Sony’s PlayStation 5 is finally upon us after a huge build-up in 2020. This is a big, powerful console that’s super-fast, offers some exceptional graphical and audio experiences as well as the DualSense Controller, which feels like a real differentiating factor in the latest edition of the battle between the big console brands. There are upgrades across the board in terms of hardware, software and user experience making this a fantastic follow up to the highly-popular PlayStation 4.
First impressions are often everything and the first impression you get with the PlayStation 5 are “It’s big”. It’s 38cm tall, 25cm deep and 10cm wide. Technology is often designed to blend into the home, but the PlayStation 5 stands out and demands attention. The unit itself is big, this time comes with white faceplates rather than the black design of the PlayStation 3 and 4. It’s similar in size to a small PC. The PlayStation 5 can stand upright, or it can lay on its side. It comes with a little stand that almost makes it look like it’s floating.
It looks like some kind of space-age technology that may have been developed by NASA, and only time will tell as to whether this will be a good decision or bad in the not-too-distant future. When the unit is on the signature PlayStation blue beams out from the top of the console, with varying colours depending on the model of the console and which state it’s in. This isn’t something that is going to be hidden away in a TV unit, it demands space and catches the eye. Personally, I am warming to the design. When I first saw the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 I tended to prefer the Xbox Series X simple design, but the longer it sits in my living room, the more I tend to like it.
In terms of ports on the front, there’s USB A and C with two more Super-Speed USB A ports on the back. There’s the standard HDMI out, which supports up to 8K and variable refresh rate TVs. Also on the back, there’s an ethernet port and the PlayStation 5 also supports WiFi and Bluetooth 5.1. The brick AC adaptor is gone, replaced with a simple power chord that goes straight into the wall.
That’s the outside, now let’s check out the inside and it’s capabilities. This is a fast console, up to the standard of desktop PCs on launch. There’s a custom 825GB SSD paired with an AMD Zen 2 CPU and 16GB GDDR6 Memory, meaning your games are going to run super fast. The SSD is slightly smaller than the 1TB drive found within the PlayStation 4 Pro, and I imagine hard drive space is going to be a problem this generation with games like Call of Duty nearing 200GB. The CPU and RAM do have a significant impact on loading times for games, and you’re going to notice this immediately with new games as well as improvements on your old games.
Fast travel in games is snappy and we’re really going to notice this feature in new games such as Ratchet & Clank where you can load into whole new worlds in a second. Previous gen games like Ghost of Tsushima, Last of Us 2, Red Dead and Destiny 2 all have seen significant improvements in loading times. This could have a massive impact on game design itself. At the moment when things are load, we see tooltips and game hints, plus sometimes we’re placed in winding corridors or crawl spaces to help load environments. Fundamentally we’re going to see some changes, but we don’t really get a glimpse of the opportunities at the moment because many games have been released across generations. It’s most likely going to go into 2022 before we see dedicated next-generation games designed with all the new PS5 features in mind.
Raytracing is going to be a big deal with this generation. This is a rendering process that creates realistic lighting effects by tracking the way that light moves and reflects in the environment. Raytracing offers the potential for real-time global illumination too meaning textures and detail look better than they ever have done before – this includes water, reflections, materials and features on a person like skin and hair. I upgraded to an OLED 4K TV at the same time as a PlayStation 5, and the graphics are the best I have ever seen.
The framerates have been improved too with up to 120 fps supported. Destiny 2’s PVP is going to offer 120 fps when their next-gen upgrade is released on 8th December, but games like Call of Duty do use this feature already. PS5 supports up to 8K with future-proofing in mind, but hardly any people have 8K TVs at the moment. Currently, it supports native 4K with HDR. Games tend to offer graphic mode choices which allow you to prioritise visuals over performance if you want to. For example, you can run games at 30fps, but with higher fidelity visuals, or you can run at a stable 60fps with slightly lower grade visuals.
The audio has been given an upgrade along with the visuals with a new 3D audio engine. This allows many more audio sources to be processed at the same time. Sony released their own headphones at launch to support the new tech and they really make you feel like you’re in the middle of the game environment. If you have a Standard Edition PS5 then you also get an Ultra HD Blur-ray drive. This allows more data to be contained on a disc, which is going to be a huge benefit to game developers. This also means you can use the PS5 as a UHD Blur-ray player, so if you want to use this for a media device then you can.
