Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:00am 07/11/20 | Comments
The next-gen wars are finally underway with the arrival of both behemoth home consoles, in this extensive review, we take an in-depth look at the PlayStation 5...
Each PlayStation console launch, effectively since the PS2 in 2000, has been heralded with a diverse manifest of launch titles. On the PS2, popular-at-the-time fighters Dead or Alive and Tekken were present and accounted for. Ridge Racer and TimeSplitters remained fan favourites beyond launch too, and even a forgotten Rockstar joint in the underrated Smuggler’s Run joined the Maddens and NHLs. And then there were games you’ve probably never heard of, or just plain forgotten. But it was a launch line-up for the ages, still unmatched to this day.
The PS3 was no slouch, it saw Insomniac’s Resistance: Fall of Man as its key in-house offering at launch, with the likes of Need for Speed, the next Ridge Racer and the last WWII-based Call of Duty before that series would go on to take the world by storm with Call of Duty 4.
The PS4 hit shelves packaged with Killzone Shadow Fall which was accompanied by the likes of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Though the latter there was an absolute mess, having a CoD on launch started to become a ‘thing’, and helped push the PS4 well ahead of its Xbox competition. And like the PS2, the PS4’s launch saw a large and impressive third-party showing.
"Both machines have come to brighten 2020 up is still a boon for everyone, and we should be offering each platform a bow and nod of respect...”
A shame then that at launch for the PS5 we only have the console-embedded Astro’s Playroom, an admittedly fun little Nintendo-like platformer of old full of boast and fanservice, and the pseudo sequel to Marvel’s Spider-Man, with Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
There are other titles at launch, such as fan-favourite Demon’s Souls and Watch Dogs: Legion, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure everything else is also finding its way to the Xbox Series X. Though it should be said, without Xbox Game Pass the Series X would be in a similar shallow boat, especially from in-house.
But that both machines have come to brighten 2020 up is still a boon for everyone, and we should be offering each platform a bow and nod of respect.
Tech Talk - The New Newness
As the latest console from Sony in the long-running PlayStation line -- numero 5 to be exact - the increased performance and visual quality seen across games and apps and services comes from an intricate system of technology delivering all of that 4K web-slinging from under the hood. Or, in the case of the space-age PS5 design, a very fancy lid.
Like the PlayStation 4, Sony’s partnership with AMD continues here and in terms of core components the use of a Zen 2-based CPU and the latest in RDNA graphics points to a PC-like setup. That said, a lot of what can be found within the PS5 has been customised and developed in partnership with Sony specific for the console. And is impressive to say the least.
PlayStation 5 - Hardware Breakdown
CPU: AMD Zen 2-based CPU with 8 cores at 3.5GHz (variable frequency)
GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (variable frequency) Custom RDNA
Memory: 16GB GDDR6 / 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s
Internal Storage: Custom 825GB SSD
I/O throughput: 5.5GB/s (raw), typical 8-9GB/s (compressed)
Expandable Storage: NVMe SSD slot
External Storage: USB HDD support (PS4 games only)
Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray drive
Performance Target: 4K @ 60 FPS, Up to 120 FPS
Taking a look at the specs one can’t simply put these numbers up against the PS4 -- the Zen 2 CPU architecture found here is several generations more impressive that the base-PS4 processor. Something that also applies to the RDNA graphics which will bring ray-tracing to consoles for the very first time. Something seen in Insomniac’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
It’s something of a no compromise approach on behalf of Sony as in addition to fast 448GB/s memory bandwidth (on par with the most expensive of GeForce RTX graphics) the custom 825GB SSD all but eliminates load times from pressing a button to getting into a game.
The sum of its parts presents a formidable whole. And in bringing it back to the PlayStations of old, we would have loved to see the company dip back into the PS2 era and call the mix of storage and raw processing power inside the PS5 the “dream engine” or “play villa complex with bonus spa”.
You know, to match the classic “emotion engine” that was PS2 hardware.
Next-Gen Storage: Now Hold on there, Sonny
When we talk about storage, the PS5 comes with 825GB of internal storage, of which outside of your games, save, capture and app data a decent chunk of those giggary bites are reserved for the OS and other internal computerising. So, it’s a bit of a slow start where SSD storage is concerned -- capacity wise. In action, the machine is fast. Load times are near non-existent in-game, and draw distance, frame-rates and the up-to 120hz provide that next-gen 4K experience.
"One push of the PS button on the DualSense controller no longer removes you from the game into the crossbar, it simply pulls up a menu with quick access to Home, Switcher, Alerts, Friends, Music, Libraries, Power, and more...”
And while there’s room to expand on the internal storage down the track, which we’ll get to shortly, the speed supplied out of the box is, frankly, incredible. Stacked up next to PS4 you might call it Astro-nomical. In this sense, the PS5 is Sonic and the Xbox Super Mario with the run button depressed. Sony has gone full Blast Processing here.
