Still not sure whether the PS4 is any good? Well read on for my review
Ah the 29th of November, it seemed so far away when I traded in my PS3 back in September. Knowing that the PS3 would be worth as much as a skateboard to Stephen Hawking come the PS4 release day I had to quickly get as much for it as I could. This was the beginning of my PS4 fund and my long PlayStationless wait. Luckily for me my other hobby besides gaming, beer, filled the lonely space in my heart during dark nights. Eventually I awoke with an enormous hangover to find it was the 28th of November and excitement gripped me like an obese child that had escaped fat camp and fled to M and M world. All this because I knew at midnight I would finally be getting the console I had been pining for this whole year. Come midnight I walked round to my local GAME store to see 1 or 2 fellow gamers running off home with their new consoles, leading me to think that I was about to run into a queue of PlayStation fanatics. Instead I was greeted by one other customer in the store and 5 GAME staff. Surprised I thought to myself that maybe PS4 wasn’t to be as big as Xbox in the UK, but I soon realised this wasn’t the case and that both consoles were selling well (it turns out people have lives and sleep instead of going to midnight launches, something I did not know about). Within seconds of being in store I had my console in hand ready to go and at 00:06 (yes only six minutes after launch) my new PS4 was being set up ready to consume my life. So now I’ve had chance to properly use the next generation of video game console how good is it and is it worth your hard earned gold coins? Lets find out.
Out of the box I noticed how sleek the design of the PS4 is compared to its original predecessor. It has a slanted shape in keeping with Sony’s tendency to use fairly futuristic styles and fits in well with the other electronic devices in my media unit. While the slanted design looks nice it was also the first downside I noticed with the console, the USB ports. Now these USB ports are fine when using the controller charger but anything that is a bit chunky won’t fit in between the two diagonal slants. This doesn’t rule out using a larger USB drive but it will mean that you have to use an unsightly extension cable to get it connected. While the USB feature may look ugly if you end up using an extension other areas redeem this with more aesthetically pleasing attributes; the PS Camera is a good example now coming with its own port on the back of the console so you no longer need to have a cable trailing from the front of your console around to the front of your TV like the PS3 and the PlayStation Eye. Also lets not forget the light strip on the top of the machine that turns different colours depending on what you are doing. At first you think will it be a distracting, blinding beacon but it actually turns out to be a nice subtle edition that breaks up the jet black simplicity of the console.
The modern day console is no longer a simple gaming machine, it is now a media hub designed to be the focal piece of your entertainment system. With the last generation we could watch films and television on our console and receive a number of other services as well. While the idea of an all in one system seemed to be on the increase the PS4 has actually reduced some of the services available at launch. The system does not support CD or MP3 playback on the console and plans were not in place to do so until the gaming community made it clear to Sony that these were desired features. When these features will available is unclear though as Sony’s President of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida told Giant Bomb that the services would come ‘Eventually’. In the mean time if you are desperate to listen to music on your PS4 you can sign up to the Music Unlimited subscription service which can overlay music on to whatever you are playing (just remember to mute the in game music to avoid your tunes sounding like a hairy biker orgy). While Music fans may be disappointed TV and films lovers have no reason to fret as the standard apps are still on the console with Netflix, Love film and Iplayer all making an appearance along with others. More Apps are set to be released in the future but what content we will see is unknown.
One of my highlights from the PS4 is such a simple thing , but probably the has one of the biggest effects on your console experience, the home screen. The newly designed PS4 home screen is a vast improvement on the XMB from PS3 with a new fast and fluid flow compared with the more clunky, sluggish activity of Sony’s previous console operating screen. The layout is a significant step forward with the right balance of simple design combined with enough detail available to please new comers and gaming veterans alike. The one down side I find is that once you install a game it creates a tab that remains on your home screen. Without the ability to organise these game tabs by genre, or by any other method, having too many games may clutter the home screen rendering it less efficient. Hopefully a firmware update will resolve this issue and at present there are not enough games for users to really experience any major congestion.
One of the most interesting and well executed new features is the Share functionality the PS4 system has. Now with a simple click of a button you can take screenshots, record 15 minute gameplay videos and broadcast your gaming footage live to the world. At first I thought that this feature would not live up to the expectations at launch and require Sony to iron out all the bugs, but I have encountered no problems with any of the sharing functions so far. Now when you play Battlefield 4, jump out of a helicopter that explodes on an enemies face and you parachute down killing multiple targets before dodging a collapsing skyscraper you can capture that moment for ever. A great way to prove to your friends these moments actually happened and especially useful for me when certain friends fail to admit the prison shower soap dropping-esque brutalising I give them on FIFA (speaking of FIFA see the clip below of the first half decent Goal I scored online).
