Sony’s Slick PS5 Presentation is Next-Gen Gaming Done Right
Microsoft needs to step it up
Disclaimer: This article does not intend to hurt religious sentiments or stir up console wars.
It’s that time of the decade again. The world has changed. In an age where fascism is on the rise, medical staff battle against a pandemic on an unprecedented scale, and protesters battle against oppression, gaming has taken a back-seat. Sony even delayed its presentation to let more important voices be heard. As someone who has stayed up every year for the yearly E3 ritual of game reveals, I found it inspiring that videogame companies can use their platforms to speak out. Some may still find this presentation untimely. But I see it as healing. Soothing minds ravaged by the times we live in, connecting millions across the globe and delivering compelling narratives that let one escape the mortality of the real world. God’s work, I dare say.
90 minutes of adrenaline-inducing mayhem, Sony’s PS5 event was a running riot, hitting viewers with game after game. Uncannily detailed characters and effects. Extravagant open worlds. Riveting storylines. New faces as well as those that have scaled the extraordinary. It delivered on its vision, but will it deliver on said promises?
Stunning Transitions, Packed With Games
To Sony, it’s always been about the games. While Microsoft had lofty ambitions to become an all-in-one home entertainment system, PlayStation had no time for that. Its tunnel-vision focus on incredible exclusives and a connected gaming space were among the reasons why they won the bout last generation, having sold over 110 million consoles in 7 years. The PS4 had a lot going for it. And Sony remains a proud flag-bearer to this approach.
They didn’t spend time on talking about how the PS5 has Netflix. Or a Blu-Ray drive. They dived right into why people buy a game console. Games.
Things were different this year. With no E3 to trumpet their reveals, hardware makers had to resort to online conferences of their own. And boy, did Sony deliver. Streamed to millions across the world, its presentation set the tone for the system moving forward. Peppered between game reveals were slick transitions that oozed charm and sophistication. Sony knows what people want. Expectations were high. And yet they surpassed them.
The message was clear: We’ve got the games you want. And they run like a dream.
When Microsoft revealed the design of the Xbox Series X, I expected the PS5 to embrace the black box aesthetic as well. Both consoles share a great deal of similarity under the hood, which made me assume that the PS5 design wouldn’t tread too far from what Xbox had come up with. That could not be further from the truth.
Sony managed to miraculously stuff in some incredible guts into a svelte frame that embraces the future, with a solid cooling system to boot. Its vents remind one of a hypercar, and of the power that lurks within. Even the controller, now known as DualSense, has had its body recast. The touchpad is here to stay, but it looks more like a remnant of the past than a welcome addition. Rumble triggers grant gamers haptic feedback that can augment an already emotion-bending experience. Now that both major consoles have implemented haptic feedback, be prepared to witness more third-party vendors make use of them. Experience minute differences in gun recoil, tires burning against rubber on the track, or an ice-pick wedging into the Andes.
The system oozes minimalism and mystique, a rare sight in a videogame console. I can’t wait for the eventual side-by-side comparisons with a certain black monolith/fridge.
Ah yes, the games. Sony hits the ground running, with established franchises like Spider-Man, Horizon, Ratchet and Clank, and Gran Turismo. I suppose there’s still time for a new God of War. It even tosses a few incredible third-party games into the mix, like the new awe-inducing Resident Evil game. Jaws audibly dropped to the floor when From Software’s Demon Souls remake was shown on-screen. The visuals spoke for themselves.
While games merely look iterative rather than an evolution on the surface, technological improvements are more than skin-deep. Under the hood, developers are leveraging an amount of power they’ve never been granted before. 16 Gigabytes of RAM and speedy SSDs are merely the tip of the iceberg. A new 3D Audio Engine brings sound to life in a way hitherto inconceivable, in a way that any PS5 owner can experience its benefits.
At 10.28 teraflops (Floating-point Operations Per Second), it rivals even the beefier gaming rigs of today. And with deep optimization on a level simply not possible on standard-issue computers, exclusives will stand a class apart. As they always have. Raytracing, once the abode of top-tier computers, is now being made accessible for the masses. Flawless reflections, mesmerizing special effects, and uncanny characters are merely a few months away. These improvements give game developers the breathing room they need to deliver on their creative vision, free from the bottlenecks they had to work around in previous generations. Which brings me to another important point of note.
Compelling Exclusives Not Held Back By Last-Gen
Sony’s message is loud and clear: there will be games that take advantage of PS5’s potential, games that will not be available on older consoles. While it may seem like a marketing pitch at odds with Microsoft’s promise to Xbox One owners, it’s the best way to go about it. While some may not be too happy with their 7-year-old consoles becoming obsolete, this paves the way for an era of gaming that takes advantage of the extra bells and whistles the new consoles have to offer. Supporting older consoles would only limit the grand visions and experiences that developers envision for the next generation of gamers.
And these visions have been brought to life with the breath-taking reveals that developers bestowed upon their fans. From intricate open worlds to jaw-dropping textures on everything from vines to wizards, Sony is going all out on the graphical front.
Fortunately, Sony has pledged support to their devout fans, promising that peripherals that work with the PS4 will continue to work with the PS5. A tempting proposition for those with multiple DualShock 4 controllers in the house.
No More Loading Screens, Hopefully
Next-gen consoles have one more promise up its sleeve. One that seeks to change the landscape of gaming itself. No more waiting in an elevator that takes forever to reach a different floor. No more peculiarly-designed caverns between one region and another. No more loading screens.
A lofty promise. But the NVMe SSDs in the PS5 promise gamers a future where they won’t have their lunch as a game loads. One where sacrifices to keep the game running will no longer be necessary. This lets game developers run amok with their tools, creating more immersive experiences for the player instead of chiseling out the parts that demanded too much of the poor console.
No more bathroom breaks, I suppose.
What This Means For Xbox
7 years ago, Sony took advantage of Microsoft’s poorly conceived and ill-received Xbox One message to propel themselves forward. Its pricing and Kinect fiasco are wounds that have left some deep scars, letting the PS4 leapfrog the competition with a cheaper price, better games and a no-nonsense approach to gaming. While Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has done a remarkable job in turning it around, it remains to be seen how the Xbox camp will handle the reveal of its share of exclusives. They’ve played their hands early by revealing the Xbox Series X well ahead of its competitor. But a black box that even Microsoft admits to being unwieldy can’t hold a candle to the space-age design aesthetic embodied by the PS5. Their lackluster presentation of third-party games a month ago failed to excite. The gameplay reveals had little to no actual footage, while Sony bust out of the door, all guns blazing.
Being emotionally attached to the side that effectively lost the sales race last gen (Xbox Live and Game Pass subscriptions notwithstanding), I hope Xbox turns it around with its conference in July. For the sake of competition, if not a sheer sense of nostalgia. Good thing all of Microsoft’s games are heading to PCs too. True, most of these features are common to both consoles, especially on the software side of things.
The PS5’s faster SSD (5.5 GB/s vs 2.4 GB/s) vs the increase in power (10.28 Tflops vs 12 Tflops) offered by the hulking Series X is a battle that is yet to decide a victor. Giants duking it out can only mean good things for gamers across the world.
Sony has stated that the pandemic has not halted the supply chain of its consoles, promising a holiday 2020 launch window. Greatness awaits.
Over to you, Microsoft.