With the launch of the new consoles upon us, it seemed fair to take a look at the consoles for those who were on the fence or weren’t able to acquire one immediately to give people an idea of what they could expect when/if they chose to acquire one. As I happen to be one of the few staff members here who has more money than common sense, I decided to put my money down on both consoles, figuring that if I wanted to cancel a reservation because one (or both) manufacturers upset me, it would be easy enough to do. Since that didn’t happen (surprisingly), I’ll be taking you fine folks on a journey through the unboxing of both the Sony PlayStation 4 this week and the Microsoft Xbox One next week, to show what the systems come with, what they do out of the box, what they don’t do out of the box, and in general, what you can expect from the systems on day one and beyond.
So, let’s get started.
What’s in the box? WHAT’S IN THE BOOOOOOX?
Here’s our wonderful official box shot for the PlayStation 4:
It’s a fairly large box, as you can see, though it’s more “flat and wide” in its design, as everything is packed on one layer, as seen here:
Once you have everything upacked, this is what you’ll be looking at:
Well, minus the HDMI splitter and Hauppauge PVR-2, of course; those are there for size reference and general amusement. Sorry.
The box itself contains the PlayStation 4, an HDMI cable, a Power Cable, a USB cable to connect the controller, and the controller itself. For those who are curious about component and port redesign elements, on the plus side, the system offers two front USB ports for easy access, an AUX port on the rear for what I would assume will be add-ons, a standard HDMI port and a power cable port that matches up identically to that of the PlayStation 3 if you just want to swap the system out. There is no component port, however, so it’s HDMI or nothing for display purposes, and there are no rear USB ports at all, so you get two ports and that’s it. It also bears noting that the USB port on the controller has changed from the Mini-B design used on the PS3 controllers to a Micro-B port (if you have an Android phone you likely know what I mean), which is fine, but it means you can’t reuse old cables for your new controllers. There’s also a standard RJ-45 port in the back for a network cable, though the console also works wirelessly out of the box for those who’d rather connect that way. As a final note, the system also comes with a headset of sorts for internet play, which amounts to an earbud and free hanging mic. While it’s not terrible, I’ll be surprised if I don’t destroy or lose it in a month.
On the Basic Set Up:
Connecting everything to the console was, essentially, a snap, and getting it up and running was… well, not terrible. The Power and Eject buttons on the console are laid into a notch in the front of the machine so as to be flush with the console, but actually getting them to depress is a pain as often as not. Once the console was powered on, configuring everything was fairly simple, as it immediately allowed me to log into my home network and my PSN account with no difficulty and dumped me to the main screen with no additional effort.
After a half hour long update, that is.
Yes, there’s a Day One update for the console, and even with a fast internet connection it takes a while to download and install, but once it’s done, it’s done and you’re more or less good to go. Accessing the PlayStation Store prompted a second update, unfortunately, which was slightly less tolerable, but once the updates were done with everything worked about as well as you’d expect it to. Logging in and out is simple and once the controller is synced to the machine, it allows you to power the machine on and off with no trouble remotely. In essence, the setup took all of five minutes, outside of the system updates, and everything worked as well as I’d hoped it would.
On the Advanced Set Up:
For those who have a PlayStation Vita, tying the Vita into the PS4 is very simple, so long as both consoles have the most current updates. You just launch the PS4 app from the Vita, bang in a code from the PS4 into the Vita, and that’s it, both machines are connected up. The Vita can act as a second screen for games that allow for this function, if you own such a product (I, at present, do not), but also works in a fashion similar to that of the Game Pad for the Wii U, allowing you to play your PS4 game from the Vita directly. The Vita lacks some of the controller inputs, such as the second triggers, so if a game relies on those this may not be a perfect option, but it works out fairly well for the most part, so far, and the PS4 can be connected to the Vita without impacting its wireless internet connectivity, which, while not surprising, is still nice to see.
On the other hand, for those who are interested in this thing, the DRM Sony used on the PS3 to block it from allowing HDMI capture is still in full effect on the PS4 as of this time, and while a patch to remove this is (supposedly) forthcoming, it’s not part of the Day One patch. In theory, this means that you cannot use any sort of HDMI video capture device to record data from the PS4, which is not exactly the worst thing in the world all things considered. In practice, this means that the PS4 freaks out when anything is hooked up as a pass-through between it and the TV, whether it be a capture device or even an HDMI splitter, so it must be connected directly to the TV (or requires some form of splitter that costs more than I care to spend). This is, bluntly, a frustration I don’t feel like anyone should have to deal with when all I want to do is use one HDMI port for my consoles, and as stupid side effects of irrational rights protection go, it’s one of the less customer friendly ones out there. So long as they eventually patch this away this isn’t the worst thing, but it’s still annoying all the same.
