Monday 23 November 2020

PS5 is next-gen magic in a pandemic

So, last Thursday marked the launch of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) in the UK and Europe. Arguably, Sony’s next-gen console is the must-have of this holiday season. More so than Microsoft's Xbox Series X and S if mainstream media coverage is to be believed and, as the lucky owner of a PS5, I can see why first-hand.

You managed to obtain a rarer than hen’s teeth PS5 whilst others couldn’t or had them cancelled (looking at you Currys PC World), I hear you cry? Well, having foregone both next-gen console pre-orders, to bump the spec of an imperative iMac upgrade, and the looming prospect of a COVID Christmas, I took a chance on launch day and ordered from John Lewis via the retailer’s iPad app as the site invariably crashed due to tens of thousands of eager fellow PlayStation enthusiasts.

To my genuine surprise and delight, the gamble paid off and a shiny Sony next-gen console was safely delivered very early the following day. John Lewis’ customer service is among the best and that free 2-year guarantee isn’t too shabby. Other retailers are available and your mileage may vary but praise where it’s due - especially during a pandemic.

Initial thoughts on the disc-based PS5 after a couple of days use. The console is by turns gigantic and Cupertino-designed spaceship sleek compared to previous generations. A far cry from the Atari VCS where my video game odyssey began with a cousin’s unwanted Christmas gift in 1980. My eight-year-old self would have jumped at the chance of owning a console and accessories in Imperial Stormtrooper livery. Rebels! Schmebels!

Initial setup was buggy and a few apps crashed but that comes with day-one territory. Following a quick restart and system software update, the PS5 (mounted horizontally as if levitating a la Dua Lipa) runs whisper quiet and lightning-fast compared to its PlayStation 3 (PS3) and PlayStation 4 (PS4) predecessors. The solid-state drive (SSD) impresses. The Blu-ray disc drive supports 4K UHD, unlike the PS4 Pro.

The look and feel is premium next-gen in spite of a lack of customisation options for the dashboard (post-launch updates will fix that) and the DualSense controller is a joyful revelation: an inspired fusion of PlayStation and Nintendo innovation distilled in Astro’s Playroom (pre-loaded on every PS5). This gaming gem is haptic feedback heaven and here's hoping third-party developers utilise it.

The DualSense is my new favourite controller of all time after years of advocating the excellent Xbox controller over PlayStation’s DualShock (DS), which I've never got on with since the launch of the original PlayStation 25 years ago.

The day-one launch titles are impressive, most impressive (more so in the midst of a lockdown). As a lifelong fan of Marvel’s web-slinger, I had to get Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition and will buy Demon's Souls and Sackboy: A Big Adventure on Black Friday.

The PlayStation Plus Collection for PS5 is the icing on the cake for launch week. Days Gone, a first-party action-adventure survival horror video game that launched to mixed reviews in 2019, is way more fun than expected, Detroit: Become Human is stylistically at home on the PS5 and I can’t wait to revisit Horizon Zero Dawn ahead of Horizon Forbidden West.

PS4 backwards compatibility is every bit as superlative as the fine folks at Digital Foundry (DF) enthusiastically suggest. Sony should be shouting from the rooftops for the first time since PS3.

Before I wrap up this PS5 launch review. Jim Ryan, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s CEO and president has warned the console has sold out everywhere before Christmas.

“Everything is sold. Absolutely everything is sold,” Mr Ryan told Russian news agency TASS.

"I’ve spent much of the last year trying to be sure that we can generate enough demand for the product. And now in terms of my executive bandwidth I’m spending a lot more time on trying to increase supply to meet that demand."

Mr Ryan said that the COVID-19 outbreak may have impacted the number of consoles available at launch. “We might have had a few more to sell, but not very many: the guys on the production/manufacturing side have worked miracles,” he said in the interview.

If you missed out on pre-ordering or limited launch day stock, there's some good news this Black Friday. Walmart, Best Buy and GameStop restock this week. So, it may be a happy Thanksgiving for US-based fans after all.

To paraphrase teenage pop music crush Kylie, do I believe in magic? Why yes, I do. And don't we all deserve a fun fillip in these troubling times? As a fan of PlayStation since it was originally announced as a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), I can't wait to play without limits...

