The Average Gamer

PS4 – Another Opinion

PlayStation 4_Console
As Debbie and Nick have been enjoying their new shiny PS4, I thought I’d tag on my thoughts after playing heavily on my North American one for the last month. I have come to the conclusion it’s a major advancement on the PS3 and really what the PS3 should have been. This is (currently) a stripped down gaming machine. Its purpose is executed very well, and looks and plays amazingly. This is “next-gen”, although as a PC gamer I’m more inclined to say this is “current-gen”.

Let’s talk hardware. I was puzzled why Sony released the system with a 500 Gb hard drive. Installs are mandatory and with games using 30Gb+ of the space, the drive is going to fill fast. The first thing I did (along with many others) was to remove the drive and replace it with a 1Tb model. Thankfully this is very easy to do, offically supported but not obvious.

I could not figure out how to access the harddrive – it’s not included in the printed instruction book and eventually I resorted to YouTube to find a video (Thanks GamesRadar). I should point out it’s actually very easy to replace the Xbox One hard drive as well, but that will void your warrenty.

Launch day caused a huge stink on the internet. People were screaming about failed PS4’s as if the world was ending. My favourite was the wobble when the PS4 was put on a flat surface. What wobble? But honestly, even if it did wobble, it’s not the end of the world. Mine seems to be fine but I did find a weird scratch on the front of the case, perhaps it was put together by the disgruntled interns rumoured to have sabotaged consoles?

Also, the HDMI problem that plagued Kotaku wasn’t an issue, however the HDMI cable does not insert as securely as I’d like. Mind you, how often are you really going to move a console? The PS4 does run a little hot, so do not shove it away in a closed unit with lots of other electronics.

Debbie touched on some points about the PS4 lacking features that the PS3 had, namely media playback. This is very much true, however is it really such a big deal? It’s all firmware and there’s no reason Sony could not add it all in a later patch but why even bother? Which would you rather have, game-playing + social gaming or game-playing + media playback? That almost comes down to a choice between PS4 vs. Xbox One.

PlayStation 4 - Home ScreenFor me, media playback takes a massive back seat when compared to features that should have made day one, especially as most modern TV’s play mp3/netflix/amazon and can have media streamed to them.

The major two features that I am disappointed did not make launch day are suspend + resume games (like the PS Vita does) and the ability to “assist friends”. With suspend + resume, I can understand as this is a major technical challenge. There’s (at least) 8Gb of data to write out/in quickly. Have you ever suspended your laptop/desktop? Yup it’s slow.

Why does this feature matter to me? I am in a rage currently with Killzone. I was working through a mission and had to go out. I had passed a check point so assumed it had saved. Nope, when I launched it again I’d have to redo the chapter I was in. I’m crap at FPS games so it was over an hour wasted. With suspend+resume this would not have been an issue.

The second feature was the ability to jump in and assist a stuck friend. I get stuck often in games, and would love to have a friend remotely take control and get past a section (do you see a trend here on my gaming skills?). This is very similar to using Windows’ remote control to help a friend with their PC. With features like this I really believe Sony is doing the right thing and taking the machine back to gaming roots rather than trying to be a jack of all trades master of none,

Now there’s two other features left that have yet to really be exploited. The first is the second screen ability which allows you to use your tablet/phone to do various things on the PS4. All you do is install the PS4 App and it will discover your PS4. I want to tell you it’s awesome, but I can’t. So far all I’ve used it for is instant messaging and as a keyboard replacement. It’s a hell of a lot easier to type on than using the PS4 on screen keyboard (especially redeeming codes). That said, it’s very basic and I’ve no idea what they plan to do with it.

AC4 Companion AppTake Ubisoft’s Assassins Creed app as a comparison. I am constantly using it for viewing in game maps, reading content and making sure I’m following the mission. In fact, it’s got to the point where I’m about to disable most of the in game HUD since it’s available on the app and it blocks the gorgious picture. Granted it’s a specific app for one game, but it does show the possibilities of this technology.

The PS4 feature that I actually have used is the remote screen with PS Vita. I’ve been playing Assassins Creed on the PS Vita, while lounging in bed. It’s very easy to connect to the PS4 (Sony’s cloud handles it), and then the game is streamed and away you go. There’s no real latency as it’s all peer-to-peer, so if someone didn’t know you could “pretend” to be playing PS4 games actually on the Vita.

I did give it a try at a local coffee shop here in the US but failed to get the PS Vita to connect, and to prove it wasn’t just me, Debbie and Nick also failed in the UK. Where this feature could be amazing is with the PS Vita TV. Imagine having a PS Vita TV in your bedroom, being able to stream the PS4 straight to it and then hitting pause to carry on playing in your living room. Currently this does not work with the Japanese PS Vita TV, and I’m not sure if it ever will. Come on Sony, do it!

Finally there is one little neat feature if you have a Playstation Camera when using the on-screen keyboard. You can rapidly highlight letters by moving the controller rather than using the sticks. I’m terrible at it, but apparently people at SCEA are quite adept at it. I’ve suggested they extend it to be more like Swipe/Swiftkey where you don’t have to stop on a letter but rather rapidly move over them and it figures out the words.

All of this is just my opinon, while not a fanboy I am definitely heavily in Sony’s camp. That said, being a PC gamer, the consoles still look like they have only caught up to 2010. Definitely a great time to be a gamer, and I’m very interested to see how Valve rock the boat with their machine.