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This is the best thing about the PS5 — just ask my girlfriend

PS5
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

My PS5 arrived on launch day....well, a week after launch day for American readers thanks to the staggered release, but on 'day one' for U.K. buyers. My pre-order was drama-free, as I bagged one as soon as the opportunity arrived in September, and thankfully it wasn't replaced with cat food as some British purchases were.

It is, no doubt, a brilliant machine. But I wouldn’t be too sad if you’ve still yet to get one. After getting all the trophies on Astro’s Playroom and hitting a brick wall with Demon’s Souls, I’ve found that the best thing about PS5 is technically something I could have done a whole lot cheaper –  and seven years ago, to boot.

When I upgrade to a new console generation, the old model tends to enter a period of semi-retirement on the bedroom television. The PS3 has sat there as a glorified DVD player and streaming device for the past four years. And with my shiny new PS5, it looked like the time had come for my PS4 Pro to put its virtual feet up. Only for its dreams of an easy retirement to be shattered.

The reason for this is Sony’s fantastic decision to not just enable backwards compatibility on the PS5, but to make multiplayer games cross-compatible. There are three PS4 games that I still plow an unsettling number of hours into: Hunt Showdown, Spelunky 2 and Rocket League. 

With the exception of Rocket League, multiplayer requires two or more consoles. That meant with our sole PS4 Pro, my girlfriend and I could only enjoy co-op with friends beyond my flat's four walls. (Yes, technically Spelunky 2 has local co-op too. But the couch play co-op is a poor imitation of the real thing.) 

That all changed with my PS5 arrived. My girlfriend was already a Spelunky 2 Pro, but now that we can play the game at the same time on two different consoles, we’re working our way through the game with more advanced strategies, trying to uncover every one of its many secrets. I’ve also blooded her on the incredibly punishing 19th-century PvP shooter Hunt Showdown, and she regularly plays with me and my friends. It’s pretty amazing given the nature of the game that there have been no relationship-ending arguments to date; thus far things have been pretty clear despite an awkward incident with an angry immolator.  

Even Rocket League has been improved. Where we used to play split-screen with friends for a weekly match day, being on two headsets and sharing a screen caused an irritating echo as we chatted with distant pals. Being in different rooms gets around that problem in an instant, as well as ensuring I’m no longer roundly mocked for my over the top goal celebrations.

When we’ve exhausted these three games, there’s also the PS Plus Collection to mine for multiplayer gems. It’s a generous library of PS4 classics available as free downloads to early PS5 adopters with active PS Plus subs. So maybe we could find some more games to play between generations there. Surely the undead in Call of Duty: Black Ops III Zombie Chronicles will be a cinch after dealing with the deliberately clunky one-shot rifles of Hunt Showdown?

This, obviously, won’t be a major selling point of the PS5 forever. At some point, these games will fall down our playlist, and titles too powerful for the PS4 will replace them (though not for some time if the thousands of hours I’ve put into the original Spelunky are anything to go by). 

But for now, the surprising best thing about the PS5 is that it plays nicely with the last generation, giving the PS4 an unexpected and extremely welcome new lease of life in its twilight years.