It was a long day of work on Friday. When it came to pre-ordering my PlayStation 4, I decided to avoid the unreliability of my local brick and mortar stores and went with Amazon. That meant there was no midnight new console fun for me and I’d have to await getting home from work on Friday night to unwrap my new toy. Despite irrational worries that something might go wrong (I’m a worrier), I was finally able to dig in to my PS4 this weekend and dip my toe into next-gen for the first time. With a couple of days spent with Sony’s latest I thought I’d give some brief impression on the PlayStation 4 and the two games I managed to sink some time into.
Well for starters it works. With some talk of defective consoles right out of the box, you never know, but I’m happy to report that everything seems to be going well for the new addition to my console family so far. It is a rather sleek looking piece of hardware and despite knowing how small it was, I still found myself surprised seeing it in person and holding it in my hands for the first time.
Obviously I was not the only one trying to jump into the next generation of gaming on release day, so I did have some trouble getting onto PSN, but before the night was over I was logged into my profile and had downloaded some PS+ freebies. The new User Interface works quite well. I admit I was quite partial to the look of the PS3’s Cross Media Bar, but getting into and out of that for various functions was always a little slow. The PS4’s UI and main menu seems well-designed though we’ll have to see how it handles adding more and more things to it’s current setup. More importantly though it is extremely responsive. Jumping into and out of a game to check downloads or notifications is super fast and things like viewing trophies are a lot less of a hassle now. Overall I’m pretty happy with how the system looks and runs so far and there are plenty of features I have not even delved into yet.
Since its inception, I have always favored the Dualshock design to its various competitors. Especially over time when I had just become used to it. But it has always had its flaws, so I was excited to see if the Dualshock 4 could manage to fix those issues while largely retaining the design I had loved over the years. I’m happy to say that based on my time with the newest PlayStation controller, the redesign was a rousing success.
The change that needed to happen was the triggers. I’m not sure who thought the Dualshock 3’s convex triggers were a good idea, but the DS4’s concave ones are a big step forward and feel great. It was a simple change, but a good one.
Another big addition is the touchpad which I admit I’m not sure what to think of yet. Right where the controller’s select and start buttons used to be is a touchpad. I can’t tell you how many times I went to pause the game the first day and reached over and hit the touchpad instead. The Start button is now the Options button and is located much closer to the face buttons. The new controller will certainly have me unlearning various habits made over the past 15+ years of PlayStation gaming, that is for sure. Anyway, back to the touchpad, it is what you’d expect, but can also be clicked for an extra button. The only time I’ve used it is in Killzone where setting commands for your drone is given through swipes. I guess this gives developers more button options, but at the same time the swipes certainly didn’t add anything to the game. At the very least its positioning means it won’t get in the way (I mean when I’m not trying to find a non-existent Start button) like the Vita’s back touchpad seems to based on how the system is held. Maybe some developers will utilize this feature in an interesting way, only time will tell. If not, I guess it can largely be ignored at least.
Replacing the Select button is the new Share button which is actually pretty neat. Hitting this will put the last fifteen minutes of the game you played and a screenshot of the moment you hit it onto your harddrive which you can then upload to various social networks. I haven’t explored this feature as much as I’d like to have but it seems like a nice addition overall.
Along with these some more minor changes have occurred. The overall build is a little wider. The handles a little longer. The sticks have indented tops and a slightly different feel. Overall, I just love this new controller and could see it being the new standard for game controllers. I’ll have to see if I feel the same over time, but my first impressions are very positive.
Killzone: Shadow Fall Campaign
Killzone is a franchise more about online multiplayer which I haven’t had a chance to dabble in yet. I prefer to get used to the game in the campaign, so my focus has been there thus far. Shadow Fall changes things up quite a bit from the two KZ games I’ve played before. Killzone 2 on PS3 and Killzone: Liberation on PSP featured different perspectives, but were largely linear cover-based shooters. The series first entry on the PS4 features more open level design with some new tactical options when approaching combat encounters. I admit these options had me a little out of sorts to start. The aforementioned touchpad-activated drone called the Owl adds a nice new twist and extra layer to the game and can be used to attack enemies, create a shield/zipline or hack various terminals. You also have a scan device that allows you to see enemies’ positions close-by. This coupled with the bigger environments makes for a game with more ways to approach combat scenarios and a nice change of pace for the franchise. The shooting itself feels quite good as you’d expect from the series and once I got a handle on all the options I had at my disposal, encounters become a more fun experience.
Less successful are the moments where the game focuses on non-combat aspects. There have been a couple boring “lock you into a slow walk” sections which I’m never all that into. And one section had me moving keys of sorts around to venture through areas in a spaceship which felt tedious and somewhat pointless.
With Guerrilla Games at the helm, you’d expect great visuals and I think I speak for most people, I like a game with my next-gen console that will wow a little visually. Shadow Fall definitely delivers. We certainly aren’t looking at a jump similar to previous console generation transitions, but I am still quite impressed with what I have seen here particularly some of the lighting.
Killzone is the only retail PS4 game I purchased so far. But via my PlayStation Plus subscription I also got the wonderful Resogun. Housemarque wowed me in the first year of the PS3 with Super Stardust HD and are doing that once again with Resogun on PS4. Resogun feels very much like a spiritual successor to Housemarque’s Super Stardust games. Both twin-stick shooters. Both have similar boost and bomb mechanics. While Stardust featured a spherical world to zoom about, Resogun went with a cylindrical form. This along with some objectives to tackle (SAVE THE LAST HUMANS) while trying to shoot everything in sight makes for something that still feels new and challenging despite some obvious similarities to its predecessor. It’s a very addictive game and I’ve actually been enjoying it more than Killzone so far. It’s visuals also impress despite not going for life-like human depictions and the like.
So far so good with my PlayStation 4. I should have some other games to play soon and as I finish these two I plan to possibly review them if I feel I have enough more to say about them. So look for more PS4 coverage from me as the year goes on. Have you gotten your hands on the PS4? What features and games have impressed you most so far? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!