Believe it or not, we're now three years into the PS5 generation — about a third of the way (probably more) through its lifespan before the inevitable PS6. Sony's system has come a long way in that time, and the platform holder is determined to see it a success, aggressively pushing hardware and crafting top tier games to justify a purchase. While the journey's far from over, the anniversary has us feeling reflective, especially as these first few years have been anything but smooth.
Starting at the start, the PS5 launched during a period of worldwide tumult. The COVID-19 outbreak of course had a global impact, but despite this obstacle, Sony pushed to release its brand new console before the end of 2020. The good news is that the console sold out immediately — on the face of it, a great start. The bad news is that the pandemic meant manufacturing new machines to meet demand became much slower than required, resulting in PS5 shortages that would become a thorn in Sony's side for the first couple of years.
At least the console launched with a healthy batch of software. Sony itself published lots of fantastic games alongside PS5, including the excellent Demon's Souls remake, a rock solid side story in Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and the charming Sackboy: A Big Adventure. That's not to mention the fantastic Astro's Playroom, installed on every PS5 to demonstrate the DualSense, the console's fancy new controller. Of course, there was more than just these first-party treats; other launch day highlights included big hitters like Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, as well as indies like Bugsnax and The Pathless. While the launch lineup of software was largely very good, there were some duds. Online action game Godfall didn't measure up, and Watch Dogs Legion's play-as-anyone conceit left it feeling faceless.
The games lineup has only gone from strength to strength, with Sony's own studios in particular releasing some cracking titles for PS5. Barring some exceptions, though, a lot of games on PS5 are also on PS4. The cross-pollination of software hitting both consoles has been far higher here than in any previous generational switch. While the likes of Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Baldur's Gate 3, and Final Fantasy XVI are a few examples of current-gen-only releases, a lot of other high profile games also launched on Sony's older console. Noteworthy exclusives like Horizon Forbidden West, God of War Ragnarok, and Gran Turismo 7 are all brilliant, but all cross-gen. That arguably doesn't matter when the games are of this quality, but that we're only starting to see PS4 being left behind now, about three years into PS5's cycle, means the newer machine has had fewer opportunities to really sing.
All that being said, even the games that are cross-gen often feel much superior on PS5. The ultra-fast SSD means current-gen titles load considerably faster than ever; the machine's built-in 3D audio solution gives games spatial sound; and the DualSense's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, when used to their fullest, can be transformative. The games built only for PS5 highlight all these benefits even further, with the aforementioned Returnal and Rift Apart being prime examples.
But another part of PS5's success so far — it's keeping pace with PS4's sales trajectory, launch aligned, despite the early stock issues — is Sony's commitment to hardware and accessories. Games drive console sales, but it's important for that hardware to be attractive, and the platform holder has provided a range of add-ons that make PS5 feel unified and premium. Alongside the console, the company launched the HD Camera, Media Remote, and Pulse 3D Wireless Headset, and DualSense Charging Station — all following the PS5's curvy, white and black design.
Since then, we've had various new DualSense and cover plate colours, the DualSense Edge and upcoming Access controller, and the PS Portal, which launches in a matter of days. On top of all that, of course, is the brilliant PSVR2 — an enormous step forward from the original PSVR in many ways. Closing in are also the Pulse Explore earbuds and Pulse Elite headphones, and a revised PS5 model has just hit retail too. It all speaks to this idea of PS5 being something bigger than just a console and some cool games.
An under-appreciated part of the machine that extends this idea of unity is the integration of the PS Store into PS5's UI. Browsing and buying on PS Store is a night-and-day improvement over PS4, where a separate, sluggish app takes its time to boot up and load pages. It's probably the most successful part of PS5's interface, which many might argue is a step back in some regards. Firmware updates arrive fairly swiftly, but a handful of quality-of-life features from last gen have yet to transition over. Still, PS4 took a while to get where it is today.
It was also during this three-year period in which Sony completely overhauled PS Plus. The three-tier system we're now used to extends the subscription's value, with the higher tiers rivalling Xbox's Game Pass in terms of bang for your buck. It's a big improvement overall, letting users choose a membership that suits them best. There are weaknesses here — the retro games collection offered with PS Plus Premium is still pretty lacklustre — but over time, we're hopeful these will improve.
All in all, then, we'd say PS5 is doing pretty great three years in. Its Achilles' heel, we suppose, has been a general lack of current-gen-only games. While they do exist, and there are some truly excellent ones, the industry is struggling to let go of the PS4 generation, presumably due to a temptingly large install base. We imagine this will fade away over the next few years, though, and PS5 will really find its voice.
Anyway, that's what we think, but what about you? How are you feeling about PS5 now we're three years down the line? Take part in our poll, and have your say in the comments section below.
Three years in, how do you feel about the PS5? (1,731 votes)
- I love the PS5, it's a fantastic console46%
- I like the PS5, I've enjoyed it so far26%
- The PS5 is fine, I don't feel strongly about it one way or the other13%
- I'm not liking the PS5 much, it's a bit of a letdown7%
- I hate the PS5, it's a total waste of space1%
- I don't have a PS56%