By November 25, 2013

PlayStation 4 Initial Impressions

My Sony PlayStation 4 console arrived on launch day. I’d pre-ordered the PS4 console and the game WatchDogs from Amazon in October. Unfortunately Watch Dogs was delayed until 2014, and Amazon downgraded me to a console-only pre-order and refunded me the difference.

Getting a PS4 without WatchDogs is better than no PS4 at all, right? Especially with an estimate 2.4 million people who want a PS4 but won’t get one until supply catches up.

Turns out I’m not interested in the rest of the PlayStation 4 launch title line-up, and I wouldn’t have minded waiting at all.

Hardware

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It’s beautiful, and it works, but it’s sitting quietly for now.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way: my PS4 console looks and works great. Some people have had problems with their consoles at launch, but mine is just fine (at least for now).

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Everything on the PS4 is stealthy. The power button and eject button are unlabeled and hidden into the overall design of the console. I had to look at the quick start guide to figure out how to turn the damn thing on (after syncing a controller to the PS4 you can turn it on via the PlayStation home button).

The USB ports are in the same general location as the PS3, but are even further recessed and less obvious due to the design of the PS4.

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The connections on the back of the PS4 are straightforward. I know Sony makes less than $20 per PS4 based on estimated component and labor costs, but I really like Apple’s proximity-based illuminating labels found on the Mac Pro. I think it would be nice to see where the hell the HDMI cable is supposed to go as you’re digging around in the back of your entertainment center.

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You’ll get everything you need to get going with the PS4. You’ll get a power cord, HDMI cable, one controller, micro USB cable for syncing / charging your controller, and an ear piece / microphone. I remember being unhappy when I bought my first Xbox 360 that I still needed to get my own HDMI cable.

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The new Dual Shock 4 controller shares a lot of similarities with the PlayStation 3’s controller. If you’re familiar with the PS3 you’ll be right at home with the PS4 controller.

Most of the changes are incremental improvements, such as the grip surface on the handles:

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or the different textures on the analog sticks:

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The biggest changes are the touch pad on the front and the SHARE and OPTIONS buttons:

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I’ll talk about sharing in a moment, but but OPTIONS basically replaces the START button found on almost every controller I’ve held in my hand since the Nintendo NES over 21 years ago.

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Another nice thing about the PS4 controller is that you can use any headphone with a 3.5mm jack. Microsoft is still stuck in the 90s and uses a proprietary connector on their Xbox One controller.

Games

My biggest complaint about the PS4 has nothing to do with the PS4 and everything to do with the games available at launch. I wasn’t interested in any of the games that came out.

Most were based on franchises I didn’t care about anymore, like Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty.

Many were sports games, which I haven’t played since college, like NBA 2K14.

I was surprised at the amount of touch-based games that were now commanding console game prices, like Angry Birds: Star Wars. Lego Marvel was also a launch title, but I wasn’t ready to drop $60 on a Lego game after playing a few of them in the past.

So, that left me with Knack.

Which sucks.

Let’s just leave it at that.

Sharing and streaming

One of the things that seems really neat about the PS4 (and the XBONE) is the ability to stream your play session to the Internet. I already have a Twitch.tv account for when I used to stream StarCraft 2, so it was easy for me to get started. The PS4 also supports uStream in case you have an account there.

I’ve only done one streaming session, but I had several of my friends jump on for a view. Once you start streaming your play area shrinks down to accomodate a status bar on the right and bottom part of the screen. Viewers can type in comments, which appear on the bottom of the screen. Stream status is presented on the right (streaming is on, microphone is on/muted, number of viewers, etc).

The lag was about the same as streaming from my PC, about two or three seconds of delay. One of my viewers remarked about a “lame” overlay, but I wasn’t able to see it.

Unfortunately there was no option to save my session or make highlights, which is a major difference between the PS4 and desktop versions of Twitch. There is no option for custom overlays, which is going to prevent pro players from monetizing their streams via sponsor ads.

Conclusion

Getting a PlayStation 4 console is a catch 22. If you didn’t buy it at launch you may not get one before 2014. Amazon is rumored to be 6 – 8 weeks behind on fulfilling orders. You may have to face the crowds during Black Friday or buy from a scalper on eBay or Craigslist. I am not going to post my Amazon affiliate link because as of this writing the $400 console I bought is being resold for $1100+.

On the other hand, I don’t find anything on the PlayStation 4 worth playing, and/or justifying the immediate upgrade to the next gen console. All of the other games can be found on last-generation hardware.

At this point, I’ll be catching up on my PS3 backlog while waiting for WatchDogs and Destiny.

Not recommended at this time, but it’s probably too late anyway.

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