Playstation 5: First Impressions
Updated: Nov 29, 2020
Next-Gen is here, and we are here to report our first impressions after five days.
We've managed to play a little of what we consider key titles and experiences, such as Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon's Souls, BugSnax, and Astro's Playroom. We also took the opportunity to play some No Man's Sky (which has received its next-gen update) and FIFA 21 (next-gen update on 4th December) and made a video on ShareFactory Studio. Read on to learn more about our experience and thoughts!
(EDITS: Some of the issues listed further below have since been fixed by Sony via software updates, or were misattributed by the online community. We've left clarifications where we could)
Escaping from 2020 by gaming be like. (Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales)
The TL;DR of our verdict is: The Playstation 5 represents a huge leap forward (yes, yes, we know the PC "Master Race" has often led the way). Many of its hardware and software improvements create an experience that is buttery-smooth and more immersive than it has ever been. It delivers (almost) on its promise of play that has no limits. However, if you've missed the first (or even the second) waves of pre-orders, you might want to sit back, relax, and let next-gen get out of "beta" for now.
A Beautiful World of Play
4K. HDR. Ray-tracing. 120hz. While the visual-fidelity arms race of sorts in AAA gaming continues to ramp up, so too are Sony and Microsoft. Many of the PS5's games allow you to determine how to make use of the consoles' power: you can go fast, which we observed in Demon's Souls Performance mode (1440p at 60 frames per second), or in sheer visual and photo-taking appeal in Cinematic Mode (4k running at 30 frames per second). The former was truthfully the more pleasant experience, even on a 55" display.
Photorealistic lighting in a video-game is no longer a pipe-dream. (Demon's Souls)
Ray-tracing and High-Dynamic Range are, as expected, truly the game changers as they give sharper, clearer, and more vivid colours while also enabling a level of lifelikeness in both light and shadow.
A slightly hilarious quirk (which to some, would be a boon) is how you can taste the palpable excitement of developers such as Insomniac and Sony to usher in the ray-tracing generation. One example is Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, where almost every surface is somehow reflective. Watching fires and the light/shadows warp in reaction to them in Demon's Souls is also particularly satisfying.
"What's up danger? "(Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales)
Just as the transition to SSDs for Windows PC ushered in an era of blazingly fast boot-ups (which makes entering the BIOS a little tricky sometimes), the Playstation's super-fast SSD delivers in its mission to create near-zero loading times.
Three days into owning our PS5, we were trying to fire up Assassin's Creed: Origins on our PS4 Pro only to find ourselves staring at the loading screen for close to two minutes. On the other hand, loading Assassin's Creed: Valhalla took mere seconds on the PS5. The same can be said when moving between the Nexus and various areas in Demon's Souls.
No Man's Sky received a next-gen update which promises up to 32-person multiplayer.
In fact, load times were so quick that we realised you didn't need to kill time with FIFA's training drills which act as a buffer between the menu and a match. The option to skip ahead comes up almost immediately after clicking "Play".
When comparing between the Xbox Series X/S and the Playstation 5, perhaps the biggest point of deviation is not in their technical specifications (they both rock very similar parts, albeit tuned differently), but in their respective controllers.
While Microsoft doubled down on their frankly-speaking excellent controller design in the new Xbox Wireless Controller (I use it when I play on the PC), Sony's answer was an evolution from the DualShock to the DualSense controller.
Astro's Playroom is both an enjoyable platformer, and an excellent showcase of the DualSense.
If you doubt the combination of Haptic Feedback and Adaptive Triggers, then all we can say is that you have to try it for yourself. At the moment, it is most extensively used in Astro's Playroom, where you will get to explore its full range of capabilities - from mimicking footsteps, creating tension in a bow, and even gripping onto fragile climbing blocks that break if you push past the point of resistance (pictured above).
Prior to getting the PS5, we believed that the adaptive triggers would be most prominently used in shooter situations (bows, or guns), but they have thus far also been used to evoke the feeling of gripping onto something brittle, as well as the resistance felt when pushing in your ships throttle for launch in No Man's Sky.
All I could think of as I tried my hand on the DualSense was whether we'd be able to get a Heavy Rain remake, or better yet a successor, that would fully capitalise on the haptics and adaptive triggers of the DualSense. The controller's speaker is also clearer, allowing our brains to draw the connection between controller input, the sensory experience the controller feeds back, and its accompanying sounds.
