Greetings, friends. Happy PS5day. Today is the exciting day when the PlayStation 5 console releases to consumers and some of the people that bought one even got one!
I was fortunate enough to be among the chosen elite that got an invite from PlayStation Direct or whatever Sony calls it, assuring me a hassle-free preorder with free launch day shipping... And by golly they came through. By about 1pm this afternoon I had the thing out of the box and installed it at my desk. I thought it would be fun to share my early impressions of setup, gameplay, and interface stuff from someone who spent most of her contemporary video gaming on a PS4.
It's Smaller When You See It Coming
The reaction I saw most commonly from pre-release coverage was how damn big the PS5 is, and don't get me wrong she *is* a tall drink of water. Taking it out of the packaging today it didn't boggle the mind as much as I expected it too. Part of it might just be that I've seen a *lot* of heckin videos of this thing being unpacked already. Part of it might be that I got the Digital Edition so it doesn't feature the BD drive hump. Either way when I got it in my hands it seemed tall, but thinner than I was expecting and wasn't difficult at all to install in my particular desk-where-I-play-my-games setup. Now granted, my setup involves an old computer desk where the PS5 sits where a PC tower might once go but... Eh... Whatever. If anything the base takes up the largest footprint in my particular use case.
I did have a few issues installing this thing off the bat, however. The power cable on the PS4 Pro seemed absurdly short for some reason. I never had issues plugging in any consoles at my desk in the decade or more I've lived in my current arrangement. The PS4 Pro power cable barely reached from the nearest power strip to where the consoles go. It was so tight I basically had to plug everything in while the console was already pushed pretty far back into it's hutch. The PS5 cable is somehow worse. I'll take no external power brick any day but in this case I could have used the extra six or so inches it would have provided. As it stands now by pushing it fairly far back in it's shelf and moving stuff around so it can plug into the closest possible socket on my power strip it reaches just enough to avoid pulling one end or the other onto the floor. Why are your power cords so short, Sony? Good grief.
The other issue is more of a petty gripe and I honestly only have myself to blame for getting my hopes up. Ever since the Xbox One S showed us a game console chassis that could perfectly rest a controller on top of itself I thought we might see a new era of paddles what do be dockable on the box itself. But no. As far as I'm aware that was the only model of any modern video game console to have that sort of accommodation. It was rad. The PS5, with it's curvy width and shape... Well I got it in my head that maybe, just maybe, I could charge the controller while resting it snugly atop the console. Maybe it would be a cool hidden feature.
I tried. It didn't take.
I slid it up and down that popped collar, hoping to find a sweet spot but the only way the DualSense found a level enough, narrow enough part of the chassis was way, way towards the back where any odd nudge would topple the input device off the ass end and probably shear off your ethernet cable on the way down. LAME.
I'm Deaf. My Monitor Is Dumb.
When I finally powered the thing on for the first time I plugged my headset directly into the controller. I usually plug my cans into a switcher that lets me ruin my already miserable ability to hear by cranking it up nice and loud on whatever device my display is currently switched to. The Dunk wanted that 3-D Audio though... At least as good as my ears could manage it, I suppose. I wanted the next gen in my withered ear holes.
As the thing booted up for the first time and I realized most of the way through the "you'll only see this the first time you turn this box on ever" animation that I was set to the wrong input I found myself unable to hear anything. Like... Nothing at all. I figured "Okay. It's initial setup. Maybe I need to toggle something to get audio through the controller. That's kinda lame but whatever. I'm already here."
I chose my Wi-Fi just out of curiosity to see if it would be significantly faster than I remember the PS4 wi-fi being. As it pulled down the console update I concluded that, no... It didn't seem much better. It took about 15 minutes I think for the full console update. Also there was still no audio. Eventually the update finished. I loaded into the home screen. Still no aud--- Wait. I heard a faint notification chime.
I had the volume on my headphones turned down. Go me.
So yes, I cannot actually confirm whether or not you'll get audio through the controller on initial setup but I was probably just being a doofus and forgot to turn up my volume. Hooray.
