Strat Packer's blog
Creative and intellectual output beyond the realm of my day job
PlayStation 5 first impressions
I had reason to reward myself last week, and having been hovering in indecision for some time, I decided it was finally time to pull the trigger and buy a PlayStation 5. After a short time with the console, here are my thoughts on Sony’s next-gen offering and how it measures up so far with the immensely successful PlayStation 4.
Before diving in, it’s worth noting that the PS5 is still expensive. The disc edition launched in 2020 at £450 in the UK, and almost three years on there have been no discounts - in fact, the same console will now cost you £480, after Sony upped the price. Still, I had reason to treat myself, so I decided to see this as an investment.
Unboxing and setup
Under the outer sleeve is a white, PlayStation-branded box, inside of which a cardboard tray holds the accessories (controller, power cable, HDMI cable, USB cable, and stand). I was surprised to find the PS5 itself simply suspended between two brackets underneath, but I suppose Sony must have done the calculations on the likelihood of damage and decided this was safe enough for transportation.
As with the earliest teasers, the initial impression when unboxing the console is that it is big - bigger along every dimension than my launch PS4, to a degree where I still wonder whether my TV unit is giving the PS5 enough space and ventilation. I don’t mind the actual design as much as some others seem do, but it remains to be seen how easy it will be to keep all the pointy-out bits at the top clean of dust and dirt.
I hope you have good, strong nails, because one of the first things you’ll be doing is picking a cap out of the bottom of the PS5 to be able to screw in the stand. There is a nice little storage slot on the bottom of the base for what you removed, and the PS5 feels relatively sturdy once everything is in place. Aside from that, all you need to do is hook up all the cables in the relevant places and you’re good to go.
When you turn the PS5 on for the first time, there’s a slick installation wizard that guides you through PlayStation Network sign-in, privacy and power settings, and so on. You should be able to transfer the data from your PS4 automatically via WiFi, but this failed for me for an uknown reason (apparently “some data could not be copied” - why? And what about the rest?). By this point I’d installed some games and apps myself, so I gave up and made do with just my profile and save data.
GUI and experience
Migration issues aside, from the moment you land on the PS5’s main dashboard you can feel that it’s far more responsive than its predecessor. As Sony loaded more and more into the PS4’s interface it wasn’t uncommon to have to wait a few seconds for screens to load in. There’s none of that here, and everything is nice and snappy.
Installing games works much as it did before - and that goes for both PS5 games and PS4 games, which sit seamlessly alongside their next-gen counterparts. The only issue I ran into here is that it seems that if you own a PS4 disc but have bought a digital PS5 upgrade for the game, the PS4 version associated with the disc sometimes takes precedence in the ordering - hardly the end of the world.
With a little tinkering, taking screenshots (vital for those who, say, run little-read gaming blogs) can also be sped up significantly compared to the PS4. The panel opened by pressing the Create button no longer pauses the game, which is a bit inconvenient, but it can be adjused so that a tap automatically creates a screenshot - much easier than having to open the sidebar and press the Square button ever was.
With the PS5 (mostly) set up, and having given myself a brief self-guided tour of the dashboard, it was time to dive into the next-generation gaming I’d heard so much about. Without any PS5 games to hand, my first stop was the PlayStation Store.
On sale for £17, a digital copy of FIFA 23 seemed like a good option to tide me over. The gameplay is as smooth as it has ever been, and stadiums and crowds have noticeably more detail. However, it’s hard to feel that you’re playing a truly next-gen game when there are so many similarities to every FIFA since about 2010.
To its credit, it does play a slower, more considered game of football than its predecessor, with each pass requiring more thought than before. I did encounter a few too many instances where the AI passed to a teammate in my penalty area and I didn’t even have a chance to place my defender for a tackle or block before they’d scored, which felt somewhat frustrating, but maybe it’s an adjustment thing.
There are two noteworthy sound features in FIFA 23. The first is that certain sounds - the referee’s whistle, the ball hitting the net, and so on - come from your controller, which was so annoying that I turned it off after playing one match. The second is that the soundtrack consists of various songs from FIFA games dating back to the 90s, which is a nice touch to mark the final entry bearing the famous name.
Gran Turismo 7
As I wrote in my review of the PS4 version, Gran Turismo 7 is a fantastic racing game on the track, hindered by a grating microtransaction funnel of an economy off it. That was one of several reasons I was hesitant to pay £10 to upgrade the game to its PS5 version, but I decided to give it a go, and in the end I was glad I did.
While this was just the next-gen version of the same game I was playing on PS4, it felt much more like a new game than FIFA did. As expected, there is slightly more detail in the graphics - the areas around the circuits are denser, and the cars seem shinier than they did last generation. But that’s not the true value of the upgrade.
The much bigger and unexpected benefit was that the feel of the game completely changed. Gran Turismo 7 uses the PS5’s adaptive triggers to great effect, increasing resistance to braking at high speeds, for example, or relaying your lack of grip due to tyre wear. I’m not sure how the game translates road feel to vibration and trigger tension (I’m sure there must be all sorts of complicated mathematics behind it), I just know it’s the best I’ve ever seen outside of a full sim racing setup.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
My in-progress PS4 game at the time of my generational leap (and something you’ll be able to read about in a month or two) was Yakuza 6. In Tokyo and Hiroshima’s more populated areas, it sometimes felt like it was pushing the base PS4 to its limits, with an occasionally stuttering frame rate and some jagged edges.
Even without a formal upgrade, the difference on PS5 is noticeable. The game runs more smoothly, graphical artefacts seem to be reduced, and loading times have certainly improved. It’s a promising sign for future enjoyment of my PS4 back catalogue on the new console as I wait for more PS5 games to trickle in.
It’s getting harder as the decades to go on to justify the value of a console straight out of the blocks. I remember that I was immediately blown away the first time I plugged in a PlayStation 2 or Xbox 360, but ever since we entered the HD era the improvements from one generation to the next are incremental more than anything.
What I can say after a few days with the PlayStation 5 is that it’s a lot more responsive than my PS4, which would sometimes feel as though it was creaking along even when just using the menus or certain streaming apps, although I suppose that’s to be expected given the power differential.
Gaming-wise, it will take some time to see how developers use the upgraded hardware. FIFA 23 and Gran Turismo 7 - the latter especially - both do things that their PS4 versions don’t, but they’re hardly innovations with a massive impact on gameplay - they’re more add-ons and flourishes.
I’ll see how I feel a few years down the line, but for now I’m happy with my purchase. This generation still has a lot in store, the PS5 is a significant upgrade from the PS4, and I know I’ll play enough games to justify the price tag - even at £480. Whether I’d feel as pleased as an upgrading PS4 Pro user, I don’t know, but in my personal circumstances the PS5 feels like the right choice.