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2 Weeks with PlayStation 4

PS4 logo

by StarSpangledEggs

Greetings from the future of gaming!  I come to you with glad tidings of a bright future for consoles and controllers!  I have spent the past 2 weeks participating in the launch of Sony’s newest video game console, the Playstation 4.  After such a time, as to let the initial launch hype die down some bit and have clear mind for assessment, I am here to officially confirm that the “PS4” is an ideal harbinger of modern gaming greatness that Sony claimed it would be!

The Playstation 4, more than any other Sony console iteration to date, experienced a heavy stream of fan excitement from gamers worldwide since its announcement earlier this year.  From its initial, admittedly turbulent announcement to its E3 debut and beyond, the collective crave for its release seemed nothing short of stunning.  Now, before any of you start calling me a biased fanboy, let me first say that Sony earned this shocking caliber of support through honest historical warrant.

Time for a brief history recap:PS3 logo

It is no secret to the gaming community that the Playstation 3 was a flop at launch to the average gamer community.  The advertising did not connect well with its audience, the launch line-up was pathetically weak, and overall gave little reason for newcomers to join the PS3 movement.  Most deterring to potential partakers was the whopping $600+ price point that Sony set for its new console.  As such, many gamers opted to get the cheaper and more popularly-played Xbox 360 that Microsoft released prior to the PS3’s debut.

However, over the years of its gaming life in the current console generation, Sony adapted.  Sony made Playstation 3 much more affordable, supported their console with a lengthy library of award-winning exclusives and services, and guaranteed subscription-less free online multiplayer for PS3 games.  As such, Sony surmounted the console’s initial flaws and established their solid spot in the current gaming market.

In the peak of Playstation 3’s popularity, Sony announced the Playstation 4 and received mixed responses.  Myself and many others were confused why Sony would bother with an announcement event when the game advertising gargantuan event of the year, E3(Electronic Entertainment Expo), was only a short time away.  Our questions were only further legitimated when the performance shown was quite limited, and seemed to do little to raise huge hype for the console.  It was starkly apparent to the viewers that Sony was saving their fireworks for E3 after all.

PS4 399But oh man, when they got to E3, they let their swag shine!  In one of the most rallying performances ever shown at E3, Sony took full advantage of its competition’s misfortunes, and confirmed their landslide victory into launch sale success.  In a professional and yet unmistakably brutal critique of Microsoft’s design decisions, Sony used Microsoft’s controversial statements and policies to bury the Xbox One, and simultaneously create a pedestal for the Playstation 4. Following their remarks, Sony placed the tombstone over Microsoft’s grave by announcing a starting price point $100 less than Xbox One and a release date a full week before the Xbox One released.  As such, even after the Xbox One launch last week, the Playstation 4 is the clear console of choice here at launch.

Having said this, you shall now understand the remainder of my article much better.  I got my Playstation 4 from the Gamestop I used to work at.  I stood at the front of the line with a poster that read: “Greatness Awaits…behind me!” (a reference to Sony’s PS4 build-up campaign slogan).  Everyone in line behind me was in high spirits, as we gathered in the cold around a customer’s phone that streamed the official Sony Playstation 4 launch in San Francisco, California.  Anxiety was high and we all couldn’t help but have suspicious, shifty eyes about each other despite our eager ecstasy.  After all, look at what people would do for a Klondike bar, much less a sold-out PS4!

Luckily, despite the lack of local law enforcement, none of the group harbored foul intent to take our systems (none that acted against me, anyway).  Right at the iPhone’s strike of midnight, I excitedly took it home to hook it up to my LCD projector and begin my gaming in glorious 130’’, 1080p beauty!  The console booted quickly, booming its greeting theme from my 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound system.  My new Dualshock 4 controller shook in my hands as I created my player account on the Playstation 4’s new interface.  I entered my Playstation Network information to sync up my accounts, and time seemed to slow as I was mere moments away from being the first person I knew to experience the latest and greatest console made to date!

