The Xbox 360 kicked off the 7th generation of consoles 8 long years ago. Since 2005 we’ve seen the rise of social games, smartphone technology, mobile gaming, tablets, and even free-to-play gaming. All of these have been called at one time or another the death blow to traditional video games. But try as they might, console gaming isn’t going anywhere, and if the day 1 sales of the PS4 tell us anything, it’s that console gaming is still king and will be for a long time. There’s just something right about traditional console gaming. Sitting back on the couch, playing the newest video games with the best graphics on your big screen TV is an experience that can’t be beaten no matter how convenient mobile gaming has gotten. However, just because console gaming is still king doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of innovation. The PlayStation 4 presents a variety of new ways for players to interact with their games, and it’s time to take a look as just how good the PS4 really is.
The first thing you’ll notice about the PlayStation 4 is just how aesthetically pleasing it is. Normally the look and design of a console isn’t important (the Gamecube had a handle to carry it by!), but in the PS4’s case, it’s worth noting. The PS4 does not look like a first generation console at all. Usually when a new console comes out the hardware looks ugly, and eventually the manufacturer will put out a revision that looks much better. The original PS3 was big, fat, and quite frankly ugly. The PS4 doesn’t suffer from this problem amazingly enough. The PS4 is sleek, sexy, and most importantly efficient. The PS4 is a parallelogram shape and looks beautiful from all angles, both horizontally and vertically.
Even more impressive than the look of the PS4 is the design of the PS4. For such a small console with only vents in the back, one would fear that the PS4 suffers from overheating. While there is the 1% out there who has had problems with their PS4 malfunctioning, there’s no evidence that there is any sort of widespread issue at the moment. The PS4 also runs whisper quiet, with the fans running at a very low speed in almost every scenario. There’s nothing more that one could ask for in the hardware design of the PS4. It’s fast, efficient, quiet, and most importantly, extremely powerful. Packing a very powerful processor and 8 GB of GDDR5 Ram, the PS4 is a beast, and by most standards, the most powerful of the 8th generation of consoles.
In addition to the very impressive PS4 console, the DualShock 4 is also the best controller I’ve ever used. All of the complaints with the DualShock 3 have been addressed. The DS4 has more weight to it making it more comfortable to hold, plus it is more ergonomically friendly and fits in your hands more comfortably than the DS3. The triggers and the analog sticks have also seen massive improvements. Your fingers form around the trigger of the DS4, making it much more appealing than the fold-back triggers of the DS3. The analog sticks also have a much smaller “dead zone”, meaning you’ll have more control over precise movements on the analog sticks with the DS4. As someone who was already a fan of the DS3, the DS4 is better in every way. There’s yet to be any meaningful use of the touch pad, but hopefully games will make more use of it soon.
It doesn’t matter how good the hardware of a console is if there’s nothing good to play on it. Trust me; I bought a Wii U on launch day. Thankfully, the PS4 has a significantly better launch line-up than any of its predecessors. When you look at the launch line-ups of the PS1, PS2, and PS3, the PS4’s launch line-up blows them all out of the water. The PS4 is launching with 23 games available at launch, including full retail games, downloadable games, and free-to-play games. There’s a variety of games available at launch, and with the exception of the traditional RPG, almost every genre is represented in some form at the PS4 launch. Compared to the PS3 launch, when the only game worth playing was Resistance 1, the PS4’s launch is a vast improvement.
The big question with the next generation of consoles is whether or not they would be a substantial upgrade over their predecessor. Gamers have been worrying that the PS4 and Xbox One are only a marginal upgrade over how well graphics already look, and fear that they’ll quickly become outdated by the ever changing landscape of the PC. Put those fears to rest now, because the PS4 is more than capable of holding its own. People forget that the PS3 and Xbox 360 have only 512 MB of DDR2 Ram. The PS4 has 8 GB of DDR5 Ram. As developers figure out the tricks of the PS4 and bring it to its full potential games and game worlds will improve radically. When you look at a PS3 launch title like Resistance 1 and compare it to a game like GTA5, the difference is night and day. Imagine what PS4 games will look like 5 years from now when you have a game like Killzone: Shadow Fall at launch. The potential is mind-boggling.
Whereas Nintendo has run into a world of trouble getting any sort of sustained support for the Wii U, Sony looks like they will have the biggest line-up of games on their console of any of the major competitors. Sony’s push to get independent games on their console appears to be paying off in spades, as there is a plethora of indie games set to hit the PS4 over the next year while we wait for the next big release. When you look at the fact that Sony has 13 studios that it owns all developing PS4 games in addition to their large push for indie games, it’s clear that Sony is in the best position to provide the largest number of exclusive games this generation, just like it did for the PS3.
