First Impressions of Sony's PlayStation 4

Bill Loguidice's picture

Sony PS4Sony PS4First off, it's clear that there have been widespread reports of PlayStation 4 (PS4) consoles that have had various technical issues, requiring a call to Sony technical support. The resolution for many of these individuals seems to be a roughly 10 day turnaround to get a replacement console. Not good. With that in mind, I can report I've had no issues with mine, so I can safely judge the PS4 on its own merits rather than frustration with a damaged unit. Hopefully the Xbox One consoles we ordered will be similarly trouble free in the coming week.

Anyway, I have the PS4 console, the camera, a second controller, and three retail games on disc: Knack, Killzone Shadow Fall, and Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (the latter two games got various pre-order add-on bonuses, and in fact Killzone itself was free from Amazon with the purchase of the other two games). I was able to supplement that with two free games thanks to my PlayStation Plus subscription, as well as a third game with a $10 credit in the PS4 box. I have some of that credit left still and will likely get one more games from the digital store: Sound Shapes. Anyway, the three digital games I have now are: Contrast, Flower, and Resogun. There was also a free offer for Warframe, which I believe is a freemium game where pay for additional in-game items. As a Plus member I got a bundle of in-game items to get me started.

I integrated my smartphone, a Galaxy Note II, with the PlayStation app, as well as my PlayStation Vita with the PS4 Link app. There were no issues with either pairing--just enter the numbers that appear on the PS4's screen and you're linked. The smartphone app gives you access to various account settings and the digital store and allows you to connect to the PS4 for control purposes, but there's nothing particularly intriguing about it. It's functional, but I probably won't use it much except to prepurchase items.

The Vita integration on the other hand is incredible. Taking the Vita's previous integration with the PS3 to a new level, the Vita can now display anything that the PS4 displays on its screen and also play any of the games the PS4 plays. My PS4 is hooked into my network via a powerline network adapter, and my Vita of course connects to the same network over WiFi. While I haven't tried it from every room in the house yet, there was little lag or delay in streaming the one game I tested with the setup so far, Knack. It felt nearly as good as playing it on the TV. This is a VERY promising feature.

Anyway, back to the console. It was easy to set up the PS4 and login to my existing PSN account. I was also able to integrate Facebook and use my Facebook picture as my account picture. Speaking of Facebook, the PS4 automatically records the last 15 minutes of whatever you're doing, which can be uploaded to the social network (live streaming to other services is also an option) either in screenshot or video form. The videos can also be edited and cropped. Simply hit the "Share" button on the controller and you're in business. Again, a very nice feature.

Here are some links to videos I posted on Facebook (I trimmed the latter videos on the PS4 itself):

Resogun
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201591585686164&l=242846952943500...
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201592009616762&l=246779940884295...

The Playroom
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201598313414353&l=892446733400921...
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201598347015193&l=613757293591556...

The console itself looks dynamite. It kind of has a trapezoidal shape and parts of it are the blackest black you've seen (I believe this is what Douglas Adams was referring to in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), which does make seeing the power and eject buttons a bit difficult (some of the text is also black on black). In any case, it's a nice small-ish size and should take a place of honor in any home entertainment system. As a bonus, the power supply is built-in, so you just have to find any open outlet to plug the cable into. That's something the Xbox One won't have.

I'm not the biggest fan of the PS2/PS3 controllers (I thought the Xbox 360 controller was the best), but I must say that the improvements to the PS4 controller are superb. It's much more comfortable and highly responsive. The center touchscreen, which also doubles as another button, is also extremely accurate and responsive.

The optional camera is nice and small too. In terms of capabilities it far exceeds what the PS3 had, but doesn't quite measure up to Kinect 2.0 levels. Still, the image is nice and crisp (see The Playroom videos above) and the limited voice commands seem to work well. The PS4 has a tech demo of mini-games (more like mini-activities) built-in called The Playroom. There are various activities involving robots and even a hi-tech Pong-like game. It's basically meant to show you the capabilities of both the camera and controller, and reminds me a bit of the superb Kinect Party for the Xbox 360, just with fewer things to do. My daughters love it and I must admit, so of the technical aspects of it (check out the little robots "trapped" in your controller) are very compelling. Now it's just a matter of Sony delivering with future software, which admittedly will be a bit challenging since the camera is not included by default like Kinect 2.0 is with the Xbox One.

