PlayStation 5 Review — Do Not Underestimate
Even though some system-level functions are rough around the edges, the PS5 continues to be a fantastic next step for Sony and already has some incredible games to play at launch.
It didn’t dawn on me until I started packing up my PS4 the other day that Sony’s previous console generation likely stands as my favorite platform of all-time. Not only did it have a killer library with personal standouts like God of War, Bloodborne, and Persona 5 Royal, but the PS4 is in some ways the entire reason why I’m currently where I am at in life. The job that I have here at DualShockers, the friends that I talk to daily, and the passion that I have for the larger video game industry all in some manner stems from the PlayStation 4.
As such, to say that my excitement and expectations for PlayStation’s future are quite high would be putting things lightly Fortunately, my initial impressions of Sony’s latest hardware, the PS5, have been mostly positive. Despite some strange issues that I have been running into with the hardware and some personal disagreements regarding the console’s new UI, the PS5 seems poised to be another winner for Sony in the years to come and is already getting off to a hot start.
Before I even finished unboxing the PS5 and had it hooked up to my television, there were a few things that immediately stood out. For starters, the PS5 is as ugly as all get-out. I’m sorry, but I’ve remained quiet on this point for the most part in the system’s lead-up to launch, and I have to get my feelings out in this review. The PS5, despite looking unlike any PlayStation console before it, might be the goofiest-looking video game console ever made. If you’re someone who typically likes to display your hardware for everyone to see, I highly encourage you to stash this thing away somewhere secretive instead. Your houseguests don’t need to hurt their eyes when visiting your home.
The other aspect of the PS5 that immediately caught my attention was that of the DualSense controller. Upon first putting it in my hands, it felt really natural to hold. While your mileage may vary depending on the size of your own hands, Sony’s DualSense might be the most comfortable controller to simply play with right now. It also has a ton of minor improvements that have been baked in compared to the DualShock 4. The grips on the backside are excellent, the joysticks feel smoother, and without even taking into account what’s going on internally, I like the feel of the triggers on their own a lot more.
That said, it’s hard to talk about the DualSense without what is also going on inside because, hot dang, what’s happening within the controller is quite impressive. There has been a lot of talk about the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers in particular, and for once, both features seem to have lived up to the hype. To use one example, shooting a web in Spider-Man: Miles Morales and feeling the tension in the web reverberate through the triggers is unreal. If you’re not sold on the DualSense already, I’d be shocked if that didn’t change for you mere moments into playing the PS5’s pack-in game, Astro’s Playroom. It’s not only one of the best games that has ever launched with a console, but it’s a fantastic way to highlight what the DualSense is capable of.
Honestly, the DualSense itself is the most immaculate part of the PS5 overall. The only downside is that I definitely see these new DualSense features speeding things up on my path to inevitable carpal tunnel syndrome and/or arthritis. Still, the DualSense far and away stands as the most “next-gen” feature about this next-generation so far, and I really hope other developers continue to iterate with it in the years to come.
While the most physical component of the PS5 is definitely a highlight, the virtual one has left something to be desired. Specifically, I’m talking about the console’s UI, which has seen some pretty substantial tweaks compared to the PS4. While much of the user experience has remained pretty similar, there have also been many strange additions on Sony’s part that has made navigating the PS5 a bit of a chore. The most notable of these is that, despite being a bit more streamlined in some regards, there are also a few too many submenus. There are also a handful of other new additions, but not all of them I can say I enjoy.
For now, I’m also struggling to understand the use of some of the other features that Sony has added to the UI. Being able to track your mission progress percentage, trophy completion, or even get tips in real-time is pretty novel, but each aspect feels a bit half-baked at the moment. Mission progress percentages I have found serve little purpose, as do the tips that you can get for certain games via help videos. In contrast, these videos are somewhat cool and potentially can be helpful for some users, but it’s an aspect of the PS5 that has essentially gone unused for myself. There’s honestly not much of an incentive to really use any of these tools, and the PS5 itself hardly advertises that they are even present.
There are numerous other choices with the UI that I currently don’t love. The fact that game folders have also been removed, Trophies now scroll horizontally (yuck), and PS4 dashboard themes have been left on the previous hardware kind of sucks, even if that latter point in particular is understandable. That said, other choices like being able to jump in seamlessly and out of the PlayStation Store have been marvelous. It took two generations, but I’m glad we don’t have to launch the PS Store as a separate app any longer. Let’s hope that searching for games can become a bit easier with this new setup.
