So I finally got a PlayStation 4. I wasn’t going to, but I did say I’d get one if an Uncharted game came out for it. An Uncharted game IS coming out for the PS4, so there you go.
The addition of a PS4 pretty much brings my gaming hardware collection up to date. I’ve also just got a PS Vita, which I previously saw no reason to own, but more on that later.
The ability to play and compare the gaming experiences on Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4 and PC is for me what this games journalism thing is all about.
I’ve watched as consumers and industry alike have been comparing apples with oranges pitting the Xbox One against the PS4. Of course, in a brute force willy-waving contest the PC will forever be king, but while a PC gamer will be reluctant to discuss it, PC gaming comes with its own pitfalls.
Back to my new PS4.
Whilst I was first in the queue for the Xbox One, I missed out on a PS4 at launch. With all the stock allocation fun and games, there was no way I was putting my money down on a console that would arrive in the “next shipment”. I wanted to walk into a store with cash and walk out with a shiny new Sony console.
That opportunity happened a few weeks ago.
I was in Sydney, Darling Harbour to be precise, for something completely unrelated to games. I thought I’d go to the nearby EB Games, now managed by the former manager of my local EB and have a chat with him about EB’s PS4 stock allocation.
As I moaned about the EB website being out of PS4s he said, “Are you after one?” to which I replied yes. “I’ve got one in the back”, he added, “Do you want it”. Indeed, I bloody well did.
I parted with my cash for the machine and a copy of Killzone Shadow Fall and headed off into the humid Sydney CBD.
I nursed that box of fun on the train all the way back to shanethegamer.com Australian HQ. What happened next must rate as the mother of third world problems: where should I plug in my new video game console?
As a PC gamer, I’m used to being perched in front of a monitor playing games. When I got my Xbox 360 my monitor was the only HD thing in the house. By the time I got a PS3 I had an HDTV and with all the PS3’s multimedia apps like Vidzone and On Demand TV, it made sense to put the thing in the lounge.
The Xbox 360 on the other hand, always felt like a game console rather than the all-round entertainment system that the Blu-ray (3D…ahem) playing PS3 was. In time, I got an Xbox 360 under the TV but my main 360 is still plugged into my monitor.
In this generation it seems that things have switched around. It is the Xbox One that comes across as a family entertainment device with the PS4, in comparison, being more of a bare-bones games console.
Whilst Microsoft has, in all fairness been a bit confused as to what an Xbox One actually is. Sony has been straight up about the PS4.
The PlayStation 4 is a games console for playing games, so with that I mind it seemed fitting to place the Sony machine next to my PC and plug it into my 27 inch monitor.
The PS4’s primary role as games console is immediately apparent by what you can’t do with it straight out of the box. Whilst the Xbox One is equipped a load of internet-based TV outlets and stuff to do, the PS4’s front-end is relatively empty in comparison.
And that’s fair enough.
I’ve been playing game previews on the PlayStation 4 since the middle of last year, but it was only when I got hold of one myself that I was able to mess about with the new user interface.
I’m not a fan of the Xbox 360 dashboard and that extends to the Xbox One Metro dashboard as well. I don’t want my TV to look like a mobile phone interface.
The PS4 UI is very clean-cut with a bar at the top for your Store access, Notifications, Friends and all that gaming admin stuff; the things that you are going to need quick access to.
Below that there are the installed apps and games, in alphabetical order. It’s early days yet, but already it’s a pretty long list and takes a while to cycle through; with the all-encompassing library icon right at the end.
The whole thing is much simpler than the overwhelming array of coloured boxes on the Xbox One dashboard, and that’s because you can’t do anything with it. The PS4 UI comes with zero customisation options. You can’t even change the colour scheme. I’m sure it’s coming, but that’s where we are right now.
Then again, Sony’s console isn’t about having a salmon pink background or divvying up your application icons into some sort of warped taxonomy. The PlayStation 4 is about playing games.
Apart from availability, the other thing that drew me to the Xbox One over the PS4 was the quality of first party games. It was the same for the Xbox 360.
For every Uncharted on the PS3 the 360 had two Gears of War. To be honest the Uncharted series and later Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us were the only Sony exclusives that I really pinned for, prior to release.
We have the same situation with the PS4 right now. I’ve been having a whale of a time on the Xbox One smashing zombies in Dead Rising 3. Hell, I even loved Ryse: Son of Rome. And Forza 5, whilst not the Gran Turismo 6 beater it should have been, is a better racer than the PS4 has right now.
Then there’s Titanfall. ‘Nuff said about that, suffice to say it’s the game that most PS4 owners wish they were playing right now…Maybe Titanfall 2?
Looking to the future we have Halo, Remedy’s Quantum Break and, no doubt, a Gears of War to look forward to. All Xbox One exclusives.
The PS4 has Knack (which I understand to be rubbish), Killzone Shadow Fall and, more recently, inFAMOUS Second Son. In the future? Drive Club, Deep Down and The Order: 1886, all unproven titles that we know little about. The PS4 has heaps of third party games to look forward to, but not much that I can’t play on an Xbox One.
As I said earlier, I consider myself primarily a PC gamer, and I have been since I first put a PC together back in 1998. Before that I was a Commodore Amiga gamer and before that I was a ZX Spectrum gamer (and going back even further, a ZX81 gamer). I only climbed on board the console wagon with the original PlayStation, as I sat neatly in their demographic and Tomb Raider was a bloody good game.
In the video gaming version of rock, paper, scissors a decent PC cuts the PlayStation and breaks Xbox. Like Chuck Norris, nothing beats a PC- except driver issues, incompatibilities, phases of the moon, fatal exception errors and back luck.
The modern PC is descended from a lineage of office equipment designed to process words and display spreadsheets. They were never meant to be overly-expensive elitist games consoles. But that is exactly what they are today.
The great thing about consoles is you buy a game, put it in and play it. If only the same could be said about PC games. The amount of time I’ve spent tinkering with my PC configuration to get a new game running just isn’t funny. Thankfully these days it is no longer such a common occurrence. But it can still happen and, infuriatingly, the chances are you are just one of thousands of people having the same problem due to your choice of AMD/nVIDIA* (*delete as applicable) video card. PC gaming can be a right pain in the arse.
The flip side to all this is that a decent, properly put together PC will outperform any console. Apart from the obvious console exclusives, these days the PC version is the definitive version of any multiplatform release. And, of course there are plenty of amazing PC games like the Total War series that will never see the light of day on console.
In the PS4, Xbox One and PC we have three very different platforms for three very different types of user.
In Part Two I’ll take a closer look at the PS4’s games and its place in the current hardware line-up.