With the release of the PlayStation 4, next-gen has officially arrived, and while it used to be that you’d just fork over some cash, buy your magical game box and play some games, the internet has made things a bit more difficult to pin down. These aren’t just static boxes, but living machines, capable of connecting to the world and being updated at a moment’s notice.
That said, we found it a bit unfair to review the system outright without spending a good deal of time with it in real world conditions, so we’ve decided to take a different approach. For both the PlayStation 4 and the upcoming Xbox One, we have gathered a group of editors to corral their thoughts into one place, documenting our experiences with our systems after launch weekend, after a week with the system, and after a month with the system. Once we’ve spent enough time with them, we’ll provide our full review. We feel like this is a fair method for reviewing these systems, as well as letting you know how they’re growing as each day passes.
So read on for our first impressions, and stay tuned as we follow up with more thoughts as the weeks progress!
David Roberts — Managing Editor
Sony ushered in the next generation of gaming on November 15th, and millions of fans — including myself — picked one up, hoping to experience the glorious graphics and simplistic sharing features. Even though I’ve only spent a few days with the system, I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with this tiny little box — though it hasn’t been without its roadblocks.
Setting up the system was super easy, and even before I’d taken a look around the menu, the day one patch was already nearly finished downloading. Stick a disc into the slot, wait for a brief install period, and presto — you’re off!
Sharing works as advertized — simply hit the “Share” button and you can upload the last fifteen minutes of gameplay to Facebook, or start broadcasting your gameplay to Twitch or Ustream. I cannot stress how easy the whole process is — now, anyone can record Let’s Play videos, without having to mess with unruly cords or recording programs.
Unfortunately, the network has been slammed this past weekend, leaving many features buggy or just plain broken. The store was hit-or-miss for most of my weekend (I still can’t access my individual downloads to find previously purchased add-ons), and certain network features, like the What’s New feed, are simply turned off. Hopefully this will be ironed out in the coming weeks, but needless to say, it’s been off to a rocky start.
Still, I’ve been having fun playing Assassin’s Creed IV and Super Motherload, and I hope to spend some more time with these and other games in the coming days. If Sony can get these technical quibbles worked on, the PlayStation 4 will be a force to be reckoned with.
Mike Dunn — Editor-at-Large
The last half of Friday at work was painful. My wife sent me a pic of the package after it arrived at about noon. By the time I finally got home and released the thing from its boxy confines, my kids were hovering over me like vultures. After the initial setup and firmware update, I starting playing that popular button-masher ‘Can’t connect to Playstation Network’ for a good hour or so before I wised up and pulled it off wi-fi in favor of ethernet. That did the trick, and we were up and running shortly thereafter.
It was then that I discovered that there’s a another hidden mini-game packaged with the PS4 that nobody mentioned: ‘wrestling the controller from your kids.’ I mistakenly let my 4 year-old pop in Skylanders, thinking that the controller scheme might be a little beyond her skill set. Not so. It appears all she needed was a proper game tutorial to awaken the console gamer lying dormant inside of her. Honestly, it made me proud, and the game looked great, but we had Killzone, Need For Speed, and Assassin’s Creed on the docket and things were starting to get ugly with my other spawn.
An eternity passed, and finally my youngest got distracted and relinquished the controller. By this time my son and I had discussed at length the finer points of what “I bought the damn thing so I play it next” meant, and he deferred to my stunning display of alpha male assertiveness (my other daughter gave up and went back to her regularly scheduled line-up of horrible Disney Channel dreck). I played roughly ten minutes of every game we had (including PS+ freebies Resogun and Contrast), tinkered with settings, tried out the remote play with my Vita, and then passed out cradling the DualShock 4 as if it were a new addition to my family.
In all seriousness, though, I’m really happy with the PlayStation 4 so far. I’m dazzled by the graphical improvements of the games, digging the vastly improved UI of the OS, and eager to try out some of the video streaming and sharing features of the system in the coming days. My daughters and I got into a groove on Sunday with Skylanders and became thoroughly hooked — my 10 year-old and I played co-op while my 4 year-old acted as Portal Master.
I think I can safely say this may be the best console launch I’ve experienced to date. My family and I are having a blast with it.
Jay Malone — Associate Editor
After years of waiting, I finally placed my hands upon the PS4 this past Friday. Of course, I had low expectations due to the slim launch lineup, but I was still ready to dive into all the aspects of the PS4, including the new XMB and the apps found within it. The PlayStation 3 was a fine console, but it did not set the world on fire by any means. But that did not stop Sony from promising the world with the PS4, consistently attempting to tell us why their console is what we need to own this holiday season.
