We really wanted to review the impressive new Sony PlayStation 5 console much closer to its release date, like we did for the (also impressive) Xbox Series X console. However, like many of you who have been trying for months to obtain one know, picking up a PlayStation 5 is not an easy feat, especially if you don’t want to support the scalpers and unofficial resellers who are marking up the console’s price by hundreds of dollars. We would never support that, so our console had to come through official channels at the base price.
Our PlayStation 5 arrived via a Walmart selling day where the company released hundreds of consoles every 10 minutes for several hours, with protections in place to make sure that the aforementioned reseller bots could not buy them all up. It still took several weeks for the console to arrive from that point, but we only paid the standard price of $499 for the model with the disk drive.
In terms of first impressions once the unit finally arrived, the sheer size of the unit compared with the PlayStation 4 was immediately noticeable. The PS5 is about double the size of the PS4. You can set it up in either a horizontal configuration or a vertical one, and it has a small base that can be used to properly secure the console either way. I had assumed that I would set up my PS5 in a flat configuration, like I did with the PS4. But the vertical option actually gives me a lot more room with a far smaller footprint. Giving gamers the option should help to make the PS5 fit into more gaming areas despite its size.
A lot has been written at this point about the internal specifications of the PS5 and how well games are able to use that in conjunction with the solid state internal hard disk to drive games at 4K resolution up to 120 FPS (on televisions that support it) or at 8K resolution up to 60 FPS by taking advantage of an HDMI 2.1 port. But seeing it work in person is extremely impressive. My TV supports 4K, but I never got to play a game running natively at that before on such a big screen. My PC can do that for some titles, but playing something that looks that amazing on a big screen is an experience.
In addition to just the graphics, the other thing that you will notice about games on the PlayStation 5 is how well they play, and how smooth the controls feel. I originally played and reviewed Watch Dogs Legion on the PlayStation 4, and I had a really good time. But upgrading to the PlayStation 5 version of the game (which Ubisoft lets you do for free) was quite a change. Graphically, things looked better for sure, but the first thing I noticed was how smooth everything was. This included everything from flying around the city on top of a cargo drone to hand-to-hand combat with enemies. In fact, the game was so responsive in combat now that I actually had to change my reaction time a little bit because there is almost no delay at all between hitting X and swinging your weapon or pulling the trigger.
Upgrading PlayStation 4 Games
There is not a lot of content right now made from the ground up for the PlayStation 5, but those of us with huge PlayStation 4 libraries should not have to worry too much, because moving your PS4 games over to the new console is a sinch. I had most of mine on a four terabyte solid state external hard drive, and I simply stopped the drive on the PS4 and plugged it into the PS5. I did need to sync saves over from the cloud, but that was almost effortless too. You can also directly transfer games wirelessly between consoles on the same wi-fi network, or you can simply insert a PS4 disk and it will install on the PlayStation 5. I did that with my physical copy of Grand Theft Auto 5 and it worked fine.
In addition to being able to run all of your PlayStation 4 games on the PlayStation 5, most of them will actually play better. Take Days Gone as an example. On the PS5, not only does the game look better, but it plays at an amazing 60fps, something my PS4 could only dream about. This is a game that was admittedly a little clunky on the PS4 at times, especially when battling hoards. But on the PS5, it’s a smooth experience all around. I really didn’t think I would play Days Gone again, having gone through it twice before, but once I got pulled into the upgraded gameplay offered by the PS5, I was hooked on the zombie-infested motorcycle thrill ride – again.
Some games like The Outer Worlds and the new DLCs for it didn’t look too much different from before, but they too benefited from smoother gameplay. And, critically for a game like Outer Worlds, the PS5 drastically cuts down on load times. I loved The Outer Worlds, but there were a lot of doors in that game and many of them forced loading up new areas when you passed through them. Some of those load times could take 30 seconds or more on the PlayStation 4, especially when transitioning back to your ship or from your ship to a new planet. On the PS5, that gets cut down to just a few seconds, which keeps the gameplay rolling along nicely, though you will need to find another excuse to go and grab a snack.
The New DualSense Controller
In addition to just the console itself, the DualSense controllers have gotten a huge upgrade. They are a little bit larger than the PlayStation 4 controllers and heavier as well. However, they have longer and narrower handles, so holding them feels really good for people with either big or small hands.
The coolest new feature however is the haptic feedback that it offers. The new DualSense can rumble like the PS4 controllers did, but can also increase the resistance of the trigger pull buttons. The first time I experienced this was with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. When my Viking warrior pulled back the string on his bow, I could actually feel the resistance through the trigger buttons. And it seems to offer more tactile feedback for heavier weapons than lighter ones too, which lets you really feel the difference for the first time. Suddenly I could feel what it was like to wield some of the heaviest weapons in a game.
Experimenting with other titles, I found that the range of haptic feedback is impressive. The controller can offer very light, almost imperceivably small resistance all the way up to the point where it’s almost difficult to pull the trigger, like the button is nearly locked in place. It will be interesting to see how developers use this new function as more native PS5 games are released. It might be possible that some PlayStation 4 games could add a patch to take full advantage of the new PS5 controller too, though I have not found any that do just yet.
The one slight negative to the advanced controller is that it requires software updates just like the main console. So if you have a charging station and don’t ever physically connect the DualSense to the PS5, you will need to do so at least occasionally to update the controller’s internal software.
Final Thoughts on the PlayStation 5
I have been gaming with PlayStations going all the way back to the PS2. And while some of the hardware changes over the years, like going from the PS3 to the PS4, didn’t really at first seem to change too much, the PlayStation 5 out of the gate is an incredible upgrade. I was completely happy with my PlayStation 4 and didn’t really feel the need to upgrade. But after spending some time with the new console, I can say that my mind changed dramatically. The PlayStation 5 offers a much better gaming experience across the board, for both older games and the newest ones designed specifically for the console.
As gamers, we crave the best possible experience. We want something that is really going to wow us, and right now, the PlayStation 5 is a plug and play way to tune into better gaming.
Let me put this a different way. I’ve been playing video games for decades, but it’s been a long time, too long actually, since I actually felt giddy about playing games again. Of course I still enjoy gaming, but am just not thrilled like a little kid at Christmas anymore with most games. The PlayStation 5 rekindled that feeling for me with amazing graphics, haptic feedback and smooth gameplay. I even found myself staying up and gaming past six in the morning a couple times, lost in the sheer amazement of the overall experience. That makes the PlayStation 5, at least for me, a truly next level gaming experience.