There have been several hundreds of thousands of stories dedicated to next-gen consoles over the past 18 months, many of which, pitting the PlayStation 5 against the Xbox Series X|S.
While it is nice to do a bit of debating as to which next-gen console is best now and then, the lines in the sand as to the PlayStation camp and Xbox camp are well etched at this stage. As such you find many players switching alliances.
So let’s not do that now. The Xbox Series X|S arrived in the country a couple of weeks ago, and now the PlayStation 5 has made its presence known, and as such we’re only looking at the latter in terms of merits – that’s it.
With that in mind, and with more than a week with the PS5 under our belt, what is the console we’ve been anxiously awaiting for some time now?
In a word – impressive.
The PS5 is a system where you can see great attention to detail has been placed, and the promise of games that aim to deliver vastly enhanced performance on this console are an exciting prospect.
That said, those games are few and far between right now. And that is the big issue here, the PS5 simply does not have the games available at launch to make the impact that one hopes.
Perhaps that’s a result of COVID-19, which has seen several launch dates and projects postponed, but for right now, owning a PS5 is like having a luxury sports car, but no road to drive it on.
We’ll circle back to this aspect of the device at the end of this review, so for now let’s focus on the design, performance and gaming experience that this next-gen console delivers.
Living room fixture
First the design, which seems relatively divisive. The PS5 proved rather meme-worthy when it was revealed in full, with some likening it to a fancy air conditioner. That’s a little cruel if you ask us, and looking at the console objectively, there is indeed an architectural quality to its design.
If a similar looking structure appeared in the Dubai skyline for example, it certainly would not look out of place.
As such, it’s a little bit of a gamble from Sony, but one that we quite like.
The one aspect of its design which cannot be argued, is its size. This is a big boy, of that there is no doubt, almost one and a half times the size of the original PS4. If that is hard to put in perspective, the precise numbers are that it measures 390mm x 104mm x 260mm for the Ultra HD Blu-ray optical drive flavour (our review model) and tips the scale at 4.5kg.
As such, this is one console that you won’t be moving around easily, especially given that its must-use stand requires a bit of fiddling in order to switch between a vertical and horizontal position.
While it probably won’t be hard to spot the PlayStation 5, it will prove difficult to hear it. The PS4 is infamous for the noise it generates, and our own version which is now six years old, sounds like a factory fan.
It still remains to be seen what that noise is like in six years from now, but at the moment, the PS5 is nigh silent, with the only sounds it generates are those it makes when powering up and powering down.
Speaking of which, we have to highlight some reports regarding the Rest Mode of the console.
This mode powers down the console in theory, allowing for downloads and DualSense controller charging to happen in the background. There have, however, been reports that it has resulted in booting issues for the console, but in the time we’ve used Reset Mode, no issues have surfaced.
A quick word on the setup process (no, not the stand).
On this front, there was really nothing out of the ordinary, but it is clear that security and use of data is something that Sony is cognisant of, with more than one window prompting us to read the T’s and C’s in that regard.
Once setup the new UI proved quite pleasing, especially given the focus on a clutter-free look and feel. We’re also fans of the task bar which can be brought up at any time to enter different modes and check the status of the console.
More to come
Shifting to performance, and things look promising. It is too early at this stage to know just what the fully fledged PS5 experience is like. This as not all developers have their fully optimised offerings in the wild just yet.
There are of course games like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls, both of which are impressive from a graphic perspective, but neither make full use of the capabilities of the PS5, nor indeed the full range of the haptic feedback on the DualSense controller.
As such, it definitely feels like there is more to come.
For now though, it looks like two types of gaming experiences are currently on offer. There is a 30fps mode which focuses on things like ray tracing, and a 60fps that is only interested in frame rates.
We have opted for the former, if only to see what ray tracing is like on the PS5. In Miles Morales in particular, the visuals are very promising indeed.
If you needed further indication that this console is future-focused, 8K gaming is possible down the line, with an update set to unlock the functionality, and of course the matching TV to enjoy such content.
Sony is also claiming a near instant loading for games, thanks to the new SSD onboard, which is a 825GB variant on this review model. In our experience so far, instant loading has not quite happened. That’s not to say things aren’t speedy though, with PS5-specific games taking roughly 20 seconds before reaching the main menu screen.
We also got to see how this new hardware fairs on PS4-designed games in the interim, while we wait for next-gen ports to be available. The load time for matches in FIFA 21 for example is only five seconds.
This brings us to another crucial point, as right now, there aren’t many ports for the PS5 versions of PS4 games available. These are still in the offing, with FIFA 21, only arriving in the first week in December.
Once again then, you need to wait a bit longer.
Final verdict (kind of)
We usually use the final verdict heading to wrap up our reviews, but for the PlayStation 5, it does seem quite right. This as there is simply more to come for the platform, so a year from now will likely prove a better indicator as to how much of a next-gen experience the PS5 offers.
And this brings us to the big issue – content.
Much like 8K screens, and 4K before it, the hardware is there, but content is limited for now.
As such, if you can afford the physical disc or digital edition of the PS5 at the moment, kudos to you. But those who wait until the new year, and perhaps even 2021’s festive season likely won’t miss out on much.
It’s therefore a case of those early adopters not having much to enjoy on their new console, but be patient, because more is coming.
Consequently, we can only give the PlayStation 5 an eight out of 10 right now, but a year from now with more fully fledged next-gen options and a potentially great exclusive title like God of War Ragnarok, and the score could definitely rise.
For Early Adopters
The PlayStation 5 is impressive by every metric, and what we've seen so far in terms of gaming holds plenty of promise for the coming years. Right now though, with next-gen content as limited as it is, holding off on buying this console is by no means a move that will see you missing out.