(I’ve had the Sony PlayStation 5 for a couple of days now and I’ve put it through the paces to see what the next gen is all about. Here’s my first review of the next seven years, and why you should (or shouldn’t) get one right away. This is a retail unit purchased with my own money, no early viewing or monetary compensation was offered or requested.)
It’s just under seven years since the PlayStation 4 launched in Finland. This time around, the proceedings weren’t even nearly as organized as last time, mainly thanks to a global pandemic mucking things up. So while many are still waiting for their consoles to arrive, we lucky few who did manage to get our hands on them can rejoice in the first tentative steps into the future.
So, what exactly is the new PlayStation like?
It’s big. Like, really big.
This is a chonker of a console, and no matter how many times it’s repeated in the media, there’s just no understanding it until you’ve got one in your living room. At almost twice the size of the PS4 Slim and easily out-sizing even the PS4 Pro, the next generation will probably force you to rethink your setup a little bit.
How big is it in practical terms? Here it is blocking a portion of a 65” television.
The reason for this is the new GPU, which requires quite a bit of cooling. That’s why the entire console has exhaust ports all around, so it’s not something I’d put into a cramped space. I haven’t felt it burn too hot at any point (though no game pushes it to the limits just yet). Better safe than sorry, anyway.
The new controller is out of this world.
First, let’s talk about the size cause that seems to be the name of the game. It’s bigger than the previous generation, but it’s also more comfortable. I have big hands, and they fit perfectly around the new device. The iconic buttons have a fresh feel to them, but they’re not as clicky as they once were. So the jury is still out on how good they’ll feel down the line.
What really works, though, is the new adaptive triggers, which are a joy. They’re context-sensitive, meaning that when trying to push or pull something in a game, the trigger will feel heavier based on the situation. Hitting the pedal is all the more meaningful when the pedal actually resists just a little bit in the process. CALL OF DUTY has recoil adjusted for every single weapon in the game, making it an entirely different experience than on any other platform.
The new rumble features are likewise immensely improved. Every little thing has a distinct feel to it, from footsteps to wind and sand, making gameplay that much more immersive. There’s a vast difference in the feeling of every game that makes the past instantly feel outdated. Swinging around as Spider-Man, where every thwip has its rumble, is incredible.
Even if the branding is *totally wrong.*
It’s whisper quiet.
After both downloading games, installing, and, naturally, playing them, it’s immensely relieving to discover that the console is very quiet indeed. The fan kicks in now and then, but it’s nowhere near as loud as with the PS4 Pro. Even running blu-rays (though there’s a digital-only model if you’re not interested in physical media), the PS5 emits only an imperceptible hum. Granted, we’ll see how the console lasts throughout the years, but based on early reports of a reasonably easy tear-down guide, it might be that cleaning this one out will be easier than before.
PS4 and PS5 are separate downloads – be careful when updating!
Some of the PS4 games allow for a free update to their PS5 versions. These include titles like SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES and NBA 2K21. It’s an excellent service, especially for those still waiting on their units to arrive but would like to continue playing. But the Playstation Store isn’t exactly clear on which version you’ll be getting the first time you sign in, and finding the right download isn’t as intuitive as you’d hope. Two identical copies show up in the menus, except for the other, including a “PS4” text in the corner. The system won’t automatically convert the game either, meaning you’ll need to download every game all over again.
Hold on to your old PS4, at least until you’ve made the leap.
Which brings us to the previous generation. You’ll want to hold on to it at least until you’ve set up the new one. When you first launch it, the PS5 will request to connect to the older console to copy data over wirelessly automatically. It will bring over saves, games, and even screen captures from the last seven years, all without a hitch. As someone who still remembers the horrors of setting up a PS4 after owning the PS3, this is the most comfortable console generation to put together out of the box.
Astro’s Playroom is genuinely delightful.
The PS5 comes preinstalled with ASTRO’S PLAYROOM, a mixture between a tech demo and a proper game, one that might be easy to ignore and delete when you start gaming. I strongly urge you to resist that temptation and give ASTRO a go. It’s a stellar introduction to not just the controller but what the next generation is capable of doing.
ASTRO is a tiny robot who lives inside the PS5, and his world is the console in itself. Throughout four varied worlds, each signifying one generation of Sony consoles, ASTRO collects coins, tokens, and souvenirs from PlayStation history. As far as platformers go, it’s quintessential fun, never too taxing, but just tricky enough to keep even veterans interested.
But where ASTRO really shines is showcasing the latest improvements in the controller. I’ve already praised Sony’s work on this front before, but it’s only through ASTRO that you’ll get the full experience. It’s all intentionally showy and silly so that you can try out as many different scenarios as possible. Still, as a primer of what is possible with the console, ASTRO works like a charm.
Everything still works – to a point.
Let’s make it clear: your old games, they’ll work better than before. Save files? They’re still there. Sony has learned from its mistakes with the PS3/4 generational gap and made damn sure that this time around, everything comes too. While not everything benefits from the next-gen just yet, and some games show their age, the latest SSD technology makes them better experiences on the newer console.
But the storage data on the PS5 is limited (just over 800GB), and right now, there’s no word on what external devices will work with it. You can’t play any PS5 games off an external in the future either, at least not at the moment according to Sony, meaning that without a good internet connection, gaming will require some planning. This is a bummer to those who had an external drive set up for gaming, but that is the cost of a new generation.
Similarly, the old PS4 controllers won’t work on newer games, but you can still play PS4 games with them. This feels like a consolation prize, and while I love what the new controller does, it doesn’t quite justify getting rid of all the old stuff.
The Way of the Future
Also, while we’re at it, you should know that apart from a few choice titles, most exclusives are still in the distant future for the PS5. Most major titles coming in the next few months will play on the previous generation as well. Even Sony says that it will take another three years to fully transition into the future, meaning if your console still works – there just might not be reason enough to move just yet.
Now, hang on, you’ll say. You moved. Yes, I spent 500€ on a new console, because reasons. My old console sounds like a jet engine, I like new things, and I write about them for an audience of dozens. So I’m biased. But believe me when I say that I don’t have buyer’s remorse. I love it that the PS5 now matches the speed I’m used to; I adore the silence when I’m gaming, and I think the controller will be a gamechanger down the line if developers understand to use it right. The PS5 is exciting in the same way its predecessor didn’t become until a few years later.
Right now, the PS5 is out of stock everywhere. It’s the most desired console on the planet, and nobody can get their hands on it – some not even this year. But once January rolls around, Sony will start flooding the market with this thing, and that’s when I suggest going to the nearest store that has one on display and giving ASTRO a whirl.
By the time the sand shifts under your feet and you can feel the grains moving between your palms, I bet you anything that you’ll be just as excited as well.