Imagine just the body of an electric guitar. The PS5 is the same size, thickness and with it’s aerospace-like white shells, has the kind of sculpted presence you get from a musical instrument. It’s certainly the largest game system I’ve used, but thankfully is lighter and easier to shift and move about than it looks. I like the change from the black box systems of old and can appreciate how it will discourage people from stuffing it into a tight shelf or packing it against other equipment, blocking the airflow electronics need.
Most of the PS5 launch games offer up the same mix of smoother graphics and greater detail that I’ve also found on the Xbox Series X, but it’s Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a PlayStation exclusive, that goes a step beyond to achieve something magical.
In telling a story that takes place in New York the game offers everyday, casual views, the kind so familiar you tend to quickly register and dismiss generally, like a glance down a busy city street or the well-practised motion of stepping onto a subway car, that are now composed of so many rendered objects that every piece of the world has a presence; the billboard signs, streetlights, handrails, and windows all have a tangible realness, they’re not just a background whipping by, but they feel as something you could stop and investigate with intense detail if you wanted to. The game gave me the feeling of being on an actual city street, of riding a subway in real life and that’s new in console games. The PS5 takes a step towards being more convincing, making the fictional action and fantasy sequences go beyond amazement, but to feel real too.
I believe that every console should come packaged with a game, so I’m thrilled the PS5 comes with Astro’s Playroom, a delightful third-person platform game that stars rambunctious robots in activities involving gliders, slingshots, fans, and tightropes. It’s true purpose is to show off everything new about the DualSense controller which has more sensitive trigger buttons, sophisticated haptic vibrations, motion control, a touch pad, speaker, and built-in microphone. These are features that could be dismissed as passing novelties, but Astro’s Playroom does a surprisingly good job of showing their practical side as it converts the DualSense controller into a touch-launcher for a motion-controlled glider or asks you to blow on the microphone to power in-game fan systems. I find the new controller offers a more comfortable, stronger grip, so it’s nice to see that all the added gimmicks don’t ruin that.
The built-in microphone can also be used for voice search in the PlayStaton store or to find videos on YouTube. What a difference it makes from hunting-and-pecking your searches with an on-screen keyboard. Kudos to Sony for adding a physical button to turn off the microphone when not in use, preventing any future app or service from listening in on your life.
Most PS4 games will work on the PS5 and with new games coming out for both systems, Sony has made it possible for owners of systems old and new to connect and play together, erasing the divide that often happens with a new generation where the few who have the latest system are forced to ignore the many yet to make the upgrade.
That’s the thing about the PS5, most of the thought that has been put into it has been about playing games well and making it more fun and it shows.