…and then, time seemed to go really slow, as the loading ring spun and spun and spun on end for what felt like an hour!  What was this?  I backed out and tried again, eager and energized despite the late hour…and the spinning resumed endlessly.  Slightly perplexed by this, I got on my computer to check my internet connection, which I found was working just fine.  I then turned on my Playstation 3 and tried to sign into my Playstation Network account there, which also worked just fine.  I consulted the forums and knowledge databases of the internet to find that the Playstation Network was receiving a lot of activity and that it could only handle short bursts of access at a time.

PSN logo     History has shown repeatedly that this is something that frequently happens to internet-based products at launch, so I was not too badly affected by this disappointment (or rather, much too tired to be disappointed) and went to bed to patiently wait until the next day.  Some did not share my patience and were calling out that Sony should have been more prepared and yadda-yadda-yadda, but I am not of that mindset. My two cents on the matter are simple: if it were as viable to avoid these issues as everyone thinks, companies wanting to make a good sales impression would do what they could to make it function ideally, as it only serves to the company’s greatest advantage to do so.  Launch is the most important time for a product like this for two reasons:

 

  1. The company will gain the highest amount of revenue per unit sold, being that there is no used or discount market to compete against.
  2. Publicity about their product at launch will spread like wildfire, either securing or deterring a large amount of sales.  If credible sources report that something is bad and warn not to get it, an informed buyer will most likely heed that advice.

While there are exceptions to every rule, Sony is not likely one of them.  To illustrate why, let’s think of a movie you would see at a movie theater.  So let’s say you decide to drop $20 and go to see a movie with your girlfriend who has been begging you to take her for weeks.  Then when you get inside, you are immediately hit with a wave of hot air that will be sure to make you sweat-moist in all the awkward places.  Thinking that it might just be you, you ignore it when you catch a whiff of popcorn and acknowledge your subtle hunger.  You buy yourselves some popcorn and a drink to share for around $10 (being generous with that hypothetical price estimation, mind you).  You get into the theater to find your seats and see that it’s totally trashed, with popcorn and spilled soda on the floors and the cheap, wooden chairs.  You have lost the pleasant scent of the popcorn from before, as it is now drowned out by the theater’s heavy smoke smell that hints to you why the screen looks faded and yellow.  Thinking that the taste of the popcorn may help, you down a small handful of it, only to find that the popcorn is cold and stale, just as your soda-loving girlfriend mentions how flat and flavorless her Coke is.

Assuming you can bear through this much, let’s say the movie starts.  It starts out okay, once you learn to ignore the loud popping sounds that echo through the theater every 10 seconds…and then the movie took no time to try engaging you in an immersive plotline, with touching acting performances from familiar famous faces, jaw-dropping special effects, and memorable characters!  By the end of the film, you and your girlfriend leave and both of you liked the movie well enough, but decided to go to another theater next time for a better viewing experience.  And so, you both go home and decide to find a better theater for the next film.

In this scenario, you just lost $30 and 2 hours of your time in discomfort and secondhand smoke that might give you late-life cancer (remember kids, “Winners Don’t Do Drugs!”).  For $1 from Redbox and about $5 from your local grocery store, you could have watched the same great movie at your place, on your comfier furniture, eating the same unhealthy treats, and if nothing else, at least you might have had the privacy to just make out with your girlfriend if the movie really was awful.  No matter the way, no matter the movie, you two are most certainly not going back to that theater ever again.  Even the best movies will be unpleasant experiences in that kind of environment.

A ticket to a movie has its value depleted the second the film stops, therefore warranting such a hefty toll up front for so short a time.  Once you have paid and sat through the film, that’s it.  The theater, however, needs repeated business to thrive.  The theater has little control on how good or bad you find a movie, but they will do whatever they can to make sure you will come back for a better one.  That’s why the seats are often comfy, the theaters are clean and cool, and the screen and sound are crisp.  By doing what they can to make their method of viewing movies worth the cost, people will likely return if they had a pleasant experience and deem it worth the extra money.  Otherwise, there’s always the cheap, classless “Dollar Theaters” rising in economic popularity these days.