The User Interface
The User Interface of a product always seems like a miniscule detail, but it’s not. You spend so much time interacting with a console’s interface that even small changes make a big difference. In the case of the PS4, the changes make a world of difference. Typically when you bought a PS3 game and tried to start it, the first thing that would happen is you would have to sit at an install screen for around 10 to 20 minutes while the game installs. Then you’d have to usually download an update, install the update, and then restart the game. Thankfully, this has all changed with the PS4. As soon as you put the disc in the console the game immediately starts installing itself, usually getting to a bootable state within a couple of minutes. Any updates that are available for the game are all automatically downloaded and installed in the background. The only way to really check to see if you installed any new updates since the last time you turned on your PS4 is to look at your download history. Unfortunately you still have to wait for the PS4 to download and install system updates, but any updates for games or apps seemingly download and install themselves in the background without any interaction from the user what-so-ever. This is a notable and welcome improvement.
While the PS4 does not feature the cross media bar that was infamous with the PS3, the PS4 does have a very sleek interface. Your games and apps are lined up on the main homescreen in one row, with games being arranged from most recently played to least recently played. You do have an option to view your entire library as well from a separate screen. Above the main row of options featuring all of your games and apps is the more traditional system settings for the PS4, including your profile options, your friends list, your download history, the PS Store, and so on. It’s a very user-friendly interface and even the most casual of gamers should be able to navigate the PS4’s menus with ease. It also has to be said that the PS4 interface runs extremely fast. Switching between games takes seconds, and not minutes like the PS3.
One issue persistent with the PS4 that’s already been commented on by a lot of people is the lack of media options. The PS3 could be used as a full media hub, storing all of your pictures, music, and videos. That’s all gone with the PS4. You can’t store any of your personal media on the PS4, and you can’t even play audio CDs or stream mp3s on the console at the moment. This is a huge step back from the PS3, and quite frankly, very puzzling.
The Online Experience
A lot of people forget that the PS3 was not intended to be an always online device. When the PS3 launched it hardly had any online capabilities. You were lucky to be able to play online and send text messages to your friends. Features such as party chat never came to the PS3. When you compare that to what features the PS4 has, and again it’s night and day. Party chat, cross-game chat, a robust online system supporting up to 2000 friends, the PS4 has corrected all of the wrongs of the PS3. Well, almost all of them. You still can’t change your PSN name, but Sony hasn’t completely shut the door on that ability yet, so it may be coming in the future.
The PS4 has a new share button which will allow you to capture up to the past 15 minutes of gameplay for editing, and allow you to stream your gameplay sessions to Twitch or UStream. YouTube is sorely missing from the list, but hopefully that will be coming in the future as well. Getting your stream up and running on the PS4 is extremely easy, and the performance is quite impressive. The streams do run impressively well if your Internet connection can support it.
Many of the PS4’s launch titles feature rich online integration. Certain games such as Need for Speed don’t feature any distinction between online and offline modes at all. If you’re connected online, you’ll be connected with other players as the game world loads even if you’re only playing single player missions. It’s cool to see and interact with other players in the game world while you’re playing what would traditionally be single player content. It makes the game world feel more alive and immersive. The PS4 is a truly online-enabled device.
– The User Interface is impressively quick and easy to use.
– The DualShock 4 controller is a huge improvement over the DualShock 3.
– A very powerful console at a very affordable price.
– A fantastic launch line-up that blows the launch line-up of its predecessors out of the water.
– The PS4 is sleek, sexy, and quiet.
– The PS4 has the largest list of upcoming games compared to the competition.
– Games install automatically in the background as do updates for games and apps.
– You still need to hand-hold the PS4 through system updates.
– You can’t store your personal media files on your PS4. No pictures, music, or videos. Only things you’ve purchased on the PSN.
– The PS4 doesn’t currently support Audio CD playback or MP3 playback.
– You can stream games to Twitch and Ustream, but not YouTube.
– You can’t change your PSN name.
There’s not much more you can ask for in a console launch. As someone who’s sat through the PS2 launch, with a million titles but none of them worth playing, and the PS3 launch with hardly any titles and nothing worth playing, the PS4 is head and shoulders above the rest. It’s still not perfect, but there are more than enough great games to play right now. Multiplatform games like Need for Speed and Battlefield are a blast to play with friends. Console exclusives like Resogun and Killzone are extremely fun to play and do a great job showing how impressive next-gen graphics look. The PS4 design is incredibly impressive and somehow even more impressive when you look at how quick the user interface is. It’s powerful, sleek, small, and quiet. My biggest issues with the PS4 are all related to system features that aren’t related to actually playing video games. I wish the PS4 would play mp3s, I wish the PS4 would have better YouTube intergration, and I wish the PS4 would allow me to store my personal movies on it. But when it comes to playing video games, which is the primary function of the PlayStation 4, I couldn’t ask for much more. Give the games time, they’re coming. But for now, there’s more than enough content to recommend jumping into the next-generation while you wait for the next big game.
Final Score: 4.6 out of 5