Gaming: A Review of the Playstation 4

J.G. Barnes returns with a review of the Playstation 4.

I'm not made of money, and if I was, I would lack a conscious, be unable to type this sentence, and probably roughly resemble several of our earliest American Presidents. But, seriously, Sony needs to get on sending The Movie Sleuth some more hardware. I had to buy my own PS4, my own controllers, my own headset, and my own games! First, global warming, now game critics have to buy their own consoles. What's next? Another Iphone? Vietnam?!
If you're the standard issue American like me, and don't like your day inundated by pesky words, then you can read the following very brief sentence and skip the remainder of this review. The PS4 is awesome. Review's done. We can all go home now.

Before the PS4 was released we heard some horror stories of the packaged-in HDMI cables strangling first-born children, and consoles transforming into hot iron anvils that do nothing but stare a hole straight through your pathetic disillusionment. For some baffling reason, the drooling hive mind of the internet didn't have too much of a field day with the rumors and realized that, like, 12 consoles out of 1 freakin million were defective. Mine was not one of the dozen. Mmm... donuts.

Unlike the Xbox One, you can swap out the atrociously small 500GB hard drive with a new one and not void your warranty -- which I did on the day I welcomed the PS4 into my life. In case you didn't know, both next-gen consoles require ludicrously massive installs of every game you play, averaging somewhere around 35GB per title according to no actual math whatsoever. Thankfully, after unscrewing about ninety of the tiniest Phillips-head screws in the world and firmly thrusting all one-thousand of my hardest gigabytes into its willing slot, installing the necessary software updates, and hopping right into Killzone, the installs are hardly noticeable. The entire process, once I got the new hard drive in there, was shockingly pain free and fast.

Firing up Killzone: Shadowfall took a forgettable few moments to begin its installation before allowing me to start playing while the hard drive soaked up the remainder of Shadowfall's content. And holy crap do these graphics make my nether-parts tingle. Full 1080p and an entire 60 frames per second you'll hear very commonly thrown around lately concerning next-gen gaming, and particularly the PS4. I can't overstate how much of a difference it makes to play these games in-person on a great TV. Streaming sites like Youtube just cannot even remotely touch the quality you can expect when you fire up the PS4 on an award-winning Panasonic  50" plasma, and no you can't have it!

After rolling my jaw back up from my coffee table, I decided to download a few of the many free-to-play titles only available on PS4 (or PC). I've read many basement dwellers complaining that the UI is crowded. Crowded?! There are two rows of icons. TWO! What are you mouth breathers looking at? Navigating PSN through the refreshingly modest user interface is smooth sailing. I traversed the calm seas of the Playstation store and cued up Warframe, DC Universe Online, and Resogun to download, and tapped the PS button to instantaneously switch back to blasting future dudes into the sky with my dubstep gun, uninterrupted. The UI is impressively lean and fast.

And now, a review of Resogun. This game is like gourmet European chocolate in a store that sells only poop. 10 out of 10.

Does PS4 have a killer app? Well, what swayed me this console war was the huge indie support from Sony. It's not one major masterpiece that drew me to the blue -- even though The Order looks like it could be just that -- it's the towering selection of already excellent and proven indie and free-to-play games. You're going to be able to get some truly innovative and unique experiences on the PS4 besides the traditional shovelware shooters and sports titles. The launch window library is boiling over with variety. If you got into the smaller budget gems like Geometry Wars, PAC-man, Mark of the Ninja, Shadow Complex, and Fez, there is no other console that will offer nearly as many as the PS4. Resogun and Warframe are an amazing start to the onslaught headed straight to the PS4 across the next few months.

 I had three major fears about the PS4: the controller, the UI (which I already covered), and the online multi-player. First, the controller, in just about every single possible way has been vastly improved over what is the most dated and stubborn design in gaming. Without writing a book praising literally every single corner, groove, button, and texture, I'll mention a couple things. The touch pad adds a whole other thought process to your gaming, which was rather intimidating at first when I had to consider entirely new real estate of possibilities while in the middle of heated action. In Killzone, it operates and cues your drone to seek out and fire at or stun unsuspecting enemies, or throws out a zip-line to get you rapidly from one location to the next, or creates a one-way shield. In Warframe, the touch pad gets assigned your special abilities. Swiping up as the stealthy ninja, Loki, sends out a holographic decoy. Swiping down, renders your character invisible to quietly assassinate Greneer soldiers.

