A Week In – PS5 Review

Following on from my Series X review on November 18th, it’s only fair that I give the PS5 the same love! This is the first generation where I own both the new PlayStation and new Xbox from the get go, and jumping between the two regularly has been an interesting experience. So let’s jump into my PS5 Review!

If you’re in the market, the PS5 will cost £449, and the PS5 Digital Edition will set you back a more approachable £349! The stock situation is difficult right now, but the PS5 seems to be getting back into stores quicker than the Series X at the moment, so there’s that. I’m playing on the version with a disc drive, as I realised I have a few PS4 games on disc that I haven’t finished yet!

The Unboxing

First thing to note is that PlayStation has not done as good of a job as Xbox with their packaging. It’s not BAD by any means (I especially like the carry case style box), but it doesn’t have the same premium packaging design. I know, I know, who cares about the design of their packaging right? Well me, so I’m mentioning it okay! 

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Beyond that though, the unboxing of this behemoth console was something special. The first thing you’ll get out is the new DuelSense controller, followed by the tidy little stand for the console. After you lift the little cardboard tray out, there’s your PS5! Complete with ugly egg box packaging! 

I will say though, despite the PS5 having lower quality packaging, it is packaged more securely overall. There’s no way the console is shifting or moving inside that box, there’s simply nowhere for it to go. So sure, it’s not as nice as opening up to “Power Your Dreams”, but I had no worries as to the safety of my £450 machine. 

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Once the PS5 is out of the box, and only then, you’ll realise quite how massive the thing is. It stands a clear 100mm over the height of the Series X, which is already a sizable machine. It’s narrower of course, but there’s no avoiding the fact – the PS5 is huge. At 400mm tall (40cm alternatively), there’s very few entertainment centres that will fit this in a cubby standing up. Luckily the console looks MUCH better horizontal than the Series X, so I absolutely wouldn’t mind orientating the PS5 that way given the option. It does mean some level of fiddling with the stand, but it’s not as bad as the internet would have you think. 

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Assuming you can get it into your setup somewhere though, how does it look?

How Does it Look and Fit Into My Setup?

Well, my current setup? Quite well to be honest. I currently orient my consoles on a big desk, with a large cavity on the main deck for monitors and such, so I have had no issue fitting the PS5 and Series X next to each other standing up. Not everyone will be so lucky though, and that’s not an opinion. I’m currently in the process of moving into an apartment and have had to buy myself a TV unit for the living room. Trying to find one that would comfortably fit the PS5 standing vertically was difficult, and the unit I ended up getting is still an uncertainty. 

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Assuming you’ve already got a TV unit or entertainment centre that you like, then buying a new one to fit the PS5 likely isn’t an option. The likelihood that the one you have has 400mm+ of vertical room for the PS5 is slim. Very slim. Plus you’ll probably need more than 400mm, as the PS5 vents air out of the top of the console. The last thing you want is to be risking any overheating issues by not allowing proper airflow. 

Beyond your setup though, how does the PS5 look? My honest opinion is that it looks markedly worse than any console released since 2013. It’s hard to put my finger on what exactly about the design language isn’t for me, but there’s a multitude of things for sure. 

Before I dive into ripping the PS5 to shreds, let it be said – it plays games beautifully, which is what actually matters. I’ve seen so many people put their consoles behind their TV, behind a door on their TV unit, etc, that I honestly don’t think the visual design matters that much overall. 

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But, as someone who’s owned most PlayStation home consoles (except PS3), the PlayStation 5 doesn’t feel very… PlayStation. Don’t take me at my word, get your PS5, or a picture of a PS5, and put it next to the PS4 Pro, the PS4 Slim, the PS3, and the PS2. Gone are the non-descript black slabs that can sit politely in any centre, and they’ve jumped straight to something that looks like it’s out of 2006 concept art for a PS7. 

I don’t HATE the aesthetic of the PS5, I actually quite like a lot of it. I just think the console looks so far off brand that it’s a little obnoxious? Even when you disregard that it won’t slot into every home setup easily, there’s not many home aesthetics that the PS5 would look comfortable in. 

The most egregious visual detail is, for me, the hump on the side of the console for the disc drive. This is the main reason that the Digital Edition looks so much more presentable. The second someone says “my console has a hump” that’s when you know you have a problem with the design.