Like the movie theather, the Playstation 4 is going to be one of Sony’s fundamental tools for earning money over the next 5 to 10 years.  Through their product, they are looking to earn profits off of accessories (popcorn/drinks) and games (movies).  While they cannot control all facets of every game made for their system, they will control what they can to keep you playing games on the Playstation 4 instead of finding alternatives.  In the long run, a company like Sony cannot afford to aim for anything less than stellar since this product is their gateway to a majority of future profits.

As such, would it not stand to reason that Sony tried its best to handle its launch as optimally as they could?  I would certainly think so and their recent track record would suggest so.  This is not to say that you should use this argument to defend every launch hitch, but history supports it this time.  Like a Black Friday rush, there is a plan in place by the staff to maintain control and stability, but not everything can be addressed and foreseen with such a level of traffic.  In that same metaphor, only a certain amount of people can be allowed through the doorway at a time by restraint of the door’s size, regardless of the internal store space.  The same goes for connecting to the PSN in abnormally high traffic, and practically all internet-based games: only so many people can fit through the bottleneck doorway at a time, regardless of the internal space.

This was alleviated within the day, at least for me, after waiting at the loading screen for about 10 minutes (needless to say, that is WAY better than some instances of this!).  I was quite thankful for this, as I did not buy any disc-based launch titles and my PS4 was somewhat useless without Playstation Network for me.  I was not alone in this self-dug pit, as many others could not play games at launch without the Playstation Network either.

PS Plus Logo  Sony offered 4 free digital games via their Playstation Plus service (the Sony-  equivalent of Xbox Live Gold) for the broken budget of launch buyers like me.    Everyone could have these games at launch, as Sony included a free 1-month    subscription code to PS Plus inside every PS4 box, guaranteeing everyone something  to play (using an internet connection for initial download).  The games that Sony    included ranged from a creative Tim Burton-esque shadow platform puzzler called  Contrast; a Free-to-Play Sci-Fi Third-person Co-op shooter titled Warframe; the  innovative, futuristic Free-to-Play First-Person Shooter, Blacklight: Retribution; and  a GORGEOUS, addicting, 2.5D retro-style Shoot-Em-Up Resogun, with plenty more promised to come in the next few months.

Then, if you had decided to chip out some money ahead of time on select new titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, or Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition for the PS3, a voucher code inside could be redeemed for the digital PS4 version of that game for only $10.  Luckily, the PS4 also included a $10 PSN credit voucher that could easily act to remove that cost.  This seems almost the intended purpose, since the digital content on the PS4 Network is otherwise limited.

To prevent this from being a simple cross-buy type of deal, the original PS3 disc is needed inside the PS4 to play the game.  Since the PS4 is not backwards-compatible, it basically reads a small bit of the Blu-Ray disc to verify that it’s the parent game so people won’t exploit the deal.  Although controversial to some, it was clearly not dirty in any way as that was advertised up front when the deal was announced.  It’s just traditional business profit practice at work.  I bought all 4 of these games so that I could play on both online communities depending on which ran better and had a larger following…but just like before, without PSN working, I could only play the PS3 versions until I could redeem my code and download the digital copy.

While Sony certainly tried to make launch titles accessible to everyone regardless of budget, the PSN bottleneck issue at launch meant that not everyone could play it the second the system booted up.  Being that such was only to be fairly expected as explained before, I cannot in good nature hold it against the console’s name.  And as also stated, I got in later that day, and have not had an issue to date!

PS4 Interface While Sony’s Playstation Vita was the first technical pioneer for a new interface  iteration,  the PS4 user interface follows suit to resemble that of an iProduct or touch    phone.    Simple ergonomic navigation seemed to be the main idea behind the design,  as everything  you would want to access is filed away neatly into intuitively aesthetic  categories.    Whether I wanted to send a message bragging about my new toy or    browse the virtual    inventory of the Playstation Store, I had no issue making the shift    from the PS3’s “Cross-  Media Bar” interface.

