Technology

I’ve been playing the PS5 for a year now, and it doesn’t feel like a next-gen console.

It has been more than a year since the launch of the PS5. Despite the current global chip shortage, Sony’s current generation system has exceeded all expectations. As of October 2021, the PS5 had sold 13.4 units and is currently the fastest-selling PlayStation console in history.

PS5’s library of proprietary and third-party titles is extensive, especially when you factor in backward compatibility with PS4 games. The PS5 DualSense controller is one of the coolest controllers ever made. Objectively speaking, the PS5 is a solid gaming console overall, and it’s easy to see why it’s so difficult during PS5 restocks.

I have owned a PS5 since its launch and am generally satisfied with it. Being able to play all my PS4 games is convenient and having almost all current-gen titles running at 60 frames per second has made it difficult to go back to 30fps games. Lightning-fast loading times are also a bonus. Performance wise, the PS5 crushes the PS4.

Although I am satisfied with Sony’s newest console, I can’t help feeling that it is more of an update to the PlayStation 4 Pro than a true “next-gen” system. Yes, the console is a technological marvel and it’s selling well, but it doesn’t feel like a true successor to the PS4. Even now, a year after the launch of the PS5, I don’t think it’s a must-have system.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to disparage the PS5. I’m also not looking to fuel the perpetual console war that we often see on social media. Most of my complaints with the PS5 can also be pressed on the Xbox Series X. However, I am focusing on the PS5 because it is my main game console. And right now, it doesn’t meet my expectations for a “next-gen” system.

The next generation looks a lot like the last generation

I bought a PS4 Pro when it launched in November 2016. Switching from the base PS4 was a relatively smooth transition thanks to the online storage feature of PlayStation Plus. I logged into my account, downloaded my previous games and games, and was good to go. I also had the option of transferring data between my PS4 and PS4 Pro with a LAN cable or via my Wi-Fi network. I opted for the cloud storage option because it was easier for me.

It’s hard for a console to feel next-gen when most of its new releases can be played on next-gen systems.

Why am I mentioning my experience setting up the PS4 Pro? Because I went through the exact same process when making the leap from the PS4 Pro to the PS5. This was not a problem in and of itself, but it left me with the feeling that I had simply upgraded my PS4 Pro, not that I bought a new next-gen system. Friends who also own PS5 often joke that the console is a PS4 Pro Plus. I can’t disagree with that sentiment.

Cross-gen titles (games released on both next-gen and current-gen systems) are another reason why I don’t feel like I’ve really moved on to the next gen. Cross-generation releases ensure that everyone, regardless of the system, has access to the same titles. This is a mantra that Xbox has wholeheartedly embraced. Launch your own titles on consoles, PC, mobile devices, and streaming platforms. From a business perspective, it would be unwise for game companies to only release titles on systems with relatively small install bases, especially when many cannot get a PS5 or Xbox Series X due to ongoing global chip shortages.

(Image credit: Capcom)

I am in favor of more people having access to the games, but if the new titles must also run on systems from eight years ago, we will continue to have next-generation experiences on new hardware. Despite their respectable graphics, titles like Resident Evil Village, Far Cry 6, and Tales of Arise seem like next-gen releases. Why? Because that’s exactly why they are also available on PS4 and Xbox One. It’s hard for a console to feel next-gen when most of its new releases can be played on next-gen systems.

I should point out that cross-generation titles are not new. For nearly two years after their late 2013 releases, most of the major releases on PS4 and Xbox One were also available on PS3 and Xbox 360. It wasn’t until late 2015 that we saw the effective end of the cross-gen. Will we have to wait that long for this generation? When looking at how many upcoming 2022 releases will continue the cross-generation trend, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.

PS4 Enhanced Titles

We have seen a lot of PS4 games improved on PS5. Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, God of War, and Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade look and play beautifully on PS5, with smoother frame rates and higher resolution textures. If you have never played these games before, you will have a wonderful experience.

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

However, if you’re like me, you’ve no doubt already beaten all or most of these titles on PS4. Aside from the Iki Island portion of Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, I played no more than 10-15 minutes of these and other upgraded titles before moving on to something new. I appreciate that the games look and work their best on PS5, but they are brand new updates for someone who has already played them. They remain the same old games under the shiny new veneer.

PS5 Exclusives *

As noted on our PS5 a year later, the good, the bad, and the ugly, the PS5 currently has six exclusives that you can only play on the system. These include Astro’s Playroom, Demon’s Souls, Destruction AllStars, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Returnal. Unfortunately, each one comes with certain caveats that prevent them from being truly unique to the system.

Demon’s Souls, arguably one of the best PS5 games, is a remake of a 2009 PS3 game. Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade Episode Intermission DLC (the only PS5 exclusive part) has a maximum duration of 5 hours. Astro’s Playroom, for all its whimsical charm, is a technical demo showcasing the haptic and booming characteristics of the DualSense controller.

(Image credit: Sony)

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal were built from the ground up to run on PS5. But as good as these titles are, neither one is exactly conventional. Platforms like Ratchet & Clank are no longer in vogue and Returnal’s sheer difficulty puts most players away (an issue Demon’s Souls also shares). I have no hands-on experience with Destruction AllStars, but it hasn’t connected with the Twitch audience it seems to be targeting.

The PlayStation 5 will receive a number of notable games of its own in 2022. Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok will undoubtedly be system vendors and rank among the best-selling games on the system. But just like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, they will also be available on PS4. They are not true next generation experiences. It may take some time before PS5 receives an exclusive bona fide blockbuster system.

Will the PS5 ever feel next-gen?

I’ve come to accept that we probably won’t see the same graphical leaps between console generations that were so prevalent in the past. Instead, we will see incremental improvements over the course of a generation. PS4 games released in 2021 look superior to titles released in 2013. The same will be true for PS5 games eight years from now. But don’t expect the PS6 to offer the same graphical upgrade that we saw between the PS1 to the PS2 or the PS2 to the PS3. Those days could be over.

Although the PlayStation 5 is an impressive video game console, you don’t have to own one to enjoy the latest and greatest games. Yes, it does have some PS5 system exclusives, but you can argue that either one is a really must-have title. If you decide on a PS4 or PS4 Pro, either by choice or because you can’t find a PS5, you won’t miss out on much.

I will continue to play with my PS5 and enjoy it for what it offers. But I’m also looking forward to the day when it finally feels like a true next-gen console.

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