Sony publicised their haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as one of their first press release related to the PlayStation 5, and many people kind of shrugged and moved on. Now, this controller is in our hands, you can see why Sony came out on the front foot with this one. It has that wow-factor that a next-generation console deserves and could be a differentiating factor when people decide between the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
The form and the weight has changed and it feels like it’s a quality product. It’s hard to convey in videos and text, but this feels good in the hands and also has a heft to it. The buttons are responsive and easy to access and overall it feels good in the hands. PlayStation long kept with the DualShock style of the pad and the design didn’t change much from the PS3 and PS4, but this is somewhat more elegant – more curves than straight lines, and feels much more like an Xbox controller than a previous-gen PlayStation controller.
It looks good, but it feels great. The haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are a real innovation allowing you to feel different textures in games like never before. If you are running on sand or ice, then you can feel it in your hands via the haptic feedback. The adaptive triggers can provide resistance against you pressing the buttons based on the scenarios in-game, so I am looking forward to using that bow in Horizon Forbidden West or how the God of War team looks to implement these features.
There’s a built-in mic in the controller, which works OK for party chat if you don’t want to shell out on an expensive mic. It does the job well, although I imagine most gamers would want something dedicated to this feature. Much like before you can blow into the mic in some games, which feels as gimmicky as ever, but the ease of communication features definitely outweigh the gimmicks.
The ‘Create’ button is there now instead of ‘Share’ which allows for screen capture and you can instantly broadcast to Twitch or YouTube at the click of a button.
Sony’s launch lineup is quite strong this time with a console exclusive for Demon Souls. Many of the other launch titles are launching across generations with Spiderman Miles Morales landing on both PS4 and PS5. Bundled with PSPlus are some of the biggest games from the PS4 era including God of War, Monster Hunter World, Last of Us Remastered, Unchartered, Persona 5, Bloodborne and many more. BugSnax is also available for a free download during the launch month.
PS5 games out now
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Watch Dogs: Legion
Yakuza: Like A Dragon
PS5 games coming soon
Far Cry 6
Final Fantasy XVI
Gran Turismo 7
Horizon Forbidden West
Immortals Fenyx Rising
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
Resident Evil Village
Setting up the machine was nice and easy and there are options to bring across your data from the PlayStation 4. You can even set this up through the mobile app, which personally I didn’t try but that option is there for you. Set up was nice and easy and very fast, also asking me if I had any games I wanted to load while the setup process was taking place, which was a nice touch. When you log into the PS5 you’re greeted with your avatar and you can set up multiple accounts to manage for multiple users if required.
The PlayStation interface has been giving a fresh look although it does have a familiar feel to it, so if you’ve been a PlayStation 4 user you aren’t going to get lost. The XrossMediaBar is still here organising your games and apps, plus access to the PlayStation Store and PlayStation Plus. As you navigate across the screen each game provides a new splash image with some music from the game, which gives you a little taster of each game, theming the whole interface around the game you are focused on.
Pressing the PlayStation button on the controller brings up a new Control Center menu, which can be customised if you want. Here you have common functions like home, turn off, notifications, downloads, music etc. There are some really nice accessibility options for players with varying needs like chat transcription, closed captions, button remapping and colour inversion.
The user experience feels like it’s had a lick of paint with some nice feature improvements bu familiar enough to know immediately how to navigate around. It feels like a worthy shop window for this new generation machine.
The PlayStation 5 is a worthy successor to the PS4 with upgrades in every department. The graphics look incredible, it’s fast (and also quiet), and full of features that are future proof meaning this console is going to stay relevant for years to come. On the games from the launch line up is slightly lacklustre with only Demon Souls and Sack Boy dedicated PS5 games… although launch lineups always tend to be a little hit and miss. Perhaps most surprising of all is the controller, I didn’t expect to be blown away by the input device, but this is right up there with the best controllers ever made. The PlayStation 5 is an impressive device, albeit very large, but at the end of the day, the form will be forgotten… it’s going to be all about the games.
Release Date: 19th November (UK) 2020, 12th November (US, Canada, Japan, South Korea)
Price: £449/$499 Standard Edition, £349/$399 Digital Edition