All in all, the DualSense stole the show for us and - beyond console exclusives or brand loyalty -we would rank it as one of our key considerations should you be looking to decide between the Series X or the PS5
Play Has (No) Limits
With such high praise for the PS5, it might seem strange that our initial verdict was to not rush into purchasing one should there be no ready stock available at retail price. We say so because of a mix of three main reasons:
1) we don't condone scalping, and don't believe that the PS5 is worth more than retail price,
2) there's not enough to suggest you'd be missing out on much by waiting,
3) there are a bunch of teething issues which undermine the experience
Bugsnax is a ridiculous, but complex game. To quote a stream viewer, it is "adult cute".
The first reason needs no more than has already been said - though it does compound our next two reasons due to the fact that scalpers are selling the PS5 at mark-ups of between 50% to 200% depending on when/where you're looking. The only true way to dissuade scalpers (and therefore give true fans better odds at landing their products next time) is to not fuel their economy. With the next two reasons, the PS5 is really not worth more than retail - not to mention scalpers can burn you really badly if they were to turn out to be scammers as well.
Beyond that, though, the only games that you can play right now which are exclusive to the PS5 are few. Some, like Godfall, do not seem to be particularly worthwhile purchases at full price based on ongoing user and critic reviews. The added graphics for cross-generaiton games like Valhalla and Miles Morales are a marvel, but they are playable on the PS4 (if you have one). Bugsnax may be an unlikely hero for some, if not for the fact that it is also available on the Epic Store for Windows and Mac. We would readily admit to rushing for a pre-order solely for Demon's Souls... But, one game doth not a console generation make, and Souls games have always been a bit of an acquired taste.
Not everything is peachy in the land of updated graphics - still some teething issues.
Even established games like the proverbial phoenix in No Man's Sky are not without issues. Currently, there seems to be an issue with the gamma/contrast, especially when the PS5 is running on HDR mode, creating seemingly over-exposed landscapes and light-sources (like above). If there's one thing the past few years have taught us, however, is that Hello Games will be fixing this issue in due course because their community management has been nothing short of stellar in recent years.
Most crucially, perhaps, there have been loads of reports of bricked PS5s from seemingly innocent actions such as plugging something into the rear port, or even using the ethernet cable (EDIT: We have since plugged in the LAN Port and nothing has happened. Reportedly, the issue is using it for data transfer from PS4 to PS5). We have personally been victim to the problem where games "uninstall" themselves on the PS5, requiring us to re-do the installation process (EDIT: this has been fixed with a software update) - not a good look for anyone if you happen to be trying to show off gameplay to friends or on stream. A full list of bugs, glitches, and issues (as well as how to avoid them) can be found at our friends' GeekCulture. Ultimately, the feeling of having to tread on eggshells detracts from the experience significantly.
Always good to end positively...
With all that said, we do truly believe that the PS5 is an excellent console and will only continue to rise to the ocassion as we welcome a new generation of gaming - many of its teething issues should be sorted out in due time, and developers are only beginning to unlock the console's true potential. The ball is now firmly in the hands of Sony and their multitude of studios to ensure that they make full use of the technology they have - especially the DualSense (please don't let the features fade into obscurity like they did for the DualShock 4!).
On top of that, the User Experience is enjoyable and has gone beyond simply being a menu to launch games from: navigating the Game Help section when we were stuck on a particular BugSnak was easy and felt like a callback to the Nintendo Power Line, while creating and editing videos on ShareFactory Studio was also a cinch. The pre-made videos and sound effects were excellent, and content creators would relish at the option to add their own videos and audio too.
Other quality of life improvements, such as the party system and the directional microphone on the DualSense (with an in-built mute switch!) are excellent for different use-cases where you may be streaming and gaming in a party at the same time, or if you need to baby-talk to your cat but you don't want to lose any squad cred. Eventually, the PS5 looks set to boast an excellent repertoire of games, from Horizon Forbidden West, Final Fantasy XVI, Resident Evil: Village, to the newly announced NEO: The World Ends With You (HYPE!!!), though it remains to be seen if they will fully leverage on the console's technology (which includes the DualSense).
For now, stay safe and try not to blow unnecessary amounts of money on the PS5 by buying from profiteering scalpers. Happy gaming!