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Arriving shortly after that is the gloss black central pillar. Amongst the cool matte white fins, it looks out of place. Why gloss? It’s so offensively shiny and even more of a fingerprint magnet than the Series X.

Moving onto things I do like though, and PlayStation’s attention to detail shines through. The often discussed texturing is lovely to look at on the inside of the fins, even if you won’t ever see it once you’re past unboxing. The laser cut PlayStation logo on the left fin is really clean and eye catching, although I do wish it was on the front edge of the console so I could see it more readily. 

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The other detail that has actually grown on me is the fins. I hated them at first, but after a week of looking at it I quite like them! They splay out slightly at the top, and then curve around to the back of the console and it’s quite pleasing to the eye. It’s helped to no end by the LEDs that shine out of the top of the console when it’s turned on. I love my LED lights, and this is no exception, although I do wish I could control the colour. 

I have a couple of niggles regarding the functionality of the design though, so hear me out. The main one is the Eject and Power buttons. I practically have to have my face against the console to tell which is which. They look the same at any distance, and feel the same to touch. I’m sure muscle memory will eventually take over, but as of right now I couldn’t tell you with any confidence which button does what. It’s like when you’re trying to put a USB stick into your computer and somehow you always get it wrong the first time. 

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My next issue is that when the console is horizontal, the disc drive is on the underside of the console. This isn’t a rare thing, my One X has the disc tray hidden under the top lip, same as my PS4 Slim, but something about it is just more annoying on the PS5, perhaps because it is recessed quite a ways back from the front of the console. 

Overall the PS5 is not a console that looks nice. There’s a few saving graces, but if you care about how a console looks like I do, then the PS5 might not sit right with you. It is eye-catching though, just maybe not in the best way.

How Does It Run?

Much like my Series X, it runs extremely well. I have noticed it’s not as quiet as the new Xbox though. I haven’t had any of the issues we’ve seen on Twitter granted, like coil whine or… sticker whine? Regardless, the PS5 is still more audible than the Series X by a fair margin.

Don’t worry, assuming you’ve avoided any of the actual hardware issues with the console then the little noise the PS5 emits won’t affect your playing in any way. The only time it becomes close to TOO loud is when installing off of a disc, and even the Series X can’t stay silent then. 

The main annoyance, and something I don’t recall hearing on my Xbox, is that if you have a disc in your PS5 it will intermittently spin the disc up to check the license. Even if you’re not playing the game in question. This means that every now and again your PS5 will start making an absolute racket for 10 seconds, then quiet down to silence again.

I have God of War on disc and am fully intending to play it again once I’m done with my Sackboy and Demon’s Souls reviews, and while playing Sackboy I quite regularly noticed my PS5 spinning the disc up to check the license, and it only stopped once I took the disc out. I am assuming that it’s to check the license, but some outlets are actually reporting this as a bug. It happens once every hourish, so not a huge issue, but still irritating. If it is a bug and gets fixed, then no dramas. When playing games the PS5 is as quiet as you’d hope, no more aeroplane take offs in your living room or bedroom. In fact the PS5 is about as quiet as the Series X when playing games, so that’s fantastic.

The UI Design

Beyond the volume of the console, there’s a whole new UI to explore when you boot it up. Setting the console up was as easy as the Xbox, even without the software legacy that Microsoft have built up over there. I was set-up in minutes, so that was excellent.  

The UI is different to the PS4, and in some ways better, and in some ways worse. Thankfully they’ve done away with the two tiered horizontal rows of the PS4, and along with it the annoyingly ambiguous icons for various sub menus. The settings menu no longer resembles a toolbox and now adheres to the worldwide settings icon – a cog. Thank the lord. 

The home UI is now organised into one horizontal bar that shows all the recent games that you’ve played or installed, an option to go to your library, and then an icon for both the Store and PS+, and finally your Media Gallery. That last option is where you go to see your clips and screenshots, and you can filter them down to specific games which is a nice option, especially when you’re publishing content like myself.

Scrolling down on particular tiles and games will give you different options, much like Xbox. So when I hover over Spider-Man Remastered and go down, I hit the PS5’s “Activity Cards” (more on that shortly), then “Official News”, and then popular broadcasts for the game. All of this is easy to access and easy to use, and I do appreciate the adoption of this layout. Xbox’s UI is one of very few areas where it handily beats out PlayStation at the moment, so some level of cohesion is nice.

