Ladies and Gentlemen the next generation of gaming consoles is here. On November 15th, 2013, we were officially introduced to the Playstation 4 gaming console. With the advent of this new system, there are a few things we should ask ourselves: How is the control? How is the Home Screen? What about the games? Is it worth buying? Well, let’s answer these burning questions.
Other than the new, sleek design of the actual console, the first thing you’ll notice about the PS4 is the Dual Shock 4 controller. The new controller blows the Dual Shock 3 controller out of the water, and the difference between them is like night and day. The DS4 is the best controller that Sony has ever made for any of the Playstation systems. It essentially combines aspects of the Playstation Move, Playstation Vita, and of course the DS3.
With the the analog sticks being spaced just far enough away from each other to maximize comfort. The center of the sticks is slightly indented which allows your thumbs to fit comfortably on them, while giving you a much better grip. The directional pad, or D-pad, has also been modified. For all intents and purposes it’s the just a slightly bigger version of the DS3 D-pad, only it feels a tad bit more rough. Fighting gamers will probably notice that sliding your thumbs from one direction to another will leave your thumb sore a lot faster.
The standard face buttons make a return with not much changed about them, although it feels as though the pressure sensitivity of the buttons is slightly different from that of the DS3. Gone are the standard “Start” and “Select” buttons, and in their place is the “Options” and “Share” buttons. “Options” does what one would expect, it opens the options menu. While “Share” allows you to upload up to 15 minutes of gameplay, a screenshot, or broadcast gameplay live to Twitch.tv or Ustream.com.
The highlight of the DS4, however, is the newly improved “L2” and “R2” shoulder trigger buttons feel great to use as while playing a shooters like Battlefield 4, or the free-to-play title Blacklight: Retribution. The “L1” and “R1” buttons are mostly unchanged, aside for their new look.
At the center of the controller houses the touch pad, that although isn’t used much in the games available now, has potential to be used in interesting ways. For instance, in Killzone: Shadowfall, the touch pad is used to order the little drone that accompanies you. Under the touch pad is the Playstation button. Just like the Playstation 3 , the PS button will give you access to the Home Screen.
The Home Screen for the PS4 is a highly simplified version of the PS3’s “Xross Media Bar” (pronounced “Cross Media Bar, or XMB). Once you get past the initial login screen, you’ll be brought to the PS4’s Home Screen and greeted with the “What’s new” tile. Selecting it brings up a Facebook-like feed that displays what you and your friends have been doing. For example, if Andrew buys Flower from the Playstation Network (PSN) Store, it’ll show up in the feed. Likewise if Anthony acquires a trophy from playing Call of Duty: Ghosts.
If there’s something in the disk tray, the PS4 will automatically snap to it. This also happens whenever signing into your PS4 after turning it on. There are two main rows to cycle through on the Home Screen, the “Content row” on the bottom and what I like to call the “Functions” row on top. The far left side of the Content row is the “What’s new” tile. To the right of that would be whatever is in the disk tray, followed by whichever applications were used most recently from left to right. The Functions row has the various useful features. You can view your friends list, messages sent to you or by you, system settings, and other things. But most importantly, the Functions row has the Playstation Network store.
Games, Applications, and Features
As with any other console, it’s really the games that ultimately sells the system. Although Sony has shown what games will be coming to the system in the near future, the PS4 has an incredible lack of exclusive titles available to the console right now. The most notable games that have been announced do add lots of promise to the system, but it’s really no excuse for a very limited launch line-up.
The good news is, Sony has the support of a lot of Indie developers, so a ton of indie games will be coming to the system. But for now, we only have the choice between exclusive titles like Compulsion Games’ Contrast, free to play titles Blacklight: Retribution, Warframe, and DC Universe Online among other games.
As for first party titles there’s Killzone: Shadowfall, Knack, Soundshapes, Flower, and Resogun. In addition to these first-party exclusives, there are also a bunch of third-party titles that aren’t exclusives but are available on the PS4.
If you’re going to be buying games on the PS4, the three games you should really look out for are Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Killzone: Shadowfall, and finally what is probably the best game on the PS4 right now, Resogun. Also, in order to play the Multiplayer online for games like Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts, you have to buy a subscriptin to PS Plus. It’s $50 a year, but you’re given tons of free games and content every month and it also applies to your PS3 and PS Vita.
A definite thing of note is that the fact that if you own a PS Vita, you can play play just about any PS4 game on it, through “Remote Play”. As long as your PS4 and PS Vita are connected via the same WiFi network, the Vita can be used to act as a controller for the PS4 or be used as a hand-held PS4. But be warned, you cannot remotely access your PS4 if you are not connected to the same WiFi network.
Of course, right out of the box you can download streaming services like Crunchy Roll and Amazon Instant Movies, and no worries, Netflix and Hulu are there too. PS4 also has access to Sony’s Videos Unlimited service, and Music Unlimited. Unfortunately, the PS4 does not support external hard drives and cannot act as a media server to stream videos from your computer like the PS3 did. Although, the developers of the PS4 may be working on implementing the media server feature, no word on external hard drives yet though.
The new party chat option is an amazing feature that was missing from the PS3 experience. Party chat allows players to not only chat with each other via an instant messaging system within the PSN environment. Chatting with friends was something you could do on the PS3 but, it required users to stay in the chat room without leaving and doing anything else. Party chat on the PS4, on the other hand, allows users to continuously chat with one another while doing other things, like playing games or watching a movie. Not only that, but users can now talk to each other through their microphones while playing different games. This is only made sweeter by the fact that any standard headset can be plugged into the Dual Shock 4 and can be used to route all audio to it, or just chat audio.
The Playstation 4 is a fantastic console, and is definitely a great way to take a step into the next generation of gaming consoles. The compact design contains some powerful insides and gives us a taste of what is still to come from this new generation. The biggest downfall of the PS4, however, is the severe lack of games. Everything else about the console is wonderful, from the controller, to the Home Screen, and even though the selection of games is slim, the games are still really good. There are other things to do with the console of course, like watch Netflix or Hulu, or listen to music via Sony’s Music Unlimited. But despite all these good things, it’s not a strong enough argument to warrant dropping $400 for this next generation console.
Not to mention that there is a small percentage of users who received consoles that were dead on arrival. And though Sony and various other retailers are working to rectify the situation, it’s definitely still a cause for some alarm. Although it should really be stressed that no more than 1% of users have reported dead consoles.
So for now, hold off on purchasing a PS4 for now. Possibly wait until March of 2014 or even the Summer of 2014 before committing to getting the console. But if you really must have the console right now, be sure to pick up Resogun as soon as you activate your PS Plus subscription.
Are you getting a PS4? Do you already have a PS4? Tell us about it in the comments section!