Monday, December 30, 2013

Playstation 4: The Future is Here

Playstation 4’s launch has been more successful than I anticipated, selling more than 2.1 million units globally. I was fortunate enough to grab one off Amazon at launch last month and was able to mess around with it. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a game that caught my interest so my Playstation 4 has just been collecting dust. I did get to mess around with the different features and play through Contrast and Resogun which came free with Playstation Plus.

The Playstation 4 box is surprisingly thin. It comes with a power cord, one controller, the PS4 system and an HDMI cable. Luckily the power cord is just a single cord and doesn’t have a bulky power brick attached to it. Right now I have the PS4 laying down horizontally but I might invest in a stand to secure it in a vertical stance to save some space. The power and eject button are extremely small and I actually couldn’t find it the first time I tried powering up my console.

The PS4 UI seems like an evolved form of the XBM found on the PSP and PS3. Every time you add a game to your console another icon for that game is created. Right now it doesn’t seem like a problem but when we start having a larger collection, the menu will become cluttered and increasingly annoying to navigate. There isn’t much customization features available for the UI such as setting custom backgrounds or changing the color of menu backgrounds but I believe Sony will add those features in future updates. I hope there is some sort of way to organize your collection by folders that doesn’t require an automatic sort by name, genre or some other predetermined method so that I could tailor my collection to my needs. I would also like an updated Trophy system. I prefer the way that Xbox live achievements work where if you press the guide button while an achievement is popped up you get taken to that achievement in the guide menu. It’s not a deal breaker but it certainly makes it easier to hunt for achievements/trophies if it would work similar to Xbox. Sony added a percentage next to each trophy indicating how many people have acquired that specific trophy which is nice to see how you compare to the general public.

There hasn’t been a single game that I am willing to pay retail for the PS4. But this is something I expected since it’s still very early into the launch. I didn’t want an Xbox 360 until Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released which was about 6 months into the life of the 360. I expect 6 months down the road I’ll probably end up picking a bunch of games that either dropped in price since the launch or some new games that have been teased for a mid 2014 launch. I did get Contrast and Resogun for free with my Playstation Plus subscription. As long as I continue to update my Playstation Plus every year I’ll continue to keep these games and any other Sony decides to give out for free.

Contrast is a basic 3D platformer with an interesting mechanic of going into a 2D shadow world. It has some clever moments for some of the puzzles but its a short game so many of the mechanics aren't as deep as I would have liked. The story line seems a little sparse offering very little incentive to revisit it. The lighting effects demonstrate the power of the PS4 especially since its an early release game and developers will eventually learn how to properly utilize the PS4 in the future.

Resogun is actually probably the highlight of the PS4 launch. When I first started playing Resogun I didn’t really understand any of the mechanics or why my humans were dying. The game doesn’t really teach you anything at all and I ended up having to look online to figure out the different mechanics and reading the manual in the in game menu. However after I understood the game, it became one of my favorite games to play. You’re basically flying a ship that can shoot either left or right and you move along a 2D plane that is essentially a circle. You’re objective is to clear through the enemies and save any humans who are imprisoned in boxes. Releasing humans vary from having to kill certain green glowing enemies to maintaining a combo during a certain time. However losing human’s doesn’t really serve a penalty. You can win the level without saving a single human. Saving a human and placing them at the safe point will gain you bombs, lives, shields or extra points. The real objective of the game is to try to continue to beat your high scores and try to get your name on the leader boards. It’s very similar to geometry wars but I think I still prefer geometry wars over Resogun.

The share feature for the PS4 is better than I expected. I always wanted a way to stream gameplay so that my friends can watch me play but until now there really wasn’t a way to do it without the aid of a PC. Pressing the share button brings up a menu that allows you to connect to your Twitch account very quickly and start streaming right away. You can even change the button to do different things like taking a screenshot or record the last 15 minutes of gameplay if something incredible just happened. Its definitely a feature I expect to use going forward when I have a collection of games available to play. There is even an app that allows you to watch other PS4 streamers which is a good way to see some gameplay footage of games that might not have a demo available on the marketplace.

The best aspect of the PS4 is the controller it self. When I first saw images of the controller I was skeptical that it would be better than the current 360 controller. However after actually picking up the controller, I can safely say it’s probably my favorite controller of all time. Everything just feels right, the way that your hand rests and curves to the controller, the weight of the controller and even the trigger feel great. I haven’t had any games that use the center touch pad so I can’t comment its responsiveness. The directional pad is still the same great directional pad we had from Playstation. The share and option button might feel a little too high up but other than that the controller fits perfectly in my hands. One huge negative is that you can’t turn off the light on the front of the controller. This can become a problem because the light will glare off a television set which can become distracting. The best part of the controller is the headset port at the bottom. It allows you to connect any regular headset to the controller and you can choose to have in-game audio to be played through the headset. This allows for those gamers who have irregular gaming hours or really late night sessions to play without waking up the entire house. This headset port also allows you to use your headset’s microphone which prevents you from having to buy very specific first party microphones that you’ll only end up breaking a few months down the road.

PS4 may not have a great line of games right now but it sure does deliver an amazing console experience. Sony has done a great job in marketing the PS4 towards the needs of traditional gamers. Sony just needs to make some UI improvements and start releasing some must have games for the PS4. I’m looking forward to the future of gaming on the PS4.