A quick titbit that I love. Hovering over certain games with cue your PS5 to start playing an audio track relevant to the game in question, and it’ll also shift your home background to that of the game. It’s very clean and precise, and I do adore it. Only a select few games get the audio track which is a shame, but I expect this to be rolled out more consistently in the near future. It’s just a nice touch that really makes the PS5 experience feel personal to you.

One thing you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned yet is Trophies, and that’s because there’s bizarrely no option to head there straight from the home menu. In fact even hitting the “…” next to the game doesn’t offer a quick route to your Trophies for that game. Nope, instead you have to head to the top right, click your profile picture, and then navigate down to trophies. After this, you’ll see every game you’ve played. Unless I’m missing something you can’t organise this list of titles alphabetically or by progress, and the list defaults to most recent. Not a huge issue when you only own a couple of dozen games like me, but if you own hundreds? That might become a problem.

Once you click on a game you’re given a selection of content to filter by, assuming there’s multiple pieces of content available for the game like in Spider-Man Remastered. This is a nice touch, and allows me to only look at Trophies specific to the main game, or certain DLCs, or even New Game+. 

Once you’re through here, you’re given a horizontal set of tiles representing each Trophy. Luckily there’s sorting options here, but I cannot stand the horizontal orientation of this list. Vertical is consistently more preferable when listing things, and the inability to change this is frustrating. 

The store loads much more quickly now thankfully, as does PS+, as they’re now built directly into the UI instead of having to boot up an app like on the PS4. In fact the whole UI is really snappy, and you can notice the choice to go with native 4K, rather than the upscaled 1080p of the Xbox’s UI. Moving around the system is a breeze and, despite my complaints, you can generally get anywhere in a matter of seconds.

Activity cards are an interesting addition to the PS5’s UI, and potentially a very helpful system for those of a more completionist mindset. Essentially games will have a series of these cards related to in-game events. Selecting one will load the game up inside that activity for you, assuming you’ve unlocked the activity. 

The easiest example is with Sackboy. There are activity cards for most levels within the game that I can see, and selecting one will load you straight into that level from the home screen, or within the game if you want. 

When explaining it, it feels kinda superfluous, but it really is a very convenient way of navigating a game if you’re trying to get specific activities completed. Activity Cards will definitely be a completionists dream if third parties support the system moving forward. 

Another interesting UI addition is that of Help Cards. Double pressing the PlayStation logo on your controller will bring up a menu overlay that will explain the current location of the game you’re in, provide video tips, or even just things to watch out for. The only game that I’ve actually used it for myself is Demon’s Souls, where these Help Cards will actually advise you on things to look out for. Quite helpful for a relative newbie like myself. 

Both the Activity and Help Cards will rely on third party support moving forward, but for now with PS5’s exclusive lineup, both systems work quite well. For one other UI quirk, pressing the PS button on your controller once will bring up a lower bar along along the bottom of your screen. This acts as kind of a shortcut to other areas of your PlayStation 5, but only with minimal success.

This lower bar gives you access to your home screen, notifications, a rudimentary game “Switcher”, your microphone settings, your profile, and a few other things besides. Bizarrely it’s also the quickest route to turning your PS5 off. For some reason PlayStation have done away with the “Hold THIS button down to access power options” which has been the norm for what feels like forever. Instead you have to press the PlayStation button, move down onto the bar, and then scroll all the way to right to access these options. Bit weird really.

Overall I think the UI is a marked improvement over the PS4, but with just enough oddities and quirks to avoid bringing it up to par with Xbox. It’s just a little annoying to navigate at times. Although still better than the Switch, so there’s that.

No Quick Resume Is Glaring

A subheading within a heading, don’t see that too often in my articles. Before I get into the gaming experience, which is largely excellent, I wanted to talk about Quick Resume. Rather, the lack of it on PlayStation 5.

Granted, Quick Resume isn’t working perfectly or consistently on Xbox Series consoles right now, but it IS working. And when it works, it’s magnificent. Jumping back into Valhalla where I left off, 2 or 3 days after I last played it as well, is nothing short of black magic. 

