After what was an incredible seven-year run for the PlayStation 4, the next generation of Sony gaming is finally here. Following some incredible digital showcases, fan expectations for the PlayStation 5 are sky-high. Its bombastic design certainly screams of confidence from Sony, and their promises for the new DualSense controller had also had to be felt to be believed. It’s unfortunate that the rollout of the PlayStation 5 left many fans unable to secure a unit, but the console’s scarcity speaks to the insatiable desire from players to move on from the older hardware.
So is the PlayStation 5 worth buying right now? Has it lived up to lofty expectations? What can it do that our PS4’s can’t? Let’s dive right into this PlayStation 5 review!
Console Design: Beauty in Boldness
As soon as it was revealed to the world, the PlayStation 5 was immediately memed and joked about to ad nauseam. It was compared to an Oreo sandwich, a router, and an alien spaceship, among many others.
Personally, I think the PS5 looks fantastic. The white panels and black inner exude a sense of modernity, and it’s also absolutely huge. But its size also allows it to be essentially silent during gameplay, which is excellent news considering our PS4’s all sound like jet engines at this point. While it may look out of place in many of our reader’s entertainment units, for me, it acts as almost an art-piece next to my comparatively bland Xbox One and surround sound receiver. The PlayStation 5 also aesthetically pleases when sat next to the PS VR, and I’d guess that the design of said VR headset definitely took the latest console into account.
Obviously, this is the most subjective part of the review, but as a whole, I love that Sony took a risk with the design of its new console. Love it or hate it, it’s going to remain instantly identifiable for years to come.
DualSense Controller: Truly Next-Gen
Put simply, besides the games themselves; the DualSense controller is the most exciting aspect of the PlayStation 5.
Ergonomically, it feels great in my hand. It has a real ‘heft’ to it and is much heavier than the DualShock 4. The buttons are snappy and responsive, it grips to the hands well, and the triggers also add to the controller’s premium feel. But that is the boring stuff; let’s talk about the highly touted haptic feedback and adaptive triggers.
For the uninitiated, the enhanced haptic feedback is designed to provide far more immersive and specific feeling vibrations, similar to the Nintendo Switch’s ‘HD Rumble’ or the new iPhone’s force touch. The vibrations are able to have different levels, locations and movement around the controller and your hands, and the effect is stellar.
While I’ve tried my best to describe the feeling of the haptics, it’s best illustrated with actual examples. With games such as Astro’s Playroom, the haptic feedback is able to give you different sensations based on surfaces. For example, walking on sand, swimming in water, and running on metal with Astro all feel distinct, and the audio feedback from the speaker in the DualSense also helps give the haptics a realistic feeling.
It can even provide subtle details to give gameplay and cinematic more zest. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Miles tapping on a keyboard, or Rhino’s stomping feet, both have different vibration levels and location on the controller. You can feel objects and actions moving all around in your hands, and it is quite exciting when you notice new implementations.
The adaptive triggers also have great potential. The triggers are able to resist your finger pressure, giving certain actions in games a real weight to them. Developers are able to adjust the resistance levels depending on different scenarios, and the effect is very convincing. For example, in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, shooting your guns gives a ‘rattling’ effect in the right trigger, simulating the kick of the gun. Simultaneously, in the left trigger, it requires more pressure to press it down and aim down the sights depending on the type of gun (i.e., a pistol will be quicker to aim down than a rocket launcher).
All of these features, combined with the in-built microphone and speaker, make the DualSense a true selling point for the PlayStation 5. However, it will be up to the developers themselves whether these features can be truly fleshed out. Of course, launch titles, first-party developers, and third-party partners will be urged by Sony to use these features, but it is yet to be seen whether this enthusiasm will be matched years down the road.
Nonetheless, this truly puts Sony’s controller offerings far beyond their rivals. I can’t speak glowingly enough of it, and I urge you to consider it as a factor alone when weighing up your next console purchase.
The UI: Snappy and Smart
The UI for the PlayStation 5 is so fast it makes you wonder how we even functioned with the previous consoles at all.
The difference in quickness from the PlayStation 4 to the 5 is night and day. While the PlayStation 4’s UI functioned very well in theory (and looked nice), navigating through parties, settings and the dreaded PS Store was a complete slog. In comparison, the PS5 is extremely snappy to use. The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up is the simplified home screen. Rather than tabs at the top and large game icons, the PS5 UI shows a few of your games in small icons near the top and lets the rest of the empty space for a background specific to each game.
The rest of your games sit in your Games Library, which shows every game that you have installed or purchased. It looks sleek, and dedicated media apps are also in a separate section to your games, which is a great quality of life improvement and de-clutters the UI as a whole. While not having any themes at all is a bit disappointing, it’s understandable when you realise that there really is no space for a theme to use.
But perhaps the most innovative feature of the PS5 UI is the Control Centre. With a tap of the PlayStation button on your controller, the Control Centre will pop up from the bottom of the screen and show contextual Activity Cards. These cards show different objectives, sections, and missions that you instantly load into, thanks to the PS5’s SSD. They are extremely useful when you’re just looking to complete a specific mission or collectible, and with a PS Plus subscription, some games even often Game Help videos which show you how to exactly complete any given activity.
The Control Centre also allows you to access the usual things you’d expect in a UI; downloads/updates, online friends (more on this later), notifications, and power off functions. Again, it is very quick to navigate, and while it may take a bit of time for me to completely learn the ins and outs of the Control Centre, so far, it’s been a welcome addition to the next-gen user experience.
However, the way the PlayStation 5 handles parties and game chat is sloppy and unnecessarily complicated.
The PS4’s parties were extremely simple, you invited your friends, and they were there. That was it, and it worked well. On the PS5, even finding an open party is a struggle. First, you have to click on the ‘Game Base’ tab in the control centre, which shows you your online friends and available parties. Keep in mind, it now even shows you your ‘groups’, which are essentially Discord-like servers. Then, once you click on a party, you have to do another couple of clicks to view who is currently in voice chat, and then you can join. If it sounds needlessly complex, that’s because it is, and I struggled to explain it even for this review. While it’s cool that you can now share your screen with your friends, that’s about the only positive I can say about the new party system.
Luckily, the rest of the UI is very well designed, and you should have no problems climatizing yourself to the PlayStation 5 way of life.
Launch Line & General Experience: Best in PlayStation History
The launch lineup for the PlayStation 5 has something for everyone. By something, I mean high quality, fun, and polished product that runs superbly. Want a AAA, story-based action open world? Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a fantastic side-sequel to the original PS4 title, and in my opinion, exceeds its predecessor in many ways. Want a brutally difficult yet beautiful hack and slash? Demons Souls is a faithful and gorgeous remake of the PlayStation 3 original. Need a care-free and fun family-friendly romp? The free pack-in game Astro’s Playroom is a brilliant celebration of the PlayStation brand, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure is also a polished and well-made 3D platform.
The PlayStation 5 also runs third party blockbusters masterfully. Assassins Creed: Valhalla and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War both run with dynamic 4K & 60 FPS, and various games also offer performance (frame rate) and fidelity (ray tracing and resolution) options, for those who prefer one or the other.
Switching between all of these games is also a breeze. The combo of the Control Centre’s game switcher and quickly-resuming activity cards makes using the PlayStation 5 an absolute pleasure. However, there are still some bugs to iron out. I have noticed in particular that setting my console to Rest Mode brings out plenty of glitches with the console. In one instance, NBA 2K21 would fail to load up after rest mode until I restarted. In another, several downloads failed to process, and my DualSense still will not charge properly when in rest mode. I recommend just turning the console off for now until they fix these issues.