 

This design tone permeates the entire “feel” of the system’s home setting overall.  Sony does its part to support the recent societal technologic push for familiarity across all devices, as everything seems to give homage to the trending template of a social network site.  Messages are displayed like phone texting sessions, games and features span and scroll sideways in swipe motions, and all of your gaming activity is posted for all your friends to see on a Facebook-alike “Wall” (although settings can be adjusted to ensure privacy if one desires such).

PS4 Controller     The controller with which to navigate the menus is a major improvement over the original Playstation controller design.  Fans abroad have complained about the small size of Sony’s official Dualshock controllers since the first Playstation debuted.  This gripe was only given further support in the wake of the Xbox 360’s massive improvements over the original Xbox Controller model.  Through the Playstation 4, Sony finally responded with the Dualshock 4.

What makes it any different than a Dualshock 3, 2, or original?  Aside from being notably bigger and having new joysticks, this controller adds a big new button smack dab in the middle of the controller.  This new button is actually a touchpad just above the Home button.  The touchpad feels responsive and will not be accidentally pressed during intense play; neither does it require bothersome force to push.  Sony seemed to nail the perfect balance in their touchpad for performing as both a platform and a button, which honestly surprised me.  I was expecting something along the lines of a built-in laptop mousepad, but was pleasantly delighted with how it felt.  Despite its natural ease of incorporation though, it is still too early to make an informed call as to whether the new touchpad will make a revolutionary addition to controller-based gameplay.  Warframe uniquely utilized this feature to activate swipe-motion special character abilities, and the DLC puzzle game Trine 2 used it to assist in its physics mechanics, but most launch titles thus far have given it little use outside of acting as a Start or Select button.

Speaking of Start and Select buttons, the Dualshock 4 technically does not have them.  I am not saying that their functions are overlooked through this new controller, but rather that they are used differently this time around.  Instead, the newly-named “Options” and “Share” buttons take those usual placemats.  The Options button still acts like a Start button in most games here at launch, granting you access to all the pause menu settings you would expect.  On a more innovative note, the Share button is quite different than a simple Select Button!

The Share button allows players playing any games to capture live gameplay and upload recorded footage to share with the World Wide Web!  “So what,” You may ask, “…this is nothing really innovative since streaming has been around forever, right?”  While this is true through outside software and hardware ownership, the Share feature grants all PS4 players a universal method to capture their gaming awesomeness in full HD sight and sound quality.  Now all of those gaming “I caught a fish this big” stories we tell our friends can be proven and preserved for the pantheon of gaming greatness!  For instance, say you happen to pull off an insane, high-speed 18360 no-scope helicopter takedown netting you 6 kills in Battlefield 4, or you make a 1% health comeback against a top-tier Superman in Injustice: Gods Among Us, simply press the button and the last 15 minutes of your ownage will be yours to edit and upload (which is substantially more useful than Xbox One’s similar ability that caps at 5 minutes)!

If you are confident enough to know that every single second of your gameplay will ooze drool-inducing awe, or you just want to screw around and let random people watch and comment on your gameplay, the same Share feature can be used in sync with a Twitch TV or Ustream account for full HD streaming straight from your PS4.  While it is not my particular cup of tea, I can see the obvious usefulness of implementing this feature in the gaming tournament and review scenes.  When some 15 minutes of edited footage will not satiate whatever you may be trying to portray through your footage, Share has got you covered.

PS4 CameraThe streaming feature of Share, along with a small few scattered features and titles so far, have also incorporated Sony’s camera peripheral, the Playstation Camera.  This is not an included accessory out of the basic box, although it does not need to be as it has yet to be developed as a warranted addition.  Playstation 3’s prior attempt with the “Playstation Eye” and proprietary “Playstation Move” controller was largely considered a failure in the short-lived motion-gaming movement.  The Playstation Move campaign attempted to breathe new life into the PS3 and appeal to a larger audience than they already had (whilst competing against the Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, of course).  Perhaps the camera’s early incorporation to the PS4 suits mainly to satiate streaming purposes, or perhaps to accommodate a future of motion gaming to come, but as of this day it is impossible to say with surety.  When also taking into account the $60 that the camera currently costs, I will wait for it to develop further usefulness to me to justify the price.

