Wednesday, February 17, 2021

PlayStation 5 - Review


The PlayStation 5. You know? It's a really weird feeling saying that. As someone who grew up playing PlayStation, it's always strange to me when a new console in the PS family comes out. It's like each release marks a different stage in my life, and looking back at each generation is like looking back at those memories as well. I remember getting a PS1 for Christmas one year, and spending the next few years playing games like Rugrats -- and I also remember the Christmas I destroyed it PlayStation by spilling hot chocolate on it. I'd eventually replace the original PS1 with the "PlayStation One" that next Christmas, but it would only get used once in awhile because later I would replace it with a PlayStation 2 Slim when I graduated from 8th grade. That console was something I would continue to return to throughout the years (I still play it to this day), but it really was what marked my high school years. The PSP was my gift when I turned 16, the PlayStation 3 was something I would buy and play through college, and the Vita was what I got for my 21st birthday. Then finally you have the PlayStation 4, which is something I bought once I started working my first real full time job. Each console was something special that marked different stages of my life, and even now it still doesn't feel like so much time has passed. I still consider the PS3 to be new, but now it's two generations ago. It's just... Strange. 

So now here we are, and once again the PlayStation 5 is marking a new stage in my life. A lot has happened over the last year, which is mainly why I've slowed down posting here on NGR, but I'm back today to hopefully make up some for what I've missed. As one of the lucky ones to actually find a PlayStation 5 (that's a story for another day), I wanted to take some time to let you guys know exactly how it is. It's something I've owned for a few months now, so I figured now would be the best time to actually give my opinion and let you guys know what it is exactly. Sure, it's the next generation (we know this), but how is this new generation really? And just how much worth it is a PS5? Does it deserve all of the hype behind it, and pain and suffering of obtaining one? Or are you better off waiting for it? With this review I'm going to tell my complete honest opinion, and cover as much as I can about the console, so hopefully those questions will be answered for you. Obviously I am a "PlayStation fanboy," but I promise, I'm not going to let that get in the way of this review. So, with that being said... Let's get started. Once again.

PlayStation 4:

The first major thing to know about a PS5 is the fact that it is also actually a PlayStation 4. Yes, basically every single game from the PS4 has been carried over, and can be played just as always. Games with PlayStation 4 Pro upgrades will run in "PS4 Pro" mode when playing on a PS5, but some other games have additional upgrades for the PS5 as well. Just what are these upgrades? Well it's basically improvements to framerate, and the graphics. Some games will run in 4K, make use of HDR, and run at 60 FPS (rather than the typical 30 that the Pro would run at when playing 4K content), but for the most part PS4 games will be exactly the same as they were. The vast majority of games out there will not be updated for the PS5, but many of the major titles have been updated for the new hardware. Other than some graphical and framerate updates, some games do load faster when running on the PS5's solid state drive, but only a handful will really see a boost from this. Most of the others will either have the same load times as before, or see a slight improvement. In short, this too isn't that big of an upgrade from the current PS4 hardware.

As for how the PlayStation 4 side of things works, it's actually pretty simple. Existing PS4 owners can hook up their PS4 and do a direct data transfer from their PS4 to their PS5 to carry over their content, or they can use the cloud to redownload their saves. For those who used external hard drives on their PS4, all they have to do is unplug the external from the PS4, and then plug it into the PS5. The PS5 will not reformat the drive (thankfully), and all games and saved content on the drive can be instantly accessed and played on the PS5 as well. Some games might have new PS5 updates, but other than that everything is ready to go. The PS5 will also automatically set the external HDD as the default install location for new PS4 games, so you don't have to worry about having PS4 games take up the limited space on the PS5's internal SSD. Of course you can also transfer games between the external HDD and the internal SSD if you wish, but that's up to the person, and if they would like to see a boost in the game's loading speed. (Assuming you're playing a game where it can benefit from it.)

Once your PS4 games are on the PS5, everything from there on is exactly the same as on the PS4. There's really no difference, other than the console's UI (which also isn't quite that different). To make it even better, if you wish, you can use your original PS4 controller to play these games. You don't have to give up what you're used to, just because the hardware itself has changed. The transition from PS4 to PS5 is an easy one, and that's exactly how it should be. No complaints there.

The UI:

As mentioned above, the UI of the PS5 is different from the PS4; however, it's also not really all that different. This time around Sony went for a mix between the PS3 and PSP's XMB, and the PS4's UI, and the result was something that's easy to navigate and makes sense. Games and media are broken up into different tabs at the top of the screen, and your game and movie content fall into tiles that line up from left to right just like before. Going to a game will allow you to drop down into a game detail page, and here you can access different things like DLC, trophy information, etc. To make things even better, trophy progress and in game progress is now tracked as well, and you can easily tell how close you are to finishing something. Some games also provide tips and hints on how to do something, and you can also compare your progress to your friends. It's all in an easy to access location, and takes very little playing around to figure out. This information can also be viewed in game by pressing the PlayStation button, but that's really only one use of said button.

