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There’s something to be said for respecting the past. Many choose to live in it and some choose to ignore it, but those who choose to embrace the lessons the past can offer tend to be better for it. Sony has learned. They have taken the advice of those that so often held them in high regard and have crafted a wonderfully mature product that is set to get better as it ages.

Console Design

The Playstation 4 is an incredibly sleek piece of hardware. The design lines that comprise its outer shell are very simple, but serve to illuminate the features that make the aesthetic beauty of the machine standout; features like a light bar that displays the machine’s status during operation (white during play, pulsing blue during boot-up and shut-down, and orange during stand-by).

The sleek design is complimented by a very sparse set of input/output features. Gone are the days of color-coded, analog hookups; arrived is the digital-only age of gaming. In most instances these features are welcome risks from Sony, but they chose to play it safe in sticking with 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi instead of upgrading to 802.11ac. This choice has yet to effect my use of the console, and happened to allow the price point to stay relatively low at launch, but it definitely would have aided in the remote play and cloud-based gaming that the PS4 offers.

Overall, this compact, lightweight machine looks fantastic in an entertainment center and is really quite nice to watch operate.

DualShock 4

I honestly did not believe that anyone would top Microsoft’s Xbox 360 controller, but the DualShock 4 is growing on me.

When I first picked it up, I thought the DualShock 4 was going to be far too wide due to the inclusion of the touchpad. I can comfortably admit to my being very wrong in that regard. There isn’t a single section of this controller that I can’t easily access at any point during play sessions. Even the Xbox 360 controller housed that middle “X” button that took a hefty stretch to reach, and the DualShock 3 had a myriad of issues; you just won’t find these types of problems with the DualShock 4.

The extension of the bottom half of the controller, along with the porous surfaces used along the back and on the thumbsticks, truly allows for a feeling of tight control. Whereas the DualShock 3 felt very loose and cheap in my hands, the DualShock 4 feels strong and powerful. This strength and inherent sense of control are never more evident than in a high-octane FPS where such attributes are needed to succeed.

The newer inclusions on the controller (touchpad, lightbar, mono-speaker) aren’t being utilized in many of the PS4’s launch games, so I can’t comment on them in-depth as of right now. I can tell you that in the two instances in which I have used them (touchpad in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the mono-speaker in Resogun) they have operated just as I would expect them to. There is obvious potential in these features, we’re just going to have to be patient whilst the developers learn to use them in-game.

XMB

I stand a bit torn when it comes to the new XMB. I have always been a fan of the simplicity offered by Sony’s dashboard setup and am truly enjoying that infrastructure on the PS4, but the social features seem tacked on and childish to me.

Up until this point, I have been able to keep my utter disdain for social media apart from my gaming experience, but Sony has made it much more difficult for me this go-around. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the stellar messaging system and the ability to share clips with my friends, because I most definitely do. It is to say, though, that a prompt to login to the vapid pit of despair known as Facebook whilst attempting to upload a clip from ACIV is less than stellar. In the future, I would love to login to YouTube and be able to upload/edit on my own terms. Alas, time will tell with such wishes.

One area of social excellence that I particularly enjoy is the new trophy listing. Instead of just a mere list of trophies, you can now see how rare each trophy is in comparison to all those who have achieved the same. For instance, the average bronze trophy will be nabbed up by a large portion of the gaming populace, garnering a “common” moniker. In direct opposition, a platinum trophy will more than likely not be achieved by the majority and will garner a “very rare” moniker. It’s a small social addition, but it’s the kind I would really like to see more of.

While the big-display design of the XMB is stellar, I would love to have the ability to customize what I see in my personal feed. As of right now, said feed is chronological in nature, which can lead to some serious scrolling in the hunt for your target. The “What’s New” feature suffers from the same unorganized, time-based mess.

I would like to see Sony either allow for personal customization, or go the route they went with the notifications section. The notifications menu separates your activity by broad category (games, messaging, downloads, etc). This type of delineation would be most excellent for those of us less interested in the latest Tweet and more interested in our latest in-game accomplishments.

I’d like to extend a personal thank you to Sony for not turning the XMB into an advertising platform like certain other console developers. Not having to wade through obnoxious advertising is a breath of fresh air in comparison to most modern OS.

Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough how well the Playstation 4 multi-tasks. There is nothing standing in the way of seamlessly switching between applications. Sure, there is the occasional prompt to close an application before jumping into the next, but that is condition specific. If I want to jump out of a game and edit a piece of video, or a screen-cap, I can do so AND have my game waiting for me when I come back to it. There are many powerful attributes the PS4 brings to the table, but this is quickly becoming my favorite.

How?

We can talk until the stars fade to dust about how well the Playstation 4’s proprietary features function, but it’s really about the games. Unfortunately, I can’t take you through each one in this entry, but there are a couple of analogies that I would like to share with you that continually run through my head whilst playing.

The first, and least applicable to all, deals with getting a new pair of glasses. For those of us with an ocular deficiency, getting a new pair of lenses is a regular occurrence that is accompanied by a singularly fantastic realization. By the end of our term with the old lenses, scratches have accumulated to the point of haze and there are some serious oil deposits that need to be cleaned off daily. Needless to say, said lenses are not optimal for perfect vision.

When those new lenses come in, putting them on is akin to fog being blown off a beautiful horizon. There is a clarity involved that leaves you thinking one thing: “How in the hell did I ever think those old lenses were okay?”

Of course we inevitably mess that up with improper care, but the initial sentiment remains the same.

The second, and much more relatable (I hope), is the switch from an SD screen to an HD screen. Even those who feign disinterest in new tech take a second to marvel at the difference in clarity presented by this switch.

Inevitably, those of us who live for new tech are left thinking one thing: “How in the hell did I ever think standard definition was okay?”

I get it. I understand the endless march of time and our relativistic position in the technological evolution of humanity, but I have to tell you, dear reader, when I sit down with the PS4 I’m thinking: “How in the hell did I think last-gen was okay?”

Thanks for reading.

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3 Comments

  • One thing about PS4 that I'm not to fond of the amount fo steps it takes to send a message to someone. I hope this is fixed in a later patch, but I feel messaging should be accessible first than the XMB for other apps.

  • I don't see how they missed that feature before launch. It was one of the more common complaints from the PS3 era. At the same time, I don't see how they won't patch it into the existing framework soon.

  • Let us hope for such a patch. Let us hope.

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