PS4 Day One Impressions
First of all, I have to start this assessment by stating that I am a lucky son of a gun! I’m lucky because I have a girlfriend, who in addition to being absolutely beautiful and kind and generally wonderful, is also an avid gamer. So my Journey to PS4 launch day began in earnest after Sony’s E3 press conference, when Lauren looked at me and said “I think we should go in on a PS4 together. We could make it our Christmas present.” My friends, these are the sexiest words a woman has ever spoken to me.
Five months later, the blessed day has arrived, and we find ourselves sitting in line at Best Buy waiting for the clock to make it’s way to 12:01 am. The mechanics of picking up the console were quite smooth. Best Buy did a fine job of getting those who had pre-ordered in the door (those who had not pre-ordered had to wait outside like dogs. I found this to be the best pre-order bonus that retail has ever devised. Who wants to stand outside in November?) getting their units, games and accessories paid for, and getting them in line so they could just hand the systems out when the time came.
But enough about the act of buying this thing. Let’s get to the meat!
The box itself was smartly put together and more resembled a box for a laptop computer than a videogame console. I’m the type of guy who tends to hang on to his boxes, and I think this one is on par with the original WII box.
So not bulky, and very storage friendly. It wasn’t laden with a ton of booklets or offers. We found a PS4, a Dualshock 2 controller, a usb charger (for the controller. we also found that my data cable for my cell phone will also work to charge a controller) a safety manual, an HDMI cable, a small earphone and mic combo, and US and international versions of a quick start manual. Also included is a small insert with offers for the Sony music service, $10 free for the Playstation store, and most useful of all, a code for a 30 day trial of Playstation Plus. So pretty basic stuff.
The PS4 itself is sleek. Gone is the ridiculous behemoth design of the launch PS3 in favor of a svelte unit that conjures memories of the original PS2 unit, which was a pretty sexy piece of machinery back in 2000. It’s surprisingly compact too. It’s not quite as small as the Wii, I estimate it as one and a half times the width of the Wii.
It’s a lot more manageable in size than my Xbox 360. The slanted slab design was an interesting choice that I wasn’t too sure about when the system was first revealed, however in person it helps to set itself apart from the impending Xbox One. The front has room for the two usb cables. The power and eject buttons are located in the center front. They are both very small. You won’t be able to locate them in photos. They are very responsive to just a slight touch, so it helps the overall design of the console. Bottom line is that it’s a good looking piece of hardware that is going to fit into even the most conservative of storage spaces.
The DualShock 4 is not a revolution of the Sony controller standard. That’s not a detraction at all. Sony’s controller has always been very comfortable, and the newest revision has just the right tweeks. It has a nice weight to it. Not quite as heavy as the DS1 or 2, but not as light as the DS3. It’s wireless and has no use of batteries, WHICH IS AWESOME! It charges using a mini usb cable and will charge even when the console is powered off. The analogue sticks feel tighter than the previous DS versions. They also have an indentation which helps keep the thumb in place. The underside is textured and provides better grip. The biggest changes are in the new option and share buttons which are placed along the sides of the standout feature which is a touch screen slapped right in the middle. It also features a built in speaker ala the WiiMote, and a jack for the earphone. Bottom line is that the controller is familiar and comfortable. It’s new touch screen doesn’t get in the way of anything.
And now the big moment.. The boot up!
There is no fancy intro screen. Just the PS logo while the system boots and then launches you into the GUI. The first time you power on the machine it will ask you to configure your internet settings. There is no need for a wireless add on like there was for the 360, and I was able to quickly connect to my network.
The interface is an evolution of the PSP/PS3/Vita systems that we are now used to. The first thing I did was to install the firmware update (1.50). There have been reports of the update bricking or causing instability in some games. I have not experienced any of that. It was quite smooth. The system auto shut down a couple of times as it prepped and installed the update. After about 15 minutes, we were ready to go.
For any online functionality, you have to create an account with the Playstation Network. This was the biggest hurdle of the night, partly because Lauren and I were undecided for a while on a suitable network ID for the two of us. We finally settled on eaglevision_dl (eagle vision from Assassins Creed, of which she is a devote, and dl for Dave and Lauren. Awwwwww so cute!) The servers were the main hurdle. They were understandably spotty because of people hopping on and having to do the update, plus downloading all the PSPlus freebies. (More on that in a sec) We paused on that and decided to load our first game, Assassins Creed 4.
