The lead-up to the launch of the PlayStation 5 has been fascinating. We’ve been drip-fed information quite late in the peace about this console, which led me to believe that Sony might be withholding information or that from a UI point of view that things weren’t so different, but when it comes to the PlayStation 5 it’s the complete opposite. There’s a lot of innovation and definitely still a few limitations.
I want to start with the PS5’s user interface because there’s a lot of big and small changes, most for the better. Firstly, I just want to say how stunning the entire UI is. It’s got a more muted colour scheme, and it’s full of animations in stunning 4K. The PS5 retains a cross-media bar of sorts, and it looks fairly barebones but it places your games front and centre and that’s exactly how it should be.
Your media apps are split out into a separate part of the UI meaning that your games and media apps will never interchange.
Sony’s idea is that you never really visit this main part of the UI—unless you need to visit the PlayStation Store—but instead go to the Control Centre. This is brought up by tapping on the PlayStation button. It’s interchangeable and houses things such as a game switcher (which is not PlayStation’s equivalent of Quick Resume), notifications, game base (your friends/party), audio, microphone, controller, profile, and power for your console. You can also add other things such as your music, network settings, broadcasting, and accessibility.
I really enjoy the Control Centre. It’s much better than the sidebar that was on the PS4, and it has literally everything that you need with only a few presses of a button. It’s worth mentioning that this is the only way to access your friends list/party list and for some odd reason, your party chats (or messages threads) will appear above your friends list.
Another little awesome tidbit about the UI is that it has a fantastic universal search function which allows you to search for a friend, game in your library, or something in the store all in the same place, meaning that you can find what you need without having to go through countless menus.
Also in the Control Centre, as well as in each game’s own hub, are Activities. This was shown off a little bit in the UI reveal, but I believe it’s set to completely change how we play games. Whilst the PlayStation 5 doesn’t have Quick Resume (which is odd given it has a quick game switcher), Activities essentially replaces the need for this, and I might actually prefer it.
Say you’re playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and you want to jump into Devil May Cry V: Special Edition, you can literally just go to Devil May Cry in your XMB, go down to Activities under the game icon and continue your game within seconds, without ever touching a menu. If you then want to go back to Spider-Man and want to jump straight into a specific side mission or challenge, you once again can go back in just a few seconds, without ever touching a menu. Astro’s Playroom, which is centered around collectibles, tells you how much percentage you’ve completed in each level, and lets you jump straight to it from the Activities menu as well.
This has the potential to completely change how we play games. With open-worlds, it makes maps less necessary and it’ll mean that we won’t need to be jumping through menus on Call of Duty or FIFA to get where we need to go. There are a few other really cool scenarios where games use this cleverly, that I, unfortunately, can’t talk about at the moment, but it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.
Another part of Activities is tips. Every game that I played on PlayStation 5 provided helpful tip videos for the specific part of the game that I was currently up to. Whether it was finding a certain collectible or strategies to beating a particular boss, they were all there ready and waiting. This obviously won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for a game like Demon’s Souls, I don’t think too many people are going to be complaining.
PS5 GAMES AND THE DUALSENSE FACTOR
My impressions of the DualSense controller just from a feel and comfort point of view is really positive. As with the DualShock 4 controller, it has an internal battery, that seems to last between 5-7 hours and it can be charged with the USB-C cable included in the box. The controller has a lot more weight to it, it’s larger, and definitely fits in the hands much better than the DualShock 4 did.
While you can read our full Astro’s Playroom and Spider-Man: Miles Morales reviews here, it feels as though Sony picked up right where they left off with PlayStation 4 and its controller, creating games that feel unique and purpose made for their platform. Overall, my experience of playing games on the PlayStation 5 and using the DualSense has been really positive one so far.
The DualSense controller really makes these games feel new. The haptic feedback provided in the controller really helps immersion and brings the games to life. Whether it’s the weighted feeling of running through sand in Astro’s or feeling every little web-sling through New York City, the Adaptive Triggers add an extra layer of wow-factor. I worried it’d be annoying or fade into the background as time went on, but it just doesn’t.
Lastly, the speaker in the controller has always felt like a bit of a weird addition but, matched with the haptics and Adaptive Triggers, all three combine to really bring the controller to life, and create a sensory experience that I didn’t know I needed. I really feel that once you play a game with all three of these things, it’s going to be hard to go back to a controller with just standard vibration.
Similarly, games such as Devil May Cry V: Special Edition take advantage of the PlayStation 5 hardware with a plethora of performance modes and super-quick loading that makes dying not so much of a pain. We haven’t yet got our hands on Demon’s Soul and Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and there are a few more games that we can’t talk about quite yet, so we’ll have more on this later.
When it comes to backwards compatibility, Sony has done well with the PlayStation 5, but I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying they’ve done as well as Microsoft has done with the Xbox Series X. The new hardware breathes new life into first-party games such as Ghost of Tsushima, Days Gone and God of War, just to name a few, all run at a glorious 60FPS.
Library management has come a long way in that all of your already owned games are right there in your library, ready to be downloaded at the tap of a button, and I plugged my external hard drive right in from my PlayStation 4 and all of those games were ready to boot as well.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the actual compatibility of some older games, it’s not quite the dream that Sony laid out with the list of 10 games that wouldn’t be compatible. These games don’t boot, but there are other games that don’t run as intended.
As Ubisoft mentioned, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate had huge issues with textures and lighting and Ape Escape 2, a personal favourite of mine, was also pretty much unplayable with textures wigging out. This is still a really isolated experience and, for the most part, all games that I tried loaded quicker and ran better than they did on PlayStation 4, but it’s too important not to mention.
