). Astro’s Playroom is meant to be a demo reel for the new controller. It’s a smart, classic platformer that’s going to make fans of the genre feel familiar. Easy environments and characters don’t really show off the PS5 GPU, but the controller works fantastic, and both gesture controls and force feedback are used as special game functions. Yeah, they’re the same little robots from the Playroom on the PS4. My favorite feeling was to squeeze the button on the DualSense controller so I could smash the glass sphere. The haptic feedback was wonderful.
I did play the new game Spider-Man: Miles Morales. As a fresh twist on the critically respected 2018 PS4 Spider-Man title, it’s not going to blow your mind with new ideas, but it’s a perfect example of a high-gloss, fast-paced action game to show off your hardware. There’s also a remastered edition of the core Spider-Man game arriving. Comparing it to the 2018 version, also played on the PS5, the latest game looks, well, miles better—towers glisten, textures have more depth, the whole experience feels improved.
I initially thought of this as simply a DLC-like add-on to the original game, but a couple of my colleagues vigorously disagreed, and I came around to their way of thinking. The sheer volume of new storytelling, voiceover work, cutscenes and new characters is impressive, and the more I played Miles Morales, the more I liked him. For mainstream gamers (not Demon’s Souls fans), this is perhaps the nearest thing to the killer app at launch.
Like other games on the PS4 Pro, you can select between two visual quality settings in Miles Morales. Basically, more features and lower frame rate, or less features and higher frame rate. Fidelity mode closes the frame rate to 30 frames per second, but engages ray-tracking and other optical extras. Its outputs at a native 4K resolution based on the in-game menu. Efficiency mode raises the frame rate to 60 fps but kills the ray tracking and also runs at an undisclosed lower resolution, which is then scaled to 4K.
Trying all modes (which includes reloading to the last checkpoint), I was hard-pressed to choose a favorite between a marginally brighter-looking environment or a slightly smoother animation. The game recommended lower frame rate, higher resolution, ray-tracking mode as normal, and after trying both, that’s what I stuck with.
More recently, I’ve had to try God fall, an exclusive PS5 console (it’s coming to PCs as well). It’s a very next-generation feeling where everything is incredibly glossy and reflective and gilded. There are visual performance and resolution options, but the higher-resolution option was too clumsy, so I stuck with performance mode most of the time. It is gleefully cops of Egyptian, Norse and other mythologies, and I also feel a heavy influence from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Saga.
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition has both the advantages and limitations of being a next-gen Day 1 title. On the one side, it’s an improved version of an older title, 2019’s Devil May Cry 5, but it wasn’t designed with a newer hardware console in mind. However, it also provides a range of different graphic solutions, including ray-tracking at either lower or higher resolution (which affects frame rate) or a very high frame rate alternative for 120Hz TVs, which forces the ray-tracking effects off. You’re going to have to test them to see what fits best for you—-PC players are still choosing between resolution, detail and frame rate, and now console gamers are going to face that too.
Asking the $500 question: Are you going to buy a PS5?
New consoles are pricey, particularly provided that they start growing older from the moment the first shipment is out. And the latest luxury gaming PC hardware will easily outpace PS5 and XBX, while I’d definitely hope so for a $2,000-and-up laptop or a $700 PC graphics card. But only the fact that the old PS4 is still capable of delivering awesome encounters like Tsushima’s Ghost after so many years shows that these computers are still incredibly versatile. As they continue to grow over time with upgrades, improvements, and new functions.
Considering the fact that Sony or Microsoft is just looking for $500 or so every seven years seems like a much better offer. Than other tech giants are expecting that you’ll spend $1,000 or so every 12-24 months on a barely different new handset.
Do you need PlayStation 5 right now? No no. If you had one but you weren’t in a position to get a preorder, you shouldn’t feel a FOMO. The launch game roster is thin, and the main names on it are the reboot. Demon’s Souls and the stand-alone add-on to the 2018 game (Spider-Man: Miles Morales). The latter will also be available for the PS4.
On top of that the major holiday season titles, such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and Cyberpunk 2077, are all made for PS4 and Xbox One hardware. New consoles may make for higher frame rates and some extra visual flair. But, it normally takes a year or two for games to truly show off the strength of a new generation console.
At the same time, I am highly pleased with the PS5 kit as a whole. It’s a daring style. The updated controller is a big step forward. Both in terms of ergonomics and features and the inclusion of a new built-in controller mic. And sold-separately new HD webcam would no doubt bring several new streamers to Twitch and other sites to show off.
If you’re a PlayStation fan, or really like the kind of exclusive games that the console provides. Such as Spider-Man, Final Fantasy VII, and Horizon Forbidden West. You’ll inevitably get one, whether now or when it’s easier to purchase in shops.
My last suggestion: if you can find one, save $100 and get the full-digit version. Classic video disk collectors used game shoppers and Blu-ray hoarders will not approve. But they all cost less and get rid of one of the most trouble-prone technical components of any game console. Win-win, if you ask me to win.
Coming next is the long-term review of the Sony PlayStation 5
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