PLAYSTATION 4 Steps Up The Social Game — First Impressions
By Malik Forté on November 16, 2013
Greetings, my fellow nerds! We live in the age of installs, patches and updates, with hardware being altered and expanded upon before the blink of an eye. While I will be touching on some of the PlayStation 4’s current core capabilities, consider this a friendly reminder that these features are subject to change. Game on!
Can you believe how quickly the last generation zoomed by? I remember when the PlayStation 3 first launched, it lacked the ability to access the main interface (known as the cross media bar) from inside a game. Whenever a friend sent me a message, I would receive the notification, but couldn’t view the message without severing ties with my game experience by quitting back to the main interface. This eventually prompted me to turn these notifications off in order to fight the temptation of my friends’ interactions, thus allowing me to enjoy my games without disturbance. The result of that was an anti-social online experience, which seemed like a dull and indolent ghost town when compared to Xbox Live’s vibrant, party loaded online atmosphere.
In comes the PlayStation 4, which capitalizes on many of the things we loved about the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live and expands on these ideals by further integrating the gaming experience into our everyday lives. Right off the bat, you’ll notice how much Sony has improved at producing an intuitive and seamless user interface. The cross media bar has been replaced by the sleeker and smoother running PlayStation Dynamic Menu. Navigating around this bad boy is fun, pleasing to the eye, and most importantly, simple. My only gripe is that switching between different activities appears to be a bit sluggish, which may be partly due to being spoiled by the UI functioning quite fluently otherwise, but nevertheless still obvious.
Sony’s focus on social connectivity seems to be paying off big for the PS4, completely undoing the spiritless atmosphere of it’s predecessor. With the ability to send and receive real name requests, deep social network infusion (Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, Ustream), and a stern emphasis on content sharing (there’s even a “share” button on the controller), the PS4 is easily the most socially linked game console to date. They’re a little late to the party with… well, parties and other features such as voice messaging, mobile-based companion applications, and packaged headsets that come with the console giving people easy access to voice input/output. But they were at least able to expand on these hugely popular features that were introduced and made standard by the Xbox 360. Most importantly, all of these features work without a hitch, depending on whether or not you can sign into the PlayStation Network, which has been periodically suffering from massive server overload since launch.
The Dual Shock 4 controller also adds an extra layer of appeal to the PS4 package. As a person who favored the Xbox 360 controller last gen, it was easy to adapt to the DS4’s elevated triggers, slightly longer handles, and concave thumb sticks. Logging in long hours with the Dual Shock 4 hasn’t resulted in hand cramps nor fingers slipping off of the analogs yet, and I largely credit that to its thoughtfully crafted design. I can’t forget what possibly may be the most intriguing aspect of the controller either, the touchpad. I figured that this would merely turn out to be a gimmicky feature, but the potential for developers to utilize this part of the DS4 is finely exhibited through games like The Play Room and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
As you can imagine, there aren’t many games to be played on the PS4 at the current moment. But where the PS3 did excel was with its mighty hardware and it’s unique variety of exclusive games, many of which were considered benchmarks of excellence in the last generation. The PS4’s graphical leap from the PS3 is noticeable in some of the launch games, but not enough to clearly convince you that we’ve quite arrived in the next generation. Killzone Shadow Fall is easily the game that best demonstrates the PS4’s graphical capabilities and is gorgeous down to every pixel on the screen. The retail launch line up is decent, but the killer apps will really begin dropping at the beginning of next year.
The PS4’s heavy involvement in the indie game scene is what gets me the most excited for the console, allowing developers who are absent of big budget publishers to self-publish their games. I believe that you will see many games that would’ve otherwise gone unappreciated make waves on the PS4, especially with how socially involved everyone can be in each other’s gaming experience. At this moment, there are independent titles available for download that can rival the AAA launch releases. Download Warframe or Blacklight: Retribution, two free-to-play games, right now and you’ll get a glimpse of how promising Sony’s involvement with indie developers can be.
So far, the PlayStation 4 is cracking up to be everything we had hoped for back when Sony unveiled it back in February. The true potential of the console, of course, won’t be achieved until more games make their way onto the scene. But as of now, the PlayStation 4 is the most socially connected game console to date, with a clean and intuitive interface, strong indie game support, and a controller that rivals the Xbox 360’s as the best of all time. We’ll be digging deeper into the PS4 pot as we learn more about it in our first days with Sony’s new golden child.
So which console should you buy between the PS4 vs Xbox One?
When it comes down to it, the Xbox One has expanded on everything the PlayStation 3 set out to do in the last generation in terms of combining everything that is entertainment all into one device. In turn, the PlayStation 4 has basically expanded on everything the Xbox 360 aspired to be in terms of social gaming. Yes, Microsoft and Sony has gone totally Sean Archer/Castor Troy on us ladies and gentlemen, but for the better. If you desire supreme gaming content and an unparalleled gaming experience, the PlayStation 4 is for you. If you desire an unrivaled all around entertainment experience where your movies, music and television play an integral role alongside your gaming to keep you engaged, the Xbox One is for you. Either way, you cannot go wrong and it simply comes down to preference as both systems have a lot more good to offer this time around than ever before. Let’s raise our glasses to the official start of the new generation of video games!
But don’t just take my word for it, Jessica Chobot and Dan Casey weighed in on the new consoles too in a brand new segment called The DLC. Check it out for yourself for more perspective on which of the new consoles might best suit you.