My first month with the PlayStation 5

When Sony announced that the PS5 would launch in November, I decided that it was time to say goodbye to my old Xbox 360. I read a lot about preorder fiascos with previous launches, and even more about the risks of being an early adopter of a next-gen console, but I didn’t let any reading discourage me.

I discarded buying the new Xbox Series X mostly because of the game list I’m looking forward to playing, with titles like ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales’, ‘The Last of Us Part II’, or ‘Horizon: Forbidden West’.

PS5 preorders started in September with significant issues and frustration for longtime fans; retailers jumped the gun with the release date, and scalpers bought any PS5 they could get their bots on, creating a severe scarcity problem. Sony even apologized, but the problem persisted and almost two months later it’s practically impossible to find a retailer with PS5 in stock. Even after all those struggles, Sony still managed to ship 3.4 million PS5 in its first four weeks, and it’s expected to produce up to 18 million units in 2021.

I was lucky enough to get one through Best Buy and my Thanksgiving weekend was a bliss, jumping between NYC buildings as Spider-Man. Since the PS5 is my first PlayStation ever, I went into Reddit to read about how other people used their new consoles and see what best practices I could learn. What I found was a sea of frustrated early adopters. People’s consoles were having GPU issues, getting bricked with games crashing left and right. Every few minutes, someone posted about how their game crashed. Or how their console stopped working after connecting an external drive. Or how their TVs were glitching with visual artifacts, likely created by faulty GPUs. Or how they broke their console after putting it in Rest mode (a suspension state for PlayStation). I kept telling myself that the only voices I was hearing from were those who were annoyed and upset, and that there were many more happy people with a perfectly functioning PS5, who were playing without issues and not thinking of writing about it on Reddit.

Nonetheless it filled me with doubt and paranoia. To avoid any issues, I proactively closed games after I was done playing them and I didn’t dare using Rest mode. Videos of games glitching filled my PS5 news feed, right at the same time that my experience was enjoyable and my console worked flawlessly.

The PS5 DualSense controller also became a considerable upgrade from my old Xbox 360 controller. Haptic feedback adds a lot of sensations when playing video games that support it: pressing a button, pulling a trigger or throwing a spiderweb all provide different sensations. It seems however that some people are already having troubles with this too, since the resistance stopped working for some users. Some of those users reported broken springs as the culprit of their controller issues, although at least it isn’t a generalized problem.

Every game I’ve seen so far impressed me with amazing graphics. Playing ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered’ or ‘Uncharted 4’ feels like participating in an interactive movie, and ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ feels like having a vacation in the wilderness. Seeing games with real time ray tracing is mesmerizing, and when combined with 60 FPS it’s truly breathtaking. This video provides a really good explanation of why ray tracing on a next-gen console is such a big deal.

Unfortunately, there are very few titles currently developed with PS5 exclusively in mind. Very few games take full advantage of ray tracing, the controller haptics or high frame rate graphics. ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ is one of those titles, released in 2018 and upgraded in its 2020 Remaster to push the PS5 to the limit. Of course, backward compatibility is a great feature for people like me, since I can now enjoy all of those PlayStation 4 exclusives that I missed playing years ago. Most of those games work well, but without any significant difference when compared with a PS4 Pro.

For this reason, developers are not rushing to embrace these next-gen consoles just yet. Most of the AAA video games announced for 2021 will also release on PS4. It can’t be any other way, given that PlayStation had 113M active users worldwide as of August 2020. That’s a big market that cannot be ignored, and it means that we should expect PS4 to still have a few years of active life ahead. This also means that games may be more expensive to release, as developers will focus on producing a PS4 version and an enhanced PS5 version.

This dichotomy in game versions has already started causing headaches to some game publishers. CD Projekt Red, developer of the popular series ‘The Witcher’, recently was under fire for the way it handled the release of its latest game ‘Cyberpunk 2077’. The game launched in early December 2020 as a PS4/Xbox One game (with a PS5/Xbox Series X version scheduled for 2021), but it was riddled with so many bugs that Sony decided to pull the game from its digital store; interestingly enough, the PS4 game performed better on PS5 than on PS4.

What seems clear by now is that the PS5 doesn’t have any consistent hardware issues (nothing like the Xbox 360 “Red Ring of Death” problem at least). All known incidents fall under what we should expect from any product launch at scale.

It’s been a little over a month since I started using the PS5, and given all the above I consider it a winning machine. Simply put, there is no PC under $500 that can reach the same gaming performance and visual fidelity as a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X, so next-gen consoles are certainly democratizing gaming.

Since we’re still a couple of years away from a full switch to focus exclusively on next-gen consoles, this means the PS5 will likely be relevant for the whole decade, way after the PlayStation 6 is announced around 2026. That’s a lot of gaming ahead of us and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Photo by Charles Sims on Unsplash

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