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.

Hashtag - Dashboard

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.

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Steam’s Big Picture Leaves Beta

We are happy to see Big Picture reach its first steps of adulthood, in a time when almost nothing leaves the safety of calling itself a “beta”. Valve shows us again why it is the poster child for the gaming culture. Big picture if you don’t know

aims to carve Valve’s gaming platform a presence in your living room. When enabled, the feature optimizes Steam’s on-screen presentation for an HDTV rather than your typical PC monitor. In doing so, Valve is making a big play at both the casual gaming sector and console owners that may be growing bored with aging hardware from Microsoft and Sony. Now users can assemble so-called Steamboxes that dramatically outpace the current crop of consoles, with the experience they ultimately take away limited only by their budget. -source

 

With big sales this week to promote the controller friendly games that make “Big Picture” what it is, we will defiantly be sitting ourselves down in the living room this week to give it a through run about.

You can hear more about Steam’s Big Picture as well as lots of other goodies from Valve on our first ever podcast “Full Steam Ahead”!

BONUS ROUND: Gabe is hinting at look towards Linux for future development which is really kinda awesome!

 

 

Wii’ve been left behind.

I truly hate being an aging gamer sometimes. I really do.

These feelings really come to head around the time of E3 each year. It is a time when all of the gamers and tech nerds should be brimming with excitement of all the new possibilities and all the great things that are to come over the horizon. And yet every single year for at least the past 5, as if I had NO sense of pattern recognition at all, I continue to watch the big pressers and continually get disappointed.

Its either a constant stream of sequels reaching their 4th installment or more and minor upgrades to a game like essentially forcing me to buy the same game again, or a new title coming out and being bold facedly told their going to force me to pay more for immediate DLC that’s probably already on the fucking disc (I’m calling you out Capcom, you money grubbing asshats). It’s really getting old. But nobody, NOBODY continues to disappoint and infuriate me more than that heartless empire to the east, Nintendo.

I know what you’re thinking: “What? The Rage Quitter is going to be mad about something? How unexpected!” Well, let me at least start to clarify something right now, I loved Nintendo. Lets take a small stroll down memory lane, shall we? I was a gamer that got his start in the Commodore 64 era, which means I’m old enough to be considered an old man in our current gaming generation. This was an age where every game came on 5 inch floppies that were still called “Disks”, the controller was a joystick with one button, simple games could have almost 40 minute load times, and every game had to start with Load”*”,8,1. Good times.

Commodore64 Startup

But then in 1986 something called a “Nintendo” came along and they gave me a grey box that I could pop a cartridge on, push power and BAM, I’m playing River City Ransom. Incredible, gaming can’t get better than this. But then holy shit, the SUPER Nintendo came out. More buttons, better graphics, better sounds, and probably one of the most memorable lineups of classic titles to ever grace a video game console. Link to the Past? Chrono Trigger? Final Fantasy 3(6)? Mega Man X? Orgasm.

But then came along the N64. It was a great concept: better graphics in 3 dimensions, better sound with voices, up to 4 players at a time. Controller was odd though and it had some great titles to it, but not many. Just updates to their tried and true franchises. Which held over enough but it left many of us with a lacking feeling. Then came the Gamecube, many of the best 3rd party properties already found homes on other systems. And yeah, the cube still had a few solid titles but again, bleh. Just the same Nintendo properties with not much else to offer. By this point in time, I’m getting pretty tired of playing Mario and Zelda over and over again.

chrono-trigger-magus-fight
I don’t care what anyone says, Hands down one of the best scenes in the game when you confront Magus the first time.

Then someone had brainstorm and thought “ok, if we can’t beat Sony and Microsoft in hardware and games, we’ll change the controller.” And they put out the Wii. Now, I don’t know if anyone predicted for the Wii to explode the way it did, and their marketing strategy of “we’ll only make 5 systems every 2 months” only drove up the frenzy on the system because nobody could get it. But god damn it, it worked.

People would buy them simply because they were available. Gamers were after it and they managed to tap into the non-gamer casual market.  They literally had the entire gaming industry by the balls with this new and innovative style of gaming. And what did they do with their new position of power? FUCK ALL. Rehashes of the same friggen Mario games, the same friggen Zelda games, and all the other same dead horses I’ve played since 1986. The system literally thrived on Wii bowling and was plagued by an onslaught of garbage shovel ware with zero lastability.

The handful of quality games that it might have virtually went unplayed because it didn’t have Mario’s face on it or the causal crowd wouldn’t know a great game if it was lodged in their skull. Nobody played Trauma Center, Muramasa or even the Okami re-release. These great titles collect dust on the shelf because people are waiting for next edition of New Super Mario Gets a Fixed Rate Mortgage Party 8.  I cannot think of how many times I’ve heard “yeah we got a Wii because it was available but we never turn it on.” As far as I am concerned Nintendo dropped the ball.


