Crashes, resets and a return: My wild adventure with the PlayStation 5
Sharing my experience to hopefully help others who may be dealing with similar issues
I got my first PlayStation in the summer between seventh and eighth grade. It followed an entire school year of pretending to have one while my middle school colleagues talked it up as well as argued about which was better: PS1 or N64. That, and which console's version of Vigilante 8 was superior.
I can't quite say what made me decide to go PlayStation over Nintendo, but it probably had something to do with the fact that I got to play both systems at local Toys R Us stores and then later got to extensively play the PS1 at a family friend's house. Her family even bought me my very own copy of Vigilante 8, which seemed a little extreme unless you consider that they kept it at their house for their family to enjoy until I got my own system.
The day I brought my PlayStation home along with a second controller and copies of Blasto! and Jet Moto 2 is a day I'll never forget. Me, my sister and a bunch of our friends played games on it for hours on end that summer and in the years to follow. We played Metal Gear Solid, Twisted Metal, Syphon Filter, WWF Smackdown! and WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role, Tomb Raider, Spyro, Crash, and so many other amazing titles. So many great memories. Since then, I've been an early adopter of everything PlayStation. While I had played Atari 2600, NES, SNES, Genesis and other systems growing up, the PlayStation was the first system that was mine and not a "family system" (aka my brother's system that he would occasionally let me play after I threw a tantrum and my mom forced him to set it up for me).
The only exception to being an early adopter was with the PS2. It took me a while to get that one since I was in high school and it was expensive. But I also fell in love with that system from the first day I played it. I was even a crazy early-adopter of the PS3, paying the, at the time, insane price of $600 for it. And I got the PS4 about a month after launch.
So, when the PS5's price and release date were finally revealed earlier this year, I had to try to secure a pre-order. I do want to say, I am a huge fan Nintendo and I do game on Xbox, PC, mobile and other systems, but because of the way PlayStation transformed me from a casual gamer to a gamer for life, it's always been my go-to platform of choice. All my favorite franchises are there and it's just a brand I love, but no disrespect to the other platforms. I love 'em all.
How I got a PS5
My journey with the PS5 began with a lucky pre-order through Amazon, which I was somehow able to jump on after seeing a tweet about it being in stock just seconds after the Cheap Ass Gamer Twitter account put it out into the world. I immediately loaded up Amazon and within minutes I was on my way to gaming glory.
After a short wait, it was time for the PS5 to release. I eagerly checked my tracking status over and over again as if I was back in middle school. I was quite excited. Despite reports that Amazon may not ship all units on time, I managed to get my UPS delivery on the afternoon of launch day. But this is where the crazy train picked me up for a journey to a grand experience that would be quite the adventure. I saw the UPS truck drive up outside my window and then within a few seconds, I heard not a knock on the door but a thud outside my apartment. My heart sank as I got up to bring the package inside. Yes, the UPS driver had dropped the box down as hard as he could before rushing off like a fleeing enemy in a classic platformer. I brought the box inside and set it down on the floor next to my entertainment center. I had already cleared a space for it. But I was immediately concerned because I could hear something rattling in the box. "Controller is probably loose inside or something. Should be fine," I thought to myself. I finished my work shift for the day (I've been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic) and then came the moment I had been waiting for: The opening of the box. I quickly and nervously unwrapped everything and set up the new console, marveling at the size of the system. It really is quite large. I booted it up for the first time as my body and hands shook with anticipation. I followed the steps through the initialization process and then promptly jumped into Astro's Playrooom and began playing my very first PS5 game. I basked in the glory of the DualSense and lit up like a kid on Christmas at all the awesome references to games, products and properties from PlayStation's past that are packed into this delightful game. For the next several days, I jumped between Astro, Bugsnax and handed the controller back and forth with my wife each time one of us died on a level in Sackboy: A Big Adventure. We didn't spring for a second controller, so it was a single player experience, which we were enjoying. But then it happened.
