The PlayStation 5 has been out in the wild for a full year now, those of us lucky enough to grab a hold of one have been experiencing the joys of next-gen power and the frustration of Sony’s baffling decisions. Those that haven’t managed to snag one are left wondering whether the elusive beast even exists. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the PS5 after a year with it.
Quality of Life
The PS5 hardware is truly amazing, it’s quiet, fast and really quite powerful. The PS5 software on the other hand is truly disappointing. This isn’t a criticism of PS5 games but rather the system software, which is worse than what is already available on the PS4. I previously stated in my review of the PS5 (I apologise for the shameless plug) that the PS5 OS should’ve been the same as the PS4’s, only faster.
Microsoft made the right decision to stick with the Xbox One OS for the Xbox Series because it meant that the console had many key features that wouldn’t otherwise be there at launch. When you think about it, it makes no sense to throw over 5 years of hard work down the drain to sell the gimmick of next-gen, especially when it comes at the expense of the consumer experience.
Instead of building on the excellent PS4 foundation Sony have opted to start fresh so that they could better sell the idea next-gen, as a result, we’re now almost a year into the PS5’s life cycle and the system is still missing basic features. Folders, themes, custom backgrounds, controlling the amount of content you see on your home screen…you can’t do any of this on PS5.
Even something as simple as the library is annoying, the design of it is fine, it’s similar to what we have on the PS4 just rearranged slightly. For some reason whenever you back out of the library it resets to default, so if you want your content arranged alphabetically you’ll have to manually do that each time you open the library. This might not seem like a big deal but without folders and the limit of content that can be displayed on the PS5 Home Screen, you’ll find yourself accessing the library a lot more often.
The DualShock 4 controller is one of the best selling video game accessories of all time and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the best selling controller of all time. There’s a large number of DualShock controllers out there and a lot of them are being sold each month too, and yet Sony Interactive Entertainment doesn’t seem to want you to use it on the PS5.
You can use it to play PS4 games on PS5, it won’t work with any native PS5 games though, even cross-gen titles. Sony Interactive Entertainment claims that this is because the DualShock 4 doesn’t support any of the new DualSense features, which would be fair reason but there are two issues with this claim. The first is that you can disable all the new DualSense features from the System Settings and the second is that all native PS5 games can be played with a DualShock 4 controller when on Remote Play.
This tells us that the PS5 does have the ability to support the DualShock 4 natively, Sony just doesn’t want you to use it because they’d prefer for you to go buy the DualSense controller. Now you might be thinking “why would anyone want to use a PS4 controller on the PS5 when the DualSense is better?”
The thing is, whilst the DualSense controller is great it’s not really ideal for a lot of gamers for various reasons. I personally find the analogues to have far more resistance than the DualShock 4, which isn’t an issue most of the time. It’s only really noticeable on competitive and fast-paced first-person shooters like Apex Legends and DOOM Eternal.
Then there are all the Pro controllers for PS4 like the Razer Raiju and the Scuff range, all of which will essentially be obsolete on PS5, and finally, there’s the actual size of the DualSense. The DualSense is significantly bigger than the DualShock 4, which isn’t ideal for long sessions for those of us with smaller hands. Again, not a major issue but this wouldn’t even be an issue at all if Sony weren’t greedy.
Lacklustre First-Party Offerings
A lot of PlayStation fan(boys) are not going to be too happy when they read this but there really hasn’t been many great first-party tiles on PS5. I’ve played all of the first-party titles out so far except Sackboy: A Big Adventure and the majority of them have been disappointing. Part of the disappointment stems from the price, slapping a $70 price tag on a game will result in an increase in expectations and so far it’s hard to justify the price hike.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales are both really good games but both were also pretty short. In the case of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales this was understandable because it wasn’t a full-price game, at least in the USA. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, however, was a $70 game that could be completed in around 11 hours, this isn’t too far off previous games in the series but the $70 price tag did increase expectations and they simply weren’t met.
The Ratchet & Clank reboot for the PlayStation 4 was one of the best-received games of the PS4 era, it was slightly longer than Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart but it cost nearly half as much. Almost doubling the price of a sequel is certainly going to increase what you expect from it. The game itself isn’t bad but it’s not enough of a jump up in any area from the prequel.
Then there’s the remasters, Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut and Death Stranding Director’s Cut. These are three of the biggest releases on the PS5 to date and I can’t really justify any of them existing. “Director’s Cut” is just this gens pretentious way of saying remaster and given that none of those games is even five years old yet it’s pretty shameful.
Both the Ghost of Tsushima and Death Stranding Director’s Cut releases add some pretty significant content, which is available via upgrade paths or via an expansion, the PS5 version of the Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut expansion does however cost $10 more. For this, you get the standard improved performance and Japanese lip-sync, a feature which isn’t even implemented properly, as an exclusive feature because apparently, the PS4 version isn’t powerful enough to have it.
In the case of Death Stranding the Director’s Cut content isn’t available on PS4 at all and there’s nothing new that can’t be run on a PS4. It’s the same case with the Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, which is essentially a bonus chapter and yet for some reason, it’s not available on the PS4. The two standout titles from PlayStation Studios are the Demon’s Souls remake and Returnal.
Demon’s Souls, which was the Brotaku game of the year for 2020, has sold over 1.4 million copies after almost a year on the market which isn’t really that great. By comparison, Bloodborne sold over 2 million copies on the PS4 within just 6 months. Returnal on the other hand has yet to sell a million copies, the last sales update had it 560,000 sold as of July 2021. Both of Demon’s Souls and Returnal are great games and both should have sold a lot more, they haven’t because of the price.
As much as I love those games, I can say without hesitation that neither of them is worth $70. It’s easy to say things like “it’s only $10 more” but for those of us that don’t live in the USA the $10 increase for next-gen games means that we’re paying between $90-110 for the base version of a PS5 game and there’s no game that will ever be worth that asking price.
Games like Deathloop, Demon’s Souls and Returnal are becoming less accessible due to the price, these aren’t titles that most gamers are going to jump on without hesitation, increasing the price of PS5 games means that gamers now have to pick and choose the titles they want to play, which isn’t a great thing given that the competition hasn’t increased prices and has their titles available on a subscription service.
The price increase, remasters of games less than 5 years old, gatekeeping of content for PS5 that can run on PS4 and charging extra for the PS5 version of games when other major publishers are including both the PS4 and PS5 versions of games in the standard editions of AAA games are a bad sign for the future of PlayStation.
Going into the PS5 era it’s clear that Sony Interactive Entertainment wants to distance itself as much as possible from the PS4, everything from the colour change to the new PlayStation Store on browsers makes that intention clear. Whether this was to sell the idea of next-gen or to take a fresh approach, it’s not the smartest decision from PlayStation.
It’s created unnecessary problems for PlayStation, this obsession with selling the idea of next-gen has led to what feels like a barebones UI on PS5, a PlayStation Store experience on browsers that’s three to five steps behind what already existed and several anti-consumer moves like not being able to use a DualShock 4 natively for PS5 games.
In time I’m fairly confident that these features will be fixed, we’re already seeing minor improvements like the PS Store on PS5 having a new games section and improvements to backwards compatibility that doesn’t require you to have a native PS5 version to take advantage of the PS5 hardware.
The thing is, most of these are problems that shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Hardware-wise Mark Cerny has built something truly great, everything else however has been somewhat lacklustre.