And you idiots have probably never even seen this game before…

Needless to say the past two E3 conferences did nothing to restore my faith in Nintendo. They teased a new system and then in the E3 before its release they headline by saying “we can’t show you everything because we don’t have time.” Not a great start when introducing your new console. You don’t freak’n start off your presser by telling me what you can’t do. They showed off their ridiculous update with the WiiU which came off to me as a Wii console with an additional Fischer Price tablet attached to it.

In the tried and true Nintendo fashion, they show me a new Mario game in New Super Mario Bros U. A title that looks exactly copy paste of the previous one with one token feature added to use their new tablet.  This is a game that shouldn’t exist, hell the previous game shouldn’t exist. Why? Because I already played this Mario game 20 years ago on the Super Nintendo. Oh but it didn’t stop there, they also pushed a new Pikmen game and Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Rad, two generic Mario platformers and an updated gamecube game so boring it can be prescribed as an insomnia cure by medical professionals.

They also tried to push something called Nintendoland which came off as a the WiiU’s version of Wii Sports. It is meant to show off what the Wii U can do but I will be damned if I am going to pay 300+ dollars to play Wii Bowling again.  I swear their conference could have made me grind my teeth into powder.

Wii
If you can tell the difference between the Wii and WiiU version, You’re probably a fanboy.

So flash forward to now: the system is released and it looks like they continue the trend of withholding consoles to drive up demand and make it difficult to get. It is an aggravating strategy but it seems to work for them, but as with most consoles it will be their 3rd party support that will determine their successfulness. They started off on the right foot by making an original title such as ZombieU a day one launch release. And admittedly, they have a decent selection of third party games such as Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition, Mass Effect 3, Trine 2, Darksiders 2, and Tekken Tag Tourney 2. It’s just a shame that I’ve already played and beaten most of these titles months ago. It just feels like Nintendo is trying to play catch up.

wii-u-comic

Look, I don’t want this to sound as a rant to smash the Nintendo fanboys. A friend once told me “owning a game console isn’t like having a wife, you are allowed to have more than one of them.”  It’s a simple statement that makes a lot of sense. I’m an adult who works, and if I want to own all three systems then why not?

But frankly, I have had it with this company. What is the point of trying to race out a new system with improved hardware and a new innovative way to playing it if you only want to keep rehashing Super Mario World over and over again? It’s been 20+ years of being fed the exact same games from this company. With each release it just seems like their popular series continue to devolve into a shell of what they were 20 years ago. Every once in a while this fine for a retro charm or throwback but when you do it the point of ignoring all the innovation you are creating, you are wasting both yours and my time and money.

The bottom line here is that Nintendo is a business. They aren’t in it for the passion of making games. They are in it because they are trying to make money. Somewhere along the line they discovered that pleasing the “fans” and the “hardcore gamers” is not a lucrative market. The Wii sold so well because it was an innovative and new system, and clever enough that the non-gamer masses wanted to try it. But “Non-gamer” is the key word here. Just take a look at their promotional imagery: Little Kids, Seniors, Female adults. They were looking to push the console sales to more untapped demographics, not the games sales.

nintendo-ads
I am a gamer, I have spent years as a social outcast to play games. It’s what I do and it’s what I enjoy. So you will have to pardon me for this rant, but I can’t help but feel that Nintendo has turned their backs on us. Sure, they’re a business and thats the game they are in. They only want to court those who can fill their pockets the most and in their eyes they don’t owe us anything. But they forget it was gamers that made them what they are. I don’t expect the WiiU to explode for them like the Wii did because many of the Wii owners know they barely used their system.

That is really the main thing I feel that made the Wii so successful. They were able to cash on a group of people who are intimidated the plane cockpit that is the modern game controller by producing a simple remote you only needed one or two buttons to play. Now they are going to try to weasel that crowd again by emulating the modern controller and slapping a tablet in the middle. I think its going to bite them on the ass.

But who cares what I think? Nintendo isn’t making shit for me anymore. I’m not in their demographic. Nintendo never stopped making games for younger children and early teens. They never changed their strategy or their market. It was me that got older and my interests changed.  So maybe that’s why I noticed the games never seemed to change, because every 5 or more years a new system comes out and their aiming for a new crop of young’ns with the tried and true formulas that have been so successful for so long. But as they produce their new system boasting powerful graphics and hardware, if are trying to compete with the major players for the hardcore crowd their going to have to bring more to the party.

I am willing to give Nintendo another try. I’m willing to put up with all their new gimmicks and children’s toys they seem content to put out. But if I’m gonna give a little, you’re going to have to meet me half way Nintendo. I have a very simple rule of thumb: if I can’t come up with 7 games I’d play on a system, I don’t buy it. In Nintendo’s case, its going to be 7 games that don’t include Mario, Metroid, Zelda, or Kirby.  I want you to show me that you can still innovate games as well as controllers.  You started off good with ZombieU and you somehow managed to weasel Bayonetta 2 as an exclusive, but I am going to wait and see if you can deliver more titles I can only find on your system again for the hardcore crowd, or at least the avid gamer.

I’m not holding my breath though.