At the end of last week it felt like everything was conspiring against me. As Friday drew to a close, last minute assignments at work kept me late. When I finally made it out of the office, traffic was unusually heavy, leading to one slog of an evening commute. An empty fridge meant I had to stop at the grocery store first too, and the fact that it was my best friend’s girlfriend’s birthday meant a necessary trip to the bar later that night, even though all I wanted to do was stay in an cuddle up next to my new PS4.
I won’t lie, when I opened the the box I half expected something magical to happen: angels descending from heaven blowing horns, fire works shooting out of the box, to be transported to another world filled with futuristic spires and cold war inspired grit.
None of this happened of course. After all, it’s just a black, plastic box that spins discs (andapparently wobbles, though I haven’t experienced this first hand). The first thing I did that night after getting back from the bar was plug the system in, complete the setup, and start downloading the first update. All this went off without a hitch.
Next I used the voucher that came with the system to sign up for a free month of Playstation Plus. Oddly enough, Sony requires that you enter credit card information for your account in order to redeem it. Their goal is auto charge at the end of the month if you don’t cancel the subscription before then–a sound business strategy, but still a bit odd given Sony’s penchant for getting hacked and losing users’ credit card info in the past.
First, I explored some of the start menu and the Playstation Store, then I went to download Resogun and Contrast, two indie titles I’ve really been looking forward to (though the latter didn’t receive nearly as good reviews as the former). While plenty of people seem to feel like the new interface is more accessible and easier to navigate, I find it a bit clumsy and cluttered. I actually really liked the PS3 interface, with its minimalist vertical and horizontal scrolling. It not only made things clear and simple, but freed up much of the background to display the user’s preferred wallpaper (mine was the Citadel from Mass Effect).
The downloads themselves went fairly quickly though, and as promised, I was able to boot up and start playing Killzone: Shadow Fall while they were finishing. While I’m not the biggest fan of first person shooters, or even the Killzone franchise, the game gave me the one thing I really needed in a next-gen launch title: a world I wanted look at, play in, and keep coming back to day in and day out.
The PS4 is my first launch console. Every other system I’ve ever bought was purchased well after the original release date. What was perhaps most surreal about pulling the hardware out of the box, plugging it in, and playing my first next-gen game was how current-gen it still felt. The game’s backgrounds are beautiful, and small features like the depth of lighting effects and the pervasiveness of floating garbage all help to flesh out the experience beyond what many games are currently able to accomplish on the PS3.
Obviously though, the games that come out later into the console cycle will be in a much better position to take advantage of the hardware’s full potential (just look at Oblivion compared to Skyrim on the Xbox 360). For now then I’m content to shoot my way through Shadow Fall’s gorgeous, and even sometimes surprisingly imaginative galleries, taking breaks now and again to dip into Resogun (exactly the kind of mechanically sound and tactically engrossing shoot’em up you’d expect from Housemarque) and Contrast (which I still haven’t tried out).
What surprised me most though about the time I’ve had with the PS4 is how little of it I spend doing anything other than playing games and watching Netflix. Admittedly, I haven’t dipped into Shadow Fall’s multiplayer, and I’m sure that after having done so the system’s social networking features will become more useful and interesting to me. So far though, I haven’t felt the need to explore any of the console’s “next-gen” features. I’m more or less content just to play games on it, and that much more relieved as a result that Sony was content to focus on making the PS4 a device for primarily doing just that.
Buying the console amounted to an expensive down payment on a future that won’t arrive for some time. The two titles I’m looking forward to most, Infamous: Second Son and TowerFall, won’t arrive until early next year. Unfortunately then, after the initial wave of excitement and euphoria, the system will more likely than not end up collecting dust for several weeks until Sony gets into the cycle of its next-gen release cycle.
Until then, I have a box that doesn’t do much more than the old one. Hopefully that’ll change sooner rather than later.