Due to the nature of my job, I own every modern video game console. I have a PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, PC, and even a Steam Deck. Would you believe me if I told you that out of all of those, the PS5 is the one I use the least?
- Bringing back the classics
- Port problems
- A reason to log in
It’s not that I never use it. Sony still offers the best console exclusives around, with top-notch titles like Horizon Forbidden West and Returnal. For that reason, my PS5 is a sturdy pillar in my gaming rotation that’ll never just sit collecting dust. That said, I rarely boot it up for any reason other than to play those handful of releases. Meanwhile, each of my other gaming devices have some incentive that has me returning to them even when there’s not a tentpole AAA game to dig into.
In that sense, Sony’s newly revamped PS Plus service is the supplemental experience the PS5 has been lacking since its launch. It offers a compelling reason to keep the console in sleep mode, turning the PS5 into a treasure trove of classic games – even if the service is far from perfect in its current form.
Bringing back the classics
The new PS Plus is essentially Sony’s answer to Xbox Game Pass. It’s a subscription service that currently features over 700 games that players can access between three different payment tiers. The most basic tier functions like PS Plus used to, giving players a few free games a month, but the premium and extra levels up the ante. If you go all-in, you’ll gain access to a slew of games, from PS5 exclusives to classics from Sony’s library.
The list of classic games is currently incomplete. You can’t play Twisted Metal or Sly Cooper on it, for instance. That led to some knee-jerk reactions as some players wrote the service off before it even launched. But when I upgraded to the extra tier and started digging through the list of games, my backlog immediately ballooned into an unruly beast that would take years to tame. With massive gaps in my Sony history, I’d be able to play through important series like God of War, Jak & Daxter, and Ratchet & Clank for the first time ever.
I started my deep dive into the PS Plus catalog by downloading a bunch of games I’d always seen as a kid, but never touched. By the end of my first night with the service, I’d already discovered a handful of hidden gems. For instance, the first game I downloaded was Mr. Driller, a classic Namco PS1 puzzle game that immediately won me over. It’s a fast-paced spin on Dig Dug that has players drilling down to the bottom of a well while avoiding falling blocks. It still holds up perfectly in 2022, making it the exact flavor of hidden gem I want from a service like this.
What’s fun about PS Plus’ library is that you can download just about any classic game and have a totally unique experience. After Mr. Driller, I popped over to Ape Escape 2, which remains a charming (though clunky) platformer. Then it was on to the PS1’s Intelligent Qube, a totally bizarre puzzle game about trapping sentient cubes.
Even when the games aren’t great, they’re at the very least weird enough to be worth a curious download.
PS Plus’ biggest problem currently isn’t its game selection so much as its low-effort ports. For instance, PSP games don’t take advantage of the fact that modern PlayStation controllers have two sticks. So in a game like Super Stardust Portable, players have to use face buttons to shoot. With no button remapping support at the moment, certain games are simply a pain to play.
Ape Escape textures going nuts on PS5. Only $120 a year for this, guys. pic.twitter.com/pXbu7uPhxk
— Johnny “ChiGuy” Zaccari (@JohnnyZaccari) June 13, 2022
Other issues are even more distracting. The version of Ape Escape 2 included with PS Plus is an unmitigated disaster. Everything on the screen is constantly tearing, in a way that makes me genuinely worried for anyone who is prone to seizures. That’s not to mention the general image quality of some older games, which tend to feature cutscenes that look like a 480p YouTube video stretched out across the largest monitor possible.
There’s also the issue of PS3 games only being available through cloud play, with no native versions available. Those oddities put a damper on the preservation potential here, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But even so, just being able to boot up a PSP game at all in 2022 is exciting enough that no bugs are going to stop me from digging in.
A reason to log in
The new PS Plus is a crucial service for Sony in the modern video game landscape. In previous generations, players would buy consoles based on what exclusives they had. That was the only thing that really made a difference when deciding between a PS3 and an Xbox 360. That dynamic has entirely changed in the last few years, as different gaming devices have key utilities on top of that. Until now, the PS5 has struggled to find its own niche in the same way.
I use my Nintendo Switch frequently because I can take it on the go. It’s usually the platform I buy my indie games on when I can so I can stay busy during commutes. My Xbox Series X gets turned on every week thanks to Xbox Game Pass, as it lets me pop into new releases and try a wide variety of games. Even my Steam Deck is getting a lot more play than my PS5 because I’m able to play early access titles like Vampire Survivors on it, which I can’t do on Switch.
In all of those cases, I have a reason to boot up those devices even in their “off-seasons.” That hasn’t been the case with my PS5, which hadn’t really hooked me into any form of Sony ecosystem. That’s what’s changed for me already with PS Plus. Even after a few days, I’m already itching to boot up my PS5 after work every day and explore the catalog of games available. Game Pass offers new day-and-date releases, but PS Plus is perfect for when I want to go into historian mode.
It’s not just the retro titles either. The collection contains games that have long been on my backlog, but I’ve never wanted to spend money on. For instance, I’ve never played Resident Evil 5 or 6. I’ve heard bad things about both, but I’ve always wanted a complete picture of the series. I have access to both games now, so I’ll simply be able to boot them up the next time I’m feeling bored.
The new PS Plus service has plenty of issues, but it does exactly what I wanted it to do: it fills the downtime between big exclusives. Even if God of War Ragnarok doesn’t launch this year (knock on wood), I’ll still have a reason to pick up my DualSense every month and search for more hidden historical artifacts. As long as Sony keeps refreshing its library, I’ll keep my PS5 powered on.