When was the last time we saw a game-changing reveal in the immediate run-up to the launch of a next generation console? Sony may well have pulled this out of the bag with today’s new State of Play, concentrating on the much-anticipated PlayStation 5 user interface. Sony’s menu systems have always been polished, beautiful pieces of work, but for the next generation, this is married with a truly impressive range of in-game functions. There are some impressive new improvements to existing options but also things we have never seen before in a console. Digital Foundry had the chance to see the interface ahead of time and to talk about the new system with SIE’s Hideaki Nishino, senior vice president of platform and planning management.
And at the basic level, the user interface itself does not disappoint. We’ve had hints of sorts about the look and feel of the system UI in prior Sony online events, with a smart menu system rendered in glittering bronze – and we can now confirm that the whole presentation renders at a native 4K and even supports native HDR out of the box. We also get our first look at the home page, where games and media apps each get their own portion of the UI. There’s a focus on instant access to everything you need – delivered thanks to the new, faster Zen 2 CPU cores and the ultra-fast SSD solution, supplemented by a caching system to reduce potential network lag. On top of that, certain apps like the PlayStation Store are now fully integrated into the system, meaning no delay when you access them.
But the cool new stuff really starts to kick in when you highlight a specific game – it’s at this point where we start to see the ‘cards’ associated with the title, and the most crucial card type are Activities. Essentially, Activity cards take the form of curated entry points into the game, authored by the developer – ‘ready to wear’ challenges that get you straight into the action with specific objectives highlighted – and even an estimate on play time offered. In the State of Play video, we see how just fast activating an Activity is: we are running from a suspended version of the game (it’s not a cold boot), but regardless, thanks to presentational flourishes, any hint of loading is cleverly obscured – you’re straight into gameplay.