Did you catch Spike’s “All Access” PlayStation 4 shindig last night? Sony teased a new Uncharted, set a release date for inFamous: Second Son (March 21, 2014), and showed off a PS4-exclusive Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes level.
It was all a bit silly (Sony turned New York City’s Standard High Line hotel into a giant PS4), but then the way we cover these events is a little silly, and the people hosting can be very silly, acting less like reporters than extensions of these companies’ marketing engines.
If you stood in line last night (and yesterday, and possibly the day before) to pick up a system, I hope you stayed warm, and I hope you got what you came for. There’s nothing worse than waiting and walking away empty-handed — it’s happened to me more than once.
But I digress. You want to know whether to buy a PS4, or you already bought one and you’ve dropped by looking for validation, in which case all I can tell you is good luck. You got in on the ground floor, but neither you nor I are clairvoyant, and consoles are a long game — you could argue the longest game of all.
Still on the fence? Let’s step through the pros and cons of picking up a PS4 today.
Starting with the pros:
The launch games aren’t as mediocre as you’ve heard.
Dismissing next-gen stuff that came out a week or two ago for last-gen systems is a lazy shortcut to thinking. Take a game like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, arguably the gameplay pinnacle of Ubisoft’s stealth series, plus it looks freaking unbelievable on the PS4 (and costs a pittance to upgrade — $10 — if you already bought it for PS3). Need I also point out Skylanders: Swap Force? LEGO Marvel Super Heroes? Battlefield 4 multiplayer?
Don’t forget the souped-up versions of Flower and Trine 2 and Sound Shapes if you have yet to play them. Dismissing them because they came out years ago is as much a non sequitur as throwing Nintendo’s phenomenal The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker high-def makeover under the bus for being a GameCube original.
Housemarque’s Resogun is the must-have, of course (it’s just $15, or crazily, free for PlayStation Plus members), and don’t let anyone tell you five levels is too short, because: leaderboards and trophies and veteran/master difficulty levels and co-op as well as Remote Play and — just like Super Stardust HD — any self-respecting shmup wonk’s going to be playing this one over and over for months.
It’s the most powerful next-gen console today.
Or so they say. It is more powerful on paper, and in theory down the road with its extensible GPU. But theories and raw specs don’t matter much in multi-platform-dom, where developers are incentivized to make their creations look identical, extra oomph or no.
But at launch, no doubt about it, you’re enjoying a performance upside, with most of the PS4’s launch games running at native 1080p, whereas some of the same versions for Microsoft’s Xbox One live in 720p-ville. Expect the Xbox One to close this gap down the road, but for now, if it matters, there is a tangible visual difference between these two systems on a 1080p TV.
It’s $100 cheaper than Microsoft’s $500 Xbox One.
Make that cheaper even if you pick up the optional $60 PlayStation Camera, giving you some extra scratch to buy a second controller or another game. $400 for what’s essentially high-end-in-2013 PC hardware? Hard to argue with that.
It’s the most refined games console Sony’s ever built.
For a company that’s made some pretty slick hardware — the Vita chief of the bunch — that’s saying something. In my review, I wrote that the PS4 “exudes refinement, a system that feels multipurpose-built and confidently purposeful … a meticulously alloyed platform that’s the sum of many pieces, a kind of Grand Theft Auto V of video game consoles. If the latter represents everything Rockstar’s learned about open-world design — an accumulation of design knowledge implemented with knowing, fastidious precision — the PlayStation 4 is everything Sony’s learned about platform design, honed and polished to something just shy of perfection.”
It ships with the most refined gamepad Sony’s ever built.
The DualShock 4 may be evolutionary not revolutionary, as we like to say, but as I put it in my review, it combines “an array of individually modest but collectively gratifying updates that feel like the smartest updates to a gamepad in years.” If you’re a fan of gamepads, this is the apotheosis of gamepads.
And now the cons:
You’re looking for the Super Mario 64 of next-gen.
Sorry, Sony doesn’t have it — not Killzone Shadow Fall, not Knack and certainly not rehashed oddities like Angry Birds Star Wars ($50, no joke). Instead, you’re looking at a sweep of pretty great to pretty middling games with a few must-have standouts, but nothing that upends the field gameplay-wise.
You’re looking for the Wii Remote of next-gen.
Nope, Sony doesn’t have that either. Not the new iOS and Android PlayStation app, not PS Vita Remote Play, not the much-improved PlayStation Camera — none of those things. And yes, the DualShock 4 is the best gamepad ever created (by a country mile) with intriguing little additives like a touchpad, lightbar, enhanced motion sensors and a video sharing button, but it’s still just a gamepad.
You’re thrilled with your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.
They already have Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus; they have more than competent controllers; they play scads of fantastic, genre-defining, high-definition games today; they’ll be supported for years to come and your wallet stays $400 to $500 fatter in the bargain.
Your social network’s on another platform.
Your friends and friends of friends and relatives near or far live on Steam or Xbox Live. You have achievements up the wazoo. You’ve invested five, six, seven or more years building your little Gamerscore empire. If you switch now, it’s beginner’s mind (and beginner’s trophies, and beginