Being part of the tech press in South Africa is a good gig if you can get it. I’m currently at the press launch of the PlayStation 4, surrounded by big screen TVs hooked up to PlayStation 4 consoles ahead of the official launch on Friday, and life is good.
I’ve spent the last few hours with my grubby mitts all over the console, and I’m very, very impressed. It’s been hard to maintain my steely journalistic cynicism in the face of what I’ve seen so far, because before I’m a journalist, I’m a gamer, and the gamer in me likes what he sees. The journalist in me keeps trying to be cynical and dismissive, but my inner gamer keeps telling him to shut up because wow, this console is pretty sweet.
My first impression of the PS4 was a surprise: despite all the videos I’ve seen and pictures I’ve scrutinised, in real life the PlayStation 4 is a lot squarer than I was expecting. It’s also a lot thinner, so in all it looks even sleeker and sexier than pictures led me to believe.
My second impression was one of wonder: the new PlayStation’s controller that I had spent a brief moment with at rAge 2013 feels even better than I remember. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it feels even nicer to hold than the Xbox 360’s controller, which has long been my favourite. The weight of it, the position of the buttons and the general feeling of quality and care it conveys all come together magnificently to create a controller I will be very happy to spend thousands of hours with over the next ten years.
And then I watched it boot up for the first time. It’s not quite as fast as I was hoping, but it’s no slouch out of the starting blocks either, arriving on the main interface in less than a minute. As the units at the event aren’t hooked up to the internet, the interface wasn’t very interesting, leaving me with just a few options to look at. Unfortunately, the things I wanted to see the most, like the PS4’s much-touted sharing abilities and integrated social features were not available for my perusal due to the lack of internet.
Moving around the interface proved smooth, of course, and as I’m a long-time PS3 gamer I was immediately familiar with the way it worked. The menu isn’t exactly the same though, as it keeps some of the less regularly-accessed options hidden, requiring a press of the up key to access them.
Killzone: Shadow Fall was the game I was most interested in, and I got to see it install and boot, a process that took a few minutes. It took two minutes or so to install enough data for the game to load, with the rest installing in the background as the game ran, as per Sony’s promise.
While I didn’t play for long, I was astounded by the quality and smoothness of Killzone’s graphics. I’ve read a lot of articles written by overseas journalists where they said they weren’t super-impressed with the PS4’s graphics capabilities, and I must respectfully disagree – what I saw of Killzone looked like it was running on a high-end PC, and each scene was stuffed to the gills with thoughtful details: the realistic raindrops running down Lucas’ father’s face is but one of many visual touches that left a lasting impression on me, and I look forward to seeing how other developers will make similarly good use of the PS4’s graphics capabilities over time.
Everything I experienced of the PlayStation 4 today says to me that Sony knows what it’s doing. Whether it will “win” the “console wars” this generation remains to be seen, as I can’t compare it directly to its competition yet, but so far the PS4 appears to be a rock-solid gaming console that will please gamers, no matter what their existing affiliations might be.
The PlayStation 4 goes on sale this Friday, and will cost you R6 299.95. You can shop around for bundle deals that throw in an extra controller and maybe a launch title; expect to pay around R7500 for those. There are nine launch titles that you will be able to buy and play on release day, including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4 and Killzone: Shadow Fall.
As for me, I’m now looking forward to getting my own PS4 more than ever just based on the time I’ve spent with it so far, and am looking forward to reporting more on it once I’ve become even more intimately acquainted with its inner workings.