While we can’t talk up the full UI and experience at this point as not everything has been updated with our review units, we can share some of the new UX as far as navigation goes, and that speed we mentioned, well it applies there too. And how. A newish feature with the PS5 is the Control Centre. One push of the PS button on the DualSense controller no longer removes you from the game into the crossbar, it simply pulls up a menu with quick access to Home, Switcher, Alerts, Friends, Music, Libraries, Power, and more.
Additionally, a new “cards” system tops the access bar which includes an Official News Feed not too unlike the Nintendo Switch News Feed. You can see Recent Captures, Trophies earned within the game you’re playing as well as Activity and Challenge cards that track progress in certain games, while also giving you a percentage of what’s left to do.
In some games, clicking on a specific challenge will jump you straight into that section and can even offer an estimated time of completion if it’s a contained challenge. This all happens very quickly, and you can jump in and out of up to three games through the Switcher tab -- though there’s no equivalent to the Xbox Series X “Quick Resume”, as each game loads from its title screen.
The Next-Gen Storage Problem: Patience is a Virtue
If you lift the lid of the PS5’s Star Wars-inspired casing, you’ll note there’s a spot empty with a Wile E. Coyote cartoonish sign waving about emblazoned with the words: “Extra ACME Storage Goes Here!”.
Unfortunately, at least at launch, Sony has confirmed there won’t be any extra SSD storage. They’ve clearly future-proofed the concept, but given the lite-on launch lineup and amount of time between launch and the first round of killer apps, there’s time to tailor the solution to punter wallets and expectations. At only 825GB though, Sony will need to provide that answer fairly soon.
It would have been good to have had a third-party expansion option on day one - in the same way Series X has done with the likes of Seagate -- but it’s early days yet.
You can also, of course, use an external device, which we did and copied across all the PS4 games we’d had stored, but externals will only house PS4 games, not PS5 titles. Not all PS4 games are backwards compatible at this stage, but any you own in your library that are, can also be downloaded from the PlayStation Store, and some of these, such as Ghost of Tsushima, take full advantage of the power of the PS5, upscaling visuals, load times (which is impressive as the PS4 version was already fast in that area), but more importantly runs at a variable, but solid 60fps, making it still one of the best games on the new platform, despite being a PS4-first title.
Size and Shape: Fins for Wind Resistance, But no Racing Stripes
At around 40cm tall, 10.5cm wide and 26cm-ish deep, the PS5 stands tall above its competition. Both are heavy, but the PS5 wins the heavyweight weigh-in coming in at a wholloping 4.5kg, with the Xbox Series X going on a diet in relative comparison, tipping the scales at just under 4kg. Both can be laid flat, with the PS5’s support plate designed to give the console elevation either vertically or horizontally. They’re both still awkward in size though, so people with smaller living rooms might need to confer with Marie Kondo before placing them around their panel of choice.
"It might sound trivial, but this is definitely something to factor in when purchasing either new machine; they’re big and heavy, and will need space and room to literally vent...”
I luckily have a massively long living room, and even with a 75” Samsung Q950TS 8K screen filling up most of that, I made room, but both ‘towers’ now live alongside my cabinet, not within it. It might sound trivial, but this is definitely something to factor in when purchasing either new machine; they’re big and heavy, and will need space and room to literally vent. Just keep it in mind.
DualSense - It’s Not the Size that Matter, it’s the Vibrations
The console is nothing without the end-user experience, which begins with the controller. The much touted DualSense controller delivers easily the most comfortable PlayStation controller experience yet, while its haptic feedback puts the Switch’s JoyCon controllers to shame. The easiest example of this was in Astro’s Playroom where, in the Cooling Springs level you find yourself moving from snow to ice. You feel the feedback as the snow crushes beneath your little robotic feet, but then when you jump onto a stretch or platform of ice and Astro starts ice skating, the feedback switches to a low grind feedback that absolutely reflects the haptic sensation of gliding across ice.
That being said, there’s still a motion control option built into the controller which this jaded old games writer feels is a bit past its time and Astro has levels that force you to use it. Moreover, having to do this threw a minor but long term spanner in the comfort stakes; the controller is big. Like, the biggest one Sony has ever released, which is kind of weird.
Remember when the original Xbox controller was vilified for its ginormous size? Well this is not-quite that level of big, but after a lot of play, specifically in the motion control and face-button input combo department, my hands did get sore after a while. Not a deal-breaker, just an observation and Sony has always gone ergonomic with their controller design but the DualSense might just be tipping its hand on the ‘a bit big’ side. Just a bit.
That said, the L and R-buttons are far better than the DualShock thanks to the Adaptive Trigger feedback and feel more in line with modern input design. While the controller itself has a built-in mic with a mute button, removing the need for a headset if you can play without annoying others in your house. The Touch Pad returns and feels better than the DualShock 4’s, while the Share button hasn’t moved. Everything else is business as usual. It’s just on the larger side (not body-shaming).
