Sony’s PlayStation 4: what most in the business call the actual coming of the next generation of gaming – somewhat not including the Wii U in there for some reason – is finally upon us. We now know everything that, up until this point, could have been argued to the nth degree as speculation. Some of us now have it in our hands and some of us are still waiting; some of us will be waiting for a while, some of us are already having technical issues with the systems we have. The flame wars have already started, some people already picking sides before Microsoft’s system has dropped to the public, so I’ve come not to throw statistics at you or berate you with reasons why one console is better than the other: rather, I’m going to give you a taste of my experience.
As you can tell from my awkward little video on YouTube, the opening of the package was something akin to bliss. I’d fallen for a system in such a fashion only once, before; I’d fallen for the Super Nintendo the same way. Even then, it felt like just enough was off to make it feel like it was more consumer-friendly. The PlayStation 4 feels like it was tailored exactly to my needs: the controller felt a little bit heavier, a little bit bigger; the system has plenty of flat surfaces, no curves, one LED line, not an overabundance of ports; the set up was extremely simple and quick for someone like myself, that knew exactly what they were doing; this system, right from the moment I opened the box to the moment I powered it on – entirely by mistake, I might add, the first time – I felt like this system was built with me, specifically, in mind. This was exactly how I felt when I first tried on my PlayStation Vita and I find it awesome that the two are so inextricably linked.
What you get when you open the system is pretty simple – you get the console, a single controller, a micro USB cord used for charging the controller, a single HDMI cable, a AC cord, a single-side earbud with build in mic for plugging into your controller; along with the usual manuals you get a voucher for a 30-day trial of PlayStation Plus, Music Unlimited, and 10$ towards anything in the PlayStation Store. I’d say that was a nice incentive towards purchasing the system considering that, in order to draw a direct parallel between both the PS4 and the XB1, you still have to spend the same amount of money, which brings me to my first and only gripe about the system’s pack-ins, or lack thereof: in order to make the playing field level, you need to spend almost the exact same amount of money one would spend on the XB1 in order to get a similar experience. Of course, that’s exactly what I did and I feel that all that sarcastic marketing Sony did to push their lower-price agenda really fell on deaf ears when I wanted to pick up that PlayStation Eye. It was really smart, on their part, but all it did was add fuel to the flame war.
Setting up the system was incredibly easy, as it should be expected, by now – thanks to their constant tooling with the PlayStation 3, Sony decided to leave most of the footwork to the system itself in automatically detecting most of the necessary settings, asking that you only connect the controller, the camera if you have it, and set up your WiFi. When I was setting everything up for the PlayStation 3 when I picked up my second-generation version of the console, it took me a good long while to set it up. I don’t remember exactly why but I do recall there being some issues with the WiFi setup. If you watched that video I linked in the last section, you’ll see that with all the relevant information and only the system unboxed, I was able to open everything, hook everything up, set up the user interface, and get ready to play within fifteen minutes. I don’t know about you but that’s certainly an excellent sign of things to come. It reminds me of using an Android phone – once you’ve used one before and set up your Google account, each phone you set up afterwards becomes easier.
This is where things started to get kind of rocky. I could have jumped right into the game I purchased with the system – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, in case any of you are wondering – and I would have been able to take in all the glory that is the PlayStation 4 – though it would have been only on a graphical basis because I already played the game for the PS3 – but that simply wouldn’t do. I had vouchers to redeem, I had a new account to set up, I had to check out all the features possible and explore the entire UI. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one because when I tried to do so, the PlayStation Network groaned for a long time and threw back error after error. Of course, I kind of saw this coming and had to do a majority of the redeeming and setting up of my accounts on my laptop so between that and updating my system I wasn’t without gameplay for a while. PSN still is having some issues but I’ve found ways around it, most of the times, though it will hiccup its way into complete inoperability at times.
I was able to get almost everything I wanted done within the first hour or so, short of a few things that really irked me: I was unable to download two games from PlayStation Store – Contrast and Warframe, specifically – without constantly running into connection errors and having to restart – it did let you pick up from where you left off but sometimes it would just start from the beginning, inexplicably – the download; I was unable to redeem only the voucher for Ubisoft’s UPlay passport, which made booting up the game – while it’s already a test of patience to watch boot up – a pain in the ass; and the constant inability to use most of the Sony-specific apps and services altogether. They all eventually worked themselves out with little trouble but it took time and lots of frustration to get there.
I understand the nature of the problem and this is exactly what World of Warcraft fans go through every time an expansion is released but it’s frustrating; I either feel that I shouldn’t have it at all or that I should have full service. That’s just my emotional response, though; I know that’s not actually going to happen for a while.
The User Interface
Once everything was – mostly – out of the way, I was ready to start digging around and seeing what the PS4 is capable of. There was a packed in tech demo to show off the PlayStation Camera a little, titled Playroom. If you’re wondering what you can do with it, check out this Jimmy Fallon clip and you’ll know exactly what to expect. That aside, the thing is very similar in form to the XMB that everyone grew familiar with by playing with it on the PSP and PS3 but takes a lot of the things that made it – in my opinion, anyway – inherently ugly and too plain and makes them a little more deep and complex without making things seem too cluttered. A lot of the context menus look like they do on the Vita, which is to be expected.
