Yesterday I finally got my grubby little hands on the PS4. As a gamer that stood firmly in Microsoft’s corner last gen, it was impossible for me to ignore or forgive their transgressions leading up to the launch of the next generation of gaming. Sony got my money this time around, at least for the first part of the cycle. Here’s my rundown of my first day with the system.
Want an unboxing video? No, of course you don’t want an unboxing video, because that’s got to be the lamest trend in videogame journalism going at the moment. It comes in a box, and there are cords and shit in it.
One thing that was an immediate let-down while unpacking was the horrid little headset they give you. It’s an earbud with a shitty mic on the wire and a clip. As soon as I saw it, I uttered, “Nope.” I went out and bought a proper headset along with a second controller shortly after.
Sony, seriously? An earbud headset? Fuck off with that crap.
It does, however, come with an HDMI cord, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but I was still happy to see it. Progress!
I was worried that Sony’s online service would be spotty day one, so (thanks to Fisherman) I downloaded the first update for the PS4 on a USB just in case. The system doesn’t work without this update, so I wanted to make sure I could play games even if Sony farted out. Turns out this wasn’t necessary. That’s not to say Sony didn’t fart out, because they did (and that fart had poo in it), but my system updated easily and quickly. Frankly, that was something I was really impressed with. The PS3 suffered horrendous updates that could take thirty minutes or more to download. The PS4 was done updating within a minute. I’d venture a guess that Sony purposefully allowed their servers to shit out and put all their resources into ensuring that gamers were able to quickly update their systems so that they could at least play games immediately – not a bad decision.
Next I needed to get my system online to get my profile, and this is where the trouble started. First off, the system had a hell of a time going through my router, and I ended up having to reset everything. Yes, yes, yes, I understand that wifi sometimes does this, and it’s common for devices to require resets to get IP addresses, yada yada yada, but not all devices require this. For a severely non-tech individual, this might have been terribly frustrating.
Once my system was using my wifi, I tried to download my profile, and the system crapped out on me. It froze, so I had to reset it. Then I discovered that Sony’s online service was “under maintenance”, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Despite how we were all prepared for this to happen, I still don’t think it excuses Sony for screwing up their launch. Having the servers shit out day-one is a black eye for them. It’s not a system-crushing downer by any means, and I doubt this will have any effect on their success this gen, unless spotty coverage and outages persist through the rest of the year.
THE SYSTEM AND CONTROLLER
The dashboard on the PS4 is greatly improved over last gen, and flows much nicer. I was a little annoyed at how the interface would force me back to the first box whenever something new happened, which would constantly pull my focus from what I was trying to do to go look at what the system thought I cared about. This is something that’ll probably be fixed in an upcoming patch, and wasn’t a big deal.
The Dualshock 4 is a huge improvement over the flimsy, delicate Dualshock 3. Sorry Sony fans, but that little plastic toy you used to call a controller was a piece of shit. The DS4’s sticks feel great, and even though the triggers are smaller than I’d like, I imagine after a few weeks of use it will feel odd to hold a Microsoft controller again. One design element that I was very happy with was the fact that the light on the controller that speaks with the PS Eye is positioned so that the player never even notices it. When images of the controller first came out, it looked like players were holding a flashlight, and I was worried this would be distracting. I’m happy to say that the angle the light faces makes it imperceptible to the player during use.
A lot of people have been wondering how the touchpad on the controller is going to work and, so far at least, it does next to nothing. I can see how it might be useful in games at some point, and it works fairly well, but thus far the only game that uses it is Killzone, and even that feels a little forced. You can give commands to your OWL (a tiny flying robot) with the directional pad, but it’s nothing revolutionary, and the controls for the OWL could’ve easily been mapped to a standard controller. I’m excited to see what Sony can do with the touchpad, but as of now it’s just a square block in the middle of the controller that makes it hard to hit the OPTION (should be the Start) button.
And this is what it’s all about! How are the games? Which were my favorite?
Killzone Shadow Fall
I kicked off my time with the PS4 with what has widely been regarded as the graphical powerhouse of the bunch. Killzone starts off a little slow as you play the part of a child following their father out of a skyscraper. It’s evident pretty quickly how gorgeous the game is, and this is certainly the best looking game of the bunch. The character models look pretty good, although their eyes could use some work. I was also disappointed by how the NPCs would stare at where your character was supposed to be while talking to you instead of actually at where you were standing. That’s a pretty minor quibble, but somewhat emblematic of my entire experience with this game.
It looks fantastic, and there’s a lot of fun to be had here, but I don’t think the single player is going to hold a special place in my heart. This seems like a game that’s going to live and die by multiplayer, and I got a chance to play exactly ZERO multiplayer last night due to Sony’s outage.
