So you just got a... Sony PlayStation 5

You managed to get hold of one? It's a Christmas miracle!

So you unwrapped a PlayStation 5 on Christmas morning, huh?

Well, congratulations to the big guy in the suit for a) managing to get hold of one and b) fitting the thing under the tree.

Yep, Sony’s brand new and extraordinarily large PlayStation is probably the hottest gift of 2020, and with good reason: innovative hardware, truckloads of power and an impressively varied launch line make for a next-gen experience worthy of the hype.

But consoles aren’t as simple as they used to be. Both Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen machines are more like gaming PCs than their forerunners, capable of pumping out 4K 60fps visuals with hardware-accelerated ray tracing, but you’ll need to dip into the settings more often than you’re used to to maximise performance.

Luckily, we’re to help. Read on for everything you need to know about your new PS5 from day one.

1) Getting started

Once you’ve unboxed the PS5, marvelled at its, er, distinctive design, and hopefully worked out where exactly it’s going to live, you’ll need to attach it to the included stand. It’s a minor hassle, but doesn’t take long - you only really have to worry about a single screw - and Sony has designed the stand to allow for both vertical and horizontal positioning on your media unit. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to turn the console on.

If you’re coming from an original PS4, you’ll notice that the PS5 comes with a slightly different-looking HDMI cable than before. That’s because it’s an Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 cable, which facilitates the 4K at up to 120Hz gaming the next-gen console-makers have done a lot of shouting about.

But while your PS5 can carry 120 frames per second, that doesn’t necessarily mean your TV can keep up. For the very best next-gen experience, your 4K HDR TV needs to support HDMI 2.1, and unless you’ve bought it very recently, chances are it doesn’t. We’ve put together a far more detailed guide to TVs and the new generation of consoles here, but the good news is that the old HDMI 2.0 standard is perfectly capable of supporting an HDMI 2.1 cable and 4K up to 60fps, which is still a huge step up on what console gamers are used to. Plus, with so few games supporting 120Hz at launch, we’re still not sure how that’ll affect resolution going forward.

Once you’ve connected the HDMI 2.1 cable to both your PS5 and TV and plugged the console into a power source, you can turn the PS5 on with the DualSense controller. Be sure to first connect the pad to the console with the included USB cable, as this is required for the initial setup.

Follow the on-boarding steps displayed on your TV’s display or set up your machine using the PlayStation smartphone app. Either way, you’ll quickly be able to link the PS5 with your PSN ID and dig into the settings to make sure your TV is outputting at its maximum potential. It’s worth getting acquainted with the HDR sliders in particular, as you’ll be reminded about HDR performance on the majority of games you boot up going forward.

If you’re a PS4 owner, you’ll probably want to know how to get your existing library onto your PS5. There are multiple ways of doing this, each of them relatively simple. Those who have been using an external HDD with their PS4 or PS4 Pro have the quickest and easiest job. Simply unplug it from the outgoing console and into your PS5. You’ll be able to play your old games straight from the hard drive, while also preserving precious space on the PS5’s SSD.

If you don’t have an external drive and want to take games from your PS4’s hard drive, there’s an option in system settings to transfer them over Wi-Fi or a wired connection. You’ll need both consoles connected to the internet and turned on (plus some time to spare) but then it’s just a case of selecting the games you want carried over.

Otherwise, you’re able to view all the games you own in your PlayStation library and download the ones you want straight to the PS5. If you’re a PS Plus subscriber you have access to cloud saves, which you’ll be able to transfer for each game by heading to”Saved Data and Game/App Settings”. Most of the PS4’s library is backwards-compatible on PS5, and if you’re running them off the SSD many will benefit from faster loading times and improved framerates.

The last thing you’ll want to do before you start playing games is familiarise yourself with the new UI. The PS5 retains the PS4’s minimalist approach to navigating the operating system, but there are some useful additions. Games and other media (streaming apps etc) are now split into two tabs, so you can easily access what you want, while artwork for games fills the whole screen when highlighted - a nice touch. We also like how PS5 and PS4 games can be filtered in your game library so you can quickly find what you want to play.

2) Get to know the DualSense

Arguably the most exciting weapon in the PS5’s arsenal is its new controller, which differs both in looks and functionality to the DualShocks of the past.

Keeping the motion controls and touchpad from the DualShock 4, the DualSense also replaces traditional rumble with haptic feedback for far more subtle vibrations that can add new layers of immersion in games, while the triggers are now adaptive, meaning they can dynamically adjust the levels of resistance in response to what is happening in a game. There’s also a built-in microphone, which we confidently predict will be used effectively in at least three games over the next seven years.

Note that the latter is turned on by default, which might understandably creep some people out. It also means that if you’re playing online multiplayer games, people are going to hear everything you’re saying. Good thing, then, that there’s a mute button on the pad itself, located just under the PS button. Just remember to press it if you don’t want to broadcast yourself all the time.

