Sunday, November 24, 2013

PlayStation 4: The New Console Experience

They weren't trying to wow anyone with that outer casing.

It's been almost a week since the arrival of the PlayStation 4 in my Game Room and I would like to share my impression in regards to this "brand new console" - a term not to be confused with that forever abused, forever misguided marketing ploy, the media hype machine word of the month that is "next-gen". Let's just get one thing out of the way - does the PS4 deliver anything visually that I have not seen before? The answer to that is surprisingly a yes. The caveat here is that the console's best looking game that I have played so far comes in the form of the PlayStation Network digital download shooting game called Resogun by Housemarque. I also have Killzone: Shadow Fall with me and though that game does look pretty nice, it fails to top what I have seen in Crysis 3 on the Personal Computer when it comes to fidelity, detail, as well as frame rate. Resogun plays with particle effects like you have never seen before where things explode into what seems to be millions of tiny boxes that fly all over the game screen while delivering a silky smooth 60 fps without a single hitch. The thing about Resogun is that it is also addicting and fun - certainly the best game on the PS4 so far - and it is free to download with a PlayStation Plus subscription. Can the effects shown in Resogun be replicated easily on a decent gaming PC? You bet but Resogun is the one PS4 game thus far that will leave a powerful and no doubt permanent impression on even the most demanding graphics whores.

Particles. It's the new lens flare.

I have mentioned before that the PS4 console itself is not a handsome looking console but what about the DualShock 4? The biggest change to it compared to previous DualShock controllers is the addition of the touch pad at the top portion of the controller. It is usable in Killzone: Shadow Fall but to be honest, the touch commands do not bring much to the gameplay and its implementation seems forced. I personally prefer the feel of the DualShock 3 on my hands and Sony should have stayed with that design philosophy. The "Select" and "Start" buttons have been replaced with the "Share" and "Options" button, which is a curious change. It takes time to get use to the missing  "Start" button because it strays away from a well-established convention but I am sure that Sony is proud that they have killed off the whole notion of "press Start button" in video gaming for whatever reason that motivated them to do so.

A speaker on the controller? How very Wii Remote.

Speaking of the "Share" button, the much touted sharing experience is actually quite disappointing. Sony is too dependent on outside social network services to make all the sharing options fun to use. Wouldn't it be great if my friends can stop by my PSN profile straight from the PS4 to check out all of my screenshots and videos instead of having to go to all these other social networking sites? A lot of the people I know on Facebook really don't care about gaming whatsoever and that's actually okay because with the exception of a select few, I don't befriend my online gaming acquaintances on Facebook. The disappointment continues with the native streaming feature - and yes, you can Ustream as well. Though it is extremely easy to get setup and going, the quality of the stream, even when using the "Best" setting is quite mediocre. Playing multiplayer games plus streaming at the same time can also be disastrous to the actual stream where the video feed would start to freeze. The worst part is the inability to moderate the chat room from the PS4 when you have the chat showing on the screen - an unwise action that also makes your game screen smaller. Whoever thought that was cool must be out of his or her mind: The chat should have just popped up on top of the gameplay screen instead of inside an ugly frame that surrounds the gameplay window. When you watch others stream using the Live from PlayStation app, there is no way for you to subscribe to the stream you like so to do just that, you have to find venues outside of the PS4. Sure, all of these problems can be and probably will be addressed in future patches but if you think that you don't need an extra screen or hardware to get the most out of twitch streaming, then you are merely dreaming.

Now trending: The Playroom cam shows. Have fun.

Overall, the PlayStation 4 feels a bit underwhelming. It is quite a shame that one has to adopt it if one wants to play a lot of the great Sony exclusive games that I am sure will be coming to the console because it doesn't feel all that powerful compared to the PlayStation 3. Heck, the PS3's Xross Media Bar looks a lot more exciting than the new PlayStation Dynamic Menu - which is actually a rather ironic name because of how lifeless it is. I think little things like making the Dynamic Menu more uh, dynamic by allowing the users to customize it or even a fleshed-out integration would have made the console feel less of an incomplete product. The only thing that it has right now is Resogun and it is fortunately, a very strong launch title that can keep you glued to the PS4 until more exclusive Sony games arrive. I should also mention that if you have the PlayStation Vita, it is so wonderful that you can fully access the PS4 using remote play and that includes playing the PS4 games from your Vita. It works well enough but the tiny twin sticks on the Vita are not the best so I rather just play on the big screen. If you already have a great gaming Personal Computer, the PS4 is a nice little addition to your gaming library but I would advise against getting it anytime soon because of the lack of exclusive titles. For those who do not even have a decent gaming PC, well, I would recommend that you wait for the Steam Machine or build yourself one before getting the PS4.

We deserve more than being greeted by this dull menu screen when we boot up the PS4.

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