The Playstation 4 launched in the UK on the 29th November 2013, ushering in the ‘next generation’ of gaming alongside Microsoft’s Xbox One. The sales so far have been astonishing, 2.1 million units sold worldwide, 250k units in the UK alone making it the fastest selling console ever in the UK – beating the PSP which held the previous record. Having spent most of this last weekend (and beginning of the week) with Sony’s new machine, I feel like I can give my impressions on the console as a pre-cursor for my full review.
The first thing you notice when you start-up the system for the first time is how the UI manages to be all at once familiar and brand new. Once you get past the set up stage which features the usual setting up of video output and PSN accounts you are brought to the new home screen – The PS4 Dynamic Menu. In many ways it is similar to the XMB from the PS3. the menu features a top row of icons which any Playstation player will immediately recognise, icons such as trophies, settings and profile.
With a press of the down button however the homescreen changes, those icons move up to the top of the screen, resembling the top bar of a smart phone, and underneath these icons you have all of your content in a horizontal line. Games, TV and music apps all share this tile based menu. My immediate reaction to this was that without folders, this tile based menu could become very busy and in fact only a few hours later once I had installed all of my games and apps my fears were confirmed, scrolling through all of your content becomes a little tedious although it definitely isn’t a deal breaker – the PS4 arranges items in the order you used them as well which helps alleviate this issue. I can’t help but feel that folders will be eventually introduced in a later update.
Aside from the new menu the first thing most gamers will notice is just how lightning fast the new UI is, moving between content is smooth as butter, suspending games and apps to respond to messages and notifications is instant and lag free as well. The social integration is brilliant as well, with Facebook and Twitter being baked in at an OS level. Not only can you display your Facebook picture as your gamer pic, but you can request real name ID’s of people on your friend list and tweeting a screenshot is as easy as it is satisfying.
The social interaction doesn’t just stop at Facebook pictures and sending tweets – every game features a ‘Recent Activity Feed’ which keeps you up to date with all of your friends activities as well as new DLC or content for your favourite games. There is also a ‘Whats New’ tab which collects every game’s data and presents itself as a sort of Facebook timeline for gamers. While I enjoyed using this feature, I would like to see it more heavily integrated into my day-to-day use of the console.
So it has a fancy new interface and touts a range of social features, but the PS4 wouldn’t be worth anything if it didn’t perform in the department that really matters – gaming. Well I’m happy to report that the PS4 delivers here too – I picked up three disc based games with my console; Lego Marvel, Knack and Killzone Shadow Fall. I also redeemed Resogun and Contrast with my PS+ subscription. While separate reviews will be coming for these games, I’m happy to report that the gaming experience on PS4 is stellar – Killzone really looks the part of next gen shooter and delivers some pretty intense gameplay, and I don’t think I’ve had as much fun with a SHMUP (Shoot ‘Em Up) as I have playing Resogun. The launch games aren’t exactly mind blowing, with a few stand out games, however the quality of these games at launch makes me very excited for the future.
For the most part you will be using the new Dualshock 4 to control your games and apps, its with this new controller where I feel Sony has made the biggest improvements. The Dualshock 4 feels larger in your hands, making it feel more comfortable. the analogue sticks are a little further apart and as a result your hands won’t feel cramped after long sessions, as was common with the Dualshock 3. The biggest improvement on the controller however is the back triggers – which are actually triggers this time around. they curve nicely and with the added size of the controller I find that my index fingers feel very comfortable resting on them. I always found the triggers on the Dualshock 3 horrible and uncomfortable to use.
Joining the regular controller based features is a light bar, front track pad and a built in speaker. the light bar is used for PS move based activities when coupled with the camera and the track pad is used for gesture based gameplay. The speaker is as you’d expect used for in game sounds and prompts which is a nice touch. The controller also features a headphone jack for use with gaming headsets for party chat, interestingly however you can also choose to have all in game audio come through the headset – a great feature for when you can’t crank up the volume on your TV.
If you own a Playstation Vita, the PS4 allows you to stream gameplay onto your Vita over your wireless network. I haven’t tested this too much but I will be testing it extensively for my review.
So how was my first weekend with the PS4? It was great, Sony have really delivered with their new console, there are a few issues here and there which while they don’t break the experience, are there and need to be addressed – inability to upload gameplay videos directly to YouTube is inexcusable in this day and age. Look out for my full review in the very near future.