Like before, the PS button can be used to return you to either the home page of your PS5, or you can use it to bring up a quick list of actions. Here you can access trophies, see your friends, read notifications, or even access an app switcher that lets you quickly load up your recently used apps. It's a nice touch that helps you navigate the console faster, but it's something I personally rarely use (mainly due to not being used to having it). Music can also be accessed from this menu (and yes, Spotify still works), and you can quickly put your console into sleep mode here as well. It's basically the same menu that many became used to using on the PS4, but a lot more streamlined and a lot slicker looking.

As for the media tab, here is where you can access all of your streaming services, and other TV content. Videos can actually be loaded while a game is running, so you don't have to close out of your games if you want to take a break to watch Netflix or something. It's nothing too major, but it's nice knowing that you don't have to reboot your game once you decide to go back to it -- with some exceptions. (Sadly games that require internet will disconnect you the moment you back out, and even games like Call of Duty will kick you back to the main menu. A minor complaint, but it's understandable.)

On top of all of this, the PlayStation Store has also been integrated with the UI as well, which means we no longer have to load up an app or, what was technically, a website to access it. This means the store is much faster than before, and it's a bit easier to actually find your content now. Previous versions of the PlayStation store weren't the greatest, and this is definitely a step in the right direction... At least for the console store... The desktop site? Yeah, not so much.

Next Generation Gaming:

The main reason to get a PlayStation 5 is none other than the games. I mean, what's a console good for if you don't have games to play on it, right? That being said, the big draw (as it is with every generation) is the power of the console itself, and the fact that it can do things previous generations couldn't. This time the increase in power allows the PS5 to output to 8K, play 4K games, run some games at 60 +  FPS, and make use of advanced features like ray tracing and higher quality 3D audio. We all know this, and it's what Sony themselves have beat into our heads since before the console was even fully announced. The thing is, just how much of this is really true, and how much of it will really be used? That's what everyone wanting a PS5 needs to understand. Just because this console is powerful, and can do such things, it doesn't mean we can do all of this at once. These higher end features are demanding on the hardware, and there are still limitations because of this.

The best way to think of a PS5 is to compare it to a higher end PC. PC gamers already understand changing settings, and optimizing games to fit their build, but console only gamers have never really dealt with this. That all changes with the PS5 however, as it's going to be up to the game developers, and the players to decide what they want out of each game when they play it.

Sadly the bottom line here is the fact that you CANNOT have it all. You cannot have 4K, 60 FPS (or 120 FPS), and ray tracing all at the same time -- especially on more graphically demanding games with high resolution textures, and a large amount of objects loaded on screen at once. It's just not possible with this hardware. Because of this most games have options you can toggle on or off, and others have default settings you can pick from. Usually your choices are between a "quality mode" and a "performance mode," but other times there are inbetween options and sliders as well. This allows you to choose if you would rather have a nice looking game (ray tracing, 4K, etc), or if you would rather have a higher framerate and more fluid gameplay. It's really up to the player to choose their preference, but usually they can't have it both ways. It does depend on the game itself, and how demanding it is, but in general this is how every PS5 game will be going forward.

But, what does this all mean? What is 4K? What is ray tracing? Why should you care? And does it make that big of a difference? Well...

4K is a resolution size, and, needless to say, you'll need at least a 4K TV to make use of it. To put it simply, TVs are made up of a bunch of dots that change color to display an image, and 4K has 4 times as many dots as older 1080P HD TVs. This means your image quality is much more detailed than before, with the PS5 actually making use of this higher resolution. Now not every PS5 game actually runs in full 4K, but they do run at a resolution that is higher than 1080p, and they are noticeably better. (But again, this is a hardware limitation, and depends on the game.) To go along with 4K, you also have HDR (high dynamic range) which basically allows the screen to display much more realistic lighting and color differences when displaying both dark and light areas. This is something that's been around for awhile now (even the original PS4 could display HDR content), but again it's something you would need a newer TV to make use of. The bottom line is, it makes lighting look really nice, and allows games to look a lot more realistic.

