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Opinion

A Year Later Is The PlayStation 5 Worth It?

It’s been a little over a year since the PlayStation 5 hit online retail shops and became available. Using the world “available” quite loosely however as it has been difficult to buy one at MSRP for a lot of folks. The pandemic as well as the massive chip shortage have impacted the world of consumer electronics and the PS5 is no different in that regard. Despite that the system is still outselling what the PS4 sold in it’s respective first fiscal year. But is the PS5 all that it’s cracked up to be, or is it just amazing on paper? For those of you who were unable to get one I am here to downplay, or reassure, your feelings of FOMO.

First allow me to share my tale of acquiring one. I had to jump through a few hoops to get my PS5. I followed one of those twitter accounts that is dedicated to reporting inventory restocks and had to get up at 4 am to reserve one right when Target updated their inventory. Even then I had to constantly refresh my order until it finally was able to go through because it kept giving me errors. At last I had one, but let’s be honest, it shouldn’t require that much timing and effort to buy it. Hopefully the supply catches up with demand this coming year.

Returnal is gorgeous when played on a 4K TV. Image from VG247.

The Games

First of all, let’s talk about the games that are available on the $400 – $500 machine. The main exclusives at this point are Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Demons’ Souls, Kena: Bridge Of Spirits, Astro Bot’s Playroom, and Deathloop.  There is a probably a handful that I am forgetting but those are the highest profile games that are currently exclusive. Of those I have played Returnal, Astro Bot, and Deathloop and they are all gorgeous games! Returnal is a visual feast and each of the game’s biomes feature varied and dense landscapes. Astro Bot’s Playroom is a free game/tech demo that is designed to show off the capabilities of the DualSense controller and it does it phenomenally! You can feel the gritty sand beneath your fingers on the beach, the firm thud when you walk on a metal floor, etc.

Obviously the games that are made exclusively for the PS5 are going to be the best performing. But if the current gamut of PS5 titles isn’t doing it for you there are some PS4 games that get a noticeable boost on the hardware or have a free PS5 upgrade you can download. Borderlands 3 and Skyrim, for example, run extremely smooth and look vibrant and beautiful in a way that simply isn’t possible on PS4 hardware. I’d argue that the PS5 version of Borderlands 3 actually makes for the best version of the game as the PS4 version has much longer load times and the reduced framerate that makes the game chaotic and convoluted, whereas on PS5 the experience is better from a visual and technical standpoint. Cyberpunk 2077 is another game that is barely playable on PS4 but runs pretty well on a PS5 thanks to the stronger hardware, even without a PS5 version of the game.

Running at 60 frames-per-second and with 4K visuals makes Borderlands 3 into an almost entirely new game, almost. Image from PlayStation Universe.

The System Itself

The PS5 requires a bit of support to squeeze the most out of it. If you don’t have a 4K TV or one that can at least do 1440p (unofficially dubbed “2K”) you will only see minor improvements over a PS4. Ideally you’ll want a TV that can do 2K – 4K with HDR enabled for richer coloration. An OLED TV will be even better for improving colors. There is also the system’s greatest strength and weakness, the SSD. The PS5 has a proprietary 825 GB SSD (really 660 GB available for use) to store your apps and games on and this custom SSD is what allows it to load so incredibly fast. However that also limits what you can replace it with.

Limited space means you’ll be downloading and deleting games often until cheaper SSD tech catches up that is just as fast and compatible as the PS5’s. If you have a PS4 and games then I recommend getting the $500 physical model of the PS5 as it has backwards compatibility with PS4 games, making the PS4 system a bit redundant and useful to sell. The digital version is $100 cheaper but cannot take discs, which I don’t recommend as you miss out on physical game sales. To put it bluntly, the PS5 can be costly upfront if you want everything optimized.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, screenshot captured in-game engine. image by Polygon.

Verdict

As it stands now, I find it very hard to recommend getting a PS5 as of this moment. Unless you have a 4K TV and a lot of PS4 games that qualify for the free PS5 upgrade, I feel the system’s best years are still way ahead of it. The best games people are looking forward to (God of War Ragnarok, Final Fantasy XVI, Horizon Forbidden West, etc.) are still a year or two away. Therefore unless you absolutely have to have it, I recommend holding off on making the leap to the current gaming generation. Be patient and wait for supply to catch up.

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