In Part One I wrote about my new PlayStation 4’s hardware and my initial thoughts on how it stacked up against against the power of the PC and its console rival, Microsoft’s Xbox One. Now it’s time to look at some of the PS4’s games.
I’d played pretty much every single AAA title, or what passes for a AAA title on the new consoles at the moment, but the Sony exclusive Killzone Shadow Fall had, so far, eluded me. So it seemed like the perfect game to use to take my new console out for a test drive.
I’ve enjoyed the Killzone series since Killzone 2, I never played the first game, always intending to pick it up of the PSN, but never getting around to it. Suffice to say I’ve found the PS3 Killzone games, both the campaign and the multiplayer, to be very good.
Set in the far future, after humans have colonised the heavens, the Killzone series tells the tale of the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA) versus the Helghast, who bear more than an unfortunate resemblance to Nazis.
The game features an inspired and varied set of locations. At no time did I feel like I was slogging along an overly familiar set of corridors, wasteland, industrial complex etc. Shadow Fall has you taking in the sights in a lush wilderness, an abandoned space station and a Helgan slum among others.
The game environments are amazingly detailed offering me a visual feast of such quality that I was, quite frankly, taken aback. None of the previous Killzone games have been shabby in the graphics department but this one looks gorgeous. I’m a great fan of some of the classic British comicbook artists and this looks like it was rendered by Don Lawerence, of the later Dan Dare strips and The Trigan Empire. It’s a beautiful rendered game with not a jagged edge or V-sync screen-tear in sight.
Shadow Fall makes good use of the PS4’s Dual Shock controller’s touch pad, which is used to send orders to your drone companion. The pad’s internal speaker, a tinny-sounding little thing, burst into life when I played an audio file. The first time was a true WTF, almost controller dropping moment. I never expected my controller to talk to me.
Developer, Guerrilla Games has done an amazing job with the game’s visuals. They’ve really showcased the PS4’s day-one capabilities with Shadow Fall. This is the PS4’s Ryse: Son of Rome. But as fun as I found Ryse to be, Killzone Shadow Fall is the better game.
As well as picking up Killzone with the console, a couple of Australian publishers kindly sent me some of their games to try out on the PS4.
EA Games provided me with a copy of Battlefield 4– a game that I’ve been playing on PC since its release. Ubisoft provided me with a copy of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag another game that I’ve experienced on several game platforms, including the Xbox One.
Whilst the PC is, of course, my primary Battlefield 4 machine, in the interest of science, I’ve also been playing the game on Xbox One. It’s good on Microsoft’s box and the Kinect enabled lean and head tracking works well (lean better than the head-tracking).
Graphically the Xbox One version is alright, but not a patch on the glorious visuals bestowed upon me by my PC. Still, it’s a bloody good effort and the whole 64-player (plus two commanders) is a vast improvement over the nasty cut-down versions of the series that console owners had to put up with last-gen.
As impressed as I was with Battlefield 4 on the Xbox One, the PS4 version blew me away. It is nearly identical to the PC version. It was only by flicking between the PC and PS4 that I could discern the console’s slightly lower-res textures and few more jaggies. They are so close.
I’m not sure if the PS4 version has the Xbox One’s lean and head-tracking, I assume it does in some capacity, but I’ve not bothered with Sony’s camera right now. Whereas I’ve used SmartGlass for the Battlefield apps with both the Xbox One and PC version of Battlefield 4; the PlayStation Vita’s second screen app for the PS4 version didn’t do anything, which was a bit weird.
Both console versions seem to give a bit of aim assistance to the player compared to the PC game. It may be just me, but I found myself a crack shot on the consoles compared to my decidedly average aiming skills on the PC.
Whilst the PC version of Battlefield 4 is without a doubt the definitive version of the game, the PS4 version is visually a close second. Regardless of the above, from a gameplay point of view all three deliver a solid single-player campaign and a superb multiplayer experience.
In order to play Battlefield 4 (or any other game for that matter) online with a PS4 you now need to buy a PlayStation Plus subscription. It cost about ten bucks a month and covers you for all your PlayStation devices. You also get a few free games across all platforms each month. This extra cost removes one of the main gloats that PlayStation 3 fans have had, for almost a decade, directed at their Xbox 360 owning, Xbox Live subscribing, brethren.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a game that looks good on Xbox 360 and great on Xbox One. The main differences I noticed between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One was the way foliage moved as you sneaked through it and all the extra smoke (which is spectacular) during sea battles. Of course, the Xbox One’s overall visuals are better than the 360, but nothing ground-breaking.
As a game Black Flag takes Ubisoft’s flagship franchise in a new direction: out to sea in the company of Caribbean pirates. Players take on the role of Edward Kenway, a flawed but lovable rogue as he realises his destiny as an assassin.
The game refines the naval battles of Assassin’s Creed III to create an experience that is divided up two-thirds on land and one-third commanding your own pirate ship at sea. With a great story (featuring historical pirates) an exciting new Caribbean location and pirate battles, Black Flag is an easy game to recommend.
On the Xbox One version of the game I noticed a rather nasty shimmer when rotating the camera, so nasty that I tried to counter it using the TV’s smoothing options. Nothing worked but after a while just I stopped noticing it.
The shimmer is there in the PS4 version, but nowhere near as obvious (in fact I really had to look for it). Both versions of the game utilise only a very conservative amount of anti-aliasing. The PS4 version’s higher resolution does go some way to reducing the amount of visible jaggies, though.