You might have also noticed a small set of holes just above the Home button on the controller displayed above.  These are evidence of a small speaker built inside the Dualshock 4 controller.  I have often forgotten this feature even exists during play, as only a small few of the launch titles even bother with it.  Resogun and Killzone: Shadow Fall are the two titles that have utilized this feature so far, but neither did a stellar job of making the speaker seem extra engaging.  In my experience thus far, the speaker’s sound quality is reminiscent to that of the Nintendo Wii Remote…take that as you will.

The controller hosts a recharging port on the bottom which explains itself clearly enough, and to the right of it sits a 3.5mm headphone port.  This is used in tandem with an included wired headset for online chat.  To visualize this headset, imagine an iPod earbud (yes, one, singular) with a small plastic tube partway down the short cord to act as a microphone.  While it is most certainly nothing fancy, it is a considerate notion to allow for day 1 chat.  I use the word “considerate” as per it kills two birds with one stone.  It kills the first bird by allowing for everyone to have a headset to communicate online out of the box, eliminating the “need” to buy extra peripherals to enjoy the same online experience as headset users do.  The second bird is also struck, as Playstation 4 is not natively compatible with all prior headset models.  Normally panic and outrage would ensue, but Sony has confirmed that soon-to-come patches will address this issue in time.

This is one of the more intriguing additions to the controller, as it reminds me of the Xbox 360 controller.  Many headsets on the Xbox 360 were similarly run through a port in the controller.  This allowed for the chat signals to be sent to and through the controller “wirelessly” even though the jack of the headset was often argued to be a wire.  Sony has been running off of Bluetooth technology through its controllers and headsets since day 1 of the PS3, so why is there this small (albeit likely temporary) step back?  I do not believe that Sony would make this addition to the controller without planning further use for it later in the console’s life.  In the past, basic USB headsets were used cross-console because they were cheap to manufacture and “got the job done” whilst not imposing lasting change to console nor controller.  But as it looks right now, this is coming stock with all Dualshock 4 designs, which Sony has seemed to keep unchanged for the full duration of each console generation thus far.  This to me logically implies that it will find further use down the road.  Will this mean a shift away from Bluetooth wireless headsets and a draw towards the Xbox 360 style of chat?  This is something I will keep in mind, particularly during the first year of PS4’s life.

PS4 consoleThe console itself has deviated from the PS3’s round design structure and opted for   a PC  appearance…with a twist.  Or, well, more like a slant.  The Playstation 4 takes on  a black    trapezoidal texture with a gloss cover along the left half of the console (which  I have found is a  fingerprint magnet, beware).  On the same side, you have the disc  slot next two 2 frontal USB  ports.  The slant angle of the top side addressed a huge  concern many had with past Playstation  models, in which the USB ports were  covered by large overhangs making them difficult to  access  when the system is laid  horizontally.  On the back side, the console has a power input,  an HDMI  output port,  an optical digital cable output for surround sound support, and an  Ethernet cable  port for a wired internet connection.  Unlike the awkward or enormous consoles of  the past, this console carries a majestic simplicity that will balance neutral to a  room’s Feng Shui.

Upon inspection, I noticed that something was missing from this console.  Understandable as it may be, the Playstation 4 does not have any Component output ports or wires.  The PS4 came with its own HDMI cable out of the box.  This will mean that anyone who used the little Yellow-White-Red wires to hook consoles up to their HDMI-less televisions will NOT be able to enjoy the PS4 without upgrading.  To solidify the significance further, this is the first time that a major video game console has chosen to forego this timeless standard.

Even so, I believe this choice was of a sound mindset.  The PS4 outputs natively at 1080p HD display, I feel that it would almost be an insult to the hard-working developers who made these HD games to downscale it so deeply.  On the flip side though, it does alienate a followed standard and will force people to accept the change or be left behind.  I think if this Component-using group was large enough, Sony would have made means to accommodate for them.  In all likelihood, if you can afford a PS4 anyway, you can likely afford to get a contemporary TV if you do not already own one.

