It’s now been a few weeks, and we’ve been able to take Sony’s new console through some pretty hard paces. The PlayStation 5 debuted in North America on November 12, and since then, it has become the white whale for gamers every where. Sony announced that over 2.5 million units have sold since that launch day (and the subsequent launch in Europe the week after), but is the PlayStation 5 the console that gamers around the world were hoping for?
The PlayStation 5 offers gamers many needed upgrades — and we’re not just talking about the tech specs. For the first time in Sony’s history, there’s been a complete redesign to the controller. The previous four PlayStations all have similar controllers with new whistles and bells added with new technology advancements. The DualSense controller is a separation from the look and feel of the DualShocks, and the controller is easily the most impressive feature of the PlayStation 5. Let’s dig into that first.
The DualSense is my favorite gaming controller ever. There, I said it. It feels wonderful in my hands and the features it offers are incredible in use. Much has been said about the haptic feedback and adaptive trigger response, but to actually feel it in a game is incredible. Sony made a great decision to include the Astro’s Playroom game free with every PlayStation 5, because the full-featured game serves as the perfect demo to what the DualSense can do.
The haptic feedback puts an amazing amount of feeling in your hands. When it rains, the controller pings with each raindrop, and when riding a vehicle in a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, the DualSense registers the shift in gears. It’s amazing.
The adaptive triggers give both push and pull, depending on what you are doing. If you have a bow pulled back in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, you can feel the tension as you squeeze the trigger. The same can be said in Cold War, as an automatic weapon will click the triggers as you squeeze them, giving a very slight interpretation of what it feels like to use a weapon of the caliber. The triggers themselves are also much more comfortable than any of the DualShocks.
The DualSense has a built in speaker and microphone, so you can communicate easily with other players without a headset peripheral. The mic can be used by developers for various controls, like blowing out a candle, or by creating wind to push a boat. I only wish Ubisoft has utilized that for Valhalla. There’s even a mute button right on the controller that can cut the mic — or the sound entirely by holding it down a few seconds.
The touch pad has been redesigned and it seems like the pad can be used in various new ways. I find myself using it like a mouse when going over the map in Valhalla for precision. I can’t wait to see how developers utilize it in new and exciting ways going forward.
Both the options and the share buttons are better placed and slightly raised higher than on the DualShock 4, making them easy to hit while playing. The directional pad and the feature buttons are laid in clear plastic, and sadly, Sony opted to lose the color scheme of the feature buttons. This has been a signature on Sony consoles since the beginning, and I’m willing to wager future controllers will bring them back in some form.
One detriment is the loss of the dedicated PS “button.” Now it’s a stylized PS logo that is sometimes easy to miss, as it’s a black feature on the black part of the black-and-white controller.
All in all, the DualSense controller is an amazing tool for gamers. It is stacked with built-in features and again, it just feels great in your hands. Borrowing from Goldilocks, it’s not too big; not too small; it’s just right.
An amazing controller means nothing if there’s nothing to use it on, and the PlayStation 5 does a great job by taking a step forward in console gaming, even if it only a step and not a huge leap. After just over two weeks, the PlayStation 5 feels more like the PlayStation 4.5 in some regards. I’ll elaborate on that in a minute. First, lets talk numbers.
PlayStation 5 is massive in physical size. It stands over 15 inches tall and is over 10 inches wide and four inches thick (disc version). And it weighs almost 10 pounds. In fact, I was afraid to put it on my usual gaming shelf and had to rearrange my game room to find a place for it. It’s that big and heavy.
And while the dimensions are staggering, the aesthetic of PlayStation 5 is downright ugly in horizontal mode. When it was first revealed, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. But sitting here looking at it, it’s almost as if the designers gave up halfway through conceptualization and just left it at that. I don’t mind the white and black motif, it’s the weird curvature of the front.
