The day has finally come where we enter the next phase of the new gaming generation. Sony has released their new gaming console, the PlayStation 4 and fans worldwide are clamoring to get their hands on one (or two). The new black box promises to best its predecessor in every way and Sony has said that they listened to both developers and gamers in terms of producing this machine. It is supposed to be easier to make games for the system and easier to enjoy games once you have them. As an early adopter of both the PlayStation 3 and 4, I can tell you that the latter has some big shoes to fill in order to topple the glory of the former. The PS3 has come a long way since its 2006 launch and despite having a successor, it is still going strong. Growing from failed exclusive titles to some of the best first party releases ever made and growing as a system by itself, the PS3 can stand alone in any home as either a gaming platform or an entire entertainment center. Personally, I only care whether the new systems will have good games or not, but we will take a good look at this new console and see whether you need to have it in your home.
Sony is going for a more no nonsense approach to better appeal to customers. I have always said that the PS3 was the best value of the last gaming generation because despite having the largest initial sticker price, it gave the most bang for your buck right out of the box without buying any extras. It let you play games without a disc, it played blu-ray movies and the fact that it utilized that (then) new medium gave it more capability than any home system before it. Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t seem to care about value and only looked at the price. Sony took a huge loss on the PS3 and factored that into the new console, giving the PS4 a sticker price two hundred dollars lower than that of the PS3. This time, the system has a much harder focus on gaming, making everything else secondary. For this reason, I am going to say the following: the Xbox One is the better value for your money. You may have to pay more, but you get more. For someone like myself who still has a launch PS3, that does not matter because I already have what I need and want. Now I primarily care about gaming and the PS4 looks to be the better option for that. That is not me calling a victor in this new console war, that is merely a speculation based upon the information currently available; take it however you like, but that is all that it is.
If you needed any more proof that the PlayStation 4 is going for a “less is more” approach, consider the following. While standing on line at the midnight launch, I saw people start to walk out with “the box.” People immediately began to notice that the PS4 box is much smaller than the original PS3 box. The new console is smaller (than the launch PS3 model), considerably lighter and has fewer ports. A checklist is on the side of the box telling you what should be inside and this is what Sony provides:
- Sony PlayStation 4 (for real? They give you one in the box?)
- One (1) Dualshock 4 controller
- HDMI cable (a pretty good one at that)
- AC power cord (way too short)
- Mono headset for chat (cheap)
- USB 2.0 A Male to B Micro cable (charges Dualshock)
- Quick Start and Safety guides
Sony might also be assuming too much; they believe that their customers are intelligent and can follow simple instructions. Please pardon my sarcasm, but my primary employment makes me feel that the quick start guide might not be detailed enough for some. Also, I hope that future versions of the console have a decent chat headset and a power cord that is at least six feet long. Many will be upset that they have to find a new position for their new console if it is replacing the PS3. I had to put mine on the opposite side of my entertainment center and switch positions with my 360. Small gripe, but I am sure that I will not be the only one to have it. I did not use the included USB cable which most should use unless like me they just bought brand new ones *cough*monoprice*cough*; believe me, new system plus old cables equals a picture not up to standard. Once you have everything connected, make sure that your internet connection is active and look up your PSN login information if you do not know it by heart. You will need it for the setup.
A round of applause to Sony for the initial setup. This is the most painless operation I have seen in ages. You turn it on, you see the PS logo and it asks you your language of choice. It asks you to set your time zone, date and time, and if you are connected to the internet, it is already set for you. There are two (maybe three) updates awaiting you as I had to agree to ToS twice and the system says the firmware version is now 1.30. The new XMB is beautiful; it is streamlined and much less cluttered than the PS3 version. I just feel that I need to adjust to it because I was so used to the old one. There is a margin at the top which gives you access to PSN, notifications, your friend list, trophies and the time. It also displays which user is currently logged in. that is the passive view, but if you push up on your controller, it also gives you access to your message list, lets you join or create parties, access system and account settings and turn off the console (which can still be done from the PS button). However, the main media bar will be where people spend most of their time if they are not gaming. Please note that the initial setup asks you to connect the new PlayStation camera but it is not mandatory (as many will not have it). What is both new and awesome are the Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited features. We have by now all heard that you will need PlayStation Plus in order to play online on PS4. Sony really wants you to get the most of the console because the Quick Start Guide has codes for a month free of PS+ and Music Unlimited. It even includes a code that gives you $10 to spend in the PlayStation Store. I wanna give Sony a serious high five for those freebies.
