PS5 at First Blush

Next-gen is finally current-gen. With both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X in the house, I feel extremely happy and excited for the future of gaming. I don’t think it is any secret that I was more excited to get my hands on the PS5 than the Xbox Series X. Finally having the white, curvy monolith standing next to my TV makes the future of gaming a reality to me. Here are my first impressions after having a PS5 for a few days.

The Console

After a tantalizing reveal process led to a surprising console design, the white and black design has grown on me. I think the PS5 is sleek and sexy. It reminds me of the original PS3 with its shiny and curvy exterior.

The disc drive resonates in a low hum when copying data from the disc to the SSD. It’s actually much more prominent than I hoped for. When playing a PS5 game, the disc is solely used to verify the game since all the data is required to run off the SSD. I tried The Last of Us Part II (shocker, I know) and the disc seemed to be constantly running, which left the hum. This somewhat surprised and disappointed me. If you’ve got your speakers turned up or play with headphones, you’ll never notice this while playing. I haven’t put a disc inside my Xbox Series X yet, so I’m not sure how loud it may or may not be.

11/16/20 Update: Turns out that The Last of Us Part II had not finished installing entirely. I realized this when I had to download a patch for Spider-Man: Miles Morales this morning. Turns out that The Last of Us Part II had 30GBs remaining to install. That is why the disc drive was running constantly. I let the game finish installing and after booting the game, the disc drive went silent.

Outside of the disc drive, the PS5 sounds whisper quiet to me, which is exactly what I expected.

The UI reminds me of a fusion between the PS3 and PS4. The biggest change is that pressing the PS button on the controller brings up a small XMB switcher instead of taking you to the home screen. Lots of muscle memory is going to have to be broken to get used to this new UI.

The DualSense Controller

Holding the DualSense for the first time, it makes a killer first impression. Even without powering it on and feeling all the new tech inside, the heft and material quality is top notch. I could easily see this becoming an all time great in the Game Controller Hall of Fame.

Then you play a game and feel the new haptic motors and resistive triggers. This is like the HD Rumble in the Switch Joy-Con but amped up; if it had a marketing name, it might be called 4K rumble. I haven’t been this immersed with a controller since the Wii Remote. Simply magical.

Speed

Spider-Man loaded from the PS5 menu to gameplay before I could finish sipping my orange juice. – Me

Set Up

Set up was smooth. The PS5 also lets you use your phone to log in, just like the Xbox Series X. One cool part was being able to install a disc-based game while the console did its own updates. Makes it much easier to jump right into playing once set up is done.

Astro’s Playroom

2018’s Astrobot’s Rescue Mission is not only one of PS VR’s best games, but VR as a whole. Now the next Astrobot game comes with Astro’s Playroom preloaded on every PS5.

There has not been a pack in game this delightful since Wii Sports. It proves how unique the DualSense controller is. It also doubles as a wonderful celebration of PlayStation’s history. Every reference I recognized and connected with slapped a silly grin on my face. Asobi Team proves their innovative platforming design once again. Never underestimate the power of PlayStation.

Xbox Series X at First Blush

The next generation of console gaming has begun today with the Xbox Series X | S. I picked up my Series X this morning at Best Buy at 6:00 AM. Despite each customer requiring an appointment before 9:00 AM, Best Buy was not prepared for the 20+ folks that were there this morning. After buckling up and making it home, I was able to set up the Tower of Power before needing to start work. Here are some of my first impressions with the latest and most powerful from Microsoft.

The Console

It may not be as tall as the PS5, but the Series X was far more dense than I expected. It fits well next to my TV and I imagine once the new factor wears off, the console will just fade into the background in my mind.

The Controller

The matte black finish is much nicer to my eye than the Xbox One controller’s more glossy accents. I am curious how oils from my hands will look over the years. The textured grip feels great in my hands, although not as grippy as the rubber grips on Elite Series controllers. The nicest surprise is the D-Pad. Delightfully clicky and comfortable. I’ll have to test a 2D platformer for the accuracy, but it feels like a real treat.

Speed

Coming from an OG Xbox One, I cannot believe how fast the Series X boots. Gone are the 30~ second boot times from “Instant On” mode. Hello blink-of-an-eye start times.

Set-Up

Microsoft wants you to use the Xbox app to set up the console, so I did. The process is slick. While the console updates its firmware, you are logging in, establishing preferences, and deciding if you want to transfer games/info from an Xbox One. I did a clean set up and just downloaded the few games I wanted to play.