Did you manage to get a PS5 on launch day? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. I don't think I've felt the giddy headrush of receiving a new "toy" since I was a kid. Thankfully, PS5 has lived up to and exceeded my expectations. From a UI that is silky smooth (and gorgeous to look at and listen to!), to drastically reduced load times on PS5 specific titles, it's everything I could have hoped for. The visual upgrade to games like Watchdogs Legion is impressive - especially when wandering those rain-soaked, neon-lit streets of London at night. To see your reflection in shop windows, puddles and futuristic driverless cars is a real sight to behold. PS5 has also lent me the thrill of revisiting some PS4 classics like The Last Of Us Part 2 and Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order without the distraction of a jet-engine cooling fan. In the case of TLOU2, it's made the game more engaging as the moments of silent drama and quiet character development finally hit home the way there were intended. I can't wait to revisit my PS4 games library on PS5 - something made even easier with the generous addition of the PS Plus Collection. PS Now has also never been more essential too, with an impressively large catalogue of games available to stream directly from the Home Screen. But if anything catapults PS5 into real 'next gen' territory, it's the new DualSense controller. Wow. Those adaptive triggers. The controller demo that is Astro's Playroom is a complete revelation in what the new Dualsense can achieve. I hope game developers use it the way it deserves, and don't see it as a gimmick. It's most definitely not a gimmick. Day one of a new console generation is always exciting - especially knowing that developers will push that console to its limits over its lifetime. I can't wait to see what they deliver for this amazing console over the coming years. It's a great time to be a gamer.

  2. Fantastic review, John!

    If you asked me what I expected from a new game console it would’ve been this. Well, I could’ve predicted everything but DualSense. We both know Sony had both success and failure in this industry and they’ve finally acknowledged that. Sadly, not in the ways of backwards compatibility but they’ve always loved to try new things (if a multitude of accessories and devices over its 25+ year history.

    The DualSense is the culmination of a newly focused PlayStation and a synergy between design and game development. This isn’t like the SixAxis which was the result of a lawsuit. It shows they’re trying to move the industry forward while improving things long term fans enjoy.

    We’re finally back to the load times reminiscent of the old cartridge based systems and for the first time since 1994 we might actually play games that aren’t limited by the technology but only the imagination of their creators.

    1. Thanks, Earl!

      You know, I'd totally forgotten about the lawsuit! Whilst boxing my day-one PS4 for resale, discovered an unused SIXAXIS controller in the back of the closet.

      Think I'll get a second DualSense and charging station on Black Friday.

  3. So this is the new era of next-gen consoles and things are off to a great start!

    Straight out of the box I could see the amount of attention, which has gone into the development, and design of the Playstation 5, even down to the stylish outer box.

    So, with the initial set up I just wanted to get the PS5 out the box and gaze at its overall glory. The PS5 itself is a thing of beauty and looks like a tower from the Lords of the Rings saga with its white peaks on the top and the slick black inner section looking like black marble against white slate upright panels. I know I’m talking rubbish but until you see it in the flesh you just can appreciate the majestic qualities of the PS5 in its naked state.

    Now power on the BEAST and you get a really nice improved UI system which sort of reminded me of a good gin with gold flakes floating around, very dreamlike and a vest improvement over the old UI but I would have expected Sony to put in some good work here in the UI department as its the first thing you encounter on boot up....well done Sony.

    Firstly the 4K visuals of the game were pushed on my senses on my 4K Samsung TV with me being in amazement on how gorgeous this game looks and then we move onto the Tempest 3D sound engine. Whispers of wind, demon groans and chinking armor battles rang around my ears.

    Now some of you might be asking 'So how good is the loading times on this funky new SSD system', well you all will be pleasantly surprised how much it changes the experience. Demons Souls was such a great flow from area to area and when I died continuously then I suspect on the PS3 experience this might have been a tad annoying but on the PS5, no worries as I was popping back into play and out of play (via being slain) and the SSD was so seamless in bringing me back from the realm of death to a state of souls...again well done Sony for making gaming on PS5 even more special.

    Now onto one of the best features of the PS5 which is the Dual Sense controller, in my opinion the best controller I have ever used and I have owned pretty much every hardcore console going...let's start.

    It is fairly heavier than the old Dual Shock but that just tells me Sony has incorporated some quality components inside and will last the hours and hours of punishment that I will inflict on it playing Call of Duty, which is a great workout on any controller!

    Hat's off Sony for again improving on a proven idea and making the Dual Sense a worthy upgrade from the Dual Shock...well done Sony!

    Call of Duty was a great experience with the 3D audio making player placement much easier in my headphones as I rushed around and even the ambient sounds like kettles brewing and radios in bars just coming out of the Dual Sense controllers small speaker was making the atmosphere even more intense.

    I am still to try any PS4 games on the PS5 and even hooking up my PSVR using the free PSVR camera adaptor (free if you requester for one) and its great to see Sony supporting all us PSVR gamers in this way...well done Sony.

    So to sum up in my un-boxing and initial game play and user experience with PS5, I just have to say...

    Well done Sony!

    Now bring on all those TRUE next-gen games in the next 3-4 years to the point the PS4 went from Call of Duty: Ghosts (my very first PS4 game) to Ghost of Tsushima glory.

    1. It still only seems like yesterday our 'gaming gang' was at yours playing the original Japanese PlayStation in the mid-nineties. Good times!


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