The PlayStation 5 was one of the most anticipated hardware releases of all time, the hype the system had leading up to release combined with the audience PlayStation had cultivated with the PlayStation 4 meant that it was certain to be a massive success upon launch. And well, it was. The PS5 became the fastest-selling console of all time and has been sold out pretty much from launch, yes part of that is due to scalpers but the demand is there as people were more than willing to pay over $800 to get their hands on one. In fact, I paid above the local retail price to get my hands on one in the launch month, granted this was due to import and shipping fees but I was still more than willing to fork out the money to get my hands on one. You’re probably thinking to yourself “was it worth it?” (you’re probably not but it makes for a nice segue in this review) and the answer is yes.
The Power Of The SSD
The PS5’s SSD has become somewhat of a meme and rightly so, because whilst it is undeniably amazing the talk surrounding it prior to release was laughable. People that had no idea what it was capable of were either downplaying its capabilities or were claiming that it would propel the PS5 well above what it or other hardware was capable of. The frenzy that surrounded the PS5’s SSD spilt over to virtually every other aspect of the hardware. This was partly due to the lack of information about the console leading up to launch but a bigger factor was the fanboys. The very idea of another console being more powerful or having an advantage in another sector seemed to trigger something in them.
All of this shouldn’t take away from how great both SSD and PS5 hardware in general is. The console is virtually silent, the insides are easily accessible thanks to the easy-to-remove plates and included stand is simple to use. The hardware is not without faults however, the power and eject buttons on the console is pretty hard to see and and the USB placement on the front of the console is far too high for those that display the console vertically. The expansion slot for PS5 storage is still not usable, something which is quite a big issue as you only have about 665 GB of usable storage, which fills up pretty fast. The PS5 also lacks an optical port, rendering several of the high-end PS4 headsets unusable on the console. The storage issue is something that will be fixed in time and the optical port can be worked around with accessories, this speaks as to great the hardware actually is.
Then there’s the DualSense, the PS5’s controller, which is genuinely amazing but is not without faults. The controller has the perfect size and form factor, it weighs just about what you’d want, heavy but too heavy for long gaming sessions. The controller is easy to grip because the handles are bigger and the buttons feel much better than the ones on the DualShock 4. The controller also has a built-in microphone, which isn’t that good, and it has a USB C charge port, making charging the controller an easier task. The DualSense is also jam-packed with several new features such as adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. These features may seem like another gimmick but both are great, on games that make use of it. Packing Astro’s Playroom in all PS5 consoles was a great move from Sony as it demonstrates these new features brilliantly but it comes at a price. Depending on the usage the battery can drain in just over 3 hours, this can be fixed by turning features off and to be honest, not all games use these features and those that don’t use them frequently.
The PlayStation 5 is one of the best looking pieces of tech I’ve ever seen, especially the symmetrical Digital Edition. The design is different and risky, unlike anything I’ve seen from a console. The design has proven to be quite divisive but I personally adore it. The one thing that you’re never quite prepared for is the size of the console. The PS5 is by far the largest console of all time and it’s also pretty darn heavy, it weighs twice as much as a PS4 Pro. The size of the console will likely mean that you’ll either need a new display setup or will have to move things around to accommodate the PS5. One of the baffling decisions was the lack of a black variant of the console at launch, don’t get me wrong the console looks great in white and so does the controller but it just looks so much better in black. Granted, this ultimately comes down to personal preference and Sony has already released a black DualSense controller so a black variant or black plates are probably coming too, in the meantime, however, we have Darkplates from Dbrand. It was also pretty disappointing to see that the colour buttons on the controller were replaced by grey, it’s not a major issue and I’m sure there’ll some modding kits available at some point but it was a part of the PlayStation design for so long and it is rather disappointing to see it removed.
The PS5 user interface is one of the worst things about the console and is a big step back from the PS4 user interface. Basic features like folders and themes aren’t available, trophies are more difficult to access and you can’t even see all the games you have installed on your home screen. Sure, folders didn’t come to PS4 until 2016 but Sony undoubtedly knew about its popularity. It makes no sense to have to go to your library and then scroll to installed just to see what games you have on your console. At the very least the PS5 should give you the option to display all installed games on the home screen, a feature that was available on the PS4 at launch.