I do wish that the app allowed me to see the download status of the games. It simply shows what is installed, which left me to pop into the living room every couple hours to check the status of my installs. I also could not figure out some sort of rest mode, so I left the console on most of the day for the downloads to do their thing. Even though I left it on, the console was dead silent. I’m curious what it will sound like when running a game.

One fun tidbit is that the console identifies itself as “SCARLETT” to the network. A nice little easter egg to the product codename.

Games

The absence of Halo Infinite is a major blow. The only “new” game I am going to play is Tetris Effect Connected and that is simply adding 4K60 support and multiplayer. I am stoked to finally play Forza Horizon 4 for the first time. The updates to the Halo: Master Chief collection sound dope, but those will be released next week. As cool as the hardware side of a launch is, I am feeling an emptiness for games to play on the Series X. Thankfully, the PS5 and its launch lineup will fill that hole later this week.

Now it’s time to go play some games!

Moving (on Grounded Difficulty)

Been a while since I’ve published here, nearly a whole month in fact. I have spent that time packing and moving to a new home and finishing The Last of Us Part II on Grounded difficulty. This was my 14th move in my life and my third time beating The Last of Us Part II since its release on June 19, 2020.

What’d I miss?

PS5 Backward Compatibility Detailed

More than 99% of PS4 games will be playable on PS5. That sounds like what I expected. Here is what I wrote after the June PS5 event:

The last point I wanted to touch on was actually what kicked off the entire show. There was a montage of big name PS4 games. While not as declarative as Microsoft’s messaging surrounding backward compatibility, this is certainly clearer than Sony’s original statements. This tells the consumer that you can play your PS4 games on PS5, don’t worry. It was a good way to open the show up.

The real question is why did it take so long for Sony to be clear and direct with this messaging.

The Official PS5 Teardown

This thing is a giant, sleek heat sink with liquid metal to help transfer heat from the CPU. Can’t wait to hear how quiet (or not quiet) the console is.

PS5 UI Tour

I have way more thoughts about the UI of the PS5. At this point, I think those thoughts may be better saved for the review I plan to write. At first blush, it appears snappy, integrated deeper into the games and social interactions, and way too big.

Jason Rubin Promoted to VP of Play at Facebook Gaming and launches Cloud Gaming

Co-founder of Naughty Dog has been at Facebook for two years, mostly in charge of Oculus VR partnerships. Rubin was recently promoted to VP of Play at Facebook. This announcement goes alongside the company’s own implementation of cloud gaming. Rather than charge or a subscription or offer some special hardware, Facebook is just using cloud gaming as a way to deliver games and ads for games to their users. You can play right in the News Feed or on their Gaming tab. This approach seems incredibly smart to me. It is integrating cloud gaming, instead of providing a new service, platform, or controller. Cloud gaming will just be one way to play these mobile games, not the only way.

Analogue Duo

Boutique FPGA console maker Analogue has entered the CD-based FPGA console arena with a TurboGrafx-16, PC Engine, SuperGrafx, TurboGrafx CD, PC Engine CD-ROM, and Super Arcade CD-ROM focused console. It is supposed to launch in 2021 at $200 with a limited supply.

XSX Auto HDR in Action

Digital Foundry did a breakdown of the new Auto HDR system-level feature on the Xbox Series X. It will add HDR to games that were never designed with it in mind, which helps make those back compat titles, theoretically, look even better. The feature seems to be hit or miss though, depending on the game.

Uncharted Movie first tease look

I am now strangely hopeful? I just want this movie to be a fun ride. Whether it’ll be fun because it is another poor video game movie or a action-adventure romp remains to be seen.

MacStories iOS 14 Review

Ticci time arrived! Federico Viticci’s annual iOS review is always a treat and 2020’s iOS 14 review is no exception. I am still chipping away at it, but I can’t think of a better place to go to fully explore the impact of iOS 14 on its users.

iPhone 12 line revealed

Welcome back flat sides!

Invincible Animated Series Teaser

Please, please be good.

Cutting the Hair: The History of Neil Druckmann’s Hair during the PS4 Era

A silver-foxed lining of staying at home in 2020 is that folks around the world are growing out their hair in pursuit of the “man bun.” While the idea of having a man bun is a fantasy for some, one man in the video game industry has been in leveling up his hair stat for over seven years: Neil Druckmann.

Continue reading “Cutting the Hair: The History of Neil Druckmann’s Hair during the PS4 Era”