We think the default settings for everything else are fine, but should you want to change anything, you can customise volume, vibration intensity, trigger effect intensity and the brightness levels of controller indicators.

3) Get gaming

Honestly, you could easily spend hours tinkering with the PS5’s many new features, but eventually you’re probably going to want to play some games. Luckily, the PS5 has plenty of those at launch, and there really is something for everyone.

Below we’ll point you towards the best launch games, as well as a few PS4 classics that you should absolutely play on PS5 if you haven’t done already.

Astro's Playroom (£free)

The first game you should be booting up is Astro’s Playroom, which comes pre-loaded on every newly purchased PS5. It’s a deliriously upbeat and colourful 3D platformer that makes brilliant use of the innovative DualSense controller and its various features, all while paying homage to PlayStation’s some 25-year history with some adorable robot theatrics. Clocking in at around five hours for those who want to see everything, you can easily play through it in just a few sittings, and there’s no better game for showing off the potential of the new pad.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (£48)

This festive-themed mini-sequel to 2018’s excellent Spider-Man game sees you suit up as the new webhead in town, Miles Morales. With Pete off on his jollies, it’s up to Miles to keep an eye on New York, and it predictably doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand. Miles Morales is just as fantastically fun to play as the previous game, and looks incredible on the PS5, whether you’re playing on the default 30fps “fidelity mode” with ray tracing and advanced lighting effects, or the 60fps “performance mode”. We recommend at least trying the latter for super smooth swinging.

Buy now

Demon’s Souls (£63)

Nice new pad you got there. It’d be a shame if you launched it out of the nearest open window in a fit of frothing rage, wouldn’t it? That’s always a risk when playing a Souls game, famed for their hardcore difficulty and punishing approach to progress. They’re also, according to many, some of the greatest and most rewarding video games of all time, and Demon’s Souls is the one that started it all, remade from the ground-up for the PS5. It looks so good on Sony’s new console that you might not even mind being forced to fight the same boss 10 times before working out how to emerge victorious.

Buy now

Sackboy: A Big Adventure (£55)

The star of LittleBigPlanet series now has a 3D platformer to call his own, and what a good one it is. Our fancy dress-loving hessian hero’s quest to free the Sackfolk from the wicked Vex takes him to numerous handmade worlds, all of them looking splendid in shiny 4K, and while there’s nothing particularly original in here, it’s never less than enjoyable. Plus, without spoiling anything, A Big Adventure’s use of licensed music makes for some of most grin-inducing gaming moments we’ve had all year. The fact it can all be played in co-op is the icing on the cake.

Buy now

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (£52)

Ubisoft’s viking epic is a cross-generation multiplatform game, but it’s best played in glorious 60fps on the new hardware. If you’ve played any of the recent Assassin’s Creed entries you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. The game, which largely takes in a Dark Ages England, is staggeringly enormous in both size and scope, and given that you’re controlling a heavily armoured and not remotely subtle viking warrior, it probably represents the furthest the series has moved away from its stealthy roots. But we’ve already lost tens of hours to Eivor’s adventure, and don’t plan on stopping soon.

Buy now

PlayStation Plus Collection

If you’re a PS Plus subscriber you’ll have access to the PlayStation Plus Collection, a range of some of the best games from the PS4 era, at no additional cost. This is a mouthwatering proposition for those playing catch-up. Most are worth playing, but anyone yet to play God of War, The Last Guardian and Uncharted 4 should get to work on fixing that.

You can find a few more game recommendations here. 

3) Add some accessories

If you’re after the complete PS5 setup, all of this stuff is worth considering.

Pulse 3D Wireless headset (£90)

Sony’s official wireless headset has been as hard to get hold of as the console itself, but if you can snag one, you’ll have a pair of cans finely tuned to utilise the PS5’s 3D audio engine, plus dual noise-cancelling microphones that ensure you can bark out clear instructions to your mates on CoD.

Buy now

SteelSeries Arctis 7P (£160)

If you’re after an alternative to the Sony-made headset, look no further than SteelSeries’ superb Arctis 7P. It features a custom PS5 paint job and comes with the company’s USB-C dongle, which when inserted into the console’s port allows for lossless 2.4 GHz wireless audio. It’s also supremely comfortable.

Buy now

DualSense charging Station (£25)

This dock allows you to charge two DualSense controllers simultaneously without having to plug them into the console. Handy if you need the ports for other things, and means you’ll always be picking up a fully charged pad.

Buy now

PlayStation HD camera (£50)

The PS5 is tailor-made for streamers, allowing you to broadcast gameplay straight to your platform of choice. This camera has a built-in stand and captures 1080p footage, which is more than enough resolution for your expressive mush.

Buy now