PS4 one month later: A first impressions review.

So the PS4 has been out for nearly a month and despite having other commitments that I should have paid more attention to, I have spent a good deal of time planted in front of the new device. There is always a bit of concern when coming into a new console generation, and consensus prior to any launch is to wait for the all the first wave kinks to be ironed out. But I am an impatient lad so wait I did not.  As you know from my reviews, I’m not overly technical in my analysis and basically like to rant about what I like or didn’t so that’s what I’m gonna do here.  Bear in mind this is a first impressions review, and I have yet to sit down with a Xbox One.

The Controller
Might as well start with what Mark Cerny started with when the console was first announced: The Dualshock 4.  Now, I’ve always been a big proponent the Sony controller. It may not have had better triggers than the XB360’s but it fit more comfortably in my hand, and after several hours of use, didn’t feel as clammy as the 360 control did when I went back to pick it up {bleh, gross}.

The new Dualshock 4 designs handles are elongated and rounder, almost like holding a pair of tubes in your hands but the angle of the curvature is nearly perfect. Its got this kind of smooth grained plastic that glides into your hand very easily, and above all else? It just feels great. I didn’t think the controller would be a big deal for me but comparing the 3 to the 4 side by side, the differences are incredible.

Hashtag - Dualshock 4

I have to say its weird to not have “Start” and “Select” buttons on the controller anymore. I Mean I guess it makes sense, since those were relics brought in from the old coin op days. In their place is the options button, which is the surrogate start button I would guess as it basically does what the start button would do.  Its fine, but its location near the top and to the right is a little hard to get used to. We have the share button, which I will get into later. And finally the touchpad button. This is an interesting idea to add to games, but so far of the games I’ve played its only really had token functionality. Much like the early Sixaxis controller, people don’t really know what to do with it yet.  Assassin’s Creed 4 so far has had the best use of letting it bring up the map and glide around it easily.

Lastly the shoulder’s and triggers just feel better. The design of the new triggers specifically because they contour to the shape of your fingers really well, and they don’t have that kinda pressure sensitive spongy feel the Dualshock 3 controller had. I feel it’s an improvement, I am curious to see how it will hold up against the XB1’s pressure sensitive rumbling triggers.

Hashtag - DS4 Triggers

It also has a pretty clear speaker in the front of it, to scare the ever-loving shit out of you when you pick up that first Audio log in Killzone. On the bottom of the controller there is a standard 3.5 headphone jack that you can use nearly any headset with, and it allows you to use your headset for the full in-game audio rather than just chat, so its handy for you high-end headset owners.

The only thing I think I don’t care for in the controller is the new analog design. The new rubber feels good on the thumbs, but they took away the convex arch of the sticks for a concave design. Perhaps it is just my brain playing with me but it felt like my fingers were always about to slip off the analog stick. In a shooter like Killzone it didn’t affect me much, but in something like Assassin’s Creed 4 where you are holding one direction for an extended period it can be annoying.

The Hardware
Done away with the smooth rounded designs sheened in fingerprinty attracting plastic. The PS4 boasts and aggressively edged rhombus that is slightly larger than the PS3 slim but much smaller from the original PS3, and by comparison smaller than the XB360. I could rant about the specs of the system but we pretty much covered that in the announcement conference and since I’m talking about my experience with it so far, we’ll skip the techie jargony crap.

I will sadly admit that the device made me feel like a fucking idiot, because after excitedly hooking everything up, it took me a minute or two to figure out how to actually turn the goddamn thing on. Come on Sony, You could have made the power and eject a little more noticeable. Friggen’ Kotaku actually had to make a how-to video for this crap.

Hashtag - PS4 Console front
Seriously, I’m not an idiot. You can barely see the power and eject markings

The console itself runs very quietly. Even on binge game days where I can play for hours on end, you practically hear nothing from coming from the device. The old 60gb model PS3 sounded like a jet turbine after a few minutes of gameplay, so naturally for a launch console this is an improvement. The only time I could audibly hear the fan is when the temperature of my room really kicked up from all the electronics running. PC with a GTX760, monitor, older model LCD tv, PS2 neon light, and two lamps with the heat running in the winter tends to kick the room up to somewhere around center of the sun temperatures.  That was pretty much the only point I actually heard the system fan running, and even then it wasn’t as loud as its predecessor’s was.

There was a lot of complaint about wave one defects, specifically with the HDMI port not being flush. Now I’ve tried to look at the back of my console and try to find a pair of images showing the difference between the bad one and the good one, and honestly I haven’t seen one that clearly depicts one. I haven’t had any issues (for the most part) with its use so I am assuming I have one of the good ones. I didn’t have any issue with the hard drive either.

