The Time’s They Are A Changin’
While gaming has been a significant part of my life since the late 1980’s (yes I’m THAT old) I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never owned a PlayStation. Beginning from the Atari 2600 I’ve owned a console from every generation since but for some reason a PlayStation was never one of them until now. The reasons behind this should probably be saved for another day but it’s mainly because the controller sucked. The important bit is that now there is a PS4 sitting in my study/gaming room, it’s pretty standby light glowing at me. Beckoning to me. “Play me Jay, play me!”
She’s Got the Look
We’ve all seen the console by now either by owning one or drooling all over our screens as we watch countless unboxing videos by some YouTuber so I won’t bother describing it in any serious detail. The main question is: do I think it’s sexy. The short answer is “yes”.
The way that the console is divided into four different sections is an obvious reference to this being the fourth PlayStation in Sony’s repertoire and the fact that only one section of the box is in that sleek piano black adds a degree of class to the whole package without it trying to stand out too much from the rest of the devices in your living room.
Thanks to the barely visible branding on the face of the PS4 and its odd trapezoid shape any non-gamer that enters your living room is bound to ask “what the hell is that thing?” This will of course be all the encouragement you need to turn it on and show off your new purchase, but to me this angular design almost screams “I’m not an Xbox!” at the top of its lungs.
The beam of light that extends across the top of the PS4 is a beautiful addition too. Rather than your standard blinking LED on the front of the box, this long light reflects the status of your console by turning Blue when booting up, white when powered on, orange when in standby mode and presumably red when something has gone wrong. It’s a simple yet attractive aesthetic feature that cuts through top of the PS4 like some pretty blinky laser thing.
There are only three criticisms I can give for the PS4’s appearance:
- I would have loved for the beam of light to wrap around the front of the console instead of just sitting on the top. If you store you unit in a cabinet under your TV you’ll probably never see that glow again, and that’s just sad.
- The power and eject buttons ruin the face of the console. They are sitting in the little crack between the shiny and matte sections of the console and they take up space where the light should be. They would have been better placed elsewhere on the front of the console as touch sensitive buttons.
- All those little crevices will likely be havens for dust to collect. No doubt in a month or two your shiny new PS4 will look like something that’s been sitting there for… well months.
When I decided to jump from Xbox 360 to PS4 one of the things that was a considerable worry for me was the controller. Not only is the 360 controller the best ever made, but I completely hated the Dual Shock 3. Not just a bit, I hated it a lot. But I had faith that Sony would catch up and even though I’ve only had a Dual Shock 4 in my hands for a few days I’m very happy to report that Sony did not disappoint.
It’s equally as comfortable to hold as the 360 controller, it’s light, attractive and I found it easy to adjust from the offset thumb-sticks of the 360 to the side by side configuration of the Dual Shock 4.
But it’s not perfect. The Options button (which replaces the traditional start button) is difficult to find. I frequently find myself looking down at my hands and needing to adjust my grip so my thumb can make enough contact to press the button far enough for it to perform its function. If I don’t look down I end up pressing the touchpad (which is a button in itself similar to clicking a thumb-stick). The same applies to the “Share” button which is on the other side of the touch pad but this isn’t used nearly as often.
Unfortunately I haven’t yet had an opportunity to try out the touchpad controls but it will be interesting to see how these are implemented in future games.
The console comes with a micro USB charger to charge the controller which is way too short. If you play your games at a desk like I usually do then this isn’t a problem but it’s certainly not long enough to accommodate for the living room gamer. Thankfully the controller charges quickly so you won’t be kept waiting too long and there is also the option of buying an extension cable. Just make sure you buy one that will fit in the gaps in the front of the console.
While it’s not as perfect as the Xbox 360 controller the Dual Shock 4 is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor.
Interface? In YOUR face!
As you would expect the PS4 Dashboard (Currently version 1.51) is just a slightly different version of the PS3 dash. The Home Screen has three different areas which are separated into levels. On top is the function area which shows all the important stuff you need to know such as an indicator for any new notifications, the number of friends online etc. Pressing up on your controller gives you more control over these sections like managing your chat party, trophies and accessing your settings. Then there’s the content area which I find particularly useful. It gives you quick access to the most recent app/games you’ve been using. Great for quick launching a game or your Music Unlimited Service, (if you think it’s worth the money).
While the interface is pleasing to the eye it’s not as functional as it could be. Finding the specific setting or function that you need is easy enough but I feel that a significant reduction in the number of menus needed to get through would be a huge improvement to managing friends and party chat. I’m willing to put that down to the fact that I’m unfamiliar with the system though so take that as you will.
I might change my opinion as I get to know it better.
The PS Phwoar!
Right now my game selection is limited to Battlefield 4 and Resogun (review coming very soon) so my opinion of the games and how well they run can only be based on these two titles. We can all agree that games released between two generations should never be used to judge the power of a console. Just compare a 7 year old game to something released yesterday!
But considering all this… man was I impressed! But before I discuss the visuals, make note of the fact that every PS4 game requires data installed on the hard disk before it will run. As I drove home from my local EB Store I was dreading the wait. The idea of having the console there and being unable to really play it immediately was a little frustrating. But then after installing the disk I found that the game was ready to run almost right away! I’m talking seconds, not minutes! In order to play online I of course had to download a mandatory update but this also didn’t take all that long. And we all know how Battlefield is known for its massive title updates. So when this was downloaded it installed in seconds and I was ready to go.
As for the visuals, well I think that should be discussed in a game review rather than a console review. and as stated above, it’s too early to judge the console on its eye candy factor anyway. Just know this, with the hours I have spent playing Battlefield and Resogun, not once did I see a frame drop. Not…ONCE. I can’t remember the last time I played a game without losing frames during graphically strenuous moments on a last gen console. So at this stage (as expected) the PS4 handles visuals with ease. It will be very interesting to look back on this review in 4 or 5 years time after seeing how developers have learnt how to push it to its limits.
I was also happy to find that voice chat is crystal clear even with the crappy little earpiece that comes on the box. And when I say crappy, I really mean it. The sound quality is fine but it’s flimsy, cheap and the mute switch on the microphone is just dumb. If you plan on buying a PS4 do not, I repeat DO NOT hope to rely on the included microphone. You will need a half decent headset so check out some of our reviews or do some research to make sure you get something that is compatible.
The money tree in my backyard isn’t growing well and because of this I wasn’t able to buy both an Xbox One and a PS4. So I made my decision early on to give Microsoft the finger primarily due to their DRM and Kinect requirements which we all know are no longer an issue. When the time came that they had done a 180 (yeah I went there) on these policies I had already accepted the fact that I was soon to become a PlayStation owner and so far I’m very happy with my purchase. The little imperfections with the PS4 are just that. Little. And when you remember that this console at its cores is for video games, the little things don’t affect the gaming experience even a little bit.
If you were to ask me if you should buy a PS4 over an Xbox One or vice versa, I wouldn’t be able to help you. That decision depends on what you want/expect out of a gaming console. For me I’m confident the PS4 was the right decision.