The past few months have been largely the same as ever during our new normal — I’m still living most of my social life on Discord, getting a record amount of dog-walking in and, of course, spending a lot of time on my couch playing video games. Except now I’m doing it with a powerful, giant new console that looks a lot like the Barclays Center sitting under my TV.
I’ve been lucky enough to have Sony’s new PlayStation 5 in my home for about two months now, and it’s largely been a delight to use. However, having lived with the PS5 for an extended period of time, I continue to be frustrated by some significant drawbacks, and am still discovering features I’d like to see Sony improve over time. At the same time, the PS5 has also delivered big in ways I didn’t expect it to.
If you’re still on the fence about buying a PS5 (whenever that becomes a thing you can do again, at least), here’s what I think about Sony’s next-gen games machine after two months of owning one.
This truly is next-gen performance
Even two months in, I’m still in awe of the kind of performance the PS5 is able to pump out when it’s firing on all cylinders. Spider-Man: Miles Morales remains the system’s best technical showpiece — I continue to be blown away by the ability to fast-travel between areas in the blink of an eye, thanks to the console’s speedy solid-state drive (SSD), and swinging through Manhattan at 60 frames per second never gets old. This is high-end PC-level performance in a $399 to $499 box.
Developers have found even more ways to optimize for the PS5’s power since launch too. While Spider-Man previously limited you to choosing either fidelity or performance modes, a new “performance RT” mode gets you fluid frame rates while still letting you enjoy the incredibly realistic reflections and shadows made possible by the PS5’s ray tracing capabilities.
And that’s just one example. When my older brother recently visited for the holidays, he was blown away by how much NBA 2K21 looked like a real-life game of basketball. And while I’m still dying all the time in Demon’s Souls, the ability to traverse its various game worlds with virtually no loading makes it easier to keep trying to beat that boss (curse you, Tower Knight). Loading times on my Nintendo Switch and Xbox One S now feel painfully slow by comparison, driving home just how big a difference that SSD makes.
The PS5 makes my old games even better
Speaking of performance, one of my favorite things about the PS5 is the way it gives new life to my older games. I had been slowly chipping away at Ghost of Tsushima when it first hit PS4 last summer, but seeing Sucker Punch’s already gorgeous samurai adventure running at a glorious 60 frames per second on PS5 motivated me to finally power through the game in a few weeks.
Older PS4 titles, such as God of War and Infamous: Second Son, enjoy similar enhancements on PS5, giving me plenty of reason to dip into my back catalog of games. I also have to give a shout-out to the PlayStation Plus Collection, a curated library of 20 classic PS4 games that has allowed me to catch up on last-gen titles I missed, including Days Gone and the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, as part of my PlayStation Plus membership. And as someone who skipped out on the PS4 Pro, the ability to finally play some of these PS4 titles in 4K has been a huge boon in itself.
The game lineup is off to a good start
While the current lineup of true PS5-optimized games is small, it’s already filled with some truly great titles. The PS5’s launch lineup is arguably Sony’s best yet, headlined by an excellent superhero adventure in Spider-Man: Miles Morales and a stunning remake of the notoriously brutal action game Demon’s Souls.
Once I needed a break from dying all the time, I eventually got hooked on Sackboy: A Big Adventure, a simple 3D platformer that gets more creative and charming with every new level. The serene action-adventuring of The Pathless became a surprise favorite of mine, and having a true PS5 version of Mortal Kombat 11 — my most played game of the past two years — that loads fights in a few seconds doesn’t hurt either. Combine that with backward compatibility support for virtually every game on PS4, and I’ve had no shortage of things to play on Sony’s new system.
I’m getting serious DualSense fatigue
With advanced haptic feedback that lets you “feel” parts of games like never before, the PS5’s DualSense controller is easily one of the coolest things about the system. I’ll still never forget my first time playing Astro’s Playroom — the second I felt the distinct pitter-patter of a sandstorm in my hands or the sense of tension and release when controlling a jet pack with the triggers, I felt like I was truly experiencing next-generation gaming.
However, now that my honeymoon phase with the DualSense is over, I find myself yearning for a smaller controller. The DualSense is a bit too chunky for my liking, and still makes my hands cramp up when playing action-heavy titles like Ghost of Tsushima or Devil May Cry 5. Sony’s gamepad only feels more bulky now that I’ve picked up an Xbox Series X controller for my PC, which is even more compact and ergonomic than its Xbox One counterpart.
