PS5 Scrooge McDuck

I feel a bit like Scrooge McDuck at the beginning of any new console cycle. I’m always grumpy, cynical, and overly hesitant to spend my money. I mean, these machines ain’t cheap, and far too often, they ain’t easy to find even if you do have the money.

Back when the PS4 and Xbox One were new, I was a naysaying ninny, saying that PS4 games just felt like ever-so-slightly-upgraded PS3 games. But over the course of the generation, games got more and more resource-intensive. Now, when I look back at PS3 games, I’m kind of astonished at how badly they’ve aged.

But with the PS5, it really does feel like we’ve entered a new era of gaming. Sure, I was saying this new gen was unnecessary in the beginning (I always say that), but having spent several days with my very own PS5, I can now say that my naysaying was for naught.

General impressions

Astro's Playroom

First up. the PS5 itself is huge. While people told me to expect the PS5 to be extra-large, it still ended up being about 25% larger than I was expecting. It’s going to take up a ton of space if you set it horizontally (it’s also pretty wobbly, even with the included stand), and if you set it vertically (as you should), you’re going to need a tall space for it. This might be a struggle if you have one of those entertainment centers that has little cubbies for each of your devices. The PS5 might not fit into any of those.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let’s talk about the haptic feedback on the DualSense controllers. I both love it and hate it. I see the potential here, but I do think there’s going to be a temptation to overuse it. I actually really enjoy it when it’s used subtly, but I’m not a big fan of making the triggers harder to push. It’s cool in concept, but I’ve been struggling a bit with finger cramping (arthritis runs in my family, and it’s probably time to start taking that seriously), and it’s starting to feel like long gaming sessions might not be as feasible for me as they used to be. This haptic feedback business just reduces the amount of time I can play a game without having to take a break, and that’s a bummer.

The menu is really sleek now, and the sound effects seem a lot more Xbox-y than PlayStation-y. I don’t like that Trophy lists are sort of buried now, but I can probably learn to deal with that.

The best feature, though, is that everything feels snappier. The controls feel responsive to a level that I never dreamed was possible. Going back and playing games on PS4 has now gotten kind of difficult, as the controls feel kind of slow. I’m struggling to even wrap my head around the fact that video games can feel this good.

But the core of any console experience is the games, so I’m going to walk you through some of the stuff I’ve been playing. Note that I’ve purchased very few actual PS5 games, and a lot of what I’ve been playing lately has been enhanced versions of PS4 games. Even so, I’ve been pretty impressed.

So here’s what I’ve been playing since I got my brand-new PS5.

Astro’s Playroom

Astro's Playroom

Astro’s Playroom is a sequel to Astro Bot Rescue Mission, which was a PlayStation VR exclusive that featured music that’s way too good for this cruel, stupid world. And if you own a PS5, you get Astro’s Playroom for free.

Sure, this is designed as a tech demo to show off the features of the PS5, but it’s also a full-fledged game that’s really, really good. This whole thing is sort of a nostalgic look at the PlayStation’s past, while also peering into its future. The game is just dripping with joy — every action feels lovingly created, and it’s really hard to not play this with a huge smile on your face.

While it has a simplified look to it, the textures are incredibly detailed, and the lighting makes everything look — dare I say it — almost like it’s real. One of the things that’s constantly blowing my mind with PS5 games is how the lighting and textures combine to bring game worlds to life with impossible-seeming amounts of fidelity.

I do think the haptic feedback and motion controls are a bit heavy-handed here, but as an introduction to those concepts, I suppose it works. Besides, Astro’s Playroom is genuinely fun to play, so it’s hard to complain about any of this.

Demon’s Souls

Demon's Souls

I kid you not, the Demon’s Souls remake is the best-looking video game I have ever played in my entire life. It’s maybe hard to convey in screenshots, but this world is rich in detail, and everything looks crisp and tactile. The game world’s overwhelming sense of gloom feels intensely visceral now, with its muck feeling extra mucky and its fog feeling thick and moist.

When I look at the bricks of a castle, for example, my brain is convinced that I know how it would feel to touch them. I can imagine the rough, damp surface of the bricks, and I can even guess at the temperature of the stone. This game looks so rich and genuine that you can almost feel it. It’s a technical marvel.

If Demon’s Souls can look this good straight out of the gate, just imagine how good PS5 games are going to look midway through its life cycle. This is going to be a gorgeous generation of gaming, folks.