While I’m talking about aspects of the console that I don’t enjoy though, I might as well mention a handful of other weird issues that I have been having. Speaking purely to my own experience, multiple games on PS5 have experienced frequent crashes for me or have been unable to boot up for one reason or another without me needing to completely restart the console. I’ve also had one hard freeze where I outright had to rip my power cable out of the back of the machine, which is a bit concerning. That’s not to mention other weird notables like my Wi-Fi constantly disconnecting or my fan occasionally powering on at a level that seems a bit unordinary. These strange troubles in tandem with other anecdotal problems that I have heard of related to the console’s rest mode have made me uneasy about using the console on occasion.
I also find it downright bizarre that the PS5 won’t let you download minimal updates for certain games without first clearing space on the SSD despite the fact that you might already have a ton of memory left available. This, in addition to the fact that the console implores you to download PS4 versions of PS5 games when purchasing them in the storefront, is just a strange oversight. Sony should have been able to rectify some of these qualms beforehand, but at launch, it has been a confusing experience.
Last (but certainly not least) among my chief complaints, I cannot stress enough that the little over 600GB of space you have with the PS5 just flat-out doesn’t cut it. As of this writing, my SSD is basically already filled up, at least to the point that the PS5 will let me without needing to download more updates for other games without clearing space. Considering game sizes aren’t getting any smaller either, for the PS5 to have shipped with so little memory feels like a major flaw. I understand that console manufacturers need to find a way to cut costs somewhere when assembling these systems, but to be already micro-managing my storage on day one just sucks.
Look, I know I sound down on the console overall, but I cannot stress how much I have been attached to the PS5 since it released. A lot of that is because, like during the PS4 era, the PS5 continues to have a killer lineup of games. Titles like Astro’s Playroom, Miles Morales, and Demon’s Souls (review coming soon) have not only held my attention at launch but have been games that show off what the PS5 is capable of in more ways than one. None of these aforementioned titles feel like games I’ll look back upon in a few years and say, “Well, they were all pretty great for launch games.” No, these are all games that are just flat out really, really good. Compared to the Xbox Series X, which I found to be lacking in the software department, Sony has come out ready to show off what it’s capable of right away and has set for itself a fantastic tempo.
I also find the console’s general tech to be incredibly galvanizing. The lack of loading times, the ability to seamlessly run 4K and 60fps on a handful of titles, and the fact that PS4 backward compatibility functions work just as advertised are all major bonuses. There’s a lot under the hood here with the PS5 to take advantage of, and while I’d normally say I’m looking forward to seeing what developers can do with these specs, I think many are already tapping into the console’s potential. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that any fears of developers not properly optimizing games for this system as cross-gen releases–here’s looking at you, Horizon Forbidden West— have essentially been dashed. The jump between PS4 and PS5 games seems vast enough as it is that I can easily recommend jumping in right this second if you’re at all interested in what the launch lineup has to offer. For once, I don’t feel cheated for being an early adopter.
Even if this current lineup of games doesn’t intrigue you, I also have to mention more specifically that I’m quite impressed with the backward compatible functionality for PS4 games. While I still wish the console could play games further back in PlayStation’s history, booting up a Yakuza game from the PS4 era in mere moments is awesome. The noticeable visual upgrades with other games like God of War and Days Gone really makes each feel like completely fresh experiences in some ways. I wouldn’t suggest that you buy the PS5 purely to play games from the PS4 at a higher fidelity, but this functionality still sweetens the pot quite a bit, especially when backward compatibility isn’t something that Sony has historically been best at.
At this very moment, I definitely have my misgivings about the PS5; I really wish games would stop crashing for me so often, and I think the user experience itself needs some of those much-needed stability updates that the PS4 received so often to avert qualms like this in the past. Again, it sounds like I have had more issues than the regular user, but they have still been issues all the same. Problems aside though, there really hasn’t been a moment since the PS5 arrived on my doorstep that I haven’t found myself wanting to play it, which I think says a lot.
As a whole, the PS5 continues to improve upon what Sony already found success within the PS4. It’s yet another novel piece of hardware that contains a stellar lineup of must-play games, which is really all you can ask for in a console. Combined with the DualSense, which I have no problem saying already is the single most compelling and enjoyable controller ever made, it’s hard not to see the next-generation being bright for PlayStation. The PS5 will undoubtedly be the console that I utilize the most in the coming years, and if Sony can find a way to iron out the console’s kinks right now, it could prove to rival the PS4 as one of my favorite video game platforms ever made.