The online experience was about as expected, brimming on some games and absent on others with daily shifts in between.  Once the PS4 makes it into more households, we can reasonably expect to see more consistent online communities across the released titles.  I prepared for this and took advantage of the PS3/PS4 upgrade deal I mentioned earlier.  In the 4 games I have played online that applied for this deal, the PS3 had the larger online community (which only makes sense when you consider how many people have PS3s compared to the number of people who have PS4s).  In time though, like stated before, the community will shift as the PS3 ages out.

The question I and countless others are left with must then be asked: How long will the PS3 still be around?  Currently, some people are calling the Playstation 4 just a PS3 Slim with patches.  While I would disagree overall, I can see that both these two technological titans have a lot of power in them.  Just this past summer, we saw Sony and Naughty Dog push the PS3 to its prime with Sony’s final Hoorah blockbuster title, The Last of Us, which was nothing short of phantasmagorical (Yes, that’s a real word)!  That would have been a stellar PS4 title considering the console’s specs…but that was a PS3 title!  A console nearly on its way “out the door” in many minds produced that masterpiece!  I would highly recommend playing it to anyone who has not done so; it is eternally sealed among the godhead of the best games ever made and played…but I digress.

If the PS3 has that level of processing power, I would not call it a venture to say that PS3 will likely keep a good pace with PS4 while the PS4’s potential is still being discovered.  Consider as proof how long the Playstation 2 was around alongside the Playstation 3.  Nearing the end of the PS2’s reign there were clear and stark differences between game iterations, but the internal specs between the two systems were hardly comparable.  Between PS3 and PS4, the gap is not as massive and therefore supports the possibility for extended cross-console support (should Sony want to continue development, although eventually Sony will want a full shift to the more profitable PS4 of course).  Will this result in cross-console online play and less separation?  I doubt it, otherwise there would be no reason to get a PS4, right?  There will be a clear advantage or two for supporting the PS4 versions, but people like me can still hope for some support to keep the consoles holding hands for at least a year or two, if not more!  Only time will tell!

And finally, here we are at the end.  We have laughed, we have cried, we have been stunned and silenced, and have shrugged and “meh”-ed, but what have we ultimately learned?  At least for me, I have learned that the Playstation 4 is Sony’s finest addition to the console gaming universe.  The specs are unmatched: the graphics are stunning, the sound is clear as day, the controls feel natural and intuitive, and I am really only left with one real thing to whine about.  To me, the launch game line-up was not varied or impressive enough alone to warrant a day 1 system purchase.  As such, as awesome as I find the PS4 to be, I would wait for the price to come down and more games to release before making the jump to get one.

I mean sure, it’s real pretty and the bragging rights are endless…but what good is a movie theater that only shows movies you don’t particularly care for?  I recognize this to be my personal fault as my taste in games is particular and I do not usually like to pay full price for games if I can muster some patience.  Opposite of me though, you may be blown away by the launch titles!  You may think that Killzone: Shadow Fall, despite its many flaws, is the most amazing shooting game of all time (it is most definitely the most visually-captivating console shooter by far)!  If this is the case, I say go for it and give me a challenge online!  If not, patience is a most rewarding virtue.

While some may argue whether or not the new controller needed concave triggers, and others may debate over the new PS Move-inspired light indicator on the front, the fundamentals of operation are stylishly solid and prove a faultless foundation for the future of gaming!  The potential for this system is impossible to adequately articulate, and this week-long first impression was the best testament to this fact!  But don’t just take my word for it, go mess around with one for yourself and see what you think!  “Greatness Awaits” on the Playstation 4, and through it, we are one large bound further towards a “Perfect Day” in gaming history!
Greatness Awaits

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon

 
 

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2 Comments

  1. StarSpangledEggs says:

    Haha, yes I know. I tried to edit it prior but it didn’t go through. I started writing it a week in, but I had so much to say that I decided to take a second week to continue review and analysis!

     
  2. Samba de Amigo says:

    Title of article, “2 Weeks with Playstation 4.” Quote from said article, “… this week-long first impression was the best testament to this fact!”

    I think you missed a week bro.

     

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