Hashtag - PS4 Console back
That little nub in the back hasn’t seemed to affect my gameplay or the console turning on at all.

The only screwy thing with the console so far is when I log out of the device in standby or off, occasionally I will get some weird staticy garble on my screen that will persist unless I turn the TV off then on again. The HDMI and TV have worked faithfully with multiple other cords and devices so I don’t think that is the issue, and I haven’t experienced this issue at any other point then logging out of the console so it’s not a huge concern for me. Compatibility issue perhaps?

Hashtag - Garble
I’ve noticed I have to actually be playing a while before this happens. Turning the system on and off hasn’t caused this garble to appear, and it only persists till I turn the tv off and then on again. Concerning, but ultimately a non-issue.

And thank you to Sony for allowing me to use the previous power cord and standard HDMI. It just saved me a step when hooking it up and if my wire goes back for any reason I have a backup that doesn’t using a retardedly large power brick.

Interface and Sharing
So the PS4’s new dashboard interface seems to be hybrid variant of the cross media bar (XMB) and tumblr-esq social media layout. The most current items you pick will be front and center, and below them will provide you with links for the DLC and extras you can purchase, as well as what you friends are doing with the game. It’s an interesting layout and feels a bit more intuitive than the XMB did and more thankfully than that, it moves quickly and smoothly. Loading up my trophies still sometimes can take a minute but not nearly as long as the PS3 used to.

Also, something I actually stumbled on is like Microsoft’s use of the Kinect, the PS4 also has some voice activated functionality as well. With the use of a headset mic or the Playstation Camera you can say “Playstation” and a number of options will pop up such as go to game, go to menu, pause, and a bunch of other things. I only played with it briefly, but its cool that the functionality is there. Clearly it’s not going to be as robust as the XB1 is because it’s not connected to all your devices, but it’s still a cool feature that kinda slipped under the radar. Hopefully they add more you can do with it later.

The share button taps into one of the newer features in the game world in that everyone thinks they are important that their game stream will get people to watch them (Read: Me), and it certainly didn’t take very long for some dumb jackass to go out of the way to ruin it for everyone by streaming his naked passed out wife, forcing services like Twitch to change their TOS policies. So now its just game footage and nothing else. Thanks Dounkface, this is why we cant have nice things.

That said, streaming is pretty easy but probably could be cleaned up some. As you play, the system is constantly capturing your footage so when you want to share something, its got the last 15 minutes of game play saved. You can go in and trim and edit, and if you have a mic you can enable it to record your commentary. The mic that it came with is flimsy and small, but it worked well enough to communicate with a friend as I played a game. However when using it to produce commentary on a twitch feed, you can barely be heard over the actual sounds of the game.

It is very cool though, in a matter of seconds I was able to get both my Ustream account and my Twitch account up and running and I was streaming and commentating over Resogun and people in the respective chats can drop me messages to tell me that I am gay, I suck at this game, or how great their CoD kill to death ratio is {like I give a flying shit about CoD}. It’s actually motivating me to get the PlayStation camera so I can get my mug on the screen at the same time. It’s not as nice as those who can Chroma Key into their stream, but it’s certainly a start.

hashtag - Streaming

My biggest issue with the PS4’s streaming is the system is locked off to external hard drives or USB flash drives, so there doesn’t appear to be a way to remove the captured footage from the actual console. That’s a shame for those people who prefer more robust options when editing their videos. In addition to this, as of now the HDCP hasn’t been removed from the PS4 so people who have external capture cards or pass through can’t capture their footage that way either (unless you have a hdcp splitter). I suppose I understand this desire to try to move to the pure digital format so we are forced to pay money for products we don’t actually own, but I think it sucks.  I liked being able to plug in a USB stick and watch a movie I have on it, I like using my external HDD to back up my hard drive in the event mine craps out.

PLAYIN’ ALL DEM GAIMES!!!
OK, so not all of them. But for supposedly pretty weak launch line up, I was not left with little to do right out of the gate. Upon my purchase of the system I took home both Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag and Killzone: Shadow Fall. But In addition to those two titles Sony included a month of PS+ and 10 bucks credit to PSN so I was also able to download Resogun and Contrast for free. There were also a few free to play games available as well in Warframe and Blacklight: Retribution. So from the moment I got the console home and got myself situated, I had 6 games ready to go right out the gate.  That’s not a bad start for launch day.

