There was much excitement this week as I returned to Aberdeen and with my two flatmates having bought PS4s for their arrival; I was finally going to get a chance to get to grips with Sony’s newest console. Although my experience with it has been slightly limited, with only Destiny and the demo for FIFA 15 at my disposal to test the system’s gameplay chops, I’ve really enjoyed using the PS4 and have almost certainly made my mind up about which console I’ll be getting when I eventually jump into the next-gen.
The PS4 in many ways is simply a refinement of its younger brother, the PS3, and that’s a good thing. The box itself is sleeker, smaller and much, much lighter. Its slot-loading drive and discrete power button make it something that you can display with pride rather than hide away. It’s far better looking than its’ Microsoft counterpart.
The system menus have expanded on the XMB’s minimalist design and made things more elegant. The soft tones of the menus, the gentle flow between the main navigation bar and your games bar below it all make it a nice experience. Things are maybe not quite as instantly available as you might have on the Xbox, but having things in list form rather than massive, blocky tiles is better in my opinion.
The controller is a step-up on the Sixaxis/Dualshock 3 that was criticised for being too small. This one is a little bit more bulky, having much more presence in your hand and fitting nicely rather than being a bit cramped. The thumbsticks are a mix of concave and convex, meaning that your thumbs are much less likely to slip off and you can aim a little more accurately now as the tension has been increased. The triggers are nice and responsive, and as shooters now play with the triggers rather than the shoulder buttons it provides a much better experience. The controller also comes with a few bells and whistles that the Xbox One version doesn’t, including a touchpad that could be used for different in-game actions, a light bar which gives some colour response to your gameplay (such as turning red when you die) and a speaker that can play additional audio. So far in what I have played none of these little features have come in useful, but I’m sure some games can take them and blend them into their experiences to make games that little bit more interactive. I prefer the PS4 controller to the Xbox’s, personally.
The PlayStation Store has been revamped to be a lot more modern, and shares many ideals with up-to-the minute web design. It fits nicely with the PS4’s new menu systems as well as including much larger pictures to entice people in. One thing I was surprised by was the cost of downloadable titles, which are often at their RRP of around £55. Downloading titles is meant to cut out the middle-man and bring down costs because of it, but it seems that none of that is being passed on to consumers. To play online with the PS4, you now need to subscribe to PlayStation Plus, which is comparable to Xbox Live. Matchmaking for the games I have played was quick and the inclusion of party chat on the console (which allows both voice and text chat) makes playing with friends much easier.
Now, as it was not my PlayStation, I did not really have free rein to test a wide variety of games to put the console through its paces. The majority of my time has been spent playing Bungie’s new title, Destiny. I’m not really a big fan of the game, as from what I’ve played of it the story seems convoluted and isn’t presented with nearly the same level of clarity as Bungie usually do. Missions are slightly repetitive, and the game’s focus on MMO style raids and grinding don’t really chime with my idea of a first person shooter. The multiplayer is also not my sort of game, as I find it strikes a balance somewhere between Call of Duty and Halo but does neither the fast-paced, twitch gameplay nor slower, more tactical approach very well. However, for the console’s part, the game looks fantastic and shows the potential of the system to have beautiful games. Shooting feels rewarding with the new controller’s triggers and the ability to use the touchpad for navigation and to summon a personal vehicle for yourself is a nice touch. I also had a go at playing the demo of FIFA 15 which, as you might expect, was not a whole different ball-game from what you would find on current-gen consoles apart from that the graphics for the pitch, the supporters in the stand, and for replays were much, much better. It is still early days for these new consoles (they’re not even a year old at this point) so the time for true gameplay innovation is still ahead, but the graphical differences are obvious even if it isn’t quite as big a step up as moving to the HD era was.
Based on my time this week with the new PlayStation, I still haven’t quite gone all-in with my decision to buy a PS4, but I’m confident that when I choose to jump into the next-gen that it’ll be Sony I go with. The only advantage I feel that the Xbox 360 really had over the PS3 was Xbox Live, and with the PlayStation Network having jumped up a notch as well as Sony producing the more powerful, more elegant, more user-friendly and cheaper console – there’s no real reason to go with the new Xbox. I’m not really a big fan of many of the exclusive franchises from either console at this moment in time, and it’ll take a new entry to one of my beloved series like Mass Effect or Red Dead to force my hand into my wallet but as things stand the best console to play third-party games on will be the PS4.