With four weeks to go until launch, Sony has finally offered a look at the PlayStation 5’s revamped user interface and user experience in a nearly 12-minute video and accompanying blog post.
The PlayStation 5 will come with some major upgrades when Sony launches it on Nov. 12. The new Control Center pops up with a press of the PlayStation button, and offers players some key console options without ever suspending the game.
The new Activities feature is a kind of beacon for developers to point players toward objectives. Via a picture-in-picture mode, players can jump to different levels or see their in-game progress without going back to the PlayStation 5’s dashboard.
For example, one of the Activity cards for Sackboy: A Big Adventure tells the player that it will take about 10 minutes to complete their current mission. Another card offers the name of a different level, letting players immediately jump to something new.
The video shows the PlayStation 5’s rest-mode boot screen, which takes players to a PlayStation 3-esque start screen and user selection. The UI, including the Control Center, runs in 4K HDR, and the PS5 can capture 4K screenshots and video. Game developers can even choose to mark certain screenshots with a spoiler warning when users send them to friends via the PlayStation Network.
Sony’s demo boots right into the Sackboy: A Big Adventure Control Center, and we see some of the Activity cards mentioned above. But at the front of the Control Center is a recent Sackboy screenshot and a prompt for news stories related to the player’s games.
Sony then moves to preview the friend and party menu. Unlike on the PlayStation 4, the friend menu simply pops up inside the Control Center, without launching into a separate wing of the UI. Players can look at their recent parties or tap the square button to create a new one, all with the game sitting in the background. Players can use this same in-game system to check their download status, controller’s battery life, and more.
The video then jumps into a deeper look at the Activity cards. Despite being in Sackboy: A Big Adventure’s overworld, the player has an unfinished mission lying around — they’re 33% done with “A Big Adventure.”
Instead of jumping into the mission via the overworld, they select the mission in the Activity card menu. The Activity card lists their current objectives for the mission, how far along they are, and how long Sony estimates they have left. With another tap of the button, they jump into where they left off in the mission.
Back inside “A Big Adventure,” Sony shows off the PS5’s new Game Help feature for some missions — a PlayStation Plus-exclusive benefit. In Sackboy, players can hover over a specific objective and get an in-game guide to help them find what they’re looking for. The example shows two different screenshots and a 20-second video, which plays inside the card. Players can even place cards like this in a picture-in-picture mode so they can watch the Game Help video while they play.
The player then gets an in-game notification for a new voice chat with a friend. Instead of popping out of the game, like on PlayStation 4, players can instantly jump into the chat with a few taps. And due to the DualSense controller’s built-in microphone, they could start talking without having to plug in a headset.
The player then pulls up a party chat where their friend is livestreaming some Uncharted: The Lost Legacy gameplay. Again without leaving the game, the player loads up the video to see where their buddy is. Then, they pop the Lost Legacy stream into the bottom left of their screen and resume playing Sackboy.
Done with solo gaming in Sackboy: A Big Adventure and ready to play with friends, the player opens the Control Center again and finds an Activity card showing their friends playing Destruction AllStars. They click on the card and start the joining process to group up with their buddies, exiting out of Sackboy and quickly loading into Destruction AllStars.
Sony then takes players to the PS5 dashboard, which should look familiar to PlayStation 4 owners. Players can scroll horizontally through their games, and press down on the D-pad to look at an individual game’s various news and Activity cards. While Activity cards are primarily for PS5 games, players also gain some of these benefits for their backward-compatible PS4 titles.
Next to the PlayStation Store on the dashboard is the new Explore feature. Clicking down, players can get a curated news reel from Sony. This includes new details for games that players currently own or “follow.” Explore will be available only in the United States at launch; it will come to other regions at a later date.
When players hover over the PlayStation Store in the dashboard, new offerings will appear below. The store is now part of the system UI, not its own, separate app. Players can purchase PS5 games and backward-compatible PS4 games via the new “curated” store.
To finish off the video, the player shares a previously taken screenshot from Destruction AllStars, and uses the DualSense’s built-in microphone to dictate a message with their voice — another new feature.
While it’s certainly later than the Xbox Series X UI previews, Sony seems to have stepped up its game with user-friendly PS5 features like Game Help and picture-in-picture sharing. Sony will launch the PlayStation 5 in select regions, including North America and Japan, on Nov. 12, with a debut in Europe and the rest of the world on Nov. 19.