Lauren got the first crack at playing a game on the system and logged a couple solid hours on AC4. The game loaded very quickly, and began installing content on the hard-drive in the background while she immersed herself in Caribbean piratery. I watched and noted that it looked very pretty, with some nicer textures than the current gen systems. Not a huge step up yet, but that’s what I expected from AC4 since it’s a cross gen title. The use of the touch screen is very cool though! It brings up the map and you use your finger to move around and examine it. It’s as natural as using any modern cell phone.
Once she was finished I retried the sign in for the Playstation Network. After a couple of tries we finally made it on! It was getting late so I decided to redeem my code PSPlus and down load a couple of titles. This was the reason for the server issues. Your PSPlus membership allows you to play certain games for free! So you get an instant library consisting of Contrast, Resogun, Blacklight Retribution, and Warframe. So everyone jumping on to nab five free games at the same time seems like it would cause a reasonable bit of network silliness. Patience was the virtue though and I set Contrast, Warframe and Resogun for download overnight.
The next morning we woke up and found that all three games had indeed been downloaded, and with that I started playing Knack. It’s with this game that I decided to test out the sharing function. By hitting the share button I brought up a few options. I could post the last fifteen minutes of gameplay, start broadcasting my play over ustream or twitch.tv, or I could take a screenshot and post that to facebook. I opted for the latter, and after a quick sign in to my fb account, I uploaded the screenshot. Kinda cool. I also appreciated that they gave options over what was shared on fb. Quite frankly I don’t care which of my friends earned a trophy in a game. I don’t need to see that in my news feed. So I made sure to turn that off.
Later in the day we started up the third in our trio of titles, (Someone went to Target and took advantage of the buy 2 get 1 free sale) NBA 2K14. I will admit, I’m not much of a basketball fan, however I’m less of a fan of first person shooters. So when you have a system launch with three of the damned things, then there isn’t much you can do. This was the most interesting of the remaining choices for us, plus it just looks beautiful!
It was during this game that I decided to try out the broadcast function. I logged into the twitch tv account that I set up the night before, and then pulled up the site on my laptop. We plugged in the little headset and mic to Lauren’s controller, and within a few seconds we were broadcasting our game to an audience of ourselves over twitch. Lauren’s commentary came through very well. This was by far the coolest feature so far on the PS4! I loved the functionality in some of the recent Capcom fighting games (Super Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter x Tekken) where you could watch other peoples matches, or replays over the framework that was set up for those games. PS4 makes it simple for anyone to broadcast over their own channel and run a play by play. It’s very promising, and I’m already thinking of when a good time would be to set up a viewing session for us Nerd Bacon folks. The one thing I will say is that during the test broadcast I texted my friend to see if he could view our game online. He tried a few times and was not able to see it for some reason. I don’t know if this was a browser issue or what because like I said, we had it up on the lap top just fine. I’ll have to run a few more tests.
The one thing I haven’t done yet is to play a multi player game online. I’ll give it a go shortly, but when it comes to multi player, I usually stick to fighting games.
There have been reports in the hours before and after launch of faulty consoles. The biggest pre-launch story was the faulty HDMI port which wouldn’t allow the cable to hook into the port properly, thus preventing signal transmission to the tv. There were also some reports of over heating consoles. Happily, we have not come across any defects with the hardware at all. It runs very quiet too. My 360 will rumble my entertainment center when the disc drive is rocking and rolling, but the PS4 respectfully keeps it’s noise to a minimum. The internal fan is probably the loudest part of the unit, but I haven’t found it intrusive.
So far we have tried Knack, AC4, NBA2K14, and Contrast. All have run without any issues and Full reviews of those and every one of the 8 games mentioned in the article will be coming over the next few days and weeks.
Overall I’m very pleased with the Playstation 4. The only disappointing thing about the experience is that there isn’t much of a revolution over the previous generation in the launch games. But, that is to be expected. Launch games never represent the full potential of a game console. Although as I set here finishing my thoughts, Lauren is playing AC4. “Look Dave, it’s raining! Look at it poor down the walls! It’s so beautiful!”
I’m very excited to see what the next wave of games bring. There is a lot of power under the hood, and the next wave of titles like Drive Club, The Order, and Infamous Second Son look they are going to start delivering on that Next Gen Promise. I’m also intrigued about the evolution of the built in share functions. Perhaps I can host some demo’s for all of you soon.
I’m going to refrain from giving this a numerical score for now. I don’t think it’s fair to try and boil a console itself down to a number until we have more time to see what can be done on it. I’ll just say that PS4 is not a must buy..yet. But by middle of next year you will absolutely want one.
Look for game reviews shortly!
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