Welcome to the latest entry in the console wars, Sony’s Playstation 4. It’s been selling out at major retailers both online and offline since the midnight of its release day and even some of the games themselves at some stores have been coming up in short supply.
We’re gonna give you a tour of the new cross media bar, show you all the nifty social media sharing features and tell you why we think the PS4 may be the console to beat this holiday season.
In the box, you get the system itself, an AC adapter and an HDMI cable, as well as some very small earbuds and a mic. You also get a PSN code for a $10 credit and a free 30 days of PSPlus. You also get a few booklets, outlining wonderfully entertaining safety information and a diagram of the Dualshock 4.
Once you set everything up, including selecting the language, getting your internet going and downloading your mandatory (mandatory if you want to enable any of the fun stuff, anyway) day one patch, you’ll be treated to a nifty new evolution of the infamous cross media bar.
Large icons all in a row denote What’s New (what your friends have been playing lately, as well as their accomplishments in various PS4 games), a few icons show what you’ve been playing or what you’ve recently installed, there’s a video icon, which lets you check out Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and other less popular video streaming services such as Hulu Plus, Crackle, Epix, NBA TV, NHL Center Ice, etc. There’s an internet browser icon, which opens up a browser. There’s a music streaming icon, and at the end of the main bar is a Library icon, reserved for your digital downloads only, which can be accessed from any PS4.
Above this main bar is a row of smaller icons, which is where most of the features lie. The PS Store icon is first and features only PS4 content, either digital games available to purchase or PS3 to PS4 upgradeable games.
Notifications is the next icon and informs you of everything happening on your PS4, from trophies you’ve earned to friend requests, to items downloaded or downloading.
The friends icon is next and is where you manage all your friends and friend requests, as well as real name requests (people can request to see your real name), and tells you how many friends you have, and how many are currently online.
The messages icon keeps track of any messages you’ve received or sent. Exciting, huh?
The profile icon lets you edit your online profile, and choose what’s available to view and to whom.
The trophies icon lets you check out all your shiny trophies, and now gives a rarity status on each trophy, going from common to ultra rare. This status changes over time, depending on the percentage of people on PSN who collect each particular trophy. You can also view this status for your PS3 trophies. I’m not afraid to admit that one of my extremely rare Diablo 3 trophies makes me proud. =P
Last up before the Power Off icon is the Settings icon. Most of the settings that were on the PS3 are in here and can be fiddled with. Instead of the apparently confusing “Display” and “Audio” titled options, the Video and Audio settings are now marked by “Sound and Screen” which makes it seem like people had trouble with large words like video, display or audio. =P
The uniquely old school start and select buttons on the Dualshock 4 have been replaced by the new “Share” and “Options” button. The share button, while it may conjure up images of emotional sharing around a campfire, actually gives you the option to share in game screenshots, video, or broadcast a live stream of your gaming to twitch or ustream.
Actually the whole console seems focused around the idea of getting your gaming life onto the internet in some form or other. You can link your Facebook and Twitter accounts for people to see what you’ve been playing. You can even link your Facebook to your Netflix account so people can judge you on the copious amounts of anime you watch daily. You can upload a screenshot or the last 15 seconds of gameplay as a video with the touch of a button. Now budding streamers can live broadcast their hoop dreams in NBA2k14 (or any game) to twitch and Ustream on the fly.
Remote play using the PSVita is seamless on the few titles I’ve tried, however, it doesn’t do well with games that require precise controls like Resogun, or games with that require multiple buttons like Killzone Shadow Fall. Killzone on the Vita seems particularly cumbersome, as the top two triggers are remapped to the Vita’s touchpad tap sensor, making things a bit confusing.
Interestingly, some games let you download the single player campaign, or the multiplayer campaign first, depending on which you would rather play and have the remaining one downloading in the background. Games like NBA2k14 will perform a cursory mandatory install, then you may elect to play a quick match, while the full game continues to download in the background. This quick match will feature a lack of options and no commentary, but its still a way to get in the game fast if you’re the particularly impatient type.
In general the new interface is slick and snappy and ultra responsive. If you have a penchant for media sharing, the PS4 seems right up your alley, so to speak. Only time will tell how it fares this holiday season against the X1, (and presumably the Wii U) but either way, gaming into 2014 and beyond looks bright, to say the least.