PlayStation 5 Review In Progress: Color Us Impressed

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Coming off the wildly successful PlayStation 4, it’s safe to say that Sony has been under a lot of pressure to deliver with their next-gen hardware. Not only did the PS4 crush the competition in terms of sales numbers, but it was home to a sizable number of top tier console exclusives, and it also provided gamers with an entry-level VR experience that’s still receiving new releases to this very day.

But unlike the Xbox Series X (which is a fantastic machine in its own right), Sony is looking to shake things up a bit with the PlayStation 5. Rather than simply slapping a fresh coat of paint over their tried-and-tested ecosystem, they’re hedging their bets on an entirely new user interface, a completely redesigned controller, and what’s arguably the largest console we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s by no means the safest route, but after spending a week with Sony’s new hardware, it’s safe to say the gamble has paid off… for the most part.

The Console

If you’ve watched Sony’s official PlayStation 5 teardown video, you’re already aware that the console itself is rather large, and that’s doubly true once it’s sitting in front of you. Granted, while it might be bigger than some of its predecessors, there’s an understated style and elegance to the chassis and overall design, even if its shape and color might stick out in your living room setup.

PlayStation 5 Console

Much like its Microsoft counterpart, the PlayStation 5 makes use of a decently-sized fan to keep things cool and quiet, and initial observations suggest that Sony has hit the mark in this regard. During the last week of putting the console through its paces, I wasn’t able to hear any noise coming from it during normal conditions; it was only when I got up close and personal with it that I was able to discern a very gentle whirr.

In terms of connectivity and connectors, the PlayStation 5 has taken the kitchen sink approach, packing in several high-speed USB ports (including one USB-C), an HDMI 2.1 port (along with a matching cable), and Wi-Fi 6 support. You’ll even be able to connect your old PSVR headset to the new hardware, as long as you request a free adapter from Sony.

The Controller

While it’s hard to convey in writing (it really is something that has to be experienced first-hand), I would be underselling the experience if I referred to the DualSense haptics and adaptive triggers as “impressive.” For those who aren’t aware, the PlayStation 5’s new controller comes packed with a bunch of seriously elegant tech, which allows developers to fine-tune and customize rumbles (think the Nintendo Switch’s “HD Rumble,” except, actually good) and adjust the triggers to be harder or easier to pull at any point along its path of travel.

DualSense

The perfect showcase for the DualSense’s capabilities is Astro’s Playroom, a 3D platformer that comes pre-installed on every PlayStation 5 console. While pack-in games have typically been hit or miss in the past, the developers over at ASOBI Team hit it out of the park with this one. As you take control of an adorable little Astro Bot, you’ll explore four different locales that are styled after the PlayStation 5’s internal hardware – specifically, the CPU, GPU, RAM, and SSD.

It sounds odd at first, but every level in Astro’s Playroom is packed to the brim with charm, solid platforming sections, and a handful of moments where you’ll get to use the DualSense controller in unique ways. In the first level, Cooling Springs, you’ll eventually transform into a spring/frog hybrid of sorts. Instead of navigating via analog sticks, you’ll compress your springy body with the controller’s triggers, which genuinely feel like you’re trying to squeeze a slinky. In another section, you’ll use the TouchPad to maneuver a spherical Astro Bot around the level, a la Super Monkey Ball. 

There’s some seriously impressive tech on display here, and even though it’s included free of charge, Astro’s Playroom could go toe-to-toe with smaller, budget offerings that usually come in at $20-30. It’s easily the best pack-in title since Nintendo had the genius idea to bundle a copy of Tetris with every Game Boy. And I haven’t even touched on the numerous PlayStation collectibles, secrets, and Easter eggs that are tucked around every corner.

Astro's Playroom Bot

We’ve only scratched the surface of what Sony’s newest hardware has to offer, but after a week of putting it through its paces, we have to admit – it’s an impressive leap forward for the brand. And don’t worry; we’ve got plenty more PlayStation 5 coverage coming down the pipeline, including a final scored review, a deeper dive into the system’s games and user interface, and separate reviews for Sackboy: A Big Adventure, the Demon’s Souls remake and Bugsnax, just to name a few. Until then, be sure to check out our verdict on Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which serves as a standalone expansion of sorts to the similarly named Marvel’s Spider-Man. 

This preview is based on a PlayStation 5 retail unit. Hardware was provided to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

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