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Review: PlayStation 5

8.5

Great

After what feels like an eternity, with Sony forever telling us about the hardware and the power and the games on the PlayStation 5, but never the date or any other specifics, the wait is nearly over. Tomorrow a bunch of lucky South Africans will welcome the PS5 into their homes. We have been playing for a week, running up those data totals to give it a good go.

Welcome to next-gen

There was a time during the firing up of the console that it hit me. This is it. We are in a new generation now. A brand new UI, different sounds and colours and buttons and sure, maybe it should have sunk in fully earlier, but seeing a fresh UI really hammers it home. This was something new. Just like the first time you saw and heard the new start-up screen on every other PlayStation.

The PS5 has more things to keep you looking at the console instead of elsewhere, and I feel like I am enjoying myself more because of it.

After opening the box, setting the console up and reaching this point, my brain was so overly charged towards the positive. I felt like a kid in a candy store. But then things, some of them really small, started to drive against that positivity. I wanted to get some downloads going so that the big review process could start, and the games I added to my library just wouldn’t download. I would just sit on the page for downloading and nothing would happen, just a spinning circle in the button. I tried several games and eventually restarted the PS5 to see if that would fix it. After sitting on a page for ages, something finally started downloading. Up until this point, I had been hunting for the downloads section of the UI, which doesn’t show up anywhere unless you actually have a download in the queue.

Another fiddly bit was Astro’s Playroom insisting that I download an update for the game for the best experience, but there being no update to download. It just screams teething issues and this was in the same week as US launch, so it wasn’t a case of me trying hardware that was missing its day one patch.

Some of this I wouldn’t mention at all, really, cause it seems small. But then something else happened, and it just added up to the point that not talking about it would be a disservice.

Currently the downloading of games is a bit of a mess. Games that are cross-generation (like so many are) will try to download the PS4 and PS5 versions, and it will grab the PS4 version first. I’m not sure who would want to play the PS4 version on their PS5 if they also have the PS5 version, but this is how it works. There is also a bug, that has no guaranteed fix and hasn’t been patched yet, where your download can enter a loop that prevents you from ever downloading that title, with the download button replaced with a message to go view details about the error, and no error in the list. As a result, I have been playing the PS4 version of Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War on my PS5, and I am dreading this problem showing up every time I queue a game download.

That controller

Ever since I turned the DualSense on, I knew it would need its whole own section to praise it. The new controller is absolutely stunning. It feels comfortable in your hands and it just screams quality build thanks to its heft. Everything is seated well in place and pulling the L2 and R2 you can feel how much you have got them pressed, and this is before the controller even powers up.

Taking some cues from peripherals that have RGP in them, and what some games did with the lightbar for the PS4, the DualSense has tiny lights on the top of the controller, on both sides of the touchpad, that will change depending on the situation. If your health really low? Get ready for a flash of red until going back to blue or white. Now that it is on the top of the controller rather than the side facing the TV, the chances of you noticing it out the corner of your eye is much more likely, adding extra ways to offer feedback in games.

As a result, I have been playing the PS4 version of Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War on my PS5

The vibration of the controller has been improved, with many more variations in the intensity. Now instead of feeling like it is on low, medium or high, you can feel gradual variations in the sensation. This can be used to imitate rain falling on you, a rumble of thunder in the distance, or moving through mud or water. But it wasn’t the best part yet. No, that was the adaptive triggers that get that particular accolade.

Depending on what you are doing, the triggers can offer resistance to show what you are doing. From firing a gun to crunching a metal orb to get at its contents, pulling back on a bowstring to swinging through the city on webs, the L2 and R2 buttons will make you feel what you are doing, or even make you press harder (or against varying resistance). This results in a pretty amazing feel, and I can’t wait to see what games get out of them in the future. Maybe we will see sniper shots that pull off target for hitting the trigger too heavily or quickly, and I know Deathloop has promised triggers that won’t depress completely when a gun jams.

Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales used it as you were swinging through the city, adding to that sensation that you were grabbing onto something and swinging, with resistance slacking off towards the end of the swing. I have been told every weapon in Cold War feels slightly different as you pull the triggers, but I wouldn’t know.

Terrific speeds, at a price

Moving to an SSD, in any scenario is like using aftershave after a nice clean-up. It feels so good. But there is something here that is worth mentioning, and that is just how incredibly tiny the PS5’s SSD feels. With some games sitting at 130GB or more, having 667GB of free space feels stifling. I wanted to transfer some PS4 saves and installed games to see how they run on the PS5, but ended up deleting most of them to make space for meaty games. That 667GB basically disappeared, and at this point, you can’t even copy PS5 games to an external to store them. They have to be on an SSD or deleted, which is fine if you just play a small handful of games all the time, or never go back to something later, but I expect to see a lot of redownloading of things in my future as I play musical chairs with available space.