One of the most important part of the next gen machine is, unsurprisingly, the games. While most of the previous launch line ups have failed to produce any games of real note the PS4 has launched with a stronger, if be it not mind-blowing, launch line up. Killzone: Shadow Fall is the stand out piece in terms of graphics for the PS4. It runs at 60FPS in multilayer and has some stunning visuals throughout the single player campaign showing off some of the power the new console has. While more shiny graphics are a nice addition the gameplay is still very solid and innovations such as the touch controls for the OWL drone have been cleverly realised. The same can be said of FIFA 14 which is a shiny and well balanced version of it’s PlayStation 3 counterpart with new animations that improve the gameplay and provide a more exciting atmosphere. However, the game is still with some flaws like broken goal celebration mechanics and the repetitive commentary recycled from previous instalments of the franchise.
Unfortunately not all the AAA rated games are that successful as Battlefield 4 has proved disappointing with a number of bugs in the game that have cast a shadow over a lot of the fun aspects of gameplay like the new levelution on each map. Luckily this is not just a PS4 issue and DICE have decided to halt all other works until Battlefield is up to standard on all platforms. Once the game is working keep an eye out because it could be one of the best first person shooters ever made, but you’ll have to keep an open mind right now while your being killed with one shot from 2 miles away when you were hidden behind a wall the whole time (just a bug from personal experience which I have clearly let go of a didn’t fill me with rage).
The important thing to remember in terms of games on the PS4 is that Sony have always said they want to support more indie games on the platform than they did with the PS3. So while the big AAA titles may not be attracting games, like the Sci-fi side scrolling shooter Resogun, definitely should be. It is currently free with a PS+ subscription and is one of the highest rated games on PS4 which is understandable as it has a great blend of fun, mind blowing visuals and challenging difficulties. The good news here is that the critical success of Resogun has paved the way for more indie game developers to release some great games on the console.
When you think about the most important part of a games console the controller can be sadly overlooked. Sony’s Dualshock 3 was heavily criticised and rightly so. The only redeeming feature was it’s 30 hour battery life, although you tend to not want something that sucks to last longer, just count how many people want Celine Dion’s career to keep going… no one. The new design of Dualshock 4 may not look drastically different but once you get hands on with the controller you soon realise it is a huge upgrade over its older brother. Finally the convex shape of the triggers (L2, R2) have been changed and are now flat and shaped to fit your finger. The thumb sticks now have an indented surface with raised edges to help you keep control rather than suffer from the numerous finger slips that occurred with the old design. The two handles are slightly longer to help grip your palm and sets a good position for you to use the buttons without any awkward movements. The aim for the controller ergonomics is clear, it is all about giving the player control while ensuring using the Dualshock 4 is comfortable and accessible.
The new touchpad on the controller is actually well placed and to my surprise does not get in the way of the other controls, especially the share and options buttons. Having said this the touchpad has limited use at the minute apart from some controls for The Playroom and to control the OWL in Killzone: Shadow Fall so whether problems arise later on is yet to be seen. Another great feature is the ability to plug your headphones in to the controller and listen to the audio. This comes in well when you need to keep the noise down or someone may be reading in the same room (why they aren’t busy marvelling at your new PS4 instead is a tad weird though). You can also use gaming headsets for chat, but not a lot of people are using the chat capabilities probably because the headset supplied with the PS4 is as useful as barbed toilet paper.
The consoles we are accustomed to at the moment are over seven years old and in terms of technical ability the were being pushed to their very limit. The PS4 is the next step forward and all the signs point to a hugely improved gaming system that has been focused around the games and the players. What is refreshing about this is that not only have kept their promise that the PS4 is for gamers, but likewise we are not getting too removed from the idea of a games console and becoming focused on creating multi-media consoles as the reason a lot of us part with our money is for the games. Now while the games we have now may not be ground breaking in any sense they are still showing PS4 players an idea of the graphics and size of games the PS4 can achieve, but it is important to note this is just the beginning of the console’s life and as development continues for the system we can expect to see new game innovations that will hopefully bring us some of the best gaming moments possible (remember how we came from resistance fall of man to GTA V on PS3? I mean GTA V makes the PS3 launch games look like they were made using a potato).
Besides the games most of the other features the PS4 provides appear to have been carefully thought through and give or take a couple that need optimisation working to plan. The sharing functionality is a particular highlight and once YouTube is integrated into the service it has the . The internet browser, home screen and messaging and chat are all great examples of the improvements Sony have made. This makes the PS4 a great all round piece of technology that has the power to deliver gamers with a truly next-gen experience.
So yeah get one.
Thanks for reading,