Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Playstation 5 - The Cool New Thing That Replaces the Cool Old Thing

My story about how I managed to acquire a Playstation 5 before Christmas is amusingly convoluted. I'd like to say I didn't jump through some hoops but I most definitely did. The good news is: no scalper! I will never buy a console from a scalper. But I did have an excess cost.....the story:

Best Buy announced a week and a half ago it would have a limited number of Playstation 5's in stock. As has become traditional, I lined up on the page like no doubt a million other purchasers did, and an untold number of bots, and waited to see the retailer online storefront fail again in dramatic fashion. Except this time it didn't! Best Buy, apparently trying to change things up a bit to handle the problem with scalper's bots, put a sort of "wait and re-authenticate your purchase" process in place that was a bit confusing but I held in on the hope the site's spinning wheels led to promise this time instead of disappointment. Lo' and behold, after about 20 minutes I had a PS5 in the basket and want to checkout. The system immediately told me I had to do pickup, but all local stores in Albuquerque declared they were out of stock as I clicked on them. "Want to try Santa Fe?" the prompt suggested but nope, Santa Fe was out of stock. Suddenly only two places were left for grabs: El Paso and Farmington. 

Now, long before El Paso became a COVID hot zone I was disinclined to visit that city anyway, and it's a non trivial drive south, whereas Farmington is a nice location along the north border of New Mexico and there's plenty of things to do in nature along the way, as well as archaeological sites that I suspected weren't open but maybe could still be visited.....so as I realized it was still sitting in the basket and unclaimed I decided, to hell with it, road trip!

The PS5 was ready for pickup by Saturday. My son and I took the 2.5 hour drive up and and back, making it more of a day trip, and that is where the excess cost arrives (about $25 in gas plus some snacks). During this time I learned that my son knows an almost epic level of detail on the thousands of SCPs out there, largely due to the seemingly endless churn of Youtube videos on the subject. Along the way we passed through the reservation and an area containing an almost spookily sturdy fenced area along the road with specific crossing spots for wildlife, which my son readily speculated was to keep skinwalkers from getting to the road to try and surprise unaware travelers. Fun times!

Anyway, the PS5 was set up in my office on my big screen monitor with the intent of being able to let him play with some regulation while I could turn it on and play after he went to bed. Little did I know that as of Saturday night this turned my office into The Arcade instead.....I also learned that while I have never particularly liked the controls of the Spider-Man games and thus not gotten more than 20 minutes into it, my son is a master and completed the Miles Morales game by Monday, then promptly started a new game+ mode. I enjoyed getting to experience the game without having to put effort in to it!

Unfortunately he then got in to Bugsnax and I had to insist he put headphones on. Is Bugsnax good? That will depend heavily on who you are, your generation as a gamer, and your tolerance for obnoxiously cute. I thought it ironic that he enjoyed the game despite his disgust for muppets, because to me the game was full of digital muppets.

You might be wondering about my impressions of the PS5 after the last few days. I have the following comments, with the caveat that if you don't have one now, you're not missing much yet, since most of the really interesting titles won't release until next year. But if you have an interest in why this is probably the best console to get going forward, here's a summary of my experience so far:

Pro: Graphics

The ray tracing effects are impressive but so far in the games that take advantage of this you need to kind of think for a bit on why they look better. When you start noticing the lighting, reflections and water then it starts to stand out more. Miles Morales looks better than its predecessor, hands down. The game which I thought demonstrated this most aptly so far was, ironically, Fortnite, which even just with adding realistic clouds suddenly stood out. Even without ray tracing the 4K default resolution plus 60 FPS (with the potential for 120 FPS I am told) is going to impress console users from the prior generation; to PC gamers with decent gaming PCs the differences will be more along the lines of, "Look who caught up....for now." 

Pro: Processing Power

This thing loads games damned quickly, and so far it's only died once on my son's Miles Morales playthrough (about six hours in). It moves in "real tme" which is to say that the stutters and delays common to PS4 and Xbox One UI's is nonexistent here.

Pro: Backwards Compatibility

A majority (as in almost all) games playable on PS4 are also available on PS5. Your existing library from the PS4 will port over. I played a few PS4 games, and only one so far gave me a "this may not play as intended" warning (Batman: Arkham City). Days Gone ran at 60 FPS. There are lists on various PS websites showing what PS4 games are getting enhancements on the PS5, and Days Gone and God of War are amongst those. Some get direct PS5 upgrades such as Mortal Kombat 11 and Dead by Daylight. I haven't tried either of those out yet, but I have them in PS5 versions now for free since I owned them on PS4 which is nice. I played some Black Mirror which did not appear enhanced (but that game's merits lie not in the graphics anyway, but rather the mood). Left For Dead II The Last of Us 2* looked great as usual but it looked great to begin with so I can't tell if it's enhanced or not yet.