Where the problems began I decided to go grab some dinner that Sunday night following the system's launch and told my wife I'd be back in a few minutes and she could go back and try to find some of the collectibles we missed in the previous Sackboy levels, but I asked her not to do anything we hadn't seen until I returned. When I got back, she was watching TV and the system was in Rest Mode. After we ate, I asked her if she wanted to continue playing and so we jumped in for some more of what turned out to be an incredible LittleBigPlanet spinoff. When I turned the PS5 back on from Rest Mode, I noticed the game was still running. I didn't think much of the fact that my wife had not closed the game before putting the system into Rest Mode. We played for about three more hours until, during the first level where the game introduces the jetpack (entitled Boot Up Sequence), the game began to heavily lag and then froze before shutting off the PS5 entirely. It was a hard crash, which I had been reading a bit about from journalists and other players in the days leading up to the system's launch. I figured it was no big deal and I rebooted the system. Crashes happen.
So, after trying a few more internet remedies, I gave up.
We loaded the game back up and tried to jump back into the same level, but the game refused to let us continue. It would crash the system each time we tried to load a level, even ones earlier in the game. We tried several times and it was the same story just about every time. On a couple of occasions, it wouldn't even load past the start screen. Frustrated, I went to bed.
The next morning, I got up and tried fiddling with it again. Bugsnax and Astro were loading fine but Sackboy refused to let me continue.
So, I played Astro for a couple more hours, completing all the goals in all the levels — just the boss fight and a few more loose ends left. While entering the Labo room to look at my new unlocks, the game froze and the system crashed. This made me shout out in a verbal tirade of frustration, using words I won't repeat here.
After trying to get it to play two more times, each with the game freezing in the Labo room, I decided it may just be an issue with the particular game and I moved on to try the copy of Spider-Man: Miles Morales I had lying on the table that I hadn't even opened yet.
Oh, and I can't forget to mention that upon reloading Astro's Playroom for the first time after that first crash, I had lost the three hours or so of progress I made that morning. Fun stuff.
I tried it all and none of it worked.
I unpackaged my Spider-Man game, popped the disc in the system, installed the game and downloaded its patches and then fired it up. I was cautiously optimistic. It loaded the Sony Interactive Entertainment screen and then the entire system crashed. Several tries later, I was never able to get the game to load past that screen. Troubleshooting nightmare So, I took to the internet to find out if I could see what to do about it. That's when I remembered reading about using Rest Mode without closing out of all games and software (essentially using a quick resume feature, which Sony reportedly hasn't fully implemented) could cause problems with the system. I want to be clear, I don't put any blame on my wife for this, of course, because for one thing she had no idea, but also because this shouldn't even be an issue users should have to worry about. I mean, it let her do it. It didn't automatically shut everything down. It didn't give her a warning or just not give her the option. It let her put the system in Rest Mode while still running a game and let us jump right back in when turning the system back on. I wondered if that could be what caused the problems with the system and I continued searching for answers. Amid several complaints of similar issues, none as severe as mine though, I found a plethora of do-it-yourself fixes. Unplug the external hard drive, unplug everything but the power cord and HDMI cable, be sure to use the official HDMI cable that came with the system, rebuild the database, reset the system to factory setting defaults, play offline, use a different PSN account, don't use the USB slot on the front of the console and several more tips got me nowhere. I tried it all and none of it worked. Then came the most drastic step of them all: A hard reset and complete reinstall of the operating system. I was desperate, and surely completely restoring the system to the way it was when I removed it from the box would fix the problems, right? Right?! Wrong. The problems persisted. In fact, the errors I was getting, which included common errors like the repairing system storage error and the error about the system not being properly shut down, now included the system continually doing hard resets of the OS on its own. Again, fun stuff. I must have gone through the initialization process at least half a dozen times in the four or five days I was dealing with it. And since completely wiping out the system's files and reinstalling them didn't fix the problem, I began to realize, and more so