The next generation of consoles has finally begun! Although I’ve been following the development of the PS4 (and Xbox One), I’ve actually tried to stay away from watching too much footage of games/UI running and/or going to a store to try one out for myself. When I get my PS4 on Friday (at least I hope I do…don’t let me down Amazon!) I want it to be as new of an experience as the social media age allows. Seems like these days it’s possible to consume so much information about something prior to its release, that you can diminish the “shiny and new” feeling you get when you experience something for the first time. I figure it’d be more fun to take a more detailed, first hand look at the console once I actually have it in my hands. I’ll be giving you impressions of all of it, from the UI, PSN Store, games, and apps.
PS3’s XMB was divisive among gamers. While some liked its minimalist look and clean interface, others hated how slow and unoptimized it felt. With the PS4, Sony did a lot right, with a little bit of room to grow. The XMB hasn’t completely gone away, but it’s used mainly for settings more so than main UI functionality. The biggest positive with PS4’s OS is how fast and snappy everything is. You can go in and out of menus with ease with no hang ups. There are a few niggles like not being able to bring up friends list while watching Bluray movies and the lack of Folders, but Sony has made a conscious effort to make this OS a lot more flexible than PS3’s so you can expect changes to be made in the following months, hopefully improving it even more.
If PS4’s OS and UI are a big leap in improvement compared to PS3’s, the Dualshock 4 is a Hulk sized bounds worth. Gone are the curved triggers, convex sticks, and small hand holds of the aging Dualshock’s original design. It seems like Sony definitely listened and improved just about everything that was wrong with the DS3. About the only thing you can complain about is analog stick placement, but that was never an issue with me to begin with. Those that like asymmetrical analog sticks will be disappointed to hear that Sony went with the same placement of sticks as the PS3. The main difference here is that they are a little further apart, which is meant to alleviate the cramped feeling you got from the analog sticks on PS3.
The Playstation Store
As one would expect, the PlayStation store has been getting hammered since the launch on Friday. Despite this, I am very impressed with not only the ability to be able to download games, but also the download speeds themselves. I was able to download all of the digital content that I had available in 10-12 hours despite PSN going in and out. As of now, it seems as though it has stabilized and I am getting very few errors trying to get in to the store. Considering Sony’s past, I am thoroughly impressed that they were able to stabilize the network in just two days despite having potentially hundreds of thousands of people logging on. The biggest problem I have with it currently is that getting into the store can be hit and miss. For some reason, logging in and out of your account just about guarantees it letting you enter the PSN Store if you’re having trouble getting in. Not sure why that is, but it seems like it desperately needs a refresh button…at least until things die down.
Aside from the store, I played a few hours of multiplayer with no lag or disconnects and live streaming worked great even if I was playing online while streaming multiplayer. These are just initial impressions but it seems to me like Sony rose to the challenge and is at the very least justifying rolling online multiplayer into the cost of PS Plus. Seems like they were (for the most part) ready to handle the server load.
This could potentially be the PS4’s game changer. The share button is used to instantly share your screenshots and video uploads with friends on Twitter and Facebook. Trimming videos down to size is quick and easy. All of the options are presented to you in a simple, concise, and easy to use manner. Although I was very impressed with the ability to use the share button to share photos and video clips, the live streaming function is the big draw. With the press of a few buttons, you can stream yourself playing any game by using a Twitch/Ustream account. Aside from entering your account information, everything is native to the PS4’s user interface which makes set up very fast and simple. You can use the headset that was bundled with the console to add your own commentary while you are playing, or you can buy the camera so you can add video to your livestream. People watching are able to interact with you via chat and you can view their comments in (relative) real time and reply back. Some say that couch gaming is dead, but this brings back those feelings.
Further social implications for this functionality are yet to be fully known, but it is safe to say that it will have an impact on the way you not only play games, but also seek out information on them. Not sure if the game is worth buying? Hop on to Live at PlayStation and check out a few streams of people playing it. I’ve always valued the opinions of other gamers over the gaming press at large and this allows you to have a direct dialog with other gamers.
I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with this functionality but came away impressed with the short time I had with it. I was able to use my Vita as a second controller so I could play Knack with my 11 year old son, and I tried out Resogun via Remote Play. At certain times games actually looked better on the Vita than on my HDTV due to the Vita’s OLED screen which outputted a very vibant and crisp image. I experienced little to no lag input, but I was directly connected to the PS4 while I was playing. I haven’t gone much deeper than that but am curious to see how bad the lag input will be when you are on a different network.
You did get this console to play games right? Well PlayStation 4 has those! Despite having anything that is truly groundbreaking, the launch lineup for the PS4 spans genres and has a lot going for it. It seems that the gaming press is down on the launch games available, but compared to the last generation’s offerings these launch games are a stark improvement over what was available on day one 7 years ago.
Here are some of my quick impressions of each launch game that I have played. Please note that I only played a few hours of each game so these are simply impressions so no final thoughts.
Resogun- This is probably one of the better launch games. It’s an arcade style shooter that combines old-school gameplay and technology to make a very fun, graphically impressive shooter. Fans of side scrolling shooters like Gradius will get a huge kick out of this.
Knack- Despite middling reviews, I was pleasantly surprised by Knack. This isn’t the type of game that will win any game of the year awards, but offers a stiff challenge with old-school sensibilities.
Battlefield 4- I’ll be the first to admit that I am not much of a first-person shooter guy, but what I played of Battlefield has been fun. A bit too hectic for me at times, but the game mechanics are very solid and is a showcase for what the PS4 can do graphically, at least at launch.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag- I haven’t had a chance to play a lot of this, but I’ve been impressed with what I played so far. The graphics aren’t as “next-generation” as I anticipated but it’s still a very striking game and seems like a good addition to the franchise. I’ve heard a lot of good things and look forward to playing it more.
Killzone: Shadow Fall- I’ve always enjoyed Killzone’s multiplayer and little was done to change that opinion. The on-the-fly change of objectives keeps things fresh and interesting and the mechanics feel very tight without losing the slight feel of movement that I enjoyed from previous games. I don’t think this game is doing much different where people that dislike the series before will come around. Still the inclusion of the OWL which is a drone that flies around assist you and the Crysis-like open environments gives you a lot of options. Oh yeah, and the game looks absolutely gorgeous.
I should be getting NBA 2K14 in the mail today, really looking forward to playing that one, and I haven’t even touched any of the F2P games like Warframe, DC Universe Online, and Blacklight Retribution. That’s not even mentioning other games like Flower and Sound Shapes that are “free” if you own the PS3 version, and Contrast that is available to PS Plus members for free. So there you have it, sure beats the pants off Genji, Perfect Dark Zero, and Fantivision.
Overall, I’m happy with my purchase. Although none of these games are necessarily worthy of buying a $400 dollar console to play them, the PS4 has a lot to offer even at launch, particularly for those that like to be early adopters. For others that expect to be floored by the games at launch, you might want to wait until early next year to make a purchase. As of now, new features such as the “Share” button, livestreaming, and the speed and convenience of the UI/OS are the things that make the PS4 stand out. Still, I’m not only looking forward to playing more of the games I have, but all of the games that will come out during the life span of the console.