A feature I didn't realize until investigating is that while no extended storage options exist for PS5 games yet, you can take any existing extended storage on the PS4 and move it over without any issues to the PS5, just plug it in and all the games you had on that storage will work on the new system. The catch is you cannot run PS5 games from the extended storage, I am suspecting because you need some minimum specs to do so efficiently. The extended storage I had on my old PS4 Pro was a 1 TB SSD drive so this has worked out well for me; I moved all games I wanted to play on PS5 over to it, and my PS4 Pro is now basically a dumpster for older games I will keep on it until I decide if I need the thing anymore.

Pro: Controllers

The new Playstation controllers use haptic feedback and sensitive triggers that are difficult to explain but they are absolutely game changers. The level of haptic feedback is demonstrated in a demo game that comes preloaded with the PS5 and shows off what can be done; the controller is bar none the best experience about the new console, and I sincerely hope more PS5 games in the future take full advantage of the level of feedback and sensitivity that the controller offers. It also includes the usual speakers and a microphone, built in. This controller is hard to talk up enough; you need to experience it to appreciate it.

Pro: Redesigned UI

I like the new UI overall, and it feels like an iterative leap into a new console generation. There are some features that are just plain better in how you access things, and information is grouped smartly (for the most part). A few things bug me, but these are minor quibbles (why does your full library pop up first, and the second tab is your installed games, for example), bit overall it dramatically improves on the Playstation UI design and feels like a move forward.

Con: Storage

Despite being able to attach PS4 storage and immediately use it, the PS5 only really has about 600 GB of accessible storage for PS5 titles, and no expandable storage available yet. This is good now, with so few PS5-only titles out as of yet, but will become a problem Sony needs to fix if they want to encourage people to buy more games. 

Con: A Dusty Wasteland of Releases

The PS5 has maybe a dozen titles that are exclusively PS5 or enhanced for PS5, and all of them can be played in PS4 iterations. It looks a lot better than the Xbox Series X (which best as I can tell has no exclusives, but my Xbox Series X arrives on January 5th so I'll talk more about that then). On the plus side it is showing off a good two dozen future titles which all look amazing....and will be, when they arrive next year. This means you can comfortably afford to wait a few more months before diving in to the new console generation expecting lots of exclusives and enhanced titles.

Two titles I want to gripe about: Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War's split-screen play is just as broken on PS5 as it was on PS4. I am so irritated at Activision (in the general consumer sense of, "Hey, I paid money for this and it didn't work" sense) that I may sit out future CoD titles at last. Is this the straw that broke the camel's back? Maybe....I mean, Epic clearly invested in prepping for the new consoles, as Fortnite runs beautifully and also handles split-screen like a professional game developer was doing it. Take note, Activision and CD Project Red!

The other gripe is about Warhammer: Chaosbane. I have this on PS4 but the PS5 edition is exclusive and must be purchased. Shame on you, Nacon! 

My Take

Getting this felt more like a triumphant win against a broken online retail process, so I guess for that alone it's worth it for me to have this so early in its release just so I can see the PS5 library grow. Also, I had the money at that moment and am glad to get this thing before Xmas, my kid is having a great Winter Break as a result (and I am too, when I pry him off of the machine). If you are not an early adopter and you don't mind waiting, however, it's certainly okay to sit this out for a while. If you already have a nice gaming rig with a ray tracing-ready GPU (RTX) you'll be less impressed with the PS5, anyway. That said....the console makes many games more accessible and fun at a family level, and for that alone I am glad to have it. Also, the forthcoming (and existing) Playstaion exclusives make this a must-have, especially for gamers who enjoy good single player campaigns, of which the Playstation 4 and 5 both have many existing and forthcoming titles. 

Anyay, once I have my Xbox Series X I will be interested to see how the two stack up to one another. I am pretty sure my Series X experience is going to be (for a while at least) just a "play my existing library of games and debate whether to get Halo Infinite on Xbox or PC" type situation, but I think it will also continue to serve its purpose as the family console and UHD/Blu-Ray player nicely. With the Playstation 5 though I feel like I have little to no use for my old Ps4 Pro, as this new iteration expands on it in every manner I could hope for. Indeed, I feel like the only reason to own an Xbox at this point is to be an arbitrary completionist....but we'll see soon if there is any truth to this. 

*Watch out kids, this is the sort of mistake you make when your brain gets old.

No comments:

Post a Comment