There are many other issues with the PS5 UI such as trophies not having their own menu on the home screen and the terrible Game Base menu which makes navigating parties a pain, none of these issues are major and will likely be addressed at some point but the PS4 introduced so many quality of life features, many of which were only added after the release of the console, so it makes no sense for Sony to leave it behind. This is one of many areas in which Xbox got things right, instead of starting from scratch they opted to continue refining the existing Xbox One UI for future consoles.
If Sony followed suit the PS5 would have themes, folders and so much more available at launch, instead, we now have to wait months or possibly even years for the console to get these features. It is a pandemic and thus the development process will take longer but after over 6 months only one major software update has been released since the launch of the PS5. The big feature added was the ability to store, but not play, PS5 games on an external hard drive.
Backwards compatibility on PS5 feels like somewhat of an afterthought, PS4 games can’t be updated to take full advantage of the hardware as it appears to be limited to the PS4 Pro SKU. So developers essentially have to work on a native PS5 version of the game in order for the game to take full advantage of the hardware. This could be changing as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare added a 120 fps mode on PS5 through backwards compatibility but that’s the only game to do so. Then there’s the fact that the console only supports PS4 games and this time around there is really no excuse for this. With the PS4 there was the excuse of a lack of power for no backwards compatibility on PS3 games but the PS5 is more than powerful enough to have it, yet it doesn’t. Emulation has come a long way in recent years and it’s now possible to emulate PS3 games on PC thanks to a small team of passionate programmers. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful here but if they could achieve that then Sony Interactive Entertainment really has no excuse for not having it on PS5.
All of this gives off an impression that Sony Interactive Entertainment simply doesn’t care about the legacy of PlayStation. Sony has possibly the best library of games available through the PlayStation Store and it decides to hide everything from the before the PS4 away, almost like it’s ashamed. The PS5’s boost mode is a neat feature but it pales in comparison to what Xbox has done with backwards compatibility. Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, claims that he doesn’t hate old games and that he doesn’t what to be disrespectful to the heritage of PlayStation yet almost every decision from SIE in his reign seems to hint otherwise. Backwards compatibility on PS5 is what I would call the bare minimum, it doesn’t feel as though any real effort has been put into this.
The PS5 had some of the best launch titles of any console, the console launched with Astro’s Playroom, Demon’s Souls, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure as well as several other great third-party titles. There’s also the recently released Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart plus the upcoming Horizon Forbidden West, all of these games would have been released within the first year of the console being on the market. This is the strong suit of PlayStation, great exclusive games. The PlayStation first-party output has been incredible on PS5 but it now comes at the steep price of $70, which some will argue is worth it but to me, it just seems greedy. Even an expansion for Ghost of Tsushima costs you an extra $10 if you want the ability to get the PS5 features.
There’s the undeniable fact that these games cost a great deal to develop and market but they also sell a great deal more thanks to the growing number of gamers. Then there are the additional revenue streams for these titles such as downloadable content and microtransactions so it’s hard to justify a price increase when Sony and other big publishers are more profitable than ever. Nintendo exclusives are just as good and yet no price increase was added on to those. Games, especially outside the USA, are now ridiculously expensive, local prices when adjusted work out to around $95 for a standard edition. This is almost a quarter the price of the actual console, which is also ridiculously expensive in some markets. Granted, not all of this is in Sony’s control, but the $10 price increase and the disappointing $10 PS5 upgrade charge for Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is pure greed.
The PS5 has some incredible hardware and the games available within its first 6 months are truly outstanding. It has the potential to go down as the best console of all time but there are also some glaring issues. The UI, backwards compatibility and pricing of software are all major concerns. Sony have a powerhouse in their first-party studios and they know how to grow them, they have big issues with their services and software side though, two areas in which Microsoft seem to thrive with. If they get complacent then they will lose a sizable share of the market. Reading this may give you the impression that I don’t like the PS5 or that I have something against Sony but this simply isn’t the case. I adore both the PS5 and PlayStation and thus I’m far more critical of them. It genuinely pains and frustrates me that both aren’t as good as they could be. My issues with the PS5, and PlayStation in general, are all things that can be easily fixed but we’ll have to wait and if Sony care enough to do so. The ultimate question however is should you get it? The answer is yes…eventually when the console is readily available and at that point, there’ll be a strong catalogue of games available for you to choose from.