PlayStation 4: Launch Day Grades
The PlayStation 4 is mine and I suppose I should probably talk about it. ;)
Firstly, let me say that I have not experienced any of the myriad of problems that seem to be affecting some new owners. I'm hoping those issues aren't as widespread as they seem to be. Now, onto the good stuff:
Well, at least we've got an HDMI cable this time around. Of course, you basically need one if you want to appreciate everything the PlayStation 4 has to offer. I also liked to see longer USB cables for the controller, because those tiny ones that came with the PS3 were just plain silly. Then you've got the basics, like the power cord and the controller. I especially like the three extra bonuses packed in: The 30 free days of plus, the 30-day Music Unlimited trial, and the $10 in PlayStation Store credit. These are the kinds of extras that make you feel a little better about dropping $400+.
That all being said, I still can't figure out why they can't toss just one game in there. Make it a downloadable voucher for Resogun or something, I don't care. I guess I'm just old-fashioned and I remember the days when all new game machines came with a game, but I can't understand why it's just impossible these days. Lastly, the earbud they've packed in there is a touch lame, but I suppose it's better than nothing, right?
I do like the design of the new system. It's a little smaller than I had anticipated; I was actually a little surprised when they handed me the box. Then when I took it out, I appreciated the slick yet simple design, which is slightly futuristic without making a big fuss about it. It's nicely and logically appointed, and I'm glad they kept the USB ports in the front. I don't really care much about the electronic light on the system - or the one on the controller - but I suppose that spruces things up a bit. As always, I would prefer to have multiple color options but hey, I have no issue with the default black. Classic.
It's also relatively light and quiet, and it looks particularly appealing in a black entertainment center. I'd have to say that out of all the PlayStation models we've seen so far, I might like this one best.
Ease of use and accessibility
Let me start by saying that I really don't like flashy bells and whistles that don't rank high on the functionality list. In other words, flashy for the sake of flashy doesn't do anything for me. I have too many extra brain cells to be swayed by something shiny. That's why I happen to love that the PS4's User Interface is refined and mostly intuitive. Much like the exterior of the console, it's extremely modern without being in your face. It's smooth and easy to navigate and each function and application is within easy reach. Sifting through the menus is easy as pie and getting the system set up - which could've been annoying - is rather painless.
The bottom line is this- I know consoles are just PCs these days. I get it. But I put a premium on accessibility and quickness; I still want my console to be straightforward, regardless of how advanced it is. I want to put a game in and be playing in seconds. And you know what? The PS4 lets me do that, even with uninstalled games. Love it.
The Dual Shock 4 took a little getting used to, and I still say that all touchpads are nothing more than unnecessary gimmicks, but this is a great new controller. The concave triggers and analog sticks top my "most liked" list, and it's sorta cool that there's a separate button for Options now. I was also pleasantly surprised with the built-in speaker (first experienced when I picked up an Audiolog in Killzone: Shadow Fall); its clear and adds an interesting dynamic. You're so used to sound coming from elsewhere that to have a voice emanate from your hands is creepy...but sweet. And having the earphone jack in front of the controller helps a great deal, too. Everything within easy reach!
Holding the Dual Shock 4 feels comfortable and natural. I really don't plan on using the Share button that often, but it's fantastic for those who consider themselves to be more of a "social gamer." Still don't like the touchpad, no matter how you slice it, but that's about it.
Launch software lineup
This is difficult for me. On the one hand, I want to look at the giant third-party games like Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Need for Speed: Rivals, and the sports titles (several of which are excellent), and go- "Yep, awesome." After all, we almost never see so many high-profile titles at the launch of a new console. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that they're multiplatform and hey, they've already debuted on older consoles. Hence, they weren't really made specifically for the new generation and in some ways, that shows. Furthermore, I'm not blown away by the first-party software, which is mildly disappointing.
Shadow Fall is great fun but it's not the mind-blowing, white-knuckle next-gen experience I was hoping for, and Knack definitely feels a tad light in terms of gameplay. And while I know everyone is "oohing and aahing" over the visuals in the new Killzone, I have to say, I expected more. It's beautiful, no doubt, but I did expect more from the character models and animations. Really, this lineup desperately needed inFamous: Second Son or something like that. I'd even take a new Resistance.
It seems that all retailers were easily able to fulfill all pre-orders, which is impressive in and of itself, but many stores actually had extras to sell. I still can't get over that. It's not just that the PS3 was horrendous in this category when it first launched; it's that historically, you never saw extra new game machines floating around on launch day. Most times, you had to wait months before you could buy one right off the shelves. This is so huge for Sony and consumers, although I imagine it won't give them much of an edge, because Xbox One availability should be pretty high, too. I've even heard of stores having extra machines to immediately replace any defective units, and that's pretty damn special.
The grade can only be assigned based on what we've seen thus far. It's concerning to see so many "red line of death" reports, but we haven't yet verified the cause (or viability) of those complaints. On the other hand, there were some recorded issues before that as well; users have had problems with the HDMI output and the Blu-Ray drive, it seems. However, I think it's vital that for the time being, we remember Sony's official statement on the matter. Now, that ".4%" could rise over the next few days, which would be unfortunate. But for the most part, I'm not seeing enough actual evidence to really worry. Seems pretty solid, relatively speaking.
Still, it's all pending for now.
Power, potential and capability
Remember, this is based purely on the launch day results and impressions. Based on what I've seen thus far, and comparing this against the specs of the machine and what developers have said this year, I'd have to say the PS4 is in a good position. It especially benefited from being so accessible to designers; the much simpler architecture made things so much easier for game makers. This means developers can tap into more of the system's power right off the bat, and Killzone is a good example of lotsa pretty pictures. Furthermore, the many reports concerning full 1080p HD resolution for PS4 versions of games are encouraging. It appears that Xbox One gamers won't be enjoying 1080p HD nearly as often as PS4 users.
But looking down the road, we can't forget that there's a flip side to the current accessibility. This means the machine, despite it's great capability, might start to show its age sooner than any other PlayStation platform before it. Then again, maybe there's enough juice to keep developers occupied for many years. I just don't expect a similar drastic leap in graphics that we've seen in past generations, that's all.
All in all, I think the positives definitely outweigh the negatives by a large margin. The Dual Shock 4 is great, the availability is awesome, it's aesthetically sleek, and I love the new UI. This overrides some of the obvious problems, such as the lacking launch lineup and the potential reliability issues. Had we had a few more good games at launch and a few less reports about defective systems, I would've handed out the A- with no further reservations. As it is-
11/15/2013 Ben Dutka