The analog sticks feel like quenching your infant thirst for fresh milk from the nipples of the Gods. This alone has squashed my irrational fear of symmetrical analog sticks. With only days until the XBox One launches, I can say, that at the time of this writing, the DS4 is the very best console controller I've ever felt and played with in my life. I'll reserve final judgment until Microsoft decides to send us out their console and I get to try it myself, but I have a funny feeling that will come out of The Movie Sleuth's pocket as well.

Finally, the online multiplayer. I was an Xbox guy this past generation. I owned all three past generation consoles, had my way with the Wii and tossed it to the curb like a bad one-night stand, and kept my PS3 around to use it for its blu-ray player and DLNA like a sweet and dangerous mistress, but the 360 was my true lover that had everything going for it that mattered most for gaming. The online offerings from the PS3 were always severely and awfully lacking. In fact, I don't think I ever once had a pleasant experience on it. Just about everything that could be bad about playing online was bad on the PS3. Even with the typical rough spots of a console launch regarding online play, the PS4 has been nothing but 100% responsive, immediate, and smooth. Not once had I experienced any lag beyond a single frame stutter when a new player was entering or exiting a match. Everything ran in full, glorious 60 frames per second as if I was playing offline solo rounds.

Uploading videos is nothing exclusive to either of the new next-gen consoles. Just testing it out, trimming the video, and sharing was easy and fast. The upload to my Facebook feed was eerily quick. This is a feature almost every gamer has been waiting for. Now you can capture the last 15 minutes of that ridiculously awesome k/d ratio you had and brag about it to people who care about such things. If only I had this back when I was a God at Pandora Tomorrow's Spies vs. Mercs. I can only reminisce about the old days like a washed up high school star quarterback with no evidence to back up my grandiose stories of days of yore. Now I can live like a king again!

Nothing is perfect, though, so you XBox fanboys can calm down over there. The UI, though slim, fit, and perky in all the right places, is too slim. There is no support for mp3, mp4 playback, or DLNA of any sort. This is a major detriment and takes the score down a very big notch. I was looking forward to cleaning out my TV stand and having the PS4 in all its lonely sexiness resting beneath my Panasonic, but now I have to keep my PS3 around until Sony decides to not be complete fools and reintroduce DLNA. Why they took it out in the first place is an inexcusable mystery.

Obviously, we're huge movie buffs over here at The Movie Sleuth, and to find DVD upscaling options entirely missing is another head scratcher. Plus, the color range by default is set to automatic which crushes out blacks and shadows while unnaturally boosting colors to obnoxiously radioactive heights. There aren't even descriptions of why exactly you would need to change these settings or what the benefits are to the average gamer. I noticed something was off when booting up Killzone for the first time and good chunk of the game's details were completely erased by inky black blobs of shadows. I had to crank the gamma to get a reasonable picture, which no one should have to do, and I'm curious how many people won't know better and will report underwhelming visual fidelity because of this.

There were a few minor things that were difficult to locate or unreasonably vague in the UI such as battery life of the controller or what exactly the controller does when it's charging or fully charged. It should be obviously indicated on the controller itself or apparent on the UI.

The same goes for friend requests. I shouldn't have to open the friend request notification, look at their profile, select another vague option, THEN finally accept or decline the request. I should be able to accept or decline requests right when I'm looking at them.

For my final gripe, I have only one thing to ask of Sony regarding the joke of a headset they packaged in with this $400 toy: How dare you?

Overall, the PS4 is a hugely impressive piece of hardware. The console design itself is sleek and conservative. The controller manages to trump the 360's near-perfection. The fact that it's slightly more powerful than its direct competition, frequently reported to be a breeze to program for, sports a vastly improved and sleek UI, overhauled online offerings, and its unprecedented indie console support, make the PS4 the gamer's console this launch despite some very sharp, but minor out-of-the-box low blows, which most are being fixed or reviewed by Sony as I type this, such as the case of the missing DLNA! Woo! For the next several months having a rather overwhelming variety of launch window titles and the aforementioned promising fixes coming down the pipe, the PS4 can't be more highly recommended.

-Review by J.G. Barnes