And while games like Demon’s Souls and Bugsnax do some neat things with the DualSense’s haptics, I’ve yet to play a game that makes full use of them the way that Astro’s does. My issues with Sony’s new controller are minor in the grand scheme of things, and it’s likely that the advanced tech packed inside makes a bigger design necessary. But if we ever get a slimmed-down version of the DualSense, I’ll be hitting that buy button on day one.
The PS5 interface needs some work
The longer I use the PS5, the more frustrated I find myself getting with the system’s user interface. While the PS5 home screen is clean and easy to navigate, it’s also incredibly bare-bones, with no options to customize its look and feel or easy ways to organize your favorite games and apps.
But my biggest gripe is with the system’s Explore tab, which is the first thing you see when you fire up the PS5 and is designed to serve up the latest news on any games that you follow. However, Sony’s definition of “follow” is apparently “played at least once,” as I find myself bombarded with updates on games I barely touch, such as Fortnite and Rainbow Six Siege. There are some workarounds for this issue, but I would really like the PS5 to offer finer control over the Explore tab — or the option to just disable it entirely.
Due to this lack of home screen personalization, I still find myself using my trusty old Xbox One S as my primary entertainment machine. At least there, I can pin my favorite apps and games to my home screen, making it much easier to bounce between HBO Max, YouTube and Twitch binges. Plus, I won’t be bombarded by what’s essentially a full screen ad for NBA 2K21 just because I played it once or twice.
There aren’t a ton of must-have PS5 games (yet)
As I mentioned above, the PS5 game lineup is off to a strong start — but as with any new console library, it still has a ways to go. As of this writing, I counted 54 PS5 games on the PlayStation Store that you can buy and play right now. That’s a decent chunk of games, but it’s less impressive when you consider that many of these titles are also available on PS4 (or just aren’t very exciting).
Titles such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Dirt 5, Madden NFL 21 and Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War are all cross-gen, meaning you don’t need to upgrade to a PS5 in order to play them. That even applies to Sony’s first-party lineup, as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure are also available on PS4. And aside from the likes of Demon’s Souls, Godfall and Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition, few of the PS5 games currently available are fully tapping into the power of Sony’s new console.
I have to admit, now that I’ve played a good chunk of the PS5’s marquee games, I still find myself going back to my PC as my primary gaming platform. A lot of that is very specific to my situation; I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty powerful system, and PC is where I own a lot of my go-to third-party games, such as Star Wars Squadrons and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Mortal Kombat 11 might look great on PS5, but it still runs even better on my computer.
Plus, some of my favorite games of the past year, including Tetris Effect: Connected and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, are either exclusive to other platforms or not on PlayStation yet. Let’s be real: What good is the PS5 if it can’t play Hades?
As my colleague Jacob Krol pointed out in his review, the PS5 is a stellar games machine that truly feels next-gen, thanks to its excellent performance and wildly innovative controller. I still find myself delighted by those features to this day, but now that the launch window excitement has faded, the PS5 isn’t quite my daily driver for games anymore. However, there’s plenty of time for that to change.
If you somehow defy the laws of space and time and manage to get your hands on a PS5 today, you’ll be treated to an extremely powerful console that makes games look great and load in seconds, complete with some awesome haptic feedback via the DualSense controller. And with great games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls, not to mention full PS4 backward compatibility, you won’t be hurting for things to play.
But as I’ve discussed before, it always pays to wait. The PS5 will only get better over time, and upcoming exclusives like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Horizon Forbidden West should hopefully elevate Sony’s console from a nice novelty to an absolute must-have console. And if the PS4 era is any indicator, the PS5’s bare-bones interface will eventually expand with new features. Fingers crossed for a smaller DualSense too, but I’m not holding my breath.
If you want a next-gen console with a more customizable interface or a less bulky controller, it’s worth looking into the $299 Xbox Series S or $499 Xbox Series X once they become more widely available (I’m strongly considering buying myself the former). And if the new Spider-Man is the only big game you care about, you can probably hold on to your PS4 for a while longer. However, I’m confident that the PS5 will soon live up to its full potential with more features and a larger game library — hopefully by the time you’re able to actually buy one.