The main media bar looks like it took inspiration from the Windows 8 setup, but it is a lot more organized. Similar to the main menu of the Nintendo DSi/3DS, the bar fills up as you download new items. Starting off with a welcome “What’s New” tab that tells you about new features as they become available. The next tab is called “Live from PlayStation” which is where you will find people sharing their gaming experiences live. If a PS camera was connected, a tab called The Playroom becomes available which will allow you and your friends and family to play minigames similar to the ones you see at e3 demonstrations that never ever seem to come out. Cool feature, but probably not one I will use very much (personally). The rest is standard fare for now as you have your internet browser, TV& Video apps (amazon, redbox instant , netflix, etc.) and your library (likely to be empty right now)
The Dualshock 4 (DS4) feels great in big hands. I thought it was smaller than the DS3, but it is slightly larger with longer grips and a larger midsection due to the touchpad. Taking a page from the Xbox 360, the new controller now has a headset jack which is convenient for times where you might have to charge a Bluetooth headset I have not had a chance yet to utilize the touchpad and I am curious to see how it will be implemented in games. The analog sticks are farther apart than on the DS3 and have a depression at the top; guessing that is to prevent thumb slippage but I never had that problem before. The D-pad feels slightly stiffer than on the DS3 and I have a feeling that will be a good thing. Not having a start button feels weird and I already find myself needing to get accustomed to the position of the new Options button. The new Share button is in a good place as it is away from your left thumb but right where said thumb can hit it when necessary at any time. The D-pad looks like it might be too close to it, but if you hold the controller and act like you are playing a game you will see that you will probably never hit that button by accident. As I review games, I will go more into the feel and behavior of the DS4.
I am only going to briefly touch on games as I will do any game reviews separately. Despite not being an exclusive, it was a huge disappointment to hear that Watch Dogs would not be out until (at this point) June of next year. From early player impressions, it seems that the only other (exclusive) game worth buying is Killzone: Shadow Fall. Knack is not being very well received, which is sad because while I was not dying to play it, a new franchise character with a good game would have been good for the system. Shadow Fall is Killzone, plain and simple. It is a good FPS and you either love it or hate it. In terms of multiplatform games, especially those that are available for last-gen consoles, there is almost no reason to buy them for PS4 unless you were waiting to do so. Even with the ten dollar upgrade offer, that is ten dollars you should save for yourself if you have, for example, the PS3 or Xbox 360 version of CoD: Ghosts. The only game out right now that might be worth it is ACIV: Black Flag, because of the extra hour of gameplay exclusive to the PS4. There are videos available online showing PS3, 360 and Wii U versions of games next to the PS4 version and the only noticeable difference is additional graphical detail. That is not something to pay another ten bucks for.
The long and short of the story is that I believe the PlayStation 4 is going to be a fantastic addition to my gaming setup. The machine is nicely constructed, it feels and kind of looks like the original PS2 so there is that nostalgia and it does pretty much what the PS3 did at launch. That said, it does not play 3D blu-ray discs, nor does it have any backwards compatibility at this time. These are issues that can be addressed with future updates and Sony needs to make that happen sooner rather than later. The lack of games is no big deal as long as Sony gets on the ball with PSN. PS loyalists are carrying over their account information from PS3 to PS4 and their trophies carry along with them. This means you definitely need to let us play our downloaded games ASAP and that cloud-based BC system that is supposed to be implemented through Gaikai needs to happen early in 2014. It’s great that a new Uncharted is in the works, but we need to be able to play the first three without having to use a PS3. The PS4 is far from perfect, but it is a solid start. If Sony keeps updating the way they did with the PS3, 2014 will be a beautiful year for owners.