Sony PlayStation 5 First Impressions: it’s all about the DualSense

The first moments with Sony’s new console leave a lasting impression

When you first boot up your PlayStation 5, it’s not going to take long before you start smiling. For me, it was when I first heard the pitter-patter of Astro Bot’s carbon feet in the palms of my hands. I brought the DualSense to my ears and sure enough, I could also hear my favourite robot friend clanking his way across the pipe below.

But this is truly just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what the DualSense (and the PS5) can do. One of the first things I tried out in Astro’s Playroom – the game that comes pre-installed on the PS5 – was a vending machine, though when I pulled the left trigger to yank the crank, I was convinced my controller was broken. There was a strange stiff feeling, almost like I was nocking an arrow. In reality, the DualSense was simply trying to tell me that I didn’t have any coins.

The detail behind the haptics is truly hard to verbalise – they’re that good. You’ll feel the crunch of the box you break to obtain coins, and experience the ring when a coin hits Astro Bot’s metal cortex. When he walks through new terrain, the effort of the weeds he’s pushing through, and the sploosh of the water pretty much jumps out of your controller to remind you that this is the next-generation of gaming. In Memory Meadow, you can even feel the exact direction the wind is coming from as it tries to blow you off of a platform to an early grave.

Freight trains will whoosh past Astro Bot on the SSD Speedway, and you’ll be buffeted by the impact of the air, with a tingling sensation in your palms. When you pull a fettered rope, you’ll feel every single coil snap out of place as you open up the next part of the level. Ok, I’ll stop giving examples now. Let’s just say, it’s groundbreaking, and I’m in love!

The controller feels like the essence of the console, and the epitome of Sony’s ambitions for next-gen. Frankly, I’m much more interested in how game studios will nurture immersion with this incredible bit of kit than I am about splitting hairs with fidelity in the future.

It’s good to note that I was already a die-hard Astro Bot fan after playing 2018’s deeply underrated PSVR title, Rescue Mission. Which is why it brings me incredible joy to know that there’s a game from ASOBI Team baked into the new console. As I received the unit mere hours ago, this is the only thing I’ve played so far, but I’m more than happy with it already. PlayStation fans will adore the tiny references to Gravity Rush, Ratchet And Clank, Killzone and other famous franchises as they explore this chibi kingdom.

astro's playroom PS5 first impressions
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

It doesn’t really feel like a gimmick to get you acquainted with all the new features, as some may have come to expect. In truth, this is a full-blown platformer with oodles of collectables and artefacts to find, based on peripherals and consoles from the Sony vault. I found a PS2 controller earlier, and if we want to talk graphics for a moment, I could see the granular dog-nosed texture of the thumbsticks in incredible detail.

The workhorse SSD ensures you only lose mere seconds upon death, and the audio quality is lush. I particularly enjoyed the jumping SSD Speedway soundtrack, which has a robotic voice straight out of NieR Automata chanting “S-S-D” every so often to remind you where you are.

To zoom out a little bit, I suppose we can talk about the actual look of the console itself. I first unboxed it next to the Series X, and it’s certainly a good bit bigger than its rival. It’s a chunky lad, and I’m going to have to go away and have a think about where it’s going to go in my living room. To be honest, though, I really don’t mind the aesthetic. Where the Xbox is reserved and good for everyone, whereas the PS5 is futuristic and more representative of this absurd medium. Curved sides and small details like the engraved symbols really give it that lavish feel.

We’ll definitely have more to share in the coming days and weeks as we dig further into the mysteries of the PS5. But for now, I’m thoroughly impressed with the design and the DualSense. Everything else will come out in the wash!

The Sony PS5 is out November 12 in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico and South Korea. It will be available to the rest of the world, including the UK and Europe, from November 19.

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