The PS5’s multi-tasking capabilities feel severely limited as a result of the existence of Quick Resume. To be clear, it’s not a huge problem. Every game I’ve tried on PS5 loads in well under a minute, and once they’re running load times are practically non-existent. But as I’ve been swapping between Miles Morales, Spider-Man Remastered, Demon’s Souls, and Sackboy, I’ve noticed just how tiresome waiting for all of these to load individually can be. 

It’s a real first world problem I know, complaining about what are actually very quick load times, but after experiencing Quick Resume on my Series X, it’s very jarring to go back. Not a game-changer (geddit?), but something I think warranted a mention.

Gaming

Fortunately everything picks up when you’re playing a game. Quick note, I’ve yet to play ANY backwards compatibility titles. I have a few installed, Days Gone, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, and Ghost of Tsushima, but I haven’t played them. I haven’t had the time as I’m playing all of the exclusives for review. As such I can’t talk about backwards compatibility loading for PS exclusives, or third party titles.

What I can talk about though are the PS5 exclusives. Here’s what I’ve played:

To start with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, it’s hard to put into words how fast this game runs. From home screen to playable takes a measly 44 seconds. For perspective, this is faster than every game I tested on the Xbox Series X. Even the backwards compatibility titles. What about fast travel I hear you cry?

Less than 4 seconds, no I’m not joking. It’s just long enough for the game to fade to black, and then fade back in at the other end. For all intents and purposes there is zero loading in Miles Morales between loading the game, and then finishing the game. I can’t overstate how much this aids not only immersion, but also my time investment. I’m less interested in checking Twitter, or browsing the football scores, or even messaging people back! Without the actual animation of Miles leaving the subway station, the travel time would be even less which leads me to believe that the game barely needs to load anything at all. 

Worth noting as well, that the Miles Morales home-gameplay time of 44 seconds is including a bunch of unskippable studio splash screens that almost certainly aren’t needed. How do I know? Well let’s get into the next title.

Moving onto Spider-Man Remastered, get ready for this, the home-screen to playable time? 11 seconds. Yup. This one really IS faster than every game I tested on the Series X, and then some. The fastest dashboard to playable time I tested over there was Dark Souls 3 at 45 seconds. Sadly I’m not quite able to check fast travel times on Spider-Man Remastered just yet, as I haven’t unlocked fast travel as an option, but I fully expect it to be the same as Miles Morales.

Moving onto the next premier title, Demon’s Souls. This clocks in at slightly longer than Miles Morales and Spider-Man Remastered, albeit not by much at all. From dashboard to playable comes in at around 20 seconds. 15 of that is to the main screen, and then another 5 seconds from the main screen to actually in game. 

The only next-gen title I’ve been able to test on Series X is Watch Dogs: Legion, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Legion’s load times are slow. Well over a minute. What with Valhalla making use of Quick Resume on the Series X, measuring actual load times has been awkward. But one thing is for certain, PS5 is loading its exclusives MUCH faster than any game I’ve tested on Series X thus far. 

Along with the 20 second game load for Demon’s Souls, travel via the Archstones is a joy. Much like Miles Morales, reloading the world takes less than 5 seconds every time. 

I won’t get into Sackboy or Astro’s Playroom here, but both of them also load incredibly quickly. I’ve always treated PlayStation as an exclusive machine, so I don’t have any third party titles to test on the PS5. They definitely won’t be AS quick as the first party titles, but if it’s these that you’re interested in? The PS5 is truly rapid in every sense of the word, and is the fastest gaming machine I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.

Visuals

I’ll touch on visuals very quickly, as the differences here aren’t as stark. Put plainly, almost every game I’ve played hits 4k60fps with no issue, and no noticeable tearing or frame rate dips. I don’t have proper measuring equipment, but from the perspective of someone who likes his games as smooth as possible? I’ve had no major issues.

The only exception has been in Miles Morales, where even on performance mode the game would stutter occasionally. It’s not something I’ve noticed on Spider-Man Remastered, or on Demon’s Souls, both impressive games visually.

Demon’s Souls actually doesn’t do native 4K at 60fps. Instead it upscales the resolution from 1440p. Bluepoint have done something incredible here, because Demon’s Souls is certainly the best looking game I’ve played since the new consoles came out. I haven’t noticed any lack of fidelity as a result of the upscaling at all. 