Of course, you have to start with the controller. The design of the controller was released a while back and upon first seeing it, I was very skeptical. The PS3’s controller felt dated and played shooters terribly, so I simply could not see Sony creating an all-star controller. At this point, it seems they have proven me wrong. Gripping the controller feels easy but strong, and the smaller design and new triggers are both great additions. There is not a whole lot to be said about the touchpad at this point, seeing as no game uses it extensively, but it definitely has potential and works well in its limited role at this point. From the analog sticks to the buttons, literally everything has been improved on this controller. This PS4 controller is not only the best Sony controller, but it’s one of the best controllers ever made.
With any launch day comes the inevitable launch day issues. The biggest issue this go around revolved around actually logging into PSN. When attempting to set up my PSN account, I had multiple struggles when trying to log in. I would enter information and then be met by a circling please wait load screen that would go on infinitely until I turned the console off. This was not an issue exclusive to me as my brother also experienced the same mishap. Thankfully, that issue has mostly been fixed at this point and will only become less prevalent as time goes on.
The biggest complaint I have, apart from the network issues on launch day, is the fact that you still cannot change your PSN tag. You can use your first and last name online, which is very nice, but I have waiting years to change my stupid PlayStation name and after buying a brand new console, I still can’t? That’s just ridiculous. Hell, go the Microsoft route: I will pay you ten bucks to get a new tag. As a company that has done a ton of things right throughout this console launch, this is one thing they severely screwed up.
When it comes to video games, my first experience was in NBA 2K14. I have played over 20 hours of NBA 2K on the Xbox 360, and seeing the game on the new consoles would be a great benchmark on just how much these graphical powers have beefed up. From simply playing one game, it’s clear that Visual Concepts put their all into making NBA 2K14 a gorgeous game. There’s a strong difference in the Xbox 360 and PS4 versions, most noticeably in the animations. On the PS4, each and every movement your player makes feels so much more fluid. It is going to be incredibly interesting to see these games get even more beautiful as the years go on.
Apart from NBA 2K14, I have also played Assassin’s Creed IV and Resogun, both of which looked great. Resogun, in particular, is a fantastic experience that occasionally rivals the beloved Geometry Wars. The launch of the PS4, although not perfect, was much smoother than launches of the past. Most importantly, though, the console is a breeze to navigate and despite the slim launch lineup, still has some games that deserve attention.
The Xbox One launches this Friday and it’s all on Microsoft. Can they top this solid, though not perfect, PS4 release? Time will tell.
Until then, I must play some more Resogun.
Spencer Campbell — Associate Editor
I’m gonna be honest, I’ve been putting off writing this article because I’ve been in my living room falling in love with consoles all over again. Back in 2008 or so, my Xbox 360 red-ringed, so it was time to find a new system. I was heading off to college, so it only made sense to build a gaming PC, and that started my huge elitist affair with Steam and the superiority of the mouse and keyboard. But then Sony comes out with the PS4 and tries to shake my worldview.
The first thing I can comment about with the PS4 is the controller. Frankly, it’s the best controller I’ve ever used. It’s comfortable, and every problem I had with the Dualshock 3 is resolved. I can go into details about divots in the analog sticks and the concave triggers, but I don’t want to. I just want to say that it’s a beautiful piece of hardware that I immediately molded with. It makes the right amount of innovations while keeping that Dualshock feel.
The interface is beautiful, but doesn’t fix some of the problems I had with the PS3’s interface. While it’s not quite as bad as the PS3’s home screen, I still find myself wading through a few dropdowns at times looking for the proper settings or options. That said, I still like the menu. The system shows recently played games at the front of your home screen and you don’t have to go into your games library every time you want to play one of your downloaded titles.
Let’s talk about games, which is the real bread and butter of any console. PS4’s packing a lot of promise. I downloaded Super Motherload, got Need for Speed: Rivals, and the PlayStation Plus freebies mentioned by Mike. They’re all great, but none of them made me call all my friends and tell them to buy PS4’s. The launch lineup doesn’t have that killer app that I’m waiting for, no Mario 64 or Rogue Squadron 2 equivalent to be found.
When you buy any console at launch, you’re investing in potential, and that’s what I did in the PS4. I saw a lot of promise in the console, not just from its specs, but also its track record. For me, Sony and Playstation have had the best exclusives on every system they released, and have had very few missteps. I trust Sony with my hard earned cash more than I trust Microsoft or even Nintendo at this point, and from what I’ve seen, they plan on delivering with the PS4.