- November 17th, 2013
It's 5AM and I'm having trouble sleeping. I've been having a devil of a time staying asleep for the past 3 weeks or so. Some of it has been my own doing (Marvel Puzzle Quest in bed is a rough addiction), but mainly my brain has gone off the rails. My best guess is that lack of decompression with work combined with an intense accounting study schedule has put my body into a constant "watch your back" type state. If that's the case, I'll probably have to learn to cope with it since I have at least another 2 years of classes and this is not a program I'm going to lollygag on.
On the upside, I did just get to see my two cats engaged in a rather amusing game. The orange one was sitting on my lap with his tail dangling off my knee. The black and gray cat came over and started trying to grab the orange cat's tail. The orange cat noticed and started moving his tail around in a game of keep away. He was actually intentionally baiting the other cat and watching him hop around! They went at it like that for 5 hilarious minutes.
Since I'm up, I may as well chime in with my rather limited impressions of the PlayStation 4. Like a lot of people, I preordered one back in June from Amazon. Between no requirement for a down payment and my wonderful shipping experiences on expensive electronics items, I have become a big fan of Amazon for items like these. Anytime I can avoid walking into the den of filth known as Gamestop is a welcome (non) happenstance indeed. I figured I'd cancel the preorder if I decide I didn't want one. When my PS3 drive died and I had to have it repaired, I pretty much set myself that I'd get the PS4 if I could fund it from a PS3 sale and non-wage related cash. A couple of well-timed eBay auctions and a small writing project foot the bill nicely.
I received my PS4 without incident on Friday. Setup was a snap, though linking my PSN account did take more than an hour thanks to Sony's network experiencing "launch day" levels of traffic. After doing some homework, I pulled out my Disney WOW Bluray and calibrated the PS4's HDMI input to my TV. Since then, I haven't had much time to tinker, but I have been trying to get a feel for the new system.
From a usability perspective, I like the new controller and the tweaks that Sony has made to the graphical user interface. The tablet style icons and zen-like background music certainly fit my personality, though I am bummed that there's no way to changes themes yet. My biggest gripe about controlling the system is that Sony doesn't currently have a media-focused remote control on the market yet. That's how I mainly used the PS3, so going back to a controller seems weird to me. It works, but it's not my preference.
From a games perspective, I can't say much about the launch lineup. None of the games apart from Need for Speed Rivals remotely interest me (FPS games, yech), and that's not a priority purchase for me since I already have plenty of racing/driving games. I did play some of the free games, notably Contrast and Resogun. They're OK, but aren't anything the PS3 or 360 couldn't do. These days, I'm not much of a gamer, so my lack of enthusiasm is probably more due to that and less about the system's launch lineup. That said, they could have gotten $60 from me had it shipped with something like Gran Turismo, God of War, or Tekken.
For the last year roughly, having a PlayStation Plus subscription has pretty much been a "must have" for PS3 owners. The amount of free content more than justified the $50/year price. Right now, the PS4 barely has any Plus exclusive content, and the few games that are available free aren't the sorts of things people will be clamoring over. Anyone that already has a subscription will probably be satisfied in the short-term just from the cloud save-game storage, but those that aren't signed on to the service would likely be better served waiting a few months until the content matches the price of admission.
From a media perspective, I have mixed feelings. Streaming video options are plentiful, but my TV already has all of the same apps (and more). There's no way yet to allow the system to yank media off of my laptop. As a BluRay player, the PS4 loads discs even faster than the PS3 did. I love that. I don't love that Sony didn't ship the system with BluRay 3D capability. It has all of the necessary hardware; 3D just isn't baked into the software. As someone that enjoys 3D movies from time to time, this could become a deal breaker for me in a few months. I hope they'll just put out an update, like they eventually did for the PS3. If they don't, I'll probably sell the PS4 and get a wicked cheap PS3-slim and bank the difference.
That may sound crazy, but I'm more of a movie guy than a gaming guy these days... when I have free time anyway. I'm just the sort that prefers an all-in-one device. A game system that plays movies is my preference, especially since my experience with the PS3 was that it was a wonderful BluRay player.
I do have to give Sony kudos for the PS4's video output. I'm one of those freaks that calibrates his TV whenever a new piece of hardware is attached to it. Running through the expert Disney WOW tests was a breeze on the PS4. Black levels, white levels, and color accuracy are darn near perfect right out of the box. The PS3 needed a red push and an across the board increase in white balance. I was thrilled to be able to dial those tweaks back for the PS4.
Audio output options actually work as designated on the PS4. The PS3 had all sorts of issues sending DTS codecs. The PS4 does Linear PCM, Bitsream D.D., and Bitstream DTS as its supposed to. Interesting to note, though, is that you can set the game and movie settings independently. If you set games to PCM (for some reason), you can bring up the options menu while a movie is playing and set it to Bitstream... and the setting will stick for all future movies. I'm not sure how useful that independently split is, but I can say that I like the way the PS4 and my Sony receiver get along. So many directional effects, yum!
On the whole, I currently have a lackluster vibe from the PlayStation 4. This is probably the tenth console I've purchased at its launch, so that sentiment (or lack thereof) is tempered with the fact that initial game line-ups and features are always a let-down compared to what finally materializes about 3 to 6 months down the road when companies aren't simply scrambling to take advantage of Christmas shoppers. I know the people getting the Xbox One next week are going to have their own "mixed bag" feelings. This is just the way it is at launch.