I think the only thing I would change is to have some customization options open. I was wondering if they would make the customization deeper, not remove it altogether! I don’t mind the UI as it is now but I get bored easily with the way things look, not to mention that the background music – and don’t you tell me I can turn it off because I do know that – gets annoying after a while. Maybe even let me change the background picture and the music – it’s not the best set of customization options but at least it wouldn’t get boring after a while.
Once you get past all the fuzz you still have to realize that this is a gaming system and Sony has made it very clear that they’re going to market this machine as a gaming console and not make the mistake of muddling it down by saying “It Does Everything”, even though it has the same basic feature set as the PlayStation 3 and then some. While I don’t have every game in the launch library available at this time, I do have a good share – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Resogun, Contrast, and Warframe. As far as I can tell, I`m seeing something very similar to the games on the PlayStation Vita happening, here: the games look great, they play great, but don’t really show anything off. No, they’re way more subtle than that. I like this, if you ask me.
Take Assassin’s Creed IV, for example: it doesn’t tell you, straight away, but it does have PS4-specific features and controls and they are not, in any way, intrusive. Much like Uncharted for the PlayStation Vita, you could get by just fine without using the Vita-specific controls and still experience a perfectly fine portable game. Likewise with ACIV: you have the option to indulge in every possible nuance Ubisoft throws at you to enjoy this specific version of the game entirely but it doesn’t keep you from enjoying the game to its fullest without it. I’m not going to review any games specifically, here, but I will tell you this: PlayStation 4 and, by proxy, the PlayStation Vita, does gaming right, by keeping the games at the forefront without drowning them out. What the game manufacturers do with these tools is entirely up to them and not indicative of what Sony’s trying to do, but the system plays and feels very good. I find it hard to put the controller down and look away because everything looks and feels so damn good.
The Final Verdict
What do I think of the PlayStation 4 at the end of the day? I would say that this is going to be a game-changer, right here. Microsoft, ever since they’ve started formally announcing stuff for the next-generation consoles, has always been second-at-bat, and we shall see how they do when they release their console on North America’s shores, on the 22nd of November. This generation, though, will change how we view gaming forever – integration with mobile devices, microtransactions, console and mobile gaming soon becoming the same; the entire atmosphere and arena for gaming will change with this generation, just as Nintendo had when they released the Gameboy and the Super Nintendo.
Is this to say that Microsoft will fail? Hard to say. They’ve been missing cues for the better part of this launch but they’ve stood, stoically, by their product since day one and that’s admirable. This is actually the first gaming offering from Microsoft that I’ve actually been interested in without actually seeing anything from them and that’s saying a lot. Microsoft might hit this one out of the park – it has always seemed like they’ve had an ace up their sleeve. However, if their track record has anything to say about their launch, they just might be the ones that are one step behind this time around. Nintendo’s Wii U has already splashed around in the water for a bit but it’s still way too early to be able to tell whether or not they’ll be able to tread water in this market – it won’t kill them – almost nothing will – but it doesn’t look as though they’ll be as successful as they were with the Wii.
This might be Sony’s time to shine. Let’s just hope that the competition stays fresh.
No console release – or any popular release at all, these days – is without a little drama from the fanbase and the flame war has most certainly started early. Seeing as the console relies heavily on an Internet connection, you have almost every person who bought a system on opening day trying to access accounts, download items, and move around all at once; not to mention the normal daily traffic that comes through the PlayStation Network on a given day. This will cause problems, as any World of Warcraft fanboy will tell you. People have been throwing out complaints by the masses at Sony and other outlets, blaming Sony for the fact that it appeared they simply weren’t prepared to handle the load from all the users being online and making all kinds of requests at once; let me assure you, as Microsoft’s launch will likely prove, this is not something so easily prepared for. Sony could have thrown a little more money at the problem before it came around but how much is too much? There’s no way of knowing until you get an idea of the customer base you’re going to be dealing with and I think that’s exactly what Sony was doing there. Not exactly the most customer-friendly business practice but there you have it. The problem is almost totally resolved, now, as far as I can tell, so that was, relatively, a flash in the pan.
There are also a group of people that I’ve spoken with regarding “bricked” consoles but all of them, to my knowledge, seem to root from faulty HDMI ports – judging from the sounds of things, just really cheaply made, you shouldn’t be jamming and wiggling HDMI cords in there, anyway – and overheating. Overheating is something that can be simply fixed and remedied, if taken care of at the time of the warning, shown by a red status light on the system; you’re literally supposed to let it cool off, find a better place for it to sit, clean it out if you have to – though, if your house is as such that in three days your system’s gathered that much dust, perhaps you need to reconsider your priorities – and then try it again. There are just some people who don’t grasp that concept and their systems end up with heat damage, something Sony is in their full right to not cover.
For more on how to fix PlayStation 4 problems, check out our articles here.
Others are claiming they were simply not able to power the unit on – that sounds like a true manufacturer defect but it’s hard to say, at this point, without anything concrete. Like always, though, buyer beware – some are saying there’s a %0.5 failure rate or something, which isn’t too bad, but… then again, that’s too much risk for some people.