As you have already read, many of these games require massive installations of 30+ gb or more on a number of titles, luckily this has become a streamlined process. Killzone for example needs about 45 gigs of space. Upon inserting the blu-ray, it immediately starts to install the necessary files to the game and I’d say within 30 seconds or so, I was able to start the game. It made a couple of the cut scenes unskippable but pretty much right out of the gate I was able to jump right into a game without needing to wait on 50 minutes of installs and updates. It all runs seamlessly and in the background, and constantly updates as I play.

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I don’t want to go into excess on the reviews since I plan I writing actually #quickies for here and full reviews on RQ, so I’ll just give you some brief thoughts about what I’ve played so far:

Killzone: Shadow Fall: So I’ve never been a first person shooter guy, nor have I played any of the previous Killzone games. It feels like a pretty standard modern shooter, but it does try to make use of all of the controllers functions in some ways. The story was average, and they aren’t the best looking character models. But the game was entertaining enough to see through to the end. Visually everything else looks fantastic, and the game runs had a very smooth frame rate which I am also a fan of. I’ve also played a bit of the multi player and my only comment for that is: Fuck Grenade Launchers.

Hashtag - Killzone

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag: So we pick up the story after the tragic ending of Ass Creed 3 by taking control of silent protagonist working for Abstergo Entertainment. In it you live the memories of Desmond Miles’ descendant Edward Kenway. Not really an assassin or Templar, you basically take to the high seas pirating ships and island for your own personal wealth while getting to live through the major moments in the golden age of piracy.  This game brought Assassin’s Creed back for me. Stealthing missions actually feel like I’m being an assassin, destroying ships on the high seas is fun, Edward is a likable protagonist, and this story line had a defined beginning and ending. The shitty Desmond story still looms overhead, but honestly I barely thought about it as I played the game.

Contrast:  So its not a graphical powerhouse, but this is one of the indie titles so I wasn’t expecting it to be. This is one of those stylized platformer darlings that require you to get from point A to point B or collect items by manipulating shadows and fading in and out of walls. I haven’t found the story to be interesting yet but the game play mechanics are cool. These kind of niche titles always find their mark with someone.

Resogun: Kind of a twin stick shooter that mixes Gradius, Asteroids, and Geometry Wars. It’s a simple concept and a very short game, but its an absolute blast to play single player or Co-op. If you have a PS4 and PSN and you haven’t downloaded this one for free yet then you are seriously missing out. This was probably one of my favorites so far.’

Hashtag - Resogun
Resogun was brilliant in its design simplicity, challenging gameplay, and easily the MVP of the PS4 Launch.

Blacklight Retribution: Pretty much a competent but generic first person shooter. It’s already been out on PC and the PS4 version doesn’t seem glossed up any. If you need to scratch the FPS online gaming itch, its a nice free option. I’ve played it a few times but it doesn’t have the shiny presentation that Killzone has.

Warframe: Sci-Fi ninja 3rd person shooter. The sword mechanics are kinda wonky and the game feels somewhat generic. Does have 4 player co-op though. I haven’t really sat down with it at any extended length so I don’t have any strong feelings to it either way. It hasn’t left a lasting impression though.

Lego Marvel Superheros: Picked this one up on sale on black friday. Never played a lego game before but it’s somewhat met my expectations. It’s a rather childish and easy cartoon brawler. There is no real challenge aside from the game having some poor conveyance on directing the player where to go. I wonder what audience it’s for because the relatively simple gameplay makes me feel it’s for kids, but many of the gags and jokes seem to be for adults who either know the comic mythos very well, or are familiar enough with the recent Marvel films. Collectibles out the ass in this game, and the number of playable characters is absolutely mind-boggling. So far nearly every peripheral character has gotten a little bit of screen time and its blends all the major comic series in the universe together. Clark Gregg comes in to reprise his role as Agent Coulson, and the voice talent in the game is the venerable who’s who of the video game industry. While its been easy, its been an enjoyable game so far.

Hashtag - Lego Marvel

The Verdict
I’m not gonna give you one. Why? Because chances are you weren’t on the fence about this when you clicked this article. Most of those in the console gaming world have already picked their side and drawn their line in the sand. Like I said months ago when I commented on the Sony presser, consoles aren’t spouses or allegiances and you aren’t required to have just one of them.

So I’m not gonna fanboy out and tell you why I think one console is superior to the other. The one thing I will say is that out of the box, its given me enough to do to keep me entertained for a month. Could you afford to wait to get one? Probably.  Is there a chance there will be a hardware issue? Sure, as is the case with all new products.

It sucks a lot of the bigger name releases got pushed back, and for the supposed ease of programming I would like content to be coming out for it a little faster.  But all things considered in the grand scheme of things?  It’s not a bad start for this console generation.