The other major feature of the PS5 is it's ray tracing. Ray tracing is, to put simply, realistically simulated light. Basically light beams bounce off of something, and that allows you to see it. Those same light beams bounce off of a reflective surface, and now you can see the same image being reflected off of it. It's something we should all understand in real life, and now it's something that games can do now as well. In the past reflections were usually faked in or ignored completely, and light sources were simulated to make lighting look as realistic as possible. Now we can just flat out have light beams act like real light beams, and the results are reflections, and real world quality lighting. It's actually a huge step up, and this alone can make games look a LOT better when used properly. It is a very demanding feature however, and something many players may turn off in favor of performance.

On top of the graphical enhancements, the PS5 is a much stronger console in other ways as well. The CPU has received a major upgrade as well, and that means the console can process a lot more as well. So, just like before, this generation you can expect another upgrade to in game physics, improvements to AI, and in general less limitations in games. Of course we are way too early into this generation to see this be put into use, but it's there. These are the real improvements that will carry over across every game, despite your graphical settings, and the main reason to look to the future. But again, it's going to take awhile before we actually get there. At the time of this review, PS5 games are basically just PS4 games. They have graphical and performance updates, but it's really no different from playing the same games on a PC. Is that a bad thing? No, the games are still a lot of fun. Does that mean the PS5 is something you NEED to have right away to keep up? Also no, unless the game you want happens to be PS5 exclusive. All it really means is that the PS5 is just starting it's life, so we won't see what it can really do for quite some time, and that's perfectly okay. As long as the games are fun, that's all that really matters. And if they can be played elsewhere before you get a PS5, then that's perfectly fine as well.

The Two Consoles:

Another thing people need to know before getting a PlayStation 5, is the fact that there are currently two models. One model has a disc drive, while the other doesn't. So, what does this mean? Exactly as it sounds. The physical edition PS5 allows you to play physical discs, which include audio CDs, DVDs, Blurays, PS4 Blurays, and of course new PS5 Bluray games. The digital edition on the other hand, cannot. This version of the PS5 is focused only on digital downloads, and that it is. It's aimed at people who would rather save $100 off the price of the PS5, and for those who would rather only download their games. This is the only difference between the two. (And yes, the physical PS5 has access to all the digital content as well.)

The Accessories and Controller:

Another big feature of the PS5 is the new controller, and other accessories you can get with your PS5.


The DualSense -

The new controller made for the PS5 is the first generation of their new "DualSense" line. Replacing the DualShock, the DualSense is of similar build to the DS4, but with some new features added in as well. It's a little bit of a larger controller, that's more form fitting to your hands, and it has all of the buttons that one might expect. You have your four face buttons, a D-Pad, a left and right analog stick, a start button, and returning "Share" and "PlayStation" buttons. The touch pad from the PS5 DualShock has been brought back as well, and the front of the controller features lights and a speaker that some games can make use of. This time around however, the controller also contains a built in microphone, and the triggers have been replaced with new adaptive triggers that can tighten or loosen based on what you're doing. For example, in shooting games you can feel the resistance of the triggers for different types of guns, while other games can use it in their own creative ways. Mixed in with the new haptic feedback, the controller can now help you "feel" the game you are playing, and can actually help you respond in ways you never could before. Of course this is something you need to experience for yourself to really explain it, but if you've ever used a newer smart phone, then you might already be used to it.

Pulse 3D -

The Pulse 3D Wireless Headset is the first headset to be made with the PS5's new "Tempest" sound in mind. What does that mean though? Basically just that it's an official PlayStation headset. That's all there really is to it. Tempest is Sony's new higher quality 3D audio, which is actually REALLY nice sounding, but you don't need the Pulse 3D headset to enjoy it. Basically any headset will give you the same results, but the higher the quality the better. As for the Pulse 3D itself... It's pretty nice! It's wireless, and because of that you can connect it to other devices as well. The only down side is that it's not blutooth, so you need to use the wireless dongle, but it's not a big deal. You also have the option to wire it using a standard headphone jack, if your device doesn't have a USB slot. As for controls, you can use the buttons to increase/decrease the audio, you can mute the microphone (yes, it has a built in mic), and you can use the rocker to toggle between how loud in game audio, and voice chat audio is as well. Overall it's a nice headset, and a perfect accessory for the PS5... Assuming you don't already have a better headset.

Media Remote -

The PlayStation family has always doubled as both a game console, and a media center. The PS1 could play music CDs, the PS2 introduced us to the world of DVDs, the PSP was meant to be both a Walk Man and a portable gaming console, the PS3 stepped it up with Blu-ray and online services, the Vita expanded on what the PSP did before it, and the PS4 expanded on what the PS3 had in place. Needless to say, the PS5 has done the exact same thing, and to go with it is none other than a media remote. Of course the media remote isn’t needed to use the console, but it does allow you to quickly access services like Netflix and Disney +, and is a lot more convenient than using the standard controller. It has a button to turn your TV on and off, and you can control the volume as well. While not a key feature for the console, it’s still a nice one, and a worth wild accessory if you plan to use your PS5 as something more than a game console.