accept, that maybe it was a hardware issue. Now, let me be clear here: This was my theory and I never did get a confirmation on whether or not it was a hardware issue, but it sure seemed like it could be. I tried reaching out to Sony's support lines but their chat couldn't help me, Twitter staff was not helpful and getting through on the phone was impossible. So, after trying a few more internet remedies, I gave up. My wife and I returned our PS5 copy of Sackboy: A Big Adventure and exchanged it for a PS4 copy, since we could always upgrade that to PS5 version later anyway. And, hey, it was fun playing through the levels we had beaten again since this time we could use two PS4 controllers and play co-op. But I still wasn't ready to commit to returning what was essentially a useless, giant brick on my shelf. So, I kept trying, to no avail, and then one day decided it was time to reach out to Amazon. They, of course, could not process an exchange but were able to let me return it since I'm pretty sure it was broken either in their warehouse or by the UPS driver. I packed it all up and sadly shipped it back. My tiny collection of PS5 games, which now also included Watch Dogs: Legion though I hadn't even tried bothering with that one, sat on the shelf with no way to play them. Finding another PS5 Thus, I joined the ranks of the seemingly millions who were trying to get a PS5, constantly refreshing store pages and trolling Twitter, Facebook and forums looking for the next restock. I was determined to not buy from Amazon again, however. And then, I somehow got lucky again. They say lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice, but I guess it did for me. During one of the Walmart restocks, I was able to get my hands on another PS5. So, I bought it and I waited for it to ship. This time it came via FedEx and the driver treated it with a lot more care. Not only that, but Walmart packaged it safer as well. And when I removed the PS5 box from the shipping box, there was nothing rattling inside this time.
The moment of truth came after I hooked it up and popped in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Once again, I installed it, downloaded the patches and booted up the game. The Sony Interactive Entertainment logo came up and then it continued to load into the game! I was pretty excited to see the main menu and even more excited to start swinging around New York City. I tried Bugsnax, Astro's Playroom -- and I was able to actually explore the Labo room again -- and then played Watch Dogs: Legion as well as some other games and aside from a few crashes, everything has been working fine since. The crashes I have had with this new unit are more in line with what other people have reported: A crash and then a reboot of the game and everything is fine again. Not the "you're never playing this game again" reaction I was getting from the previous PS5. And the crashes are becoming less frequent as games continue to receive patches and Sony continues updating the system's firmware. I have, however, kept external hard drives disconnected and have not used Rest Mode at all. I'm not certain those two things need to be done, but until Sony gives word that these issues have been addressed, I'm going to err on the side of caution. Final thoughts My overall experience was extremely frustrating and while I'm grateful to be able to own a PS5 when so many gamers, parents and others are struggling to even find them in stock, mostly because of greedy scalpers, I think Sony needs to address these issues as soon as possible both in firmware updates and from a public relations standpoint. Sony needs to let consumers know these systems are stable and aren't going to see these problems persist. As well, I fail to understand why the system is designed to hard crash when a game freezes as opposed to kicking players back to the dashboard like the PS4 does. This is something that should probably be changed because while the PS5 may be designed to handle this just fine, it's a long process to get back into a game when this happens and it feels like your system just bricked each time it occurs. It's just scary seeing an expensive electronic device sort of die in the middle of a cutscene or gameplay moment. That all said, the PlayStation 5 is a spectacular system when it works. The UI is intuitive, the games load faster and play smoother than ever before and the DualSense controller brings a next generation upgrade worthy of the name. But until these kinks are worked out, it's tough to recommend the system. And yeah, all electronics have kinks when they first launch but in the first month of the system's life, users shouldn't have to go through all of these headaches, especially when it includes returning a brand new device to a retailer and having to repurchase it. Perhaps it really was the fault of UPS or Amazon and it really was a hardware issue. I guess I'll never know, but there are still ongoing problems with the PS5 crashing and they do need to be addressed to make the PS5 the truly amazing game console it has the potential to be.