Demon’s Souls has a Quality mode, but that’s locked to 30fps to achieve the native resolution. I don’t suggest playing in this mode, only because the game feels so much better at 60fps. The visual improvements on quality are fairly negligible, so stick to Performance. 

Worth noting that as of right now most outlets, including the ever trustworthy Digital Foundry, are reporting that the PS5 is playing most third party titles better than the Series X. I can’t contribute to this conversation with my own perspective, but this does appear to be true from everything I’ve seen.

The PS5 is holding 60fps at 4K better than the Series X, and also appears to be handling 120fps better as well. The only area that PS5 occasionally falters is with ray tracing, but the ray tracing on both Spider-Man titles I’ve tried are better than the examples I’ve seen on Series X personally.

Watch Dogs: Legion ray tracing has limited success, with some beautiful scenes that include puddles and shop fronts. But the Thames renders like a mess with ray tracing, and larger glass buildings have restricted range. Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War has much more consistent use of ray tracing, but in smaller samples so it’s less consistently obvious, especially during the high pace action of the campaign.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Remastered have a better use of ray tracing almost across the board. They still have restricted range in buildings, but the drop off is far further away. I think this has been made possible by reducing resolution in the reflections, and also turning off reflections in reflections. You’ll be better off consulting the various Digital Foundry articles though, just know that based on my own personal experience, the use of ray tracing is more effective in these Spider-Man titles.

Obviously the less demanding games like Astro’s Playroom and Sackboy run pretty much flawlessly, both in terms of fidelity and stability. But seeing that much more demanding games like Demon’s Souls are performing as expected, and occasionally beyond that, is really good for the future of PlayStation 5.

DuelSense

I’m currently in the process of writing up a DuelSense review for Wednesday evening. With that in mind I won’t be doing a full section here, but let it be known that the DuelSense is the best pack-in controller I’ve ever used. I do have some long term concerns, but nothing that’s based on anything but assumptions right now.

The DuelSense is fantastic. You can read my Astro’s Playroom review for some controller impressions if you don’t want to wait till Wednesday evening for my full thoughts!

Should You Buy a PS5?

This is an easier question than with the Series X. With the PS5 you get a genuine revolution in the DuelSense, an overhauled UI mostly for the better, and a swathe of high quality exclusive titles to pick from. Assuming you’re a member of PS+, you even get free access to most of the top titles from the PS4 generation.

Games like God of War, Days Gone, Ghost of Tsushima and more all get the 60fps treatment as well so you’re not even having to make a sacrifice to play most of the PS4 exclusives you love.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls are two of the very best games of 2020, and even titles like Sackboy, Bugsnax, and Astro’s Playroom are all excellent in their own ways as well. 

The main value issue with the PS5 is that its first party titles all cost a lot of money. Demon’s Souls was £70, Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition was £70, and even Sackboy was £60. PS Now is a very respectable service, but doesn’t really compare to Game Pass and this will hurt your wallet moving forward.

Games like Horizon Forbidden West, God of War Ragnarok, and Ratchet & Clank will all hit that £70 price point as well. If PlayStation keeps this exclusive train running throughout the PS5’s lifespan, you could easily spend £300 on first party titles a year. Not even including any third parties you want to try. 

Game Pass isn’t of much use to me personally, but its value is undeniable when you consider how much new PlayStation games will cost. If you have Game Pass the next Elder Scrolls will cost you £0 on top of the subscription fee. Quite a stark difference.

If you don’t mind that extra cost per game, then the PS5 is a very easy console to recommend. It’s not without quirks or bugs, but you are guaranteed quality games out of the gate, and with a clean quick experience to boot.

One final note before I sign off this review with a recommendation. Many users are reporting issues with Rest Mode on the PS5, with it causing fairly serious system issues. The direct cause isn’t clear, and neither is PlayStation’s timeline for fixing the issue, so if you DO get a PS5 then be sure to fully turn off your PS5 instead of putting it into rest mode.

With that issue out of the way, my recommendation? As of right now the PS5 is the best console you can buy for your money. It’s performing more consistently than the Series X, and the exclusives are lightning quick and look beautiful. 

The Series X and S offer more efficient versions of an experience you already know, and with very little exclusive content to justify a purchase. The PS5 provides a fresh look, a revolutionary controller, and half a dozen brand new games to back the system. £450 is a steep price in any world, but in this case wholly worth it.

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Until next time, have a fantastic week!

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