The PS4’s design recalled the cool-as-hell ridged look of the PS2, just updated. The PlayStation 5 is totally rogue in its design, and the end result is one ugly system.
As my mother always said, you never judge a book by its cover, and that’s where the PlayStation 5 really begins to shine. The GPU runs at 10.28 Teraflops with 16GB of internal memory. The custom AMD Zen 2 CPU is also super fast, all but eradicating load times on games. The difference is striking.
In Valhalla, for instance, the load screens could run up to a minute on the PS4 Pro, but on the PlayStation 5, we clocked it at six seconds to load. Call of Duty is just as fast, and the processor can do its job much quicker with all that extra power. Games can run up to 120 frames per second and its true 4K resolution gaming, not upscaled like the PS4 Pro.
With all that power, you’d expect the PlayStation 5 to be noisy with its cooling and that’s where the system really comes through. My PS4 Pro sounds like a jet engine when I play games like The Avengers, Valhalla, and even MLB The Show. The PlayStation 5 is truly, stunningly whisper quiet. I no longer have to wear headphones when I play just to hear dialogue, and that is a true blessing. The combination of heat sink metals and a better fan keeps PlayStation 5 quiet and cool, though it does still need plenty of ventilation to breathe.
When it comes down to it, I couldn’t care less about the numbers of the GPU, CPU, and processing speeds. All I care about is that it’s quiet and has great storage. And the latter is a huge issue.
The internal SSD storage is only 825GB, with around 667 GB usable. That’s not much, especially when games like last year’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare is almost 200 GB by itself. For some reason, Sony doesn’t allow for dedicated PS5 external storage for PS5 games yet, so players have to pick and choose which games get a spot on the sleek and fast SSD. You can plug in your PS4 external storage and pull the PS4 games off of that, but it defeats the purpose of a new console experience if you have to use last gen tech to play it.
I’m not sure this is something that can be fixed with a system update, so this issue may not be addressed until the inevitable PS5 Pro in a couple of years.
The disc drive runs 4K UHD and there are a four USB ports, two of them super speed, one high speed, and one type-C.
One of the biggest issues with the PlayStation 5 was backward compatibility. The PS5 runs most PS4 games with no issue, and even upscales them to 4K, where applicable. The menus and UI both seem to favor PS4 files over the PS5 games, and you have to manually tell your PlayStation 5 to play PlayStation 5 games. That’s kind of ridiculous. This is something that can be corrected in an update, for sure. Because of this, the PlayStation 5 feels much like a PlayStation 4.5.
The graphical leaps just aren’t there to really push this into a new generation — yet. Games like Demon’s Souls are absolutely stunning, and the ray tracing and HDR lighting effects in every game we’ve played do wonders for graphics fidelity. But the jump between PS3 and PS4 was staggering, and I’m not getting that feel here.
The PlayStation 5 is a great start to the next levels of gaming. The DualSense controller is amazing and the system itself has flashes of greatness. The storage issues are concerning, and will continue to be until Sony figures it out, but the rest of the features of the PlayStation 5 are exciting. The quiet cooling and seamless game switching makes it a joy to play, and the lack of load times makes this console superior to the PS4 in almost every way — as it should be.
As developers get more time to play with dev kits and get to really explore the features and power of the system, I expect all of that to change — looking at you Horizon Forbidden West. Until then, the PlayStation 5 is a very fancy and expensive way to play your PS4 games.
So, if you have trouble finding a PlayStation 5 in the wild, don’t fret. By the time Sony can resupply to retailers, true next gen games should be coming out that really flex the muscles of what’s under this ugly hood, and then we will officially be in the new generation of consoles, and then play will have no limits.
This review is based on a PlayStation 5 purchased at retail. All images and media courtesy of Sony.
- The DualSense controller
- Non-existent Load times
- Whisper Quiet cooling
- Ray tracing and in-game lighting
- It's downright ugly
- Internal SSD storage is a joke
- Not enough games to highlight the power of the system