Some of this may come off as rambling, but I feel that’s the best way to get the most of my thoughts out in this particular case. I had a lot of things go through my head as I booted the PS4 up for the first time and saw what Sony is describing as “the future of gaming.” While I don’t know if the “future” is too different from what we have now, it’s still an interesting topic discussion.
First off, we have to talk about the design of this thing. It has a slanted look that makes the whole thing very sleek and artsy-looking. Some may write it off as odd, but I like it. This look comes at a bit of a price however. For one thing, the shape makes it a little difficult to reach around the back if you’re plugging in the connector cables. It also doesn’t help that the system has a bit of a wobble to it. Yes, if you press down on the left side of the system, it will wobble like that annoying table you’ve questioned keeping until you remembered how expensive new tables are. It’s not a deal-breaker or anything (I’ve got mine on a surface that doesn’t even have this problem), but something to note if you were just going to sit it on a flat table. One last bit of weirdness to note is the power and eject buttons. Most people probably won’t even see them (I didn’t!) the first time around. They’re tiny, and placed in between the small crevices of the system’s left-center. Honestly, they’re just odd. I’m not even sure I can call that sleek like the rest of the system, but I could see why people would say it is. The blue/white light that emanates on top of the system is quite nice-looking as well. Everything else is about how you’d expect. 2 USB ports in the front and standard ports in the back round it all up.
The controller tries to take the best features of the Dual Shock 2 and 3 and implement a little bit of touch-pad ability as well. It feels about the same as the previous versions despite, though the analog sticks thankfully aren’t popping out like the previous two iterations, and actually point inward, not unlike the Xbox 360’s controller. I always found this to be the more effective method for analog sticks, and am glad Sony finally caught on to using them this way. The shoulder buttons are about the same as last time for better or for worse (as I still find myself hitting the R2/L2 triggers by accident!).
When you first turn everything on, the visuals aren’t going to look too drastically different from what you’ve seen on the PS3’s dashboard. You mainly have all the same functions as before, but switched around a bit into a setup that some might or might not find easier. Personally, I don’t see much difference, but do feel it is at least a bit smoother than before. Putting in a new game disc can be a bit of an annoyance if you’re hoping to simply start the game right from start up. You will have to install some data onto the hard drive and depending on the game; it could be as high as 50 GB or more per title! Thankfully, I haven’t experienced any games with an install size that high yet, but this could quickly become taxing for those who don’t want to replace their hard drive with a larger one right away. You can also start with all of the same video apps you used previously (Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Crunchyroll, etc.), and they work about the same as they always have.
It’s the game visuals you really want to hear about however, so I’ll get right into that. I played a total of 3 games so far (as well as a timed demo I tried briefly). The first game was Resogun, a shoot-em-up in the vein of classic titles like R-Type and Geometry Wars. While the game itself is simple enough (fly around in a circular plane, blowing up other ships, rescuing people, and upgrading in order to blow up more things and giant bosses), the effects are absolutely stunning to look at. There are particle effects and explosions abound. The game itself is hard as nails, which is just how I like games of this type. I only beat about 2 or 3 stages in my playthrough, but I intend to go back and get even farther next time.
The next game I played was called Contrast, a 3D platformer/puzzle game. It’s hard to fully explain the plot of this game without spoiling a million plot details, but know that it is a 2D/3D platformer in the sense of exploration around Paris in the 1920’s. You play as (at least from what I can tell so far) an imaginary friend of a little girl named Didi, setting off to follow her mother and father, and trying to get them back together again after what appeared to be some hard times for them all. What makes the gameplay interesting more than anything, is your character’s ability to jump into walls with light pointing at them, making you control her shadow in 2D platforming sections. This adds a whole new dimension to the genre, having to make sure lights are pointed in the correct places in order to get through the many obstacles the game throws at you. It starts off with a child-like wonder, which appears to be getting darker as it goes along. I’ve only played the first of the game’s three acts, but I can’t wait to go back. While not graphically the best, the style is simply unforgettable, and it actually makes me jealous and wish I came up with something like it first myself!
Now let’s move on to some bigger stuff. I had some difficulty deciding which launch title to go with for PS4, but finally decided on Assassin’s Creed IV for now. I noticed that Battlefield 4 and others will be in random Black Friday sales (including online), so I will likely go for it then. While virtually the same game as the previous system versions, I did check multiple comparisons between platforms, and sure enough, the PS4 version is the best looking to come out so far (PC and Xbox One versions pending, since they’re not out just yet). The PS4 version also seems to have an extra hour or so of gameplay (according to the box at least!), so that’s another plus. I’ve played every Assassin’s Creed title up until this point, so continuing was no problem for me. Happy to say I’m actually enjoying it a lot more than III as well. I’ve loved the concept of pirates since I was about 3 years old, so this one kind of gobbled me up from the get go. Also interested in seeing where the story will go this time after the events of III kind of left you hanging.
Finally, I also played a demo for a game called Knack. I initially had high hopes for this one because it was from game director/developer/programmer/producer/etc. Mark Cerny. You may recall his name on titles ranging from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, all the way to Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, and so many more. Well, this is his latest project, and while it isn’t quite as great as the titles I listed above, I’d say it still has some of the charm we’ve come to love from his past games. The problem is the gameplay. You move very slow and sluggishly, and the game is also surprisingly hard for the family-friendly audience they’re presenting it to. This may have been intentional on Cerny’s part (especially if one remembers how hard the first Crash Bandicoot game was), but I’m not sure how fun people are going to really find this. While called a 3D platformer, it’s really more of a 3D brawler than anything else. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, but throw it up with gameplay that doesn’t really amount to much more than bashing your enemies in and getting taller (ala Katamari Damacy). If the rest of the game doesn’t really progress from this, I’d have a hard time shelling out $60 for it, however I’m sure I’ll play it once it’s come down to below the $30 range someday. With that said , I will give credit where credit is due. The graphics involved in both Knack and the characters he comes to interact/fight with are top notch. It’s hard not to be dazzled by the way everything looks in motion, and some of the other characters may even remind you of that Pixar-esque charm we’ve all come to love.
I really haven’t found myself taking in too many of the system’s new features yet, but I intend to check it all out soon enough. I also have to note that it was incredibly annoying to log in to my PSN account, due to how many times I was kicked out when everyone else was trying to sign on at the same time. Once I was in however, things were pretty smooth from that point on. It’s also nice to see Sony giving a little extra to all early adopters, by adding $10 of PSN shop credit, as well as 30 day trial for their unlimited music service and a free month of their PS+ service.
It’s hard to label this system as a must own at the moment simply because there have not been that many great or unique (first and third-party) titles at launch yet (I’m hearing mixed things about Killzone, and Knack really hasn’t won me over yet either). As of right now, I can only recommend it to the hardcore gamers that want to jump into the action early. For everyone else, it might be better to hold off and wait for some of the better lineup come February/March. That said; I do see great things ahead for this console, and I can't wait to see how things progress in the coming months.
Hope this has been at least somewhat informative for everyone and thanks for reading my rambles!