Celebrating The Console Launch: Playstation 4 First Impressions - Kahlua417 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Celebrating The Console Launch: Playstation 4 First Impressions

 

We all know the excitement of checking the mail only to discover a package we've been waiting for has finally been delivered. Then sitting down with it in our hands, just begging to be opened. And as we tear apart the wrapping and lay our eyes upon the contents, the satisfying new game smell envelops our nose.

 

As long as I have been a gamer, dating back to the days of the Nintendo 64, I have never experienced the thrill of opening a console at launch. Maybe I would receive it a couple months later, but by then, numerous people had already sunk in a great deal of time with the system. With that being said, the Playstation 4 is the first console I have ever bought upon release. Hearing myself say that is still quite shocking to me, and I'll explain why.

 

Despite my familiarity with Sony gaming systems, extending all the way back to the Playstation One era, I would never consider any of them as my favorite. In fact, I had mainly been a Nintendo kid until I received my Xbox 360 a year of two after its launch. When I saw the news surrounding the next generation of consoles, I had almost been certain my money would be going toward Microsoft's product. Yet here I am, the Playstation 4 in my possession. So what made me decide to purchase this console before the others? Disregard the companies which had shaped my childhood? There were a plethora of reasons that convinced me to take a chance on Sony.

 

The first and foremost had to be games. At one point in time, the exclusives offered on Microsoft's Xbox 360 far outnumbered those on the PS3, but lately, I feel as if the roles have been reversed. Naughty Dog is certainly a strong developer to have supporting a console. Uncharted and The Last of Us make up a small portion of the promising exclusives offered by Sony. Games like Ni No Kuni, Journey, and (hopefully) The Last Guardian are just some examples. I was also interested in the “Share” functionality featured on the PS4. With a single push of the button, my last fifteen minutes of gameplay could be uploaded for all to see. This was certainly an appealing option for many of us enthusiastic gamers. But how did the system compare to all the promises made by Sony and in turn, the expectations formed by the fans? The answer is a mixed one.

 

As soon as I set the box down containing my brand new PS4, I couldn't wait to share my experience. There was nothing fancy about the packaging, but the clean and simple layout of the contents inside was rather nice. The first thing I took out was the controller and boy was I surprised. It felt natural in my hands. At first glance, it looked like Sony had copy and pasted the Dualshock 3, and it wasn't nearly as big as I was lead to believe, but the design was a vast improvement over the previous controllers. The console itself was much smaller than I expected, and the lack of a power brick was a nice addition. I was initially nervous about its durability, but it withstood the beating it took as I was trying to set it up to my overcrowded entertainment system. Like others have stated before me, the power button was obscured, hidden away in a tiny crevice on the front. The body itself was a fingerprint magnet, even the part with the matte finish.

 

Upon starting it up, the volume level wasn't significantly quieter or anything but an attractive light bar flashed on, giving the PS4 a nice flair. The set up process was simple and my PSN name along with all the trophies and friends associated with it were brought onto the system. There was one thing that stood out to me, however. As I made my way through the steps, I was asked if I wanted to connect my Facebook account with that of my PSN. If I wanted, I could even have all of my recent game activity and trophies posted automatically to Facebook. For people who want to display their actual name and profile picture, they are given that option. It's a rather simple idea, by no means something that was necessary for the PS4 to succeed, but nonetheless, a welcome change.

 

At the present time, the User Interface isn't anything special. I was kind of disappointed that there are no options for themes yet, but I suspect Sony will add that back in at a later date. For now, we are stuck with the generic blue background. As for the icons, there are less than what was presented on the PS3. In particular, I noticed the lack of a dedicated download tab. I don't know if I simply just haven't found it yet or if its inclusion has been eliminated, but I do miss it.

 

Instead, one can check the progress of his or her downloads on the notification tab. I don't know how long recent entries will populate this menu but for now, it's a tad overwhelming considering how many games I've already downloaded, including updates.

 

On the other hand, I do like the updated friends list. When you click on a friend's name on your PS4, much more information is displayed - such as a full rundown of their recent activity, trophies, etc. If you want even more detailed information, you can simply click on the section, and a whole new page will come up, displaying all the information you could ever hope to access. For example, I wanted to check out a certain friend of mine's recent activity. On his main profile, it only showed what he was currently playing, so I clicked on it. Here, I was given a full breakdown of his gaming history, such as what games he played before it and at what time. If I wanted, I could choose one of these listed stories, such as one where he earned a difficult trophy, and “like” it. This was not something I had known about previously, but it was a nifty addition.

 

Personally, I've always had some issues with the online connectivity options offered by Sony. By this I mean, interactions with friends. While I'm certainly happy that the PS4 came packaged with a headset this time around, the software still presents some issues. Say a friend were to come online and invite you to a game, the notification marker is displayed as usual, but there's no shortcut available to quickly accept and join their session, such as simply pressing the Home button and navigating through a small menu. Instead, you have to go to scroll over to notifications, click on the appropriate tab, and read the message from there. I was having particular frustrations when I was trying to join a friend's game of Blacklight: Retribution. After clicking on his profile, I was given the option to see all sorts of information on the game, even the ability to start the game up from this menu. However, I was not able to join his session through it, which didn't make sense to me. I suppose it's just a couple more menus I will have to navigate, which isn't a big deal, but it's still more complicated than what is offered on the Xbox.

