Review: PlayStation 5 – Onwards to the future

After all the uncertainty of even releasing locally this year, all the pre-order drama, the local release date being delayed by a month, and all the other problems you can throw at it, the PlayStation 5 is finally here. Freaking. Finally.

We’ve put our own unit through its paces and if you’re not planning on getting one yet, we’ve got our own review on the console.

This review is technically “late” in the grand scheme of things, but hey, hear out our thoughts on this!

PlayStation 5 Review

Size matters

The PlayStation 5 is huge and heavy, no two ways about it. Clocking in at around 4.5kg (about 10lbs) and 15.4 inches tall, this thing will demand space from your current setup. You’ll need to move things around, just like I did, and it won’t be an easy task unless you’ve got your own gaming cave.

It’s way bigger than a standard PS4 in all aspects, even compared to a PS4 Pro. I’d compare it to a dog if I had one, but you get the point.

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You might be one of those “Oh I’ll wait for a PS5 Slim / Pro in the future” type of people and while I don’t necessarily discourage that, you’ll realize that there is a reason that the PlayStation 5 is this big and that is because it needs to be. The machine packs a lot of power and it needs proper ventilation and cooling. The prospect of a PlayStation 5 Slim may seem… slim, for now, unless hardware sees major advancements in a couple of years, but the size of the PlayStation 5 is really a function of the need to keep itself cool.

I never saw the appeal of a vertically positioned PS4. I always thought that its proper orientation would be horizontal, based on the disc-drive placement. The PS5 is quite different because its vertical orientation feels more natural and will actually save you more space rather than setting it down. The main source of heat will still be flushed out from the rear vents, so make sure to keep that wide open as much as possible.

The PlayStation 5 is something that demands space, but also demands attention. It is something that doesn’t fade into the background of your living room or gaming setup. This thing is begging to be noticed, and it isn’t hard to see why. The contrast of black and white is something that might take getting used to. I think it’s quite sleek and stylish, although one thing I do not like is the piano black finish. Can you imagine getting all those nicks and scratches because you can’t properly plug in a USB cable right? Matte black could have made for a better option, but I digress.

One thing I am a fan of are the detachable side panels. I’m a sucker for those limited edition consoles, but now your base PlayStation 5 can be as limited as you want it to be, given you have enough creativity. Pop the side panels off, give it a fresh coat of paint, and voila, a custom PlayStation 5. You can expect licensed side panels to be on sale soon, and it really gives the players an option to fully personalize their console and make it their 1 of 1.

The PlayStation 5 also comes with a good supply of ports: 1 USB type A and 1 SuperSpeed Type-C port at the front and 2 SuperSpeed USB Type A ports at the back. The SuperSpeed ports support up to 10Gbps, so when you’re transferring data from one source to the other, keep in mind to use the faster ports to save up on time.

Setting up the console is pretty easy. Horizontally, just clip it on the rear part of the console near the ports as indicated by the PS symbols and poof, you’re ready to play. Vertical, however, is a different story, as you’ll have to attach the included stand to the base of the console with a screw. The screw is completely optional though BUT due to the height of the console, the screw becomes a non-negotiable to secure the unit.

The true next-gen experience

If there was one truly next-gen thing about the PlayStation 5, it has to be the DualSense controller.

The DualSense is bigger than your DualShock, but in a very good way. Of course, on-hand experience may vary, but the controller fills my hands well, and so far, with more than enough hours of gameplay, it didn’t feel like my hands would cramp up.

Even with the bigger footprint, the triggers didn’t feel unnatural to reach, and I can certainly imagine that a back button attachment like the one for the DualShock can be repurposed for the DualSense eventually, as the contours on the rear fit my palms well.

The weight distribution of the DualSense is pretty good, with its heaviest parts right around the grips where your palms would be, and there is a heft to it that doesn’t feel like it’ll break or crack if you drop it. The DualSense feels premium and solid, and it should be for its price.

While it retains the same analog placement, the size difference of the DualSense compared to the DualShock doesn’t make it feel like you have to adjust the way you hold it, and it’ll feel like second nature almost instantly.

You’ve seen pictures of it, but the surface on both the main console and the controllers are the iconic PlayStation symbols. They’re not there purely for show, as they actually add a slight amount of grip, which is actually an improvement over the slightly slippery rear of the DualShock.

The defining feature of the DualSense is something I can spend hours talking about, but is really something that needs to be felt to appreciate and luckily, the PlayStation 5 has the perfect software in Astro’s Playroom to showcase what the DualSense is fully capable of.

When playing Astro’s Playroom and utilizing the adaptive triggers, the DualSense really gives it a certain simulated weight and depth. Everything about playing Astro’s Playroom is all about feeling – feeling the grains of sand as you walk through the beach, feeling the tippy tap on the ice, and so on. Imagine the weight of Kratos’ axe smashing down in God of War Ragnarok or the arrow being loosed by Aloy in Horizon: Forbidden West. The hype is there, you only need to feel it to believe it.