Besides the lack of space, seeing an SSD in action is marvellous. No game load takes more than a minute, and fast travel in many games is instant. Load screens are gone, which means I am no longer reaching for my phone when changing levels or travelling around the world and it has changed the way I play games. Now I can fast travel if I want, or switch between games at a whim, without there being a loading time cost and my immersion breaking because I opened Twitter and say someone I cherished had died, or someone in the First World just messed things up for everyone else. In general, the PS5 has more things to keep you looking at the console instead of elsewhere, and I feel like I am enjoying myself more because of it.

Sweet graphics, oh so sweet

Gaming looks absolutely amazing, and the number of times I stopped to gawk in Spider-Man probably added up to a significant period of time. Transparent surfaces, water and anything reflective look absolutely amazing and showcase the power that sits quietly near or under your television. Similar to the PS4 Pro, you have options in most games to really tailor things to your desire. Do you have a 120 Hz screen? Well, racing games and shooters will let you set things up for that. Or do you want the best graphics, regardless of losing some frames per second? Then bask in the ray tracing, god rays and reflections as you swing around town or blow things up. It lets you cater to your wants and current options, rather than forcing things on you and the games I have played so far all look so good.

Same same, but different

PS4 owners will instantly recognise the ribbon of titles and the store, but the UI has been pared back to let game art take centre stage in a pretty minimal design. You can still get to information, via the three dots or hitting your options button and there is a whole bunch more now. The front page for a game now shows your % completion of the trophies and if you weren’t a trophy hunter before, you might feel more inclined now that they are all displayed in front of you. The menus splits things between games and media, though I wish the media section had my media there, you know screenshots and clips from games, rather than just all the viewing apps. It is nice to have them somewhere else: a true split between now it gaming time, and now is viewing content time.

While in a game, hitting the PS button (which is a nifty little thing, with the button being just the PS logo and not a big circle anymore) will bring up a bunch of options, like heading to the home screen, switching to another app, checking your downloads or controller battery and a progress tracker for a bunch of trophies, along with videos if you need a helping hand. While I haven’t checked any of the guides, it is nice to see you are 67% of the way to one trophy, or the like as often it felt like you didn’t know how close you were unless you sat and worked it out at some point.

Transparent surfaces, water and anything reflective look absolutely amazing and showcase the power.

The Share button has been replaced by the Create button and you can set it to work however you like, or it brings up a little bar with options to take a clip or a screenshot and the like.

One welcome change from the PS4: Downloads are really fast, and there is no longer that terrible throttling while playing a game, meaning you can play games while waiting for an important update or download, rather than just leaving the machine to idle.

Going backwards

With all the new games, hopping into older titles didn’t feel as pressing of a need, but it was worrying to load up Final Fantasy 7 Remake and see Cloud’s hilt trying desperately to escape, and sometimes shuddering while disappearing at times. Obviously a lot depends on how games are patched and will vary by developer, but it did make me think of how smooth the Smart Delivery and backwards compatibility efforts of the other team were in comparison.

Very few games won’t port over from your PS4 library, and the console can even copy files over for you if you have the PS4 and PS5 on the same network. But for now, the best PS4 games to play on your PS5 are the first-party titles, which already have some DualSense features added to showcase what the controller can do. (I told you the controller was amazing, right?)

I am hoping that in the next while, most of the issues I have with the PS5 are all a distant memory and just a sign of teething pains. Especially once I can add another SSD to the machine. But it was amazing to have moments where I was absolutely in love with the machine and praising it in my house, before moaning bitterly because it wasn’t working the way it should or as smoothly as I want. As I mentioned in my unboxing, so much of the console feels so well thought out, like the tiny gaps for the stand to hook around the back of the device when displayed vertically, that this seems like things that will be fixed soon.

I have fallen in love with the white giant in my living room, despite not having a 100% permanent location for it yet, and I know there will be many amazing moments in my future. There are just one or two things that I need to see sorted.

Good

  • First party titles shine | Amazing graphics | Goodbye long load times!

Bad

  • Limited storage space | Downloading the wrong version of games

Summary

The white giant is powerful and a pleasure to use, sitting quietly wherever you happen to have space for it. Quick loads and amazing graphics will have you squealing in delight, but a few niggles detract from the next-gen experience.
8.5

Great

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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