I think that the Xbox One version of Black Flag is supposed to utilise the Kinect. For what, I don’t know- it was never actually made apparent whilst I was playing it. PS4 specific features seem to be limited to using the DualShock 4 touchpad to scroll around the map- not very imaginative, but hey at least they tried.
Both the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Black Flag look very nice, but the PS4 looks that much better. I can’t really say what it is and it was only by switching between the two that I could discern the difference. It could be a higher frame rate and it could be a higher resolution, but if I really had to choose I’d pick the PS4 version.
However, I tend to agree with what the game’s director, Ashraf Ismail, said to me last year, and that’s no matter what platform you choose to play Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, you are still going to get the definitive experience.
Halfway through writing this article PlayStation Australia sent me a copy of inFAMOUS Second Son to try.
With a new lead character, inFAMOUS Second Son is the ideal jumping in point for players unfamiliar with the series. Whilst I played the first game, I never really got into the second one. I never found the game’s protagonist, Cole, to be that much of a likable character and the gameplay tended to get a bit samey after a while. Compared to the likes of Prototype, inFAMOUS seemed pretty darn pedestrian as super-hero games go.
Publishers Sony Computer Entertainment America and developers Sucker Punch have pulled out all the stops with this entry, nudging Killzone Shadow Fall aside to take the mantle of the PS4 flagship title.
Let me get straight in there and say that Second Son is the crispiest-looking console game I’ve ever played. The city of Seattle is beautifully rendered and fabulously lit. It really sets the bar and must have Ubisoft nervous about their rendition of Chicago in the upcoming Watch_Dogs. Also, the characters’ facial animation are sublime, it’s like they’ve modelled every muscle. It reminded me of LA Noire, but without being odd-looking.
The inFAMOUS games are at their core super-hero games; a cataclysmic event granting a select few special powers. In the first two games players took control of former bike messenger Cole McGrath with his electrical-based powers. Based on player actions Cole unlocked good powers or evil powers. This karma system returns in Second Son.
This time players control the delinquent Delsin Rowe who suddenly finds that he has the ability to adsorb the powers of other conduits (the in-game term for these super-powered individuals). In the seven years since the first game conduits have been outlawed and branded bio-terrorists. A government organisation called the D.U.P. headed up by a woman called Augustine who is a conduit herself. After attacking his town, Delsin and his brother, Regie, head for Seattle to confront Augstine and bring back a cure for the affliction that she unleashed on the people of his town.
The game takes the familiar gameplay of its predecessors and effectively turbocharges it for Sony’s new console. Instead of just one power-set, as the game progresses Delsin absorbs the abilities of other conduits giving him new power-sets. This unlocks the variety that was missing from the previous games. Just as you master Delsin’s powers and just before they start to feel repetitive, the game gives you another set of abilities to use.
The visual effects, with lingering smoke and light trails are the likes of which you’d never have seen of the last-gen consoles. Tiny little subtleties that you don’t need but that make the game look so much better for their inclusion.
The unique features of the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller again come into play in inFAMOUS Second Son. First off, the odd speaker in the controller is put to amazingly good use augmenting sound effects, making it really feel as if the sound starts or ends at your fingertips. Hats off to Sucker Punch for impressing me with something that I initially thought was an odd gimmick. Secondly the developers have you ingeniously use the controller as a can of spray paint.
Deslin, likes to paint the odd bit of graffiti. To do this you have to grip the DualShock 4 vertically with you index finger on the L2 button, as you would on a spray can. Shaking the controller makes a very convincing rattle (complimented by a very subtle vibration). The controller can then be waved about as if it was a spray can and used to “paint” in the game. Again, very impressive.
For all the next-gen games available right now, across both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, inFAMOUS Second Son is the clear winner. Both the graphics and the gameplay offering the sort of experience we should expect from the new console hardware.
Playing Second Son, Killzone and the cross-format titles, the DualShock 4 controller felt so much better to use than the Xbox One pad. It’s quite a reversal for me; as I’ve always previously favoured Microsoft’s controllers over Sony’s- all the way back to the redesigned original Xbox pads.
The PS4 controller really exposes the Xbox One pads for the cheap efforts they are with their sharp edges, egg-shell thin plastic, overly-twitchy thumb-sticks and horrendous grumbling vibrations.
The DualShock 4 is in comparison a refined, carefully designed device that feels nice in the hand, is of solid construction and offers you perfect control of your game. Do get me wrong, the touchpad looks horrible, but how else could it look? It’s got to be flat and it’s got to be big enough to slide your thumb across.
Using the PS4 with a desktop setup means that I’ve not the space for the new PlayStation Eye. With the Xbox One’s Kinect, apart from the initial facial recognition, the technology is still far from perfect. Whilst I’d like to be able to bark orders at my PS4, it would still be easier to use the controller.
Half the time when I tell my Xbox One to do something it ignores me. Gesturing on the Xbox One is still stupid, the machine recognising accidental arm movement that interrupt your movie more than it does when you are playing an arm waving-style game.
Having the PS Eye as a PS4 optional extra was probably a good idea. I doubt, having no real desire to move my study furniture around to play a silly Wii-type game, I’ll be purchasing a PS Eye in the future.
In Part Three I’ll take a closer look at the PS Vita and how that integrates into the PS4’s gameplay.