The other area where I was a little bit disappointed with the PlayStation 5 is in save management. My saves were all there in the cloud, but I still had to go through way too many sub-menus in the settings to get to them.
Loading PS4 games off of my external hard drive would just boot them as if I’d never played them before and I don’t feel like that’s good enough in 2020. I had no issues getting my saves once I downloaded them all, but I really wish there was some way of automating this process so that if I download a game from the cloud, it’d also automatically download my save along with it.
I’ve got some fairly bad news. The PS5 comes with just 640GB of usable storage, which is definitely fine for launch, but that’s going to run out fairly quickly. Unfortunately, whilst you can use an external hard drive for PS4 games (you can also set it to be the default place for PS4 games to install), you cannot store PS5 games on an external hard drive.
The option to move them simply doesn’t exist. It’s a bit of a weird one, but with Sony going leaning so hard into the aforementioned Activities function, I can see why having all games on the internal is important. It’s also worth mentioning that PS4 games can’t be transferred back and forth in the background like they can on Xbox Series X. You’re unable to leave the screen until it’s completed.
I also tried to put the Samsung 980 Pro, originally considered the only likely candidate for day one internal storage for the console, into the PlayStation 5 and was made to take it out before it would successfully boot. This led me to believe that it’s not possible on day one to use an NVME SSD with your PlayStation 5, meaning that there is no way to expand the storage for games just yet.
Sony is obviously wary of how much space games are taking up, so they’ve done something fairly clever in the fact that the game only installs the audio files for your default language, and then gives you the ability to download optional audio files in the UI. This doesn’t solve the problem, but it definitely helps it.
There’s definitely going to be a few areas where people are let down when it comes to compatibility. Firstly, the PlayStation 5 doesn’t support a 1440p output. It’s still just 1080p or 4K. I understand why they’ve made that decision, but I know that a lot of people were after it. Secondly, if you’ve got a headset that uses the optical port, I’ve got good and bad news.
You’ll still be able to plug that headset in via USB but, as far as I can tell, no headset with a chat/game mix knob will let you use the knob anymore.
Thankfully, there is a really great solution to handle this and it worked with every microphone that I tested. The PS5 UI Control Center now has a game/chat audio slider that works really well. The DualSense controller also has a microphone and lets you chat with other people through your controller. It’s actually really clear and super helpful as well.
CREATE BUTTON/SHARE OPTIONS
The PS5 gives more options for sharing content than any console on the market. You can choose to record in wither 4K or 1080p in either WEBM or MP4 format, you can choose to turn HDR on or off, choose to include your microphone audio or party audio, and this is all just from the Control Centre. You can also set your console to always be recording up to the most recent hour of gameplay, which you can then edit in Share Factory so that it’s always there for when you’re wanting to save something that’s just happened.
I already spoke about Activities, and how they utilise the super-fast SSD to get you where you want to go faster than ever, but, in general, the speeds of the PlayStation 5 are mind-blowingly good. Turning the console on from rest mode brings the home screen up before you even have to chance to remove your finger from the button while the console loads games faster than I’ve ever experienced. Where loading into a save took between up to twenty seconds on PlayStation 4, it now literally takes less than two seconds.
Loading into a level of Astro’s Playroom is instant if you’re already the game (and near instant if you’re occupied with another game) and dying doesn’t feel as brutal because you’re instantly back into the action. Devil May Cry V: Special Edition literally only gets about 10% through the loading bar before it loads you into a level, taking roughly two to three seconds tops (as you can see below).
Here are some PS5 vs. PS4 load speed comparisons for you:
Days Gone took 40 seconds to load into the game on PS5 (1 minute, 40 seconds on PS4) and 20 seconds to load into a save (40 seconds on PS4)
Spider-Man: Miles Morales took roughly less than 3 seconds to load into my save on PS5 (18 seconds on PS4)
Ghost of Tsushima took 26 seconds to load into the game on PS5 (44 seconds on PS4) and 4 seconds to fast travel (7 seconds on PS4)
When you’re talking boot times, It’s super fast too taking only 18 seconds from the moment you turn the PS5 on to being in the UI. If you’re in rest mode, it only takes just a measly nine seconds to be in your UI screen. Your TV will barely be able to even beat it to switching the channel if your TV auto switches HDMI ports.
I’ve honestly come to love the PS5 design. Sure, it’s big, but it makes a statement and I kind of appreciate that. It fits into my entertainment unit and once you’ve walked into the room a few times, you kind of forget about the size.
The really good news is that this thing runs whisper-quiet and, as far as I can tell, runs cooler than the Xbox Series X. After a day or two of using it, I stopped and thought to myself that I hadn’t checked how noisy it is, and that’s because it has never made a peep.
In terms of ports, it’s hard to complain with 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back as well as a USB-C/USB 2.0 port on the front. Another thing worth mentioning, and I don’t know if it’s because the PlayStation Network is receiving an upgrade, but this thing was downloading my games a lot faster than my PlayStation 4 ever did. It’s a much-welcomed upgrade given we’re most likely going to be downloading and deleting a lot of PS5 games.
The PlayStation 5 has definitely met and has the potential to exceed my hopes and expectations for the next generation. The DualSense controller brings more immersion and is a solid improvement on the DualShock 4, my first taste of higher framerates and ray tracing has been fantastic and the load speeds are absolutely wonderful. New UI elements such as Activities and Control Centre also make everyday tasks easier and open up new opportunities as well.
There’s still a decent way to go in improving on things such as cloud saves and storage options, which will hopefully be rectified as time goes on. As a starting point and with the software line-up that it has for the remainder of 2020 as well as 2021, it looks like Sony isn’t easing up on the stronghold it already had thanks to the PlayStation 4.