The PlayStation 5 Is Starting to Look Like the Revolution It Promised

the PlayStation 5 is well on its way to being a success story for Sony. As of March 31, the company had sold 7.8 million of the new video game consoles worldwide—enough, in both units and dollars, to make it the biggest console launch in US history. Bigger than the Nintendo Wii. Bigger than the Xbox One. Bigger than even the PS4. And who knows what that number might be if everyone who wanted one was actually able to buy one.

Review:

Rating:

8/10

WIRED
Excellent graphics. 120 frames per second looks incredible. DualSense controller has great haptics and trigger buttons with feedback. Slick, adventurous design.
TIRED
You might need a new TV to really see the benefits of 120 FPS. Very limited launch lineup of games.

THE LAST CONSOLE generation was all about black plastic rectangles. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 looked like sleek, futuristic VCRs. It was not an exciting or inspired vibe. This console generation, Sony and Microsoft are leaning into their respective aesthetics. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is bigger and squarer than ever before. It’s literally a box with an X on it.

The PlayStation 5 is more radical. It looks like a cybernetic clam, and I mean that in the best way. It’s slick, oceanic, and refreshing. The new DualSense controllers have a JJ Abrams Stormtrooper aesthetic that pairs well with the PS5’s curvy aquatech design. The whole package is a departure from every previous PlayStation. There’s nothing samey about this space clam and its black and white orca controllers. And the changes are more than skin deep.

DualSensational:

When you pick up a DualSense controller, it’s immediately clear that this is a radical departure for Sony, a company that has barely touched its controller design for 20-plus years. It feels different. The grips are textured where your fingers fall, the thumb sticks are responsive and quick, and the buttons have some depth to them.

The haptics steal the show. Swinging through the streets of New York City in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the DualSense controller didn’t just rumble like a standard DualShock, it thwipped like I’d imagine Spider-Man’s webbing would. The haptic feedback is much more than the typical short or long vibrations we’ve come to expect since the days of the Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak. It offers as much nuance as the famous feel-how-many-ice-cubes-I’m-shaking haptic feedback in the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons. That means different game motions feel unique in your hands.

The PS5 showcases these abilities in Astro’s Playroom, where you walk around as a cute little robot and experience the full breadth of the DualSense’s capabilities. Every surface you walk on feels different in your hands. Metal is clangy and sharp, grass is soft and rustly. Plus, the haptic feedback is directional, so you can tell what direction stimuli are coming from or when something whooshes past you.

The new adaptive trigger buttons also add a new level of immersion. Games can make it feel different to pull the triggers in different scenarios. For example, when you want to launch your jetpack in Astro’s Playroom, hard tension builds and builds as you pull the triggers to take off. When you pull firmly enough, it then yields suddenly, and the DualSense bucks in your hands like the recoil on a gun. It’s wild.

It remains to be seen if game developers will use these new capabilities. For instance, the DualShock 4’s touchpad was rarely utilized as more than a giant button. The DualShock 3 had a six-axis motion sensor that rarely saw use even as Sony went head-to-head with the motion-based Nintendo Wii. That said, the haptic feedback in the DualSense is different, since it’s about feedback—not input, the way the touchpad and motion sensitivity are. Most every game uses feedback in some basic way already, but not every game needs motion control.

Perhaps the best new feature is that the DualSense’s battery is greatly improved over the DualShock 4. The PS4 controller battery life is often so poor it’s become a meme. At best you’ll get about eight hours from a single charge, and that’s in a brand-new controller. Over time you’ll get less and less. There’s no telling how much the DualSense battery life will drop off over time, but at launch it outperforms its previous-gen sibling by a couple of hours, for a total of about 11 to 12 hours of use per charge—still not great, but improved.

Detail vs. Frame Rate
PlayStation 5 Review It All Makes DualSense Now
The PS5’s graphics are luscious, and games look better; there’s a granular detail you get at native 4K that creates a lot of visual depth and interest. But as much as Sony and Microsoft tout new graphical features and that their latest consoles are “8K ready,” the defining visual enhancement is its higher frame rate, and that presents a problem: To get the most out of your new console, you might need a new TV.

Gaming TVs are a relatively new product category, and one of the best is the LG CX OLED, the TV I used to test the PS5. Refresh rate is what makes a gaming TV. Just as frames are measured in frames-per-second (FPS), refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz). When these two numbers match up, magic happens.

The LG CX OLED TV has a high refresh rate that caps out at 120 Hz, and the PlayStation 5 can run games at 120 frames per second. That means you’re going to be seeing twice as many frames as you’d see on a standard TV. Think of it like those little flip book animations. The more frames there are, the smoother the motion becomes. There’s a hyperreal fluidity to every motion, every kick and punch and web-swing. (Yes, I’m talking about Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It’s great.)

Rendering all those extra frames requires some serious graphical horsepower, which the PlayStation 5 has, thankfully. I never encountered slowdown or hitching when I ran games at 120 FPS, and most importantly, the PS5 never got loud. If you get up close you can hear the fans doing their work, but they never spin up so fast it sounds like a jet engine; they’re barely noticeable even under heavy load.

79 thoughts on “The PlayStation 5 Is Starting to Look Like the Revolution It Promised

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