The Camera -

Like the PS2, PS3, PS4, and Vita, the PS5 has a camera as well. This camera has HD video, and can be used in multiple ways. However, it really depends on the developer, and on Sony themselves if they want to make full use of this accessory. For example, in the past games like LittleBigPlanet could use it to take pictures to insert into your levels, and when a game allows streaming to services like Twitch, you could use the camera to show your face as well. This is all still possible with the PS5 camera still, but currently it’s main use is for tracking PlayStation VR, and verifying your identity to log into your PS5. It’s not much, but it’s something. And on the plus side, you can use your original PS4 camera as well. You just have to verify you owned one, and then have Sony send you a free adapter. Pretty easy to do.

PlayStation VR -

An accessory that has carried over from last generation. The PlayStation VR still works with the PS5, and can be used to play VR games. At the time of this review a new model for the PSVR has not been announced, and as such the experience is very much the same as it was on the PS4. While games will run in their “PS4 Pro” enhanced modes, there are really no other enhancements to speak of at the moment. The PSVR itself has a lower resolution than most other VR headsets on the market now days, and the PlayStation Move controllers are extremely outdated technology from the PS3 days. While it does all still work, it really can’t compete with the rest of the VR market in it’s current form. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that (as there are MANY great PSVR games), but that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy a PS5 just for VR either... At least not at this time. On the plus side, a new model will most likely replace the existing PSVR, but until then fans will be stuck with the same headset and limitations that they are already used to. (But considering the PS5 is a much stronger console, you can expect these limitations to be lifted, and for more PC quality VR experiences to be on their way.)

The Good and the Bad:

I will just come out and say it. Overall the PlayStation 5 lives up to it’s expectations so far. It’s a pretty big step up from what the PS4 offered before it, but it’s also not really anything many PC gamers have already become used to. For console only gamers, this will be quite an upgrade, and also quite a bit of an adjustment. For PC gamers? They are going to feel right at home with the PS5 from the get go. The console is strong, but thanks to 4K, HDR, ray tracing, and higher frame rates, now we have to deal with game graphic settings, and other features that were never an option on consoles. Players will be forced to choose between graphics and performance, and sometimes that’ll take some playing around to find the right balance. Again, this isn’t a big deal for PC gamers, but console gamers will have to get used to this, and will need to understand the hardware’s limitations. You can’t have everything, and that’s just a fact. This might be disappointing to some, but that’s the reality of this next generation. The line between PC and consoles are becoming blurred, and honestly that’s a good thing.

Putting aside the console’s limitations... The games are fun, the hardware is pretty impressive, it’s affordable, the new OS is great, and the fact that it’s a PlayStation 4 as well is a MAJOR plus. If you’re a PlayStation fan, or someone looking to get into console gaming, then there’s really no reason to not get the PS5. Of course that doesn’t mean the console is perfect, but what is? Sadly at launch there have been some issues that needed worked out (and some that still need to be addressed), but that’s to be expected. Sure, everyone would love to see the PS5 launch perfectly without issues, but realistically there’s always going to be something that was overlooked, or missed during development. With consoles becoming much more advanced than what they used to be, it’s pretty much unavoidable. That being said, so far the PS5 has had issues with downloading some games and updates (Devil May Cry 5 DLC in my case), there have been reports of the rest mode crashing the system, and even reports of game updates stopping the console from turning on. These issues are unfortunate, but thankfully they aren’t wide spread problems, nor are they issues that can’t be fixed in future updates.

So, would I recommend the PS5? For sure. Would I recommend it as soon as possible? Honestly, that’s up to you. At the time of this review (2/16/2021) there’s not a lot of exclusives to make it worth owning, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be coming out in the future. The handful of PS4 games that have received PS5 updates are nice as well, but ultimately they are still the same games. I’m not someone who can tell you if these upgrades are actually worth it or not, but I can tell you that I have personally really enjoyed them. They aren’t system sellers, but it’s something I love to see, and are games I’ve spent more time playing because of the enhancements. And although not all PS4 games receive this treatment, it’s still fine. The PS5 is a great PS4, and I still enjoy playing PS4 games on it. Considering we'll be seeing new PS4 games for quite some time, I plan on using it as a PS4 for years to come.

Anyway... the answer is yes. I would recommend getting one. However, just know the console isn't perfect, and it honestly depends on what you're looking for. For me? I'm more than happy with my purchase. No regrets!