My only worry about the DualSense is that the developers won’t take the time to actually fully support it. You can expect most, if not all, first-party titles to take full advantage of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, but hopefully the third-party devs use the technology as well. Remember how underutilized the DualShock touchpad was, and then suddenly Naughty Dog comes in and makes it a guitar simulator of sorts in The Last of Us Part II? Oh, don’t even get me started with the SixAxis controller.

On the flipside, there could be moments where it may seem that the features may be overused that you’d want to just turn it off. While I appreciate the different trigger settings of each firearm in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, that shit is not going to help me in multiplayer. It’ll vary from game to game, but the technology is there for the taking, and it’ll be great to see how the devs make use of it in the future.

Need for speed

Instead of brute power, the PlayStation 5 puts a premium on speed instead. We’ll be diving in-depth on the loading speeds in a different review but overall, and depending on the game, you can shave off minutes (not just seconds) from your loading time, which gets you gaming much faster.

Due to its built in WiFi-6 wireless antenna, you’ll get faster download speeds overall, which is essential to updating your existing titles or downloading new games. In a quick test, when downloading Cyberpunk 2077, on the PS4 the time remaining at the start of download is 25 hours on a steady 1mbps connection. On the PS5, it’s 14 hours with the same setup, almost half the download time. I was able to download Astro’s Playroom ~1.2 gigs in 5 minutes and Bugsnax ~8gigs in 30 minutes on the same setup. While results may vary depending on your internet connection, one thing for sure is that even downloading and updating will be faster than before.

The User Interface has been one of the key features in the next-gen upgrade and almost immediately, apart from how it looks, you’ll notice how fast it loads. Moving in and out of menus happens in a snap, and loading is almost instantaneous. Again, more time to play or do the stuff you need to do.

TV and Video has been streamlined to a “Media” category, while the PSN store has been seamlessly integrated in the “Games” category alongside the brand new Capture Gallery and Share Factory Studio. This way, going to the TV app and the PS Store does not feel like running a new app when purchasing games or watching videos.

Sony have slightly tweaked the screencap function, where you could still hold down the share button to capture an image from a scene, but tapping the button will add another step into capturing the image unlike in PS4 where when you hit the share button, the image is immediately captured. Video capture has been slightly modified where unlike in the PS4, it’s a continuous feed but stops at 15 minutes, you have to manually begin recording. This time around, it caps at 60 minutes versus the 15 minutes in PS4.

Trophy and gamer data have been improved. This time, individual trophy progress could be tracked. Say in Astro’s Playroom, if you’re missing 150 gatcha pieces to get the Saru Gatcha trophy, the progress meter will say if you are 14% complete. Hours played is added to your profile, so you could find out which of your friends spends too much time in Monster Hunter World (or in Vince’s case, a slight obsession with Yakuza).

Something great about the UI are the Activity cards, which show various parts of a game that’s relevant to you. It may show your next mission, your current mission progress, the next trophy to unlock, and much more. More importantly, these aren’t just for show, you can actually hop directly into the game from these cards and it’ll take you directly to that scene or part, getting you into the game much faster.

Traditionally, you can hold the home button for the PS4 to open a side bar where all the easy to access features such as closing the app/game and switching off your console. Now you have to tap the home button instead and it opens up quite a tiny selection of features on the bottom panel of the screen.

While “rest mode” fear mongering is on the rise, if you feel that you need refrain from doing so until the next system update, you can easily adjust it from the power settings. Switching off the console can become tricky when you’re used to the PS4 interface.

I’ve tested the rest mode and aside from one heart-stopping moment when the PlayStation 5 didn’t load when coming out of rest mode, it seems to be working for now. A word to the wise, kindly switch off your apps/games before turning your console off and especially when putting it on rest mode. It’s a new console and they’re still weeding out the bugs, take care to not be lazy in doing this.

One particularly fine feature is the ability to have certain presets for a game you’re about to play. If you’re like me who always likes to go to the settings menu before diving into the game, this feature somewhat eliminates that, allowing you to choose certain presets for games like difficulty, performance mode, and subtitles among others. Some may use this, some won’t, but it’s quite nice to have that choice, again getting you into a game much faster.

Welcome to the next generation

By the time you read this, you may already be enjoying your own PlayStation 5. Congratulations, let me welcome you to the next generation. The Philippines may be a month late, but better late than never.

If you’re expecting mind-blowing graphics, you may not find it here just yet. The graphical leap from the PS4 is not really as huge as one might think, but instead you’ll look at all the other things like the vastly improved loading times, the DualSense, and all the other quality of life improvements that the next-generation brings.

Right now, there’s not much to play yet in terms of true PlayStation 5 exclusives except Demon’s Souls, Godfall, and a couple of more titles out there. It may seem weird, but you know about those great PS4 games you enjoyed before, like Days Gone and God of War? Play them again, but this time, they way they were meant to be played, with fantastic graphics and that sweet, sweet 60fps.

Some players may not be enticed to upgrade yet, and that’s fine. Wait it out, wait for 5 games that you really really like, wait for that incremental upgrade… Waiting is fine, because once you try on the PlayStation 5, you’ll never have to wait any longer.

The next generation will get you playing in no time at all, and in the end, that’s all that really matters.

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