On the Functionality and Environment:
The new user interface for the PS4 is solid, offering a design that should feel familiar to PS3 users but is different enough to scream “NEXT GEN!” the first few times you start up. There’s a top menu that allows for basic settings and such, and a main menu that allows you to access games and apps (so far). The menus are set in a left to right style instead of the PS3/PSP right to left style, which is more in line with the Xbox 360 menu design (and presumably the Xbox One style), making it a bit easier to appreciate if nothing else. The menu segmenting sets up segmented categories, allowing for the user to pick a heading, then drop down into the subcategories available, as with prior versions of the OS, but everything’s divided up in a much more user-friendly fashion this time around. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t really borrow anything from either the PS3/PSP style or the Vita style, and mostly seems to exist as its own unique user interface. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but it’s interesting to see how heavily Microsoft latched onto their Metro style and stuck it to basically everything, while Sony seems more interested in experimenting with UI designs to see what works for the device rather than using a uniform setup.
The PS4 controller works exactly as the PS3 controller did, though the trigger placement is slightly different, as the triggers stick out a little more on the back. The biggest change to the design is the central touch pad, which is both touch sensitive and offers the option to depress the touch pad for some reason. How this will be incorporated into games isn’t something I’ve seen yet, though I imagine it won’t see much use during the first year of development as developers think of ways to incorporate it into their designs. The other interesting aspect of the controller (and to a lesser extent, the console) is the lights on the exterior. On the console there’s a light on the top of the unit that seems to be more for show than anything, but on the controller there’s a light on the back that is colored depending on which player is using it (blue for Player One, red for Player 2). So far this seems to be an aesthetic choice, but the implication is there that this will work in tandem with the PlayStation Camera, though to what extent this will work, I’ve no idea at this point.
For those who are wondering about what’s available here, the good news is that you can see all of your friends who are online as normal, and your Trophies are available to you from jump once you log in. The Playstation Store also has a fairly good selection of games to look at, between the physical and digital versions of the launch library and the digital only titles that exist, though the options are still somewhat limited at this point. A couple of the games that are available digitally, like Sound Shapes and Flower, are available across all platforms, and most of them cost money to download. Sony has offered up a few options for those who are looking for something free to goof around with, though. DC Universe Online, Blacklight: Retribution and Warframe are available as Free to Play downloads (with everything that entails), and Contrast and RESOGUN are free to PS Plus members and are, apparently, PS4 exclusive. As such, you can basically build a small library from jump on the PS4 without having to pay out for physical releases, which is a nice thing for Sony to do to justify the cost to players, if nothing else.
One thing that would have been nice is if Sony had put more emphasis on developers to put up demos of the games for Day One, however. If there are any demos online, I can’t find them for the life of me, so you can’t test out any of the games that are available without plunking down some cash on them. This is hardly the end of the world, between the three free games and two PS Plus games available, but it would’ve been nice to test out Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack or even the PSN titles before I invested any money in them or PS Plus. Hopefully this will be a temporary situation, as demos will help to build interest and get people to dump cash into more of the launch library if the demos can impress, but we’ll see how that plays out.
A few other random observations came to mind while playing around with Madden 25 and the PlayStation Store. For one thing, it’s great to see that Sony has embraced their indie friendly image full-on, as several indie games, such as RESOGUN and Super Motherload are available at launch on the platform, and that should help to appease players who were on the fence about this thing. It’s also nice that the games that are shown online explain some of their more involved functionality, such as Second Screen support (with mobile devices or the Vita, depending) and online functionality. The fact that there are three Free to Play games on the service at launch is a little disconcerting, if only because that’s a bad sign for the direction digital release titles are heading in. Perhaps the most interesting observation, however, is that the games that I’ve played around with so far don’t really do anything to sell the Next Gen visual element. I’ll be getting into that more when I review Madden 25, and possibly other titles as time moves on, but at this point, while there are certainly visual effects that indicate the games are clearly using the power of the PS4, nothing stands out as a “mind blowing experience” or some similar buzzword-laden description. For the most part, the games look good, but whether or not they look good enough to sell the console is a little bit harder to decide.
Overall, the PlayStation 4 isn’t a bad little console, and as launches go, this is probably the single best one Sony’s ever had. There are two exclusive launch titles available at retail, one of which (Killzone) is part of an established and desirable franchise. The console has several interesting downloadable games available for it on launch as well, and makes a very good case to sign up for PS Plus even if you don’t have any interest in online play. The controller feels solid and the changes to the user interface are generally for the best, and the console’s compatibility with the Vita is top notch at this point. It’s also easy to set up and get running no matter what your household requires, and it carries over your prior information from the PS3 for those who are sticking to the Sony brand. It would have been nice to see some more demos (that is, any) at launch to try and generate some additional sales from gamers, and while the obvious indie presence on the console is welcome, the Free to Play presence is far less so. It will be interesting to see not only where Sony goes from here, but also how the Xbox One launch stacks up and what, if anything, Microsoft does to make their services and product as appealing as Sony has. We’ll take a look next week at the Xbox One in all its glory, so stop back here at Diehard GameFAN for more.