We talked a lot Speakthe potential performance issues of, with its massive file size and the fact that, on PC, it requires more RAM than a Dodge. But the upshot of all that computing power is this: Square Enix’s action-RPG is one of a small class of PlayStation 5 games that to feel like PlayStation 5 games.
Released Tuesday on PS5 and Windows PC, Speak you play as Frey Holland, a young New Yorker taken into a world of high fantasy by a talking gold bracelet. (You better not ask.) Speak is a technically demanding game: particle effects clutter the screen at all times, and its open-world map is so vast that you can’t see everything at once, even if you zoom out.
As Grayson Morley noted in his review for Polygon, yes, Speak has some performance issues. Like many modern games, Speak lets you choose between two visual modes: Quality (which caps the frame rate at 30fps to provide sharper graphics) or Performance (which allows higher frame rates at the expense of visual fidelity). I play on PS5 and have mostly stuck to the performance-oriented setting, ever since SpeakCombat and movement require nearly 60 fps steady to understand what’s happening on screen. Still, I saw a few minor blemishes – blurry hair, clipped objects, and other hiccups that don’t affect gameplay but are unavoidable nonetheless.
But better fidelity is not the improvement promised by this generation of consoles. In March 2020, PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny claims the upcoming console could essentially eliminate load times. Speak is one of the few games I’ve played that does well on those remarks.
In Speak, on PS5 at least, you can cold boot – the time it takes to go from starting a game to fully controlling your character – in under 12 seconds. You can fast travel to any unlocked location in the game world in 1.68 seconds, I’m not kidding you. (These two times were calculated based on an average of five separate load tests.) Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the only game I can think of that hits the same benchmarks.
For the past few years, we have been in an era of diminishing returns in terms of visual fidelity. Once you achieve the goal of photorealism, like so many big budget games have these days, you can’t really get Following photorealistic. I’m less impressed with incremental improvements in graphics than advancements in other areas – things like blazingly fast loading speeds or unique controller features.
Few big-budget games to date have taken full advantage of the PS5’s DualSense gamepad and its impressive haptic capabilities. Speak certainly does.
When Frey wields her sword of fire, you can feel the right trigger tense as she winds up a swing, then loosen when she releases it, then tense again when the weapon connects to an enemy. During SpeakIn the many parkour sequences, the controller vibrates with varying intensity with each step, almost as if you can feel Frey’s footsteps emanate through the powder-colored plastic of the controller. Worse still, the armband – whose pained, moan-worthy dialogue has been skewered on the internet – can speak through the controller speaker, which is technically a feature, if it is not desired. (Luckily, you can turn it off in game settings.)
Not since PS5 2021 roguelike Return – which impressively deployed the rumble of the DualSense to replicate the gentle pattering of rain – have I felt a game implement the controller’s potential in such an inventive way. Hoping more developers implement this technology. When developers use it effectively, the DualSense’s haptic triggers are truly unlike any other gaming hardware.
We are always in the transitional period between generations of game consoles, a gray area that has lasted for more than two years at this point – and has had an undeniable effect on the rate at which new video games are released. Some games, like Marvel’s Midnight Suns, launching for PS5 and Xbox Series X but won’t see PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions until unspecified dates in the future. Others, like Gotham Knights and Metal: Hellsinger, eventually dropped the planned PS4 and Xbox One versions altogether. You could argue that God of War Ragnarök should have done the same.
There’s a lot to discuss Speak‘s merits as a game, which you can read more about here. But if nothing else, its PS5 good faith is a small sign that video games are ready to leave the latest generation behind.