A New Generation is Upon us

I wanted a PlayStation 5.

I don't care for console tribalism. It is an obscenely stupid concept for obscenely stupid people. I won't send you death threats if you choose one expensive piece of hardware over another, though I may say something unflattering about your mother. I like video games, regardless of which platform they're on.

That being said, PlayStation has been my platform of choice since the late-90s. That's when I finally gave up on Sega and shifted to the PS1. I bought a PS2 in 2001, a PSP in 2005, a PS3 in 2008, and a Vita and PS4 at launch. Sony has the exclusives I like, and I've become accustomed to PlayStation's way of doing things, from the controllers to the trophies. I play everything, but I mostly play PlayStation.

I wanted a PlayStation 5, but I could not find one.

Preorders in Japan were a shitshow. Minimal supply and high demand lead to crashed stores and lotteries that were oversubscribed one hundred times over. It has gotten worse since then, and I have spent far too many hours searching for a PS5. My phone would explode with notifications every time a retailer had stock, but over and over again I got nothing but error messages and emptied carts.

With PS5 ownership in 2020 seeming increasingly unlikely, I figured I'd try my luck with an Xbox Series X preorder. I thought the lower demand would work to my advantage, but I was wrong. Now I was failing to get two consoles instead of one. However, my persistence would eventually pay off, and I nabbed a preorder a week or so before launch. It arrived just a day after release.

I wanted a PlayStation 5, but I ended up with an Xbox Series X, and that's pretty alright.

And then a funny thing happened. About two weeks ago, I finally got a PS5 to stay in my Amazon cart long enough to checkout. It arrived last week, and now I need to buy a more generously-sized TV stand. 

I am a lucky boy.

Two consoles at what might be one of the most underwhelming launches of a modern-day, mainstream console. We got super-late reveals, even later pre-orders, a lack of supply, and few truly next-gen games. Even still, I got caught up in the hype. After all, these launches only come around every so often. Emboldened by nine months staying at home saving money, I didn't need much encouragement to splurge on consoles that I know I'll put thousands of hours into. Even still, I wouldn't attempt to justify my purchases to a non-gamer sort, because I'd just sound daft.

Improved performance for existing games, and the promise of better things to come, really shouldn't be an effective selling point for a ¥55,000 console, yet here I am with my Series X. I've spent by far the most time with Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which manages to both impress and disappoint with it's performance. One second it looks beautiful, the next the screen tearing is ruining the experience, though the latest patch has improved things. I'm really enjoying Valhalla, because I like the series and adore historical settings, but performance-wise it's a sorry excuse for a next-gen game. The improved load times in Forza Horizon 4 are game changing, but it's still two-years old. Burnout Paradise is considerably older.

Game Pass is the best deal in gaming, and it will come to define my Series X experience. The system itself is smaller than I thought, and more attractive too. The controller is a slight but welcome improvement on an already excellent design, and the dashboard is very Xbox. The initial set-up was straightforward, and I feel very comfortable using it.

The PlayStation 5, however, was a hassle straight out of the box. The unit is bigger and uglier than you were lead to believe. It is truly hideous. It does look slightly better stood vertically, but few of us will store it that way. To get it under the TV, it has to lay horizontally, looking like a felled monolith of a civilization too tasteless to endure. It now occupies the cubby where two consoles once sat - my PS4 (sold it) and PS3 (begrudgingly retired it).

The first time I turned it on it ran a few updates - it seems to download things far quicker than the PS4 - and then I grabbed some save files from the cloud. Unfortunately, this cannot be done in the background, so I spent another twenty minutes watching an update bar. With that out the way, I tried to play Astrobot, and that's when the fun began. The PS5 threw up a warning message that my Sony TV was not capable of 4K HDR, which it most certainly is. I spent the next hour researching and playing with my TV settings before finally convincing my new console that my TV was more than up to the task. Honestly, I'm not quite sure whether the fault lay with my PS5 or the TV, though the internet is full of people experiencing similar issues. I had no such problem with my Series X.

Now that I've had my moan, let's talk about the most impressive part of the PS5 - the controller. Of all the things the Series X and PS5 have shown us thus far, this is the one that feels truly next-gen. Improved rumble and haptic triggers are the kind of features that you might roll your eyes at, but you really shouldn't. There is a great deal of potential here. The controller feels expensive, familiar, yet futuristic. While I want to hide the console away, I'd like to show the world my new Dualshock.

Astrobot is perhaps the most generous tech-demo we've ever seen, and a charming reminder of twenty-five years of play. I haven't bought anything else just yet, as I'm destitute after purchasing two new consoles, and I also have plenty yet to do in Valhalla. However, I hope to pick up Demon's Souls in the new year, and maybe Miles Morales too.

With my PS4 and Xbox One already sold to new owners, I'm ready to jump feet first into a new generation of games. Let's hope it's a good one.


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