My biggest problem on launch day was getting a consistent connection to the PlayStation Network (PSN). It was obviously getting hammered. As such, it was good I downloaded the day one system update to a USB stick a few days earlier. The update process, which involved going into the console's safe mode, was a big scary, but went off without a hitch. Outside of the PSN issues, there were zero other technical hiccups.

I have yet to try a Blu-ray movie, but I did try out some of the video apps, including Amazon and Netflix. Both of those ran without a hitch, though Netflix did have some jaggedness on startup until the stream caught up with the video. After that, it was lovely HD like you would expect.

I also tried out Music Unlimited, since I still have a subscription for a little while longer (there was a previous offer of 12 months for $12 for PS+ members). While the PSN network cooperated, it played without a hitch and was able to play in the background as I did other things. Unlike the Xbox One (and Xbox 360 and Xbox before it), you can't stream your own music in the background and do other things. Pity.

I had no problems with any of the games, either disc or download, though again, PSN sometimes didn't cooperate. Here are some quick thoughts on some of the games I played:

Knack
I described Knack as a polished, relentlessly linear 3D platformer. That's a complement. I get lost in free roaming 3D games and prefer the model set long ago by Crash Bandicoot, where you're free to do what you want, but can't deviate from the main path. That's not for everyone, but for me, it's a lot of fun. My daughters also enjoyed the game, and even played a little co-op in it.

Killzone Shadow Fall
I'm not a big fan of the series, but this one looks fantastic (as it should) and so far seems to play great. It shows off the technology of the PS4 well, though I'm not necessarily enthusiastic about another post apocalyptic FPS.

Contrast
This game didn't exactly wow me from a technical standpoint, but the theme is wonderfully macabre and adult. Here's how Wikipedia ably describes it: "Set in a noir art deco atmosphere, the player controls a young detective, Dawn, who is able to move in 3D or flatten herself against walls so she becomes a silhouette that can jump between shadows like in a 2D platformer. There is control over different light sources in the 3D world (spotlights, film projectors, etc.) to create the proper shadow platformer paths to reach new areas in the 2D world." While the execution is not the smoothest, I'm drawn in by the promise of the story and the atmosphere. I also except an M. Night Shyamalan-style twist at the end, or something similarly dramatic.

Flower
Not really my thing, but it was cheap enough where I didn't have to spend all of the $10 credit, plus it was CrossBuy, so it also is now on my PlayStation 3 and Vita systems. It certainly looks and sounds lovely, but it basically seems to me like a goal-less game where you just play as the wind and try to gather flower petals in lush meadows. My youngest daughter was certainly entertained by it.

Resogun
This game suprised the heck out of me. I described it as sort of a techno-Defender (check out some of the sadly unedited gameplay footage above). It's visually rich and sounds great. I love the female voice that comes out of the controller's speaker (yes, it has a speaker), which reminds me of the TI-99/4a classic, Parsec. Speaking of the controller's speaker, you can also supposedly route all game audio through the headset jack (a mono microphone headset is included with the PS4), so you can plug in headphone of your choice and listen privately. I haven't done that yet, but it's on the to do list (that and testing out my nice Sony PlayStation surround headset that I got previously for the PS3).

Anyway, those are my quick impressions of the PS4 after maybe four or so hours of use, launch night and next morning. Do I like it? No. So far, I love it. This is truly the start of the next gen, and I'm looking forward to the Xbox One continuing to impress me with the possibilities that these powerful consoles will point to.

Any questions about the PS4? Comments? Have your own experiences? Sound off in the comments below!

Note: I'm ArmchairArcade on PSN.

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Comments

Rob Daviau
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Joined: 05/19/2006
Great overview Bill!

Though I don't getting any of the nexgen consoles anytime soon (not because I don't WANT to, let's leave it at that :( ) BUT I have to say I have been more interested for the PS4 overall than the XboxOne.

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Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Awesome review, Bill.

There's a part of me that wants to (finally) join a console generation while it's current. The closest I've ever come to being a console gamer was when I had my Dreamcast, although that was long after its heyday. I suppose you could count my stint with the Atari 800, since it was functionally similar to the 5200, and I could play most of the 5200 library via hacked pirate versions (games that were never officially released for the computer platform were hacked from their 5200 versions to work on the computers).

The trend towards "multimedia center" is appealing to me, because I like the idea of multi-functionality without all the clutter. The XBox One sounds like an appealing device in this respect because of the emphasis on integrating my entertainment needs in one device (gaming, TV, Netflix, Web, Skype, etc.).

