Modern gaming is way too complicated sometimes. Consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X are still relatively simple – you plug them in, set everything up, insert a disc, and you’re hopefully good to go. That is, once they’ve downloaded and installed themselves onto your hard drive, which may or may not already be too full from games and add-ons and updates. Oh, and you did buy the console with the disc drive, right?
That’s before you even get to the selection of subscriptions and accounts you need to bask in the full glory of the current gaming landscape. You’ll also need to ensure your supplemental technology such as your display and audio setups are poised to take full advantage of each big new game. If they aren’t, there’s a big chance you aren’t enjoying the best experience. Now, what was that about consoles being relatively simple?
As someone who works in games media and has a lovely case of obsessive compulsive disorder, I can’t leave well enough alone. If the image is cursed by an uneven mixture of colours and tones, I’ll spend hours correcting them in my television’s menu, probably spending more time adjusting how the game works instead of actually playing it. It’s partly my own fault because of how my mind works, but it’s also rather damning that such a simple hobby is being overshadowed by increasingly complicated technology. This is where HDR comes in.
Known as high-dynamic range, HDR is a relatively new display technology that allows colours to look brighter and more vibrant, standing out amidst virtual environments where they matter most. When implemented correctly, it looks absolutely stunning, with my ongoing playthrough of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart proving to be one of the most visually captivating games I’ve ever played, much of that thanks to HDR. However, the act of getting this cumbersome feature to play nicely with the PS5 on any modern display is far too much work, especially for the plug-and-play audience consoles are predominantly known for.
For context, my television is the Sony X900H, a model the company has labeled as ‘ready for PS5,’ which should mean it tackles the likes of 4K, HDR, and 120fps with no obstacles whatsoever. For the most part it does, and all of these features work perfectly on my Xbox Series X with little trouble. Sadly, the PS5 itself and its iffy implementation of HDR are a very different story. You only have a few dire setup options, all of which are so basic that the picture looks washed out when everything is correctly configured. Countless internet forums couldn’t help me fix the issue, with the conclusion being that Sony simply did a rubbish job with HDR on the new platform.
So I took matters into my own hands alongside a friend of mine who knows way more about technology than I ever will. She fiddled through the menus, ensuring that each and every option was set to the correct specification. Even after all of this, it still looked like ass, so we resorted to one final drastic measure – we turned it off and on again. To our surprise, this worked, since it seems to receive a HDR signal the console and television must be turned on in a specific way to avoid things being lost. It’s a needless nuisance, and one that desperately needs streamlining as we move forward and HDR becomes increasingly commonplace in more accessible displays. If it doesn’t, I don’t envy those who have to jump through all of the same hoops as me.
Even after we mastered the sequence of when to switch things on, I still needed to fiddle with brightness and gamma settings to give HDR its required edge, otherwise it was inconsistent to the point where switching it off would be the easier option. But I refused to let it defeat me, partly because my brain is an idiot, and partly because I dropped £1,000 on this television and wanted to get the most out of it. Now that I’m getting what I paid for, I don’t regret the troubles it put me through at all, but for the wider medium, this technology needs to become more simplistic, or at least provide an automated mode of calibration that isn’t impenetrable.
Not everyone is willing to delve into the nitty gritty of display technology to help their new console shine, nor should they be expected to. In the years to come my parents will likely buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X, and I’m developing a panic attack just thinking about explaining HDR to them. With any luck, major companies will cotton on to such inaccessible fumbles and work on something more welcoming. If not, expect me to keep moaning about it.
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