PS5Games Console ¦ RRP £449 physical disc version (digtial version £359)
Usually there’s a fanfare of wild excitement with the arrival of a next generation of gaming hardware, but this one has been fairly muted. A global pandemic can do that. In fact one of the overwhelming emotions this time around has been frustration, because unless you’re a mean-spirited bot, getting hold of new consoles has proven to be quite challenging.
But the PS5 is here, for some at least. And it’s not just its inconvenient timing that has caused a stir, but also its appearance.
It’s certainly not a console you can easily ignore. For all previous generations, Sony have positively embraced a black console, all too square by design. Functional but not keen to make a scene in public, hoping to blend in nicely with all surrounding home entertainment systems. Not so the PS5. It is bold, striking, and, predominately white.
With a white shell that is defined by soft curves, protecting a black tech centre, the PS5 is akin to a 2.0 burrito, a rather heavy one at that. Although it’s capable of working on the horizontal, its designing is begging to be placed in tower mode, for all the world to see.
It’s a design that has caused much debate, but for us, it’s a brave and striking monument to gaming. It certainly asserts its presence in a room, particularly from its sheer size, which is impressively bulky, so much so that it has caused issues when it comes to placing it in the home entertainment environ. We haven’t had such problems however; those with a hefty sound amp for instance, will probably see the PS5 as quite a svelte little number, and have no problems fitting it in the horizontal position as ours does.
Aesthetics aside, it’s really what the console does under its hood that counts. But what kind of grunt power does the PS5 have that sets it aside as being next gen material?
Well, if you’re not familiar with it now, this is the generation for ray tracing; it’s the new shiny thing that makes reflections really cool. Yes it looks nice, but it doesn’t quite feel like the jump in generations we were hoping for.
Certainly the inclusion of a Solid State Drive, replacing the standard hard drive, is positive step in the right direction. SSD delivers faster load times, particular in game, which almost feels like the game changer we’ve been waiting for. Unfortunately, Sony has been a little stingy with the size of 825GB, with only 750 GB usable. And with the jaw-dropping size many AAA games are currently, don’t expect to fit a huge library of games on your PS5. Sony are addressing this issue, by allowing extra memory to be added, at some cost if Microsoft’s storage expansion card is anything to go by, which is allegedly happening this summer. But unlike Microsoft’s slot in the console solution, Sony’s will need you to take off the cover of your PS5 for some internal attaching, which isn’t as user friendly as we would like.
And although the user interface isn’t exactly revolutionary, it is practical, and certainly more pleasing on the eye than that used by the Xbox Series X/S. It does feel a step back from the almost perfect PS4 UI, but you sense they felt a duty to refresh it in some way. And for the most part it works, although putting the console in standby or simply turning it off has become slightly more fiddlier.
Without doubt the most impressive thing about the PS5 however has to be the re-design of the controller. The new DualSense controller is a technical marvel, and adds so much more to current game play. Firstly, it’s mostly white body is a refreshing change to the standard black. It’s gentle curves also make it comfortable to hold. Where it excels is in the feedback it gives. There’s its haptic feedback that can vibrate with precision at various parts of a game, as well the force feedback in the triggers, which are particularly noticeable with weapons, where you can feel the tension in a bow say, as you pull it back to let your arrow fly. You also have an impressive speaker built in, which not only allows sounds but also dialogue to erupt from your hands at any point. Any one of these on their own would be fun, but the addition of them all in one controller is truly impressive.
It should be pointed out however, that there have been various reports of faults with these controllers, which is certainly disappointing for early adopters. We are fortunate that we have yet to experience any faults with ours, and long may it last.
One very welcome addition however, is that of help guides. These are accessible within certain titles, that contain short video walkthroughs in case you get stuck at a certain point of the game, that you can pull up whilst in game. It certainly saves having to refer to YouTube on another device, but at present, they are only available in about 20 titles, and they don’t appear to be mandatory for third parties to include them, which is a shame.
The cherry on the PS5 cake however has to be the addition of the free game that comes with it, that you can play from the off without subscribing to PS Plus. That game is Astro’s Playroom which has to be considered one of the best- if not the best – free game to come bundled with a console at launch. It’s often labelled as a tech demo, as it shows off every aspect of the DuelSense perfectly, but it’s so much more than that. It is the most joyful platform experience in years, and will no doubt be a highlight of this generation.
And although PS Plus doesn’t have the huge catalogue that Game Pass does, Sony have offered a number of extra recent titles, including the likes of God of War, Persona 5, and Days Gone, many that have been upgraded visually with a higher frame rate, that can be downloaded for free.
This is in part, no doubt, for the otherwise poor show of launch titles, which has been as thin on the ground as they were for the Series X/S, with both relying on third party titles, such as Watch Dogs: Legion, Dirt 5 and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.
Not that many will be playing these games, as the PS5’s themselves have been incredibly difficult to get a hold of, mostly due to scalping bots that have successfully bought up stock the instant it is available on line, to then sell them on at extortionately inflated prices.
But maybe that’s not so bad, as this generation of gaming doesn’t feel quite ready yet. It’s certainly not helped by a global pandemic and the low stock availability is shocking. But both Sony and Microsoft have delivered underwhelming launches. Clearly all iterations of the systems, including the PS5 disc version and the slightly more affordable digital only version, clearly have huge potential, but it does feel as if a gamers could have held on for their release until there were more games that utilised the new grunt power of these consoles, truly showcasing what they can do, rather than much of the time relying on upgraded versions of titles that have been available on the PS4 for years.
So if you haven’t been able to dive into the latest generation, perhaps that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as certainly the best years in gaming for the PS5 are yet to come.
But if you are lucky enough to be an early adopter, then there’s probably enough to entertain before the serious AAA titles arrive to blow our tiny little socks off. We certainly can’t wait.