Higher-Frames, Better Performance: The Next-Gen Story
We all know the next-gen spiel by now: 4K HDR 120fps, 60fps. As in, capable of. The truth of the matter, each console is just a platform for the games designed for them, so it’s up to the developers to get the most out of the architecture put before them. Going back to what I mentioned earlier though, Ghost of Tsushima is probably the best example at the moment of a game taking advantage of all that extra grunt, and the results are beyond worth it. It should honestly have been a PS5 launch title rather than a PS4 swansong. Playing at 60fps is unbelievable, and the jump from 30fps is immediate and impressive.
We now know the PS5 won’t support native 1440p for gamers who might slot it alongside their tower and want to run off their Master Race gaming monitor, which is a shame for a number of reasons already mentioned in the link above, but it does seem an odd omission at this stage, so time will tell as to whether this gets a fix down the track.
What will quickly become the norm with all the extra grunt though, is choice. In Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales you can choose to play the game at 30fps to have effects such as ray-tracing on for greater fidelity and a more immersive experience, or you can choose the 60fps option which just switches off some of those bells and whistles and lets you swing through Manhattan like a Spider-god, while shoring up combat animations and basic traversal as they should be experienced as Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
Optimising The Past: Not You, You’re Cut
Backwards compatibility is as important as ever, and there’s no denying the Xbox family of consoles has a clear lead in this department, coupled with Xbox Game Pass, the consoles lack of a killer launch app outside of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla from a ‘new game’ perspective can be ignored for the sheer amount of games playable from years past, and a decent chunk with a boost in performance and fidelity. Similarly with the PS5, Sony is working its SSDs off to get as many PS4 games of the last generation up and running on their new 2001 monolith-sized console, but some games have been omitted:
Afro Samurai 2 Revenge of Kuma Volume One
TT Isle of Man - Ride on the Edge 2
Just Deal With It!
Shadow Complex Remastered
Robinson: The Journey
Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
The official post regarding the above notes that the list is subject to change, which may or may not mean some of these will become playable, or that more might be added into the ‘Playable on: PS4 only’ bracket. Of equal annoyance for Sony fans out there is that there’s currently no plans for any PS3, PS2 or PSOne games to join the backwards compatibility list.
In the PlayStation Store you’ll see an anti-symbol for games not compatible with PS5, so you don’t waste bandwidth or space. Additionally, the DualShock 4 will work with the PS5 for PS4 games, while the PSVR setup you used for PS4 transfers to PS5 for supported PSVR titles.
Games: Now, and On the Horizon (Zero Dawn)
(Note: This list is subject to change.)
There’s still a bit to play out in 2020, so we’ve included those games, but bear in mind most of 2021 from a release date, or even window is speculative at this stage. Still, there’s some serious gaming in store for the PS5 ahead, and even just one or two of the exclusives included here might sway your decision between either console, should you only nab one.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Immortals: Fenyx Rising
Jett: The Far Shore
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Watch Dogs: Legion
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
2021 (In no particular order)
Gran Turismo 7
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Horizon II: Forbidden West
God of War II (no official title)
Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Opening the Cross-Play Flood Gates, an Inch at a Time
In the Sony camp, even the sturdiest of sturdy PS diehards have to admit, the gaming giant dragged its feet on opening up to cross-play, but the door is beyond ajar and we’re seeing games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, Rocket League and more all enjoy audiences across different platforms being able to join in the fun, together.
"When it comes to multiplayer, gating communities with a common interest, and even friendship groups with disparate platforms upon which they play, is like dangling anything in front of someone who wants that thing, but keeping it just out of reach...”
Hopefully this trend continues on an upward swing and never looks back. Exclusives can remain just that, but when it comes to multiplayer, gating communities with a common interest, and even friendship groups with disparate platforms upon which they play, is like dangling anything in front of someone who wants that thing, but keeping it just out of reach. Or more succinctly, it’s just cruel.
The console wars can remain. Competition is a healthy driver towards both quality and quantity, but where it makes sense, publishers and platform creators need to embrace what games are all about -- bringing people together. Hopefully the dark days of console segregation are behind us, and it’s awesome to see everyone finally joining in.
Final Thoughts: Your Dollarydoos
At the end of the day, the games will do the talking. Gone are the eras where having the ESPN app on your console was its selling point, every Smart TV can offer this stuff up now, leaving the consoles for what they’re intended: gaming. So it’ll come down to what it is you desire. If you’re a diehard Aloy fan and want to watch her fight giant robot mammoths, or want to know whether Atreyus will turn full Loki on Kratos, or to just wait and see whatNaughty Dog does next, well, your mind is already made up.
What’s certain is where heading into a new age in console gaming, and while 8K is still a ways off, the PS5 is 8K-ready and like the Xbox Series X, on par with current high-end PC gaming. All that’s honestly left is to see what the developers do with all this power and all the services at their creative fingertips.
It’s never cheap moving into the next-gen, and if you’re neutral to any of the Big Three (don’t forget lil old Ninty), at this point in time it’s going to come down to the games. There’s enough on the horizon even this year to consider buying in now, what determines your decision will be what’s in store beyond.