Call of Duty – Ghosts
It’s just Call of Duty, and it looks almost identical to the last gen version of the game. The CoD franchise is, like Killzone, one where nearly 100% of my enjoyment will come from online multiplayer. I got a chance to play a little local multiplayer, but the maps aren’t built for that sort of play, and it was just as dull as could be expected. I hadn’t played any of the single player campaign of Ghosts before getting this version, so I was rather impressed by the ‘Space’ level that kicks the game off. This led to being put into an apocalyptic world setting that I was, for the first time since Modern Warfare, a little excited to play. However, as I was rushing through this Last-of-Us-style setting, it was painfully obvious how archaic Call of Duty is becoming. Despite an interesting setting, this is still just the exact same CoD that we’ve been playing for 5+ years now. There’s no innovation here (don’t try to say that the Dog is innovative, because it’s not), and this is certainly not a game that should force anyone to go out and buy a next gen console. When you listen to that kid in the video I posted above, you’d swear the game looked a thousand times better than the older versions – it’s shinier, and the lighting effects are noticeable, but other than that there’s no huge difference.
Holy shit. HOLY FUCKING SHIT! Battlefield is incredible. Take everything negative I just said about Call of Duty and apply the exact opposite to Battlefield. This game is stunning in every way. The visuals, the sound, the gameplay – this is exactly what I was hoping for on the new systems. Despite the fact that this game is available on last gen systems, this is a game that demands to be repurchased on the PS4. I could gush on and on about this one, but I’m just going to let one single statement about this game say everything for me:
Battlefield 4 makes buying a PS4 worth every penny. It’s that good.
Assassin’s Creed 4
I’m sure I’m going to have a ton of fun with this game. I played it for about an hour, and I loved every second of it. I loved it to an almost exact degree that anyone else who has already played it on a last-gen machine enjoyed it. Which is to say that it’s pretty painfully obvious that this is a game that was designed for last-gen machines, and utilizes almost zero of the PS4’s increased power. Does it look nicer than the other versions? Maybe a little. I’m confident that this is a stellar game, but again, it’s not one that warrants purchasing a $400 system to play if you’ve already got a 360 or a PS3.
Injustice – Gods Among Us
I had a lot of fun playing this game with my buddy, Nerves. He whooped my ass early on, and we ended up tying our score by the time things were over. That being said, we would’ve had the exact same amount of fun playing this on a last gen machine. If the graphics are better on the PS4, then I sure didn’t notice. I enjoy the game, but this is about as far from a standout as a launch title can get, which is probably why no one’s talking about it. This is basically a PS3 game that you can play on a PS4.
Fuck Madden. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll end up sinking hours upon hours into this game, but that’s because I’m a huge fan of football games and this is the only place I can get my fix. But seriously, fuck this game. It looks awful, with character models and graphics that barely looked impressive eight years ago when the 360 first came around. Almost nothing about this game has been fixed in years – in fact, some of the minor changes that are here seem to be for the worse. This game’s a turd, and unless you’re a long-suffering football-game fan like I am, go ahead and skip this one. It’s shit.
Sony’s online service was spotty most of the night, but if you managed to get on and set the system to download games, then every once in a while a notification would pop up that the game was downloading. It took some time and patience, but I was finally able to download Resogun, which was FREE for PS+ members.
People have been saying that Resogun is this gen’s answer to Geometry Wars, and there couldn’t be a more apt comparison. This little Gradius-Defender-R-Type style shooter was a blast to play, and hits the same old-style arcade game itch that Geometry Wars serviced last gen. And the best thing is that it’s free! Upon buying a PS4, this should be one of the first things you get.
I’m happier with the PS4 launch than I thought I’d be. A lot of game sites were declaring the launch a failure because nothing on it stood out, and I understand that sentiment because of how lackluster the PS4-only games have been thus far (Killzone seems like it’s a ‘Meh’ and from what I’ve heard, Knack sucks donkey semen through moldy catheters). However, Battlefield is so stunning that, like I wrote above, it warrants the purchase by itself. Add Resogun to the mix and I feel fairly good about the launch. It’s true that the other games I played didn’t offer anything more than the last-gen systems could, and that’s a bit disappointing, but I’ve been a gamer long enough to realize that developers have only just started pulling the power out of the machine, and these games were all designed for last-gen, and were just given minor polishing for the PS4.
As for the games I’ve played thus far, I’ll rate them like this:
- Battlefield 4
- Assassin’s Creed 4
- Call of Duty – Ghosts
- Killzone – Shadow Fall
- Injustice – Gods Among Us
- Dead Fucking Last = Madden 25