But then another problem came up. As I was exploring the system settings I came to realize the PS5 was all "Naw dog. I can only output 1080p to this display. No 4K, HDR, or 60 FPS for you." This sent a chill down my spine. My PS4 pro ran 4K with HDR on this monitor for ages. I was using the included cable! Oh god was I going to have to buy a new monitor? In a panic I checked for another console update. I was fully up to date. Oh no.
The only thing I could think to do was switch my two HDMI inputs and reboot the console. Miraculously when I did that the handshaking succeeded and it automatically configured itself for 4K HDR. God that was almost a heartbreaker.
OH MY GOD IT'S SO JUICY!
Dang this thing feels so fast. In much of the same way one feels like a time wizard when you switch from playing a game at 30 to a locked 60, just using the interface on the PS5 is such a breath of fresh air compared to the PS4. The store doesn't take 2 full minutes to load and another 45 seconds to BEGIN populating. It's not constantly hitching as you try to scroll from thing to thing. The interface doesn't stop responding completely when several downloads are queued, only to suddenly remember the last full minute of frantic inputs and cram them all into few seconds of off-the-rails frustration. It's just smooth and responsive always.
It's Like Braille For Environmental Geometry/Ow Ow It's Like A Thousand Tiny Hammers
That DualSense is no joke. When folks reported on it prior to launch and said 'you won't believe how this feels' they were absolutely right. It wasn't exactly how I imagined it to be but it's certainly different and has a much wider spectrum of sensations to offer than the old method of "Motor spins fast & lots" vs "Motor spins slow & a little". Playing Astro's Playroom it felt incredibly weird off the bat because it did, indeed, provide many distinct haptic textures. As someone who is hard of hearing I could see this as being a pretty amazing and clever way to enrich or offset gamers' ability to hear subtle sounds by translating them into haptics on the controller. I haven't tried playing Astro with absolutely no audio yet but I might, just out of curiosity.
The only things about the controller I found personally kinda bleh were that the default vibration level felt like kind of a lot sometimes. Granted I might have soft baby hands (I had to turn off the rumble in Avengers completely because it was making my goddamn hands ticklish before they just went numb) and part of the power of the haptics' variation might lie in having a wider range of intensities to play with (the harder it can shake the more subtle the softer taps will feel, etc. It's HDR for your hands!) but it was a higher intensity than I was expecting. All that said I did play Astro for a good couple of hours and got used to it so maybe there's just an adjustment period because it just does FEEL SO WEIRDLY DIFFERENT GAH. You can also adjust the intensity of the haptics at the system level on what I believe to be a 4 or 5 level scale, which is rad.
Speaking of feeling weird those triggers. They are cool and they work as advertised. Sometimes you pull on that trigger and it feels like something's obstructing it, forcing you to pull it just a bit harder to complete the pull. Sometimes it's just a little tight all the way through to make it easier to make smaller adjustments in pressure. It's really very cool and very much actually works. The problem is that on day one, having never touched a DualSense, it does feel just... WRONG. It feels like your controller is dirty or broken. It feels like theres some debris jammed up in there that if you shake it around you might rattle it loose, granting you a few more weeks before you have to consider buying a new one. Perhaps I've had one too many broken controllers but there's something about the feeling of pulling L2 and having it stop partway, feeling it grinding against something (just a little though, thankfully) before giving way that makes my brain think "Shit. I can't believe it's already messed up."
As someone that can sometimes be a little overly sensitive to unpleasant touch like gritty grindy something-against-something I was worried the adaptive triggers would feel like getting sand in your teeth and it does, just a tiny bit at first, but I slowly started getting used to it. Truth be told, however, it seems like it gives you the full extremes of resistance in Astro so I don't expect to be feeling that crunchy grind too terribly often. And if that does become an actual problem, again, you can turn it down or just turn it off.
I can't speak to the controller's speaker or microphone because I haven't and likely won't use them. Maybe as a lark here and there, as they suggest the speaker combined with the haptics really paint the whole picture, but I need my headphones if I'm gonna hear shit in game so... Probably not high on my priorities.
I Will Return Tomorrow With More Impressions...
I have bad eyes and worse fingers and this blog post is already longer and more rambly than I expected. I will return tomorrow with more thoughts after I spend a little more time with the OS and some more games. If folks have any questions feel free to comment and I can do my best to find you answers.
<3 <3 <3