PlayStation 5 Review

PlayStation 5

by James Dyer |
Published on

The first thing you need to know about the PS5 is that it's huge. Not just big. Huge. Huge in a way that simply pictures can't really do justice to. Removed from its box, the new PlayStation is a behemoth of white and black plastic occupying dimensions more akin to a VCR than what we've come to expect from a modern games console. Even Microsoft's stocky Xbox Series X looks like a veritable ballet dancer next to this wallowing brute.

Where the new Xbox is a functional block, Sony's answering salvo in the next generation console war is very much a statement. It's a sentiment that extends far beyond its hefty footprint and flamboyant aesthetic: the PS5 comes equipped with a completely re-thought UI and a ground-breaking new controller that has the potential to transform the way you experience games.

PlayStation 5

Once fired up, the PS5 boots (lightning fast, thanks to its NVMe SSD drive — loading times are a fraction of the PS4's across the board) into its all new home screen, which aims to put any content you might need within eary reach from the go. Games are represented by huge, vibrant tiles and, once selected, the UI takes on the feel of the game in quesiton, complete with in-game music. You're also presented related material from streaming sessions to DLC in a way that feels more organic and easier to nagivate than the PS4's similar attempts. Your entire game library is accessible from the games tab and while we're sad to see that folders are no longer supported, the myriad filtering options (platform, source, date, title) make finding titles a cinch, even with the most exhaustive collections.

But if the UI feels special, it's nothing compared to the PS5's secret weapon: the DualSense. Like the console, Sony's new controller is reassuringly hefty piece of hardware and far more substantial in the hand than the DualShock 4. But the improvements aren't simply ergonomic. The new controller retains the touch pad, gyroscope and built-in speaker of its predecessor, but adds a microphone and a muting button, which lets you instantly silence your entire console from the controller if the phone rings. More significant is the addition of adaptive triggers, which give (surprisingly strong) resistance to the trigger-pull when activated by software, lending games a tactile quality that proves surprisingly effective.

DualSense controller
The PS5's groundbreaking DualSense controller

The biggest revelation, though, is the DualSense's enhanced haptic engine. Rumbling controllers have been a staple of console gaming since the N64 but the PlayStation 5 takes the concept of force feedback and refines it beyond anything we've encountered. Astro's Playroom, a bundled platform adventure featuring Sony's now-familiar robot mascot, exists solely to showcase the controller's abilities in this area and it doesn't disappoint. In fact, we'd go so far as to say it is an essential play for anyone acquiring the system as description alone cannot really do the haptic effect justice. Immensely nuanced vibrations lend a different feel to walking on a metal surface, hitting an object, feeling a breeze in-game or experiencing the patter of falling rain. It's an extraordinary experience that enhances the gameplay experience. Combined with the adaptive triggers, it makes gameing on the PS5 feel like an entirely novel experience. So much so, in fact, that if developers can incorporate these features consistently in future titles, it could potentially give Sony the edge with future cross-platform titles.

When it comes to exclusive titles, Sony has a modest line-up - though generous compared to the Xbox's complete lack of next gen-only games. Demon's Souls and Godfall are both PS5 only, while the likes of Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Spider-Man: Miles Morales are also available on PS4. What is worth flagging is that there's an extra treat in story for those with PlayStation Plus. Subscribers who pick up a PS5 also get the PS Plus Collection: a downloadable pack of classic PS4 games available for free on day one. Less random than some of the PS Plus monthly picks, the Plus Collection is a solid block of 20 (mostly) superlative titles including Bloodborne, The Last Of Us Remastered and God Of War{ =nofollow}. It's a superb bonus for those who don't already have them and an enticing offer to get newcomers (or platform switchers) off to an excellent start.

The PS5 is a console that feels fresh, innovative and a palpable leap forward.

The downside to Sony's largesse, however, is that it serves to highlight the PS5's biggest shortcoming: its lack of storage. After all, all the games in the world aren't much use if you have nowhere to keep them. Unlike the Xbox's 1TB SSD, the PS5 comes equipped with a measly 825GB, of which only 667GB is usable as storage. Given that even PS4 games have been known to soar past 100GB in size, that's going to run out extremely fast and feels painfully lacking. The console does support external USB storage, which is helpful, though only for PS4 titles and playing from an external device will disable any PS5 enhancements the game may have. Expansion NVMe storage will be available down the line, alleviating this problem, albeit at significant cost. The console's expansion slots are disabled at launch, however, and won't be usable until a future firmware update. Until then, you'll just have to make do with the modest space available.

In terms of horsepower, the PS5 is as impressive as you might expect, with more than enough grunt to knock graphical fidelity up to a whole new level, accommodating the much-vaunted ray-tracing and the prospect of 120fps 4K for those with TVs that support it. The console's muscle is fractionally outperformed by the Xbox Series X on paper, but only time will tell how Sony's more versatile architecture will measure up against Microsoft's slightly superior brawn.

Playstation 5

Like the Xbox, the PS5 is whisper quiet, relegating the roaring turbine that was the PS4 Pro to a dim and distant memory. Unlike the Xbox, however, the PS5 supports neither Dolby Vision HDR nor Dolby Atmos sound, the latter of which will be a big disappointment for audiophiles. In its place, however, is Sony's Tempest Audio system, a proprietary 3D, object-based sound engine that works via heaphones to create the illusion of directional sound. It works well with a decent set of cans but at present Tempest will not work with your existing home cinema speaker setup, though Sony do plan to introduce that functionality in the future.

At £450, the PS5 is far from cheap, costing the same as the Xbox Series X. But where the Xbox, although powerful, feels like an iterative hardware upgrade to the Xbox One, the PS5 manages to give the impression of being a whole new console. Its honking great size and alien aesthetic won't be to everyone's tastes, and the stand (necessary in both horizontal and vertical configurations) is fiddly to the point of irritation, but these are minor concerns. With its revamped UI and ground-breaking controller, the PS5 is a console that feels truly exciting. Fresh, innovative and a palpable leap forward, Sony's latest PlayStation delivers a truly next generation gaming experience.

Buy the PlayStation 5 now from Amazon.{=nofollow}

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