However, there's a lot that could go wrong with Microsoft's implementation, so it's a very risky move by MS if they don't get it (largely) right. Since they seem to be swinging for the fences with this ambitious media center concept, there's a huge possibility of things going wrong!

The included (required?) Kinect is absolutely not an attraction for me. In fact, I don't hear many people clamoring for it, and it might actually be an impediment in many buyers' minds, what with the current "privacy" controversies and all. For me, I just don't care about yelling "Xbox on" or making gestures at the camera to get something to happen. I'd rather just push a button.

Actually, the PS4's simpler approach of a device that plays games, Blu-rays, and Netflix for $100 less sounds good enough for me. But, if the XB1 nails the entertainment center concept, it might be worth the extra $100 for an old guy like me.

The last generation seemed to cement "online multiplayer" and "social media" as required aspects of a console, so the kids of this generation are going to gravitate to whatever system their friends are buying right off the bat! We might not see the competitive parity of the previous console generation if all the players gravitate to one system right out of the starting gate.

It's going to be very interesting to see what happens next. If Microsoft screws up the very thing that they're charging an extra $100 for (the "multimedia experience" aspect), then it could be a quick knockout this generation.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
In regards to the Xbox One,

In regards to the Xbox One, the big thing for me is that it has HDMI in, so that means my cable box can plug directly into it and can be controlled and integrated seamlessly. No switching inputs, no special effort, no nothing except complete integration. That's also where Kinect 2.0 and the greatly enhanced speech integration comes in. The multitasking, the pinning things to the side, etc., is all tied into that. Being able to reference something on a Website, search not only what's on my cable but also what's on Netflix (etc.), all while not interrupting my regular TV has considerable appeal. For that, I'd happily pay the extra $100. I paid the extra $60 for the PS4's camera, and, while a big improvement over the PS3's camera, is clearly not integrated into the OS, so I really still need to do everything with the controller. After doing multitasking with the PS4, I can see how even more options around that are really appealing. I know Microsoft backed down on a lot of things with the Xbox One, but I'm glad they didn't back down on the Kinect.

In any case, I'll post first impressions on the Xbox One. I definitely see the potential in this next gen with the PS4 that I didn't see with the Wii U, so I'm curious if I get that same vibe with the Xbox One. Based on what I've seen and already experienced, I suspect I will. For that, I'm excited. With me enjoying the PS4 so much, it makes me really realize how much I was wanting the next gen to start, particularly after my disappointment with the Wii U (which felt more or less the same).

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Bill Loguidice
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Just a quick follow-up... The

Just a quick follow-up... The PS4 sold over 1 million units in the first 24 hours in North America. Not bad. Like I stated previously, it's what happens post holiday that will really determine if we're indeed over the hump embodied by lackluster sales of both the Vita and Wii U. Certainly Sony has to do whatever they can to keep a steady stream of games coming and positive momentum into the early parts of 2014.

I expect similar positive results for the Xbox One, and similar expectations of needing to keep the momentum going.

I purchased my last PS4 game for quite a while, Sound Shapes. It's not really my thing, but I thought my daughters might like it. It's OK, but like the similarly critically acclaimed Flower, it's an acquired taste.

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wahoodan28 (not verified)
Too old for a console?

Hi, i just joined so hello. Im 48 and my son bought me a PlayStation 4, ive not played computer games since the ZX Spectrum in the early 80's.

My son downloaded a game called Battlefiled 3 or 4. Im suprised how good it all looks.

Am I the worlds oldest video gamer?

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
PS4

wahoodan28 wrote:
Hi, i just joined so hello. Im 48 and my son bought me a PlayStation 4, ive not played computer games since the ZX Spectrum in the early 80's.
My son downloaded a game called Battlefiled 3 or 4. Im suprised how good it all looks.
Am I the worlds oldest video gamer?

Welcome. Keep in mind that the average gamer age is just over 30, and there are many active gamers in their 50s, 60s, and beyond. As the industry has matured over the decades, so has the average gamer profile.

The PS4 is fantastic, though it does need a few more blockbuster titles. Right now, I derive a bit more enjoyment out of the Xbox One because it has a few more blockbuster games to go with the "regular" titles. Either way, both the PS4 and Xbox One will be lots of fun for the next 5 years+, particularly as their libraries (and feature-sets) grow.

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