The PlayStation 4 has been available in the US for about a week now, and will finally be released this Friday in Australia! A couple of Rocket Chainsaw staff members have gotten their hands on imported consoles, and we just couldn’t wait to share our thoughts on Sony’s new machine.
Buying a new console at launch is very much about making an investment in the future, in the potential of the system rather than in what you get out of the box once you get it home. Knowing this, I went ahead and picked up a US Playstation 4 at launch, and have had the best part of a week to live with it.
This is, by far, the best console Sony has ever produced. I’m not saying that based on the hardware specs, which are near-enough-as-makes-no-difference to a decently specced gaming PC. Nor am I basing it on the sleek black parallelogram shape the console takes, an attractive industrial design that I can’t help but feel could only be improved if it came in woodgrain and silver.
No, I’m saying it because, for the first time in their history, Sony have produced a console without compromise. Every previous Sony system has been a compromise between power and function. The original Playstation’s slow CD-ROM drive and limited 3D capabilities, the PS2’s complex architecture and lack of hardware antialiasing and the PS3’s powerful but difficult to program Cell CPU all led to the systems having to make compromises against their competition. Rarely was the Playstation version of a crossplatform title the definitive version.
That changes now. By providing incredible power to developers, and making it easy for developers to unlock that power, the PS4 becomes the console that will deliver the definitive experience for any new game targeting multiple platforms. That such power is packaged in such a sleek case suggests an almost humble approach to the system, rather than the bombast that marked the entrance of the original PS3. A quiet confidence, perhaps.
This extends to the controller, which is easily the best controller Sony have produced, ever. The Playstation controller hasn’t evolved so much as it’s had bits bolted on over the years, first with analogue sticks, then rumble motors, then analogue triggers, motion detection and wireless connectivity. While Sony haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board with the Dualshock 4, they’ve evolved and refined the design, incorporating all those bolted-on pieces to create a much sleeker, smoother design that is still recognisably Playstation. It feels great in the hand, and while the left analogue stick is still in the wrong place, it doesn’t matter as much as it used to.
The touchpad is a unique addition that offers some potential for games in the future. Assassin’s Creed IV uses it as a way of navigating the in-game map, and it works surprisingly well at this task. I’d love to see it utilised more in the system’s menus and especially its web browser, where the precision of a trackpad will make navigating web pages much easier than could be achieved before.
All in all, I’m really pleased with the Playstation 4. I have no doubt that it will grow into something amazing over the coming years. While it lacks a truly compelling launch title, I’d still recommend picking it up if you can only buy one next-generation system right now. The promise Sony is making here is a sound one, and there’s no reason to doubt the company’s long-term commitment to what is its finest piece of gaming hardware to date.
Like Tim, I’ve been very impressed with the PlayStation 4 as an overall package. I had a feeling that Sony were on to a winner after getting to play with the console in person during this year’s E3, and the price point is hard to beat. There’s a lot of power packed into this little box, and we’ve even got a couple of launch titles which give us a glimpse of just how good future games are going to look. Killzone: Shadow Fall is visually stunning, with all manner of impressive particle and lighting effects, with post-processing filters and shaders giving it an extra layer of shine. The downloadable shoot-’em-up Resogun is also a sight for sore eyes, with some great particle effects of its own, and gorgeous 1080p explosions.
The DualShock 4 is a great piece of hardware. It features a much more ergonomic design than any of the previous controllers, tighter control sticks, improved triggers, a high quality integrated speaker, and even a small touchpad. It’s slightly heavier than its predeccessor, which is something that I actually like since I always found the DualShock 3 to be a bit too light. It’ll be interesting to see what developers do with the touchpad in future. We’ve seen map scrolling in Assassin’s Creed IV, and simple interactions with objects in Infamous so far, and I’m curious to see what features we’ll see in future. The integrated speaker has seen some good use so far, in both Resogun and Knack. Resogun plays verbal alerts through the speaker, which really catch your attention. Meanwhile, Knack uses the speaker for sound effects as you play, mirroring what’s happening on-screen. The DualShock 4 feels like a step forward for the PlayStation consoles.
The same goes for the OS. Sony have completely done away with the XrossMediaBar, replacing with a fresh new interface called Orbis OS. Rather than scrolling through many sections to access content, it keeps things simple. There’s a main media bar, which shows the games that you have installed, as well as any video services that you’ve used recently. If you move the conrol stick upwards, you’ll gain access to a bar filled with icons, which allow you to access your trophies, profile, friend list, download list, settings, and everything else. It’s all in the one place, and easy to navigate. You can suspend your gameplay at any time, and seamlessly return to the OS at any time, which makes accessing all the features a breeze. You can also press the Share button on the controller at any time to quickly upload both screenshots and videos of the game you’re curently playing, or have recently played. The PlayStation store is so much better than the PlayStation 3’s version, loading almost instantly, and being lag-free. The PlayStation 4 has a great interface, and it runs very smoothly and quickly.
Overall, I’m really happy with what Sony have given us with the PlayStation 4. It’s a good looking, powerful machine, with a very user-friendly interface, and the best controller so far. There’s no doubt that we’ll see some truly amazing games running on the PS4 in the coming years, and I can’t wait to see what studios like Naughty Dog, Guerilla Games, Insomniac Games, Sucker Punch, SCE Japan Studio, and Sony Santa Monica create.