Scarlet Nexus

Scarlet Nexus

I only played the demo of Scarlet Nexus, but I was completely blown away. If you have a PS5 and are into sci-fi action games, you owe it to yourself to at least give the demo a shake.

This has a cel-shaded anime look to it (think Genshin Impact), but it’s astonishing how crisp and clear everything looks, despite the fact that backgrounds are loaded with detail. And this game is dripping with style. I don’t think I’ve played a game that had such an over-the-top sense of style since Persona 5. I could just stare at this UI all day long. Plus, the use of color and lighting really makes this pop.

I don’t own Scarlet Nexus, but after a couple hours with its demo, I am considering a purchase.

No Man’s Sky

No Man's Sky

There’s a downloadable upgrade for No Man’s Sky for current-gen, and it’s incredible. I can’t believe how good this game looks now. When I first fired it up, I commented that it looks like someone removed the glass from my TV and that I was peering into a diorama instead of playing a video game. Everything looks so tangible, like I could reach through the screen and actually touch it.

Like Astro’s Playroom, I think this is a combination of the lighting effects and high-res textures. Object surfaces have a ton of micro-level details, like scratches and grooves, and the way the light plays off of those surfaces just makes everything look so genuine.

On top of that, the game runs deliciously smoothly now. I played hundreds of hours of No Man’s Sky on PS4, and that old console often struggles to keep up with everything that’s happening. For instance, I have a freighter full of plants that I’m farming, and usually, my grow room loads in really slowly and causes my game to lag. Everything now feels instant and snappy, which makes No Man’s Sky a lot more playable. I am curious to see how this holds up when the next Expedition hits, when players inevitably cram together in the same area and drastically bog down the game’s resources. We’ll see.

Oh, and the load times are super short now.

Now, the haptic feedback is, well… I don’t know. While it’s cool that ships now feel like machines with a great deal of weight and power, I do struggle a bit to keep pressing the triggers through long gameplay sessions (which I mentioned earlier). If your hands aren’t wearing out like mine are, I can see how this might feel incredible.

Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV - Costa del Sol

I started replaying Final Fantasy XIV again, partially because of the recent hype, partially because of the upcoming Endwalker expansion, and mostly because there’s a PS5 upgrade. I’ve spent a ton of time in the Gold Saucer, but I’ve also been slowly making my way through the story and the game’s various dungeons, ever on the search for loot.

While this game is showing its age visually, especially when you look at the outdated textures (some of which are eight years old at this point), there’s a sharpness to the picture that wasn’t present before. Edges look straighter and the lighting effects are better. Yeah, this came out in a time period where bloom effects were overused, and that’s only gotten more obvious with the sharper picture quality, but even so, Final Fantasy XIV looks better than it ever did.

One thing I really appreciate about this upgrade is how the haptic feedback is used. The character’s footsteps make ever-so-slight vibrations, and riding a chocobo has the same effect, though the footsteps are heavier. It’s a really neat touch that adds a tactile realness to the game. This is what I meant earlier when I said I like haptic feedback when it’s used well. In Final Fantasy XIV, it’s used brilliantly.

Best of all, it runs incredibly smoothly. I don’t think I’ve seen a framerate drop yet, even in super crowded areas. This doesn’t feel like an online game at all — it’s just too smooth.

Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls 3

I actually did a whole article on this already, but here’s the short version:

I was having technical issues with Dark Souls 3 on PS4, so I moved to PC, where I also had technical issues. But the PS5 runs Dark Souls 3 at a hard-locked 60FPS without any of the problems I had on other platforms. And sure, it’s nowhere near as mouth-agape impressive-looking as the Demon’s Souls remake (which I mentioned earlier), but the PS5 has really become the best place to experience the final entry in the Dark Souls trilogy.

Red Dead Online

Red Dead Online - Blood Money

Dear lord, do we need a PS5 update for this. Red Dead Online feels awful on PS5.

Now, I think this is just a result of experiencing the incredibly responsive controls of actual PS5 games, because I always thought that Red Dead Redemption 2 felt pretty alright. In fact, there’s a chunkiness to the controls that I eventually came around to. I like that these old guns feel like unwieldy machines instead of feeling modern and lightweight.

But everything feels kind of laggy now. It feels like my character takes extra time to perform any action after I press a button, and that makes it kind of hard to play now. It’s unfortunate, because this is one of my most-played games of the PS4 generation, and I would love to keep playing it. Without a proper PS5 upgrade, however, I feel that might be difficult for me.

The PS5 is really turning me into a snob, isn’t it?

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