• Elliott

Right, let's look at the PS5 then

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

Last week, Sony's "Future of Gaming" event officially unveiled the PlayStation 5. In what was presumably originally timed to coincide with the now-cancelled E3 gaming expo, the reveal stood at over an hour, showcasing a plethora of games for the system, as well as the much-anticipated hardware reveal.

Now, I've given the Xbox One a pre-emptive post-mortem on here already, as well as give a little hopeful insight as to how I what Microsoft need to do right this time around. I briefly touched on the "gameplay showcase" of the system, which many people found to be disappointing and misleading (myself included), so I think it's only fair that I give my thoughts on Sony's offering.

Right off the bat, the PlayStation presentation was grander in scope, purpose and hype. Sony had not revealed the look of the PS5, perhaps deliberately so, before this presentation, and that alone gave it more weight than the Xbox presentation. I understand that Microsoft have another video showcase planned for July, and their video was touted as simply a "First look", so I understand that direct comparisons aren't fair here. Sony's presentation felt more like an event, whereas Microsoft's was a peek behind the curtain. It was naturally going to be more impressive, and it had been a long-awaited event in the diaries of PlayStation enthusiasts for weeks. But enough about that - what did I actually think of what was shown? Let's break it down - the good, the bad, and the summary.

The Good

This almost shouldn't be a merit for a gaming showcase, but due to many dull and meandering presentations in years gone by, I have to give credit for the presentation being laser-focused on showcasing games. There was very little marketing guff, no cringey interviews with uninterested celebrities, no wasted time on vague, grandiose and drawn-out statements about the state of gaming. There were a few short interview segments spliced in between games, but the bulk of the talking was done after the games were unveiled. What I'm saying, in a very roundabout way, is that I am happy that they focused on what matters - the games. Ultimately, when you break it down, the best console is the console with the best games. And over 25 games were shown in the presentation, with each one having just enough time dedicated to it to give the viewer a taste of what to expect. There was undoubtedly more gameplay shown in this showcase than the Xbox one, which was ironically called "Xbox Series X Gameplay", and that's a great thing to see.

Amongst the games showcased, there were a number of sequels to popular PlayStation exclusives: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure (or LittleBigPlanet 3D World, as I'm going to call it), Gran Turismo 7 and Horizon Forbidden West. We also saw a trailer for a remake of the FromSoftware PS3 game Demon's Souls. Whilst I have no huge connection to any of these series, this does seem to be a fairly stellar line-up of first-party offerings. Ratchet & Clank looked particularly cool to me, with the duo falling through rifts and hopping through a number of varied looking worlds. It looks like this might be a core mechanic in this title, and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. In addition to these, there were a couple of new exclusive IPs in the form of Astro's Playroom and Returnal. Returnal in particular looks to be a very interesting concept, featuring landing on a mysterious planet where the protagonist keeps reliving the same events, and her death, on loop.

And finally, there were a lot of multiplatform games on display too. And amongst those, a few were new announcements. Resident Evil Village, Stray and Project Athia were particular highlights for me, and I have to say that I was impressed overall at the focus on single-player narrative experiences. Almost all of the games showcased fell into this category, and it's a refreshing reminder that gaming isn't all just Fortnite, loot boxes and "live services", and it's clear that Sony understands this. I was also encouraged by the amount of genuinely new games. Sure, there were a number of sequels and remakes, but there was a large presence of new IPs, and what looked to be a lot of novel ideas. Quite a few of the trailers and gameplay shown piqued my interest, and I'll be sure to keep an eye on what becomes of them over the coming months (or years!).

The Bad

It wasn't all good, though. The presentation started with the honestly baffling announcement of GTA V (which is now two generations old!), looking absolutely underwhelming in the footage shown. I can't imagine there are many folks with any interest in GTA that haven't played it yet - it's sold over 130 million copies already, and there doesn't seem to be much to see here to compel players to play it on PS5. Really confused as to why this was here at all, let alone the opening game for the show.

In addition to this, I was consistently underwhelmed by the visuals of a lot of what was shown. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have repeatedly been praised for bringing a major generation leap by developers and journalists alike, but a lot of what was shown here is also slated for release on current generation systems, and aside from some minor graphical polish, it doesn't look like there is much that will set these titles aside from their current-generation predecessors.

I think this is one of the major hurdles that I am struggling to get over with justifying this next generation of consoles - diminishing returns. We've got to a point where the vast majority of big "AAA" titles all look pretty good. And unlike the huge advances seen moving from the SNES to the N64 with the age of 3D, or the jump to HD going from the PS2 to the PS3, there's little here of substance that really wowed me, or led me to believe that the PS5 is going to be as major as we've been led to believe. Aside from what we know was gameplay, a lot of what was revealed in the presentation may well have been pre-rendered cut-scenes, which, whilst impressive, aren't representative of the end product whatsoever. And as I've said in my Xbox entry, pre-release footage is often beefed up to standards higher than what are seen at release. So it might seem like I'm being a bit cynical, but I'm reserving judgement until the system is actually out, the games have been reviewed, and people have actually sat down with the finished products. Maybe we're going to see a huge cut-down on loading times. Maybe we'll see vast worlds rendered in mere seconds. Maybe all of what we saw in the presentation is capable of rendering in real-time and that was all final gameplay. But until people have their hands on the console and these games, we simply won't know.

There was also the unveiling of the console itself. Personally I'm not a fan of it at all; I think it looks like a mid-2000s internet router wearing a white cape, and it looks like the device itself is going to be enormous. But to be honest, it isn't a big deal for me. Consoles sit under your TV, gathering dust while you look at the screen and y'know, actually play games. I will say though, I am glad that the Xbox and the PlayStation both look vastly different now - they've gone for very radically different designs and it's easy to differentiate them.

And finally - whilst not directly related to the presentation, I think it's a salient point worth noting. There was also the announcement that the Demon's Souls remake on PS5 will let players prioritise visuals, or frame rate. And whilst this initially seemed like a nice option to give players, many were quick to question this - if we're shelling out what will likely be £500+ for a new "revolutionary" system, why should we have to choose? Surely the power of the PS5 should allow for the game to run at 60fps at the highest visual fidelity? Otherwise, what's the point?

The Summary

So, overall - I was pleased with the amount of games on show. I was pleased with the style of games being shown, and the focus on what I'd call "real" games, not moneymaking schemes disguised as games. I was impressed by the first-party offerings, but ultimately over half of what was shown in that presentation will be available on other consoles, PC, or heck, even the PS4. And I'm still waiting to see what this "major generational leap" actually is, and how it affects the games we'll playing. The presentation was dubbed the "future of gaming", but I remain unconvinced that the future is quite so different to what we've already got our hands on. So as a result, I'm still not yet convinced by either the Series X or the PS5. Having said that, I am enjoying seeing the buzz around the new generation of consoles, and the announcements that are coming alongside them. Much of what was shown will be playable on various formats, and I'll definitely be picking up a few of the titles that were on display - I'm just not entirely sure what I'll be playing them on yet. Neither Microsoft or Sony have revealed the pricing of their new systems yet, and I fear that we may be looking at a pretty hefty pricetag, at least for the first year or so after release.

I will close by saying that things are currently looking slightly more promising for the PS5 compared with the Series X, but it's early days, and it's all to play for. The holiday period is going to be interesting.

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