The first phase of Astro Playroom serves to see the potential of the technology incorporated into the new PS5 controller
Consoles with a built-in game by default are one of those nostalgic things that we didn’t count on when we thought of a new generation of machines in the middle of 2020. It seemed something anchored in the past, like when our Master System started without any cartridge and “magically “That Alex Kidd appeared to invite us into his colorful world. In the case of Playstation 5, Astro Playroom is not only something to ensure that our brand new € 500 console does not enter home without a new game to put in our mouths, but it also presents us with the “best” possible tutorial on the machine that we just acquired and its DualSense controller, as well as a celebration of all that is the history of Playstation.
Astro Playroom is a conventional 3D platform based on the idea of exploring the inside of a Playstation 5, in a fantastic and friendly version of it inhabited by hundreds of “Astros” and some malicious bug that must be crushed. Far from being a mere technical demo or an insubstantial hobby, we are talking about a game with all the laws and with enough crumb to entertain your good hours. Of the four main areas, we can only talk about one of them: “refreshing waters”, a world that alternates between vacation beaches and cold icy settings that come to represent the cooling system of the console.
Gateway to PS5
This initial dip helps us understand the basics of the game: jump, hit the bugs that try to annoy us the day, the ability to float for a few seconds thanks to our booster and a long list of complementary actions based on the area you are in. . There is a lot of toy in our environment and we are invited to explore it at our leisure, just for the fun of it. For example, at the beginning of the level we see a group of Astros trying to surf in the water and an unused board, floating in the water. If curiosity conquers us, we can swim there and climb up to, indeed, see our Astro trying to bravely balance on it. For the purposes of the game it is completely irrelevant and it is not that we can surf as such, but only the fact that this detail was present, that the necessary animations have been created to make it possible speaks a lot and good about the ASOBI team, who we already know his good work thanks to the excellent Astro Bot.
The game is not a graphic tour de force, the environments are quite simplistic and not very overloaded, but that does not mean that it is very pleasant to watch; 4K, 60 FPS with HDR, beautiful water effects and a clear visual style, full of small details that flourish as soon as you pay attention. The amount of historical elements that has been collected from the history of Playstation is particularly striking: peripherals, references … we can explore the set and discover things like a 3D reproduction of the peripheral that turned Move into a submachine gun for Resistance, or perfect reproductions of previous controls and peripherals such as the EyeToy. There are dozens of similar details and trophies in the form of all kinds of hardware associated with the history of the console.
But beyond the value of Astro Playroom as a game, its main function is to serve as an unbeatable business card for one of the pillars that Sony plans to capitalize on with its new console: the DualSense controller, surely the greatest evolution we have seen of the DualShock. till the date. The sensations as soon as you take it are already positive; aesthetically it is very beautiful, the materials seem solid and the sensations with the buttons, stick and d-pad are good from the moment you have it in your hand. It’s also noticeably heavier than the DualShock 4 or any conventional controller, but not to the point of being uncomfortable. It is when we start Playroom when we check the justification of this weight, when we first come into contact with an exaggerated version and for the gallery of the haptic capabilities of the remote.
Raising the DualSense
As we’ve discussed previously, the Astro Playroom largely feels like a hands-on introduction to the controller’s capabilities before anything else. Each game situation seems to have been thought of as a way to illustrate how the haptic system, its internal mic and the resistance in its triggers serve to accentuate the immersion thanks to the sensations in our hands and fingers. The haptic system is used to generate sensations through vibration, being able to turn a completely flat surface into a button that we press thanks to the tactile sensation that it manages to emulate. The DualSense extends this principle to the entire controller and displays in “refreshing waters” a whole range of sensations that will surely be very useful to other developers as a “library” of effects to use in our own games.
Examples in these early bars are many. On the one hand, as soon as we start the game we have a technical demonstration of some of the controller’s functionalities. We can see first-hand how what seemed like a few more simple buttons, the L2 and R2 of a lifetime, acquire resistance and vibration, generating an effective “trigger” sensation that should be a must in any self-respecting shooter. We also appreciate the return of the touch surface and how the gyroscopes can be combined with the haptic system to simulate that there are Astros inside a controller that we can shake like maracas, appreciating how the Astros are “moving” from one side the other according to the inclination to which we put it. Finally, the addition of the microphone will allow things like blowing to have an effect on the game, a facet that DS users know well as it is a pioneering machine in the use of this facet to bring all kinds of curious ideas to life. and fun in different titles of the popular Nintendo laptop.
In the phase of refreshing waters that we can talk about right now, there are also many curious examples of different effects that can be achieved. In part of the stage we will walk through some leaves suspended over the water and that when jumping over them generates a splash effect that we appreciate in the command. When walking on different surfaces we can also see how effective the combination of the speaker incorporated in the DualSense with haptic vibration, effectively emulating the sensation of walking on different surfaces such as metals or sand, while also reinforcing other sensations of displacement such as when we jump on a slide, swim through the water or skate on icy surfaces. At one point in the phase we go through what seems like a sandstorm, being able to feel the force of the sand hitting the surfaces through the vibration of the controller; at other times we will be asked to pull strings to unlock secrets, appreciating their resistance shortly before breaking. One of the star parts of refreshing waters is the moment in which we put on a suit with a spring and the control becomes purely with the inclination of the control to determine the jump angle and the adaptive triggers that will vibrate and generate resistance to emulate the tension. of the spring that we use to advance jumping, an example of how systems beyond conventional control can be considered and made effective thanks to vibration.
The future is in the hands of others
Is it revolutionary? that will depend on the set of studies. Playroom shows that there is remarkable potential, that the technology is there and it works. But in the end it will be the companies themselves that will decide if they want to be creative with it or not, for which the ASOBI game can be a good incentive and example. We are certainly talking about something more ambitious and immersive than a simple vibration, something with higher performance than the similar technology that we have seen in the Switch Joycons. But if a company that makes multiplatform games does not want to invest extra resources in taking advantage of this facet and limits itself to simply putting vibration, our experience will not have that differential point. It is expected at least that things such as the resistance of the adaptive triggers are used and thus offer a differentiated way to distinguish different types of weapons according to the rate of fire or the lightness of the weapon in question – as an example, from Arkane, the creators of the future Deathloop, they mentioned that they were working with the idea of ”locking” the trigger when the gun jams, which could be a very good way to accentuate the feeling of frustration and need to think fast. Regardless of what the future brings, at least SIE can be proud to have taken another step in its iconic line of controller creation and to give PS5 an element that can give it added value in an age where this seems every more complicated.