#Quickie: Beyond:Two Souls

It’s safe to say that Quantic Dream has a different approach to gaming as a whole. You can tell that by the fact that they don’t say that they make games, but “cinematic storytelling experiences”. It’s a pretty flowery term for lack of gameplay in my book, but despite that they have managed to produce some pretty good titles in Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy.

So now we have the highly touted Beyond:Two Souls that has dazzled us with their impressive motion capture cinematics featuring the acting talents of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. After a series of trailers it appeared to be in the same vein of gameplay that Heavy Rain was, but they surprised us at this last E3 trailer with a very military heavy sequence that made us think there might be more to this game than appears. The question is, would that hold up after release?

Rage Quitter - Beyond; Two Souls -  Action

The short answer is no. While the controls and interactivity of the game has been greatly improved since the previous QD title, you really are jumping into this title for the story of it. In Beyond: Two Souls you play sad, lonely, and troubled youth Jodie Holmes (Page) as we play through sporadic points of her life. Jodie since the day she was born has been haunted by an entity that she calls Aiden. After having a very tumultuous upbringing in a foster home, Jodie is left under the care of Nathan Dawkins(Dafoe) to monitor her connection with Aiden and in time learn to try to control him.

Graphically speaking the work done with the motion capture might be one of the most impressive I have seen this console generation. This game really does take motion capture to the next level and if it didn’t have the obvious tell-tale look of being an animated graphic it could very well have been a live action movie. It’s handy because it requires the actors to perform some of the stunts to a degree so the animations are lifelike and realistic for the most part, and with the exception of showing teeth, all of the facial reactions are picture perfect.

Rage Quitter - Beyond; Two Souls -  Mocap

Throughout the story we are constantly jumping through various points of Jodie’s sad, horrible life as she trudges through experience to experience.  While it does manage to come together properly in certain points, it causes the entire experience to feel very disjointed and difficult to follow. On more than one occasion I’d feel I’d start to get a handle on things, and the out of the blue the set pieces would completely change on me.

Most of the play as Jodie somewhat falls into the same type of control Heavy Rain had. Wandering around a room, looking for the interactable elements. They did fix the movement controls to feel a bit more natural, which is a massive improvement over the complete train wreck that the previous title had offered us. But the real I guess “fun” of the game would be when you switch and control Aiden.

When shifting to Aiden you basically can glide around Jodie’s immediate area. Depending on the situation, Aiden’s functions change although pretty linear in function. In some situations you just have to play the spooky ghost and knock things around, other times you can possess people to infiltrate areas, and sometimes if you are lucky you will get to strangle someone to death to fend of an enemy entity. Sadly you usually don’t get much in the way of options of what you can do, you just have to really do what is presented.

Rage Quitter - Beyond; Two Souls -  Training

And that’s really it. You get this illusion of freedom to make different choices and play scenarios differently, but for the most part it doesn’t seem like it alters the gameplay or the story too much. So is the game any good? Well, I tend to be a sucker for a decent story. I managed to crank out the whole thing in about two sittings. The game features multiple different endings and there are ways to play scenarios differently so I suppose there is a bit of replay value. I would say that I enjoyed my time with it.

Would I recommend you buy it? No, probably not. Not for 60 bucks anyways. There just isn’t enough engaging elements to it keep you glued to the TV to keep going at it. Even sitting through the story a 2nd time was a bit of a challenge for me since the game is nearly a constant wash of depressing moments. I have my own sad life to experience that shit. So I guess I could probably give it a fairly half-hearted recommendation.  It’s worth a redbox, or if it came down to 20 or 30 I would say go for it. But definitely not full retail price. If you want to play a good Ellen Page game, play the one she’s not in: The Last of Us. (Johnson > Page)

The other soul of this review can be found at Rage Quitter.

Black Friday 2013

The blackest of all Fridays is upon us and of course Amazon is having crazy amounts of deals. I am starting this live blog to add all the cool stuff I find! We are affiliate partners with Amazon so anytime you use on of the links we get a very small percentage of each purchase, which helps us keep the site up and running. Hope you find something nerdy to get!

DIY Mini Arcade Cabinet Kickstarter

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2103217949/the-porta-pi-a-diy-mini-arcade-cabinet-for-raspber

This Kickstarter only has a few days left and a long way to go. If you have ever wanted an arcade cabinet but were not willing to shell out the hundreds to thousands of dollars they could cast this is your next best bet! This laser cut Arcade Cabinet kit comes with almost everything you need a 7 inch screen, Joy Stick, arcade buttons, speakers, and other hardware. The only thing you need to get is a raspberry pi.

DIY Mini Arcade Cabinet Kickstarter