Last year I wrote a blog on my newly purchased Xbox One, initially I was frustrated, but over time I came to understand the system a bit more, and currently it's one of my more played consoles. Last year I had to make that call between getting the Xbox One and Playstation 4, I've gone on record of saying how little use it is having both because they are (much to my disappointment) essentially the same system. For most people there isn't enough difference in their catalogs to justify owning both...but I'm not most people.
This year I was legitimately going to wait. I told myself, I don't need the PS4, I can play essentially everything but the PS4 exclusives, and none of them thus far looked good enough to purchase a system over. But when my dad offered to pony up $250 of the price tag when the system sold for $300 on black Friday, it's pretty hard to say no.
Another thing I've gone on record as saying is that I have beef with Sony, not to the point of hating the company or refusing to buy their consoles, but certainly to the point where I have to admit I do have some bias in my opinions. But in the words of the immortal Kevin Butler "Though we may pledge fanboy allegiances to different flags, deep down inside we all serve one master, on king, and his name is gaming, forever may he reign".
So yesterday was the big day, the day I finally got my hands on the Playstation 4. So the question is: what do I think? Honestly, I have some mixed feelings, but no overly strong opinions. Let's start with the good shall we?
I love the minimalist design, it's possibly my favorite aspect of the system thus far. One of the reasons I love the Gamecube is because it wasn't full of bloated features I don't need and doesn't try to shove things down my throat, and in many ways the PS4 shares that philosophy. Nothing feels superfluous on the PS4, it's not difficult to hook up, there's no bulky proprietary power brick that has to be tucked away, games install quickly, I can can upgrade the internal hard drive unlike Wii U and Xbone, and even the menus feel right, it's basically minimalist. It's not a loud system, and I don't need to juggle controllers like Wii U or buy extra battery packs or headphone adapters like Xbone. If Sony's motto for PS3 was "it only does everything" their motto for the PS4 should be "it just plays games". Now obviously it has other features but they are nicely tucked away and mostly non intrusive.
The controller is vast improvement over the Dual Shock 3. I never had a problem with the Dual Shock 1 and 2, they were great controllers for their time, but that was before we really started implementing dual analog controls. The design started to show its age when it remained unchanged last generation, the feel and placement of the analog sticks and squishy triggers made me want to avoid any game that involved shooting, and there were a ton of games like that. Thankfully, the DS4 has much better analog sticks where my thumbs can rest without worry about slipping off or bumping into each other, the L1 and L2 feel better, but the triggers are a godsend. I love the texture on the back, the included headphone port, and the compatibility with the PS3.
The OS feels solid all around. It's snappy, responsive and well laid out. I never particularly liked the Xross media bar used by the PSP and PS3. It seemed well laid out with more options than you can shake a stick at, but you soon realize that it's easy to get lost and even basic functionality can be difficult, managing data was a particular pain. The "orbis" OS is far better laid out with room for expansion (something sorely lacking in the original Xbox One layout). Load times are quick and it's far more inviting than previous GUI's.
What about the bad? My biggest gripe thus far is the exclusive catalog, or the lack thereof. Now there are exclsuive games, but cleaned up PS3 games aren't exactly winning me over. Nothing against Uncharted, The Last of Us or God of War 3, but I've played all those games and no resolution increase or framerate jump is going to change the fact that these are old games in a new generation, games I can get for a song on PS3. I'm also pretty lukewarm on the current offerings, The Order 1886, Infamous Second Son and Drive Club may be good, but not $60 games. I do have hope for the future though, Street Fighter, Uncharted 4, Final Fantasy VII remake and Ratchet and Clank all are exciting. I'm even keeping an open mind about games like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, and Shenmue III.
I have bit of a beef with the build quality. It's not bad per se, it's just not up to what equates to a $400 machine. There's this general rule that I have that you can tell the quality of a piece of electronic equipment by its weight, and the PS4 despite being about 30% larger and significantly more powerful than my Wii U, feels about the same weight, maybe slightly heavier. It doesn't even hold a candle to the Xbox One though, that system just feels high end. The eject and power buttons do feel cheap, and it doesn't quite sit level, it rocks a bit, not a good thing for a disc based console.
I know I praised it for being streamlined and not forcing things in, but a couple of additions would have been nice. A rear USB port with support for external storage would be amazing. Also, their version of backwards compatibility is a joke, paying to download PS2 games or streaming PS3 games is not the consumer friendly attitude that won them E3 2013. How about if we owned the digital copy of the PS2 or PS3 game we can download or stream for free? Even if it required a PS+ account I wouldn't complain too much. I still don't like having to pay for playing online, but I can see that's where things are going, Nintendo's online is free, but even the most avid fanboy wouldn't put Nintendo network in the same league as PSN and Xbox Live.
Overall though, I'd say the system feels right. I don't see it being particularly better than Xbox One, it's very similar, just as I expected. Even Wii U, despite not having nearly the horsepower feels like it belongs right alongside Xbox One and PS4 in the same generation. I'm neither overly impressed or disappointed, I'm just glad I have access to all 3 consoles and can play most anything that comes out. I still need to get a Vita for remote play, and NX is most likely coming out in November so my satisfaction won't last long. So I'm sure there will be another hardware blog next year, until then I'll be playing my PS4 alongside my Wii U, Xbox One and 3DS.