Convenience is King
After months of waiting and speculating, Sony has finally revealed the UI for the Playstation 5. Rebuilt from the ground up, this new experience is designed with the player very much in mind.
Sony has been consistent in touting the speed of the PS5, and this is again on full display as we see the demo boot up from rest mode with the game – in this case Sackboy: A Big Adventure – ready to drop into immediately. The first thing Sony highlights is that with a tap of the PlayStation button we are taken to the control centre. The control centre takes the form of several “cards” laid out horizontally, which gives you access to all the system management features you would be used to from the PS4 including managing downloads, seeing who is online, etc.
Cards are central to Sony’s approach with their new UI. Without leaving your game, you are able to quickly check up on any news from publishers, review any recently created media, and most significantly Sony’s plan to “remove barriers to gameplay” which they are calling “activities”. Activities offer a running tally of your completion percentage, not just in the whole game but also within a specific level, down to the objectives you have yet to complete. A very impressive feature is Playstation’s estimate of your time remaining in the level, this is personalised to your own play speed – so no more wondering if you have time to finish that level before dinner!
Using activity cards can sometimes let you jump directly to that section of the game you are playing, this may not be a feature in all games however, and could be something that we only see from Sony’s first party studios at launch. Active PS+ members will have access through activity cards to “game help”, which will give hints for specific objectives with no worry about running into spoilers. Some game help hints will even feature video which can be played picture-in-picture, so you can literally play alongside the help video to complete your objective.
With their new UI, Sony is making it easier than ever to connect with your friends. In the demo, a notification pops up with an invite which can be responded to with a simple press of the Playstation button and players can take advantage of the dualsense’s inbuilt microphone to chat right away. One awesome feature displayed in the demo is the ability to watch a screen share of your friend’s gameplay while you chat away, and even pin the screen share picture-in-picture! No confirmation yet how many different streams you can watch in one go, or whether you will be able to watch a Youtube or Twitch stream picture-in-picture, however there will be dedicated tabs on the home screen for other media so it seems like a possibility.
Joining your friends online is made even easier with the new UI, as players can see what their party members are playing from the control centre and jump right in. Once again the PS5’s incredible load speeds are on display as the demo jumps from Sackboy to Destruction Allstars with barely any delay. The demo zips through the matchmaking screen, so its tough to tell if accepting an invite will put you directly in a lobby with your friends, but it seems logical.
Sony’s UI demo shows off our first look at the create button, with one push bringing up a menu bar at the bottom of the screen with options for screenshot and screen record – both available in 4K. There is also a small radio mast icon which is most likely your portal to streaming content, though the demo does not go into streaming. One very cool feature mentioned was the ability to share your media directly to your party, but if you are sharing content from a game they don’t own – or a level they haven’t got to yet – it will be tagged with a spoiler warning. Very considerate, Sony.
The demo gives us a look at the new Playstation home page, which you will see when booting up from powered-off mode. The display is very pleasingly uncluttered, with game icons in the top left of the screen and the rest taken up by a screenshot of the game you are currently viewing. Scrolling down will bring up all the news and media relevant to the game, which will also work for some backwards compatible PS4 games as well. The home menu features an explore tab, which shows off more news from Sony, however this will not be available to all players at launch as Sony tests the feature out.
We get our first hints at what the Playstation store experience will be like on PS5, easily accessed from the home screen, which features a row of “must-see” games before you even open the app. Sony is promising a faster and more personalised experience on the store, and as digital purchase becomes the industry norm, more and more players will be taking advantage of these features.
This brief look at Sony’s new UI shows how they have learned from the PS4 era, taking lessons from how modern gamers like to play. Sony’s dedication to “removing barriers to gameplay” suggests they are well aware how few people actually finish games, and are taking steps to make getting that help much easier. Online multiplayer and streaming were already becoming increasingly popular, and a global pandemic has only increased that trend, and Sony is making your social network of gaming friends easier to access and play with. All of this is shown off with the typical Sony polish and attention to detail, and while there are still features we have questions about, we now have a much better idea of what our screens will look like in November.
What new feature are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!