 

Despite the messaging and notification system being a bit behind the times on the PS4, I prefer certain aspects of its implementation. First and foremost, past messages aren't deleted! I love looking through old messages, especially when there's important information in them. To this day, I am still frustrated with Microsoft's decision to erase all message after a certain amount of time. Hopefully, they change that with the Xbox One. Furthermore, I am amazed by the Playstation App functionality when paired with the PS4 console. Instead of buying an expensive chat pad or suffering through the slow keyboard on screen, one can type up a message using the keyboard on their own phone. It's much faster and quite invaluable in my opinion. Having the option to start downloads on your console, from your phone, is one of the greatest uses of any app I've ever witnessed.

 

Going back to the topic of the PS4 controller, there are a couple more things I wanted to point out. Aside from the more ergonomic feel, the button layout is much more practical. The triggers are hooked on the end, providing shooter fans with a better experience when competing online. In addition, the d-pad is amazing. As soon as I started up the system I was surprised to see how much the change affected me. It's not quite as squishy as it was on the PS3 and the clicks are much more distinct. This improves its accuracy, which is important when trying to type something on the keyboard.

 

I also like the light sensor on the back, if purely for aesthetic reasons. The analog sticks aren't as loose, providing the player with a greater level of control, which I so desired. Hopefully this will result in a smoother gameplay experience, one where I won't accidentally click on R3 only to find myself knifing at an enemy fifty feet away as they mow me down in a hail of bullets. Obviously, I'm very happy to see this change. Now switching between my Xbox controller and my Playstation controller won't be quite as jarring.

 

The central touch pad button hasn't been of much practical use to me yet, but I expect that to change as we progress through the console's life cycle. During Battlefield, the touch pad can be used to access one's Battlelog, which I thought was neat. I do miss having the start and return buttons on this area of the controller though, but I will adjust. They have now been replaced with “Share” on the left and “Options” on the right. They are easy to miss at first glance. Personally, I would have preferred a design in which they protruded from the controller, such as on the PS3 controller, versus being flush with the surface. I feel as if it makes them harder to access, especially in the middle of a heated battle, where I accidentally pressed the touch pad.

 

Oh, the Share functionality... There is much work to be done where this is concerned. Right now, a multitude of kinks plague the experience. Editing is limited to trimming the beginning and end of a clip, nothing more. Videos can only be uploaded to Facebook currently, but there is no sound! Why is there no sound? I do not know. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. For now, there is no way of deleting past videos you've uploaded from your console. My upload folder is already overpopulated to the extent that I'm frustrated every time I access it.

 

Another issue I've been having revolves around the last fifteen minutes of gameplay that the system will decide to upload. Say, for example, that I pressed the share button and my Playstation created a clip from the last fifteen minutes, then two minutes later, something really cool happened. If I wanted to share this new clip, which would include the new two minutes on top of the thirteen minutes before it, and just delete the beginning two minutes of the previous clip, I wouldn't be able to. All I can do is keep the last clip, then create an entirely new one that is just two minutes long, but the two won't be connected. I can't tell you how frustrating this is.

 

Additionally, when I try to share a segment of video showing how I earned a particular trophy, then go back and watch the clip, the trophy icon doesn't even pop up in the video! What gives? That's probably one the biggest reasons people will use the share functionality and it doesn't even record it. Yet it records when some other notification pops up on the screen, such as when your battery is low... It just doesn't make sense to me.

 

On a more positive note, setting up a Playstation camera gives you the option of recording yourself in addition to your gameplay. This makes the camera very appealing to me because it could make for some great YouTube videos.

 

Trophies are back and better than ever. You still have to go to the main menu to access them, but they at least load much faster. I like being able to see how much percent I have completed of a game and the rarity of all the trophies. This is perhaps my favorite addition. It provides trophies with another layer of value. What the game developers might label as a gold level trophy may not be nearly as hard to get, or as rare, as another you have earned, which might only be listed at the bronze level. Also, expansion packs and DLC related trophies are listed separately under the game tab so it's easier to distinguish between which ones you have to get.

 

 

Changing topics for a second, I would like to mention how useful standby mode has been for me. Instead of completely turning my console off to prevent it from overheating when not in use, I can put it into standby mode. The system will continue to download my games and their updates, while still conserving energy. Even plugging a controller into the console whilst in standby mode will charge it for the user.

 

Earlier in my article, I told you guys how I never thought the Playstation 4 would be my first purchase of the next console generation. Part of the reason I switched was because of Microsoft's careless attitude that they displayed towards the people who made the Xbox 360 a success, the gamers. On the other hand, Sony was offering features that had been taken away from the Xbox One, day one. For example, offline play and the ability to borrow games from one's friends. Sony went in the complete opposite direction of Microsoft, which was to become an all around entertainment system. They did so by making the PS4 very gaming based. I think this was a mistake.

 

The PS3 was going in a good direction when they added the Blu-ray player, which is largely a whole different sector of entertainment. The PS4 stuck with that change and barely expanded upon it. I feel as if Sony was trying so hard to distinguish themselves from Microsoft, that they refused to consider any of the same entertainment options. The Xbox One allows you to switch back and forth between cable TV and your game at a moment's notice. If say, a commercial were to come on, I could go back to playing my game. And I could chat with my friends on Live via headset or direct message while watching my favorite show. Or at least that's the impression I got. Either way, I wish Sony would have included something like this, as it would have been really neat.

 

With the Playstation 4 being my first console purchase at launch, I had some high expectations for it. Despite all the problems the system has now, I am glad that I didn't wait. Sony had some creative ideas going into the Playstation 4 and I think that the majority of them worked out for the better. The console certainly isn't perfect; only time will tell how many of its issues will be sorted out. I look forward to live streaming on services like Twitch, uploading videos to YouTube, and watching my friends' gaming experiences. There's a lot to look forward to, and many years ahead of us for change.

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