Big and bold next-gen gaming
The big picture: Microsoft’s next-gen game console saw its review embargo lift yesterday. Today, it is Sony’s turn as a select group of reviewers are now permitted to talk about their early experiences with the new system. Microsoft and Sony’s systems couldn’t be more different aesthetically, and that’s just the start.
To better familiarize ourselves with Sony’s next-gen entry, let’s take a spin around the proverbial block and see what the experts are saying.
Much like the Xbox Series X | S, the PlayStation 5 features an outward design that’s unlike anything we’ve seen to date. It’s probably going to lead to the creation of two factions: those that love it and those that hate it. IGN’s Luke Reilly seems to slide closer to the latter:
It’s obviously not the first white games console but, in concert with its sheer size and shape, it’s surprisingly ostentatious for something destined to sit beneath or beside black televisions, black sound bars, black subwoofers, and generations of black AV equipment and gaming hardware. It’s a bit showy and in a world of generally sleek and simple tech it looks a bit out of place, like 2006’s vision of 2046.
Sammy Barker with Push Square was a bit more receptive to the design:
Despite its unorthodox aesthetics and overall enormity, we’ve actually grown to appreciate the look of the PS5. There’s no doubt it’s going to appear more at home in a contemporary, whitewashed apartment, with mood lighting and a sleek television cabinet. However, we enjoy how bold it is; this is a console that wants to be noticed, and with its unusual curves and shape, it’s successful.
Either way, all agree that the PS5 is very large, as Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar notes:
The PlayStation 5 is so large that it dwarfs every other console under my TV. It towers over the Xbox Series X, which is a big boy in its own right. The PS5 measures 15.4 inches tall and 10.2 inches deep, and it weighs a hefty 10.2 pounds with its required stand. But the PS5’s extreme scale mostly comes down to its unique design: The center of the console houses all of its internals, but it’s flanked by two large sets of fins. The entire system looks like Sony exploded a vintage PlayStation 3.
The size has its perks, as Chelsea Stark with Polygon highlights:
But the size has its perks: It gives space for adequate cooling. One of the highest compliments I can give the PlayStation 5 is that I rarely noticed it once I was playing. The PlayStation 4’s fans could reach distractingly loud volumes, especially with demanding games like Red Dead Redemption 2. Although this certainly could change as more developers put this thing’s hardware to the test, the fans have rarely made any noise in my time with it, including during all the PS4’s trouble spots: startup, switching games, cutscenes, and loading.
Andrew E. Freedman with Tom’s Hardware talks hardware specifications:
The PS5 is powered by tech from AMD. The 8-core/16-thread processor is based on the 7nm Zen 2 architecture, while the GPU is based on the RDNA 2 graphics architecture with 36 compute units.
Sony hasn’t been as forthcoming as Microsoft with information about the chip, but we know that the CPU will clock up to 3.5 GHz, while the GPU goes up to 2.23 GHz, capping out at 10.3 teraflops. On paper, that’s slower than the Xbox Series X, which goes up to 3.8 GHz on the CPU and has 52 CUs at 1.825 GHz, or 12 teraflops.
One way that Sony is differentiating itself is by using liquid metal as the thermal interface material (TIM) between the CPU and the heatsink.
These specs should, Sony claims, support 4K, 120 Hz output, though that does require the right kind of monitor, as well as games that can hit those performance numbers on the hardware.
Additionally, Sony is moving to an SSD this generation. The custom storage solution is just 825GB, with a 5.5GBps read bandwidth, which is smaller than what Microsoft offers at 1TB. And remember, that’s the capacity without the operating system. Ours was 667.2 GB with everything else, before games.
In the future, you’ll be able to add a secondary M.2 SSD or use USB storage to add more space.
Like the new Xbox, Sony’s SSD is the real star of the show in the PS5 as GameSpot’s Mat Paget highlights:
This is fast storage, outmatching most NVMe SSDs you can currently buy on the market.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales serves as a great test case for this speed. Loading into the new web-slinging adventure from the homepage takes less than 10 seconds, and once you’re swinging around Manhattan, you’ll only wait a couple more to fast travel anywhere around the huge open world. This stark improvement ensures you’re spending more time playing and less time waiting for the game to load, but it also benefits the actual streaming of the open world. I encountered no stuttering at all while swinging through New York, even as I unlocked faster traversal abilities and gained as much momentum as I possibly could. One of the more impressive early showcases for this comes as you finish a mission inside an enemy hideout. Forced to make a quick escape, you aim at a vent and sling Spider-Man through it, launching him into the open world seamlessly at a high speed. It’s a quick moment, but it’s a technical achievement that makes me excited for the next generation of open-world games.
PCMag dishes on the new DualSense controller:
The new DualSense controller is a significant upgrade from the DualShock 4, particularly in size and density. This black-and-white gamepad is heftier than the PS4’s controller, with a profile that looks more like an exaggerated Xbox Wireless Controller than any DualShock gamepad. It has prominent grips that are long and almost fang-shaped. The controller’s top surface features smooth, white plastic, while the bottom side is textured for a better grip (a texture that, if you look very closely, consists of tiny PlayStation X, square, circle, and triangle shapes).
Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland also had praise for the new DualSense:
We’ve also talked a bit about the PS5’s new DualSense controller, which is truly unique and wonderful when it’s used to its full potential. There’s something magical about the combination of clear, synced audio cues from the controller’s crisp speakers; sensitive, directional rumbling that can send highly varied sensations to different parts of the controller; and triggers that offer physical resistance to your fingers when contextually appropriate (all of these features can be turned off for accessibility or mere annoyance).
Matt Miller with Game Informer on the PS5’s audio chops:
The PlayStation 5 also distinguishes itself in the audio department, with a new 3D audio engine that can process many audio sources at once. Experienced through headset use, the impressiveness of the tech is limited by your audiophile tendencies. In early use, the 3D audio effect felt similar to good surround-sound headphones I’ve used in the past. But with experience, I began to notice the nuances of distance and volume, especially in game environments with a bevy of different sounds. In practical terms, the tech increases immersion by helping you feel like you are in the center of the environment depicted in-game.
Brandt Ranj with Rolling Stone talked about two of the PS5’s launch titles, Astro’s Playroom and Spider-Man: Miles Morales:
Astro’s Playroom is basically a demonstration disc for the DualSense controller. Each of its stages is built around utilizing one of the DualSense’s technological features. The game is fun as a proof of concept for the system, but it’s pretty simple, and will only take a couple of hours to complete. It’s worth checking out if you want to familiarize yourself with the DualSense, relive some PlayStation history, and treat yourself to some lighthearted platforming. Astro’s Playroom is a free game, and worth checking out when you unbox your system to get more familiar with the new controller.
I was far more impressed with the time I spent with Marvel’s latest Spider Man title. As a technical showcase, this game demonstrated the enormous leap in performance between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes place in New York City, specifically the Bronx and Manhattan. Sorry to folks in the outer boroughs, which includes me.
Digital Spy’s Owen Gough goes a bit deeper into the pool of games:
Astro’s Playroom, a fun little puzzler, will come pre-loaded on every console for you to get a feel of the new controller, which is a wonderful touch from Sony.
Alongside that, you have Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, SackBoy: A Big Adventure, and Demon’s Souls as launch-day exclusive games, all arriving with an incredible amount of hype though, as gamers, we could always do with more variety. The first two can be played on the PS4, but you’ll miss out on significant graphical upgrades if you play it on the old console.
Following launch-day you also have Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Destruction All Stars, Horizon: Forbidden West, Grand Turismo 7, Hogwarts Legacy, and Returnal to look forward to as staggered releases throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021, all as games you can only play on the PlayStation 4 or 5 – sorry Xbox fans.
And this is before we get onto all the games coming in as cross-platform titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, GTA V, Watch Dogs Legion, and Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War.
Busy Christmas for PlayStation gamers, then.
Tom Orry with VG24/7 liked the “newness” of it all:
I’m a big fan of new things. Discovering a new author, trying a new restaurant, finding a great TV series that’s got six seasons, working out how my son’s new toys work, tasting a new Pepsi Max flavor. The PS5, as honkingly huge as it is, can’t be labelled “safe” or “more of the same”. From the moment you see the console in the flesh for the first time, it’s obvious that Sony wanted to produce something different. While the current console kings could have delivered another square box, loaded it with a largely similar user interface, and packed in a tweaked but ultimately samey controller, what we’ve got is a new machine for a new generation. There’s a joy in discovering the ins and outs of a new bit of tech, and the PlayStation 5 delivers in spades.
For others, it’s a bit too new, as Devin Coldewey with TechCrunch points out:
The verdict: The must-have console for the 2021 holidays.
No, that isn’t a typo. The PS5 (and I am joined in this opinion by our review of its rival, the Xbox Series X) simply isn’t a console anyone should rush out and purchase for any reason. Not least of which because it will be near-impossible to get one in the next month or so, making the possibility of unwrapping a PS5 a remote one for eager youths.
The power of the next generation is not much on display in any of the titles I have been able to play, and while a handful of upcoming games may show off its advantages, those games will likely play just as well on the other platforms they’re being released on.
Nor are there any compelling new features that make the PS5 feel truly next-gen, with the possible exception of the variable resistance triggers (the Series X has multi-game suspension at least, and I’d be jealous if there were any games to switch between). For the next 6-8 months, the PS5 will merely be the best way to play the same games everyone else is playing, or has been playing for years, but in 4K. That’s it!
Closing thoughts from Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar:
With the PS5, Sony has managed to deliver a truly next-generation console, even if it went a bit overboard on the design. Its controller is genuinely innovative, and it actually has a bunch of new games you’ll want to play. But I won’t say that Sony has won the next-gen war just yet — maybe just the launch battle. Microsoft remains a strong competitor, especially with Game Pass, xCloud streaming and Bethesda under its wing. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter if there’s actually a decisive winner — just be happy you’ve got two solid consoles to choose from that can take on gaming PCs.