Overall, my time with the PlayStation 5 has left me very impressed. Ray tracing, instant load times, the DualSense controller, and Tempest 3D audio all add up to a complete and exciting package delivering next-gen gaming to the masses.
But it’s not perfect. Sony’s approach to next-gen has left it some room to improve before the console hits its stride. Aspects of the console have left even hardcore gamers confused about how to use the platform's feature set and interface. If Sony wants the PlayStation 5 to remain gaming's golden child, here are some of the biggest shortcoming they'll need to tackle:
Knowing what next-gen features are available on individual PS5 games is confusing.
The PS5’s two biggest launch titles are Demon’s Souls and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Both games support performance modes that run at 60 fps, however Miles Morales supports ray tracing in its 30 fps “Fidelity'' mode (as well as a newly released “Performance RT” mode). Demon’s Souls can drop the frame rate down to 30 fps but does not reward you with ray tracing in exchange. Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition has even more game modes, including a 30 fps mode and 60 fps mode, both with ray tracing, and a 120 fps mode without it. Yeah, it's confusing.
You wouldn't know any of this from the PlayStation Store's descriptions of these games. In fact, the descriptions of Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls make no mention of any of their next-gen features. Devil May Cry does mention next-gen features but not specifically enough to inform the average consumer. Adding a standardized set of feature labels to a game's information section, right alongside the amount of storage a game requires to install, would make a world of difference to informing customer's choices. As this generation starts to mature, developers will each pick their own next-gen features to optimize for, so it’s important for people to know what kind of experiences they can expect with each purchase.
Sony has done a poor job getting PS4 games to add increased performance on PS5.
On PlayStation 5, some PS4 games can run at a locked 60 fps and they look amazing. However, God of War can only hit 60 fps in its 1080p performance mode — when playing in resolution mode, God of War is locked to 30 fps. As noted by Digital Foundry, the PS5 seems more than capable at running the majority of PS4 games at locked 60 fps in terms of raw power, but developers aren’t patching their old games to allow this.
This is because the PS5 runs PS4 games in a legacy mode, limiting the console’s power to match the performance targets of the original PS4 code and no higher. If a game ran around 40 fps on PS4 Pro despite targeting 60 (like God of War), then the PS5 will help the game achieve its target. But, because God of War’s resolution mode only targets 30 fps, the PS5 can’t do anything to improve the game.
“Going back to old PS4 games and playing them at 60 fps, with no compromises, has been a highlight of my time with PS5.”
Sony does say they have a solution for this. “Game Boost," a feature of the PS5 that isn’t well publicized, does what most people would hope the PS5 could already do in backwards compatibility mode: it allows the console to run a game at locked 60 fps without needing to also drop resolution.
Ghost of Tsushima is one of just a few games that support Game Boost and the experience is jaw-dropping. The detail is so high and the frame rate is so smooth, you’d swear you were playing a true next-gen game, something like a secret third launch title. It's so effective that it leaves you wondering why Sony didn’t mandate all of it’s in-house studios implement Game Boost in their older games. Going back to old PS4 games and playing them at 60 fps, with no compromises, has been a highlight of my time with PS5. I wish more games supported it.
Sony reserves 120Hz for next-gen games. Microsoft does not.
When Rocket League was updated for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, the results on PS5 were not as impressive. On Xbox Series X, the game could run up to 120 fps, bringing to the living room an experience that PC players have had for so long. This was despite the fact that Rocket League on Xbox Series X is still technically an Xbox One game. On PS5, Rocket League runs only at 60 fps. This is also the case for Call of Duty: Warzone.
As Eurogamer reported, it turns out that Sony will only let a game run at 120 fps if that game is a native PS5 file — which also requires it to run off the internal NVMe SSD. This means that many multiplayer games will take longer to update for the new console if their developer’s resources aren’t as vast as say, Epic Games and Fortnite. On Xbox Series X, games only need a minor patch to allow for a target framerate higher than 60 fps. There's no reason they need to become fully Series X/S Enhanced games.
As great as Game Boost is, it seems Sony only designed it to help games reach locked 60 fps at full resolution. This is a fine option for older titles, as it seems Game Boost can be added with a fairly minor patch, but for multiplayer games that are an ongoing service, Sony is imposing more work on developer teams than its rival Microsoft without providing any compelling reasoning. If a game like Rocket League has no intention of adding other next-gen features, like ray tracing, any time soon, it’s pointless to force them to turn the game into a PS5 file just to provide 120 fps playback.
None of these features are themselves a deal breaker but they are irritating when compounded. This generation is still young, so the majority of PS5 owners are going to be playing mostly PS4 games — which is why it’s such a shame that they won’t get the best performance on everything in their libraries. If Sony can't provide a fix as more and more people finally join this generation of gaming, which games offer which next-gen features will continue to be a difficult topic to research. The PS5 is a good beacon for what next-gen could become, but it has a ways to go before it’s a complete vision.