Last night I set up my PS5, started to download some games, and was immediately sucked through a haunting wormhole of self reflection by the next-gen system’s brooding menu music.
I’ve been following all of the pre-release news and read dozens of PS5 reviews, including Kotaku’s own, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from Sony’s new hardware. But I wasn’t prepared for just how mysteriously menacing and melancholy its home screen would sound. I booted up the system ready to be dazzled by the DualSense’s new haptics while collecting coins in whimsical levels as Sony’s adorable Astro Bot, not to find myself inhabiting the mental space of someone who’s just been confronted by the yawning cosmic void of the universe
The breezy, shimmering music of the PS4 home menu this is not. Seriously, take a listen:
I sat for 10 minutes as Demon’s Souls Remastered downloaded, waiting for a chipper, more hopeful turn in the dark ambient track that played while I did so, but it never came. Did Brian Eno’s evil twin make this? The calm and searching tones are there, but the hopeful possibilities are not.
The new theme actually makes me feel like I’m an extra in one of those scenes from an early 2010s white collar thriller where very rich business dudes in crisp suits have to reckon with the meaninglessness of their lives while surrounded by the Nordstrom designer collection. Maybe you know the type I’m talking about: Changing Lanes, Michael Clayton, Margin Call, Arbitrage. People in fancy offices in the downtowns of global capital centres scheming how to steal their share and occasionally realising, either over an expensive glass of 25-year old Scotch or while driving their luxury BMW, that they just might be wasting their lives. (Or, if you’re Michael Clayton, it happens out in a field while trying to pet some horses.)
It’s a very particular sort of ennui to capture in a next-gen console and bring into the homes of millions of people.
I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s morbidly intriguing, even grimly inspiring. It almost feels fitting, in a way. Spending a lot of time playing games late at night in a small dark room and rarely leaving the house coupled with This Year™️ does at times make me contemplate the world and what I’m doing in it. Now my PS5 is on the same wavelength.
Maybe the music makes you think of something else entirely. Whatever the case, it is certainly a choice Sony made, and a far cry from the triumphant upswell of music of its PlayStation Studios intro. The PS5 won’t be the world’s last gaming console, but it definitely sounds like one meant to be played at the end of the world, or perhaps in the aftermath of the collapse. With The Last of Us 2 behind us, the recent wave of post-apocalyptic games might finally have peaked, but it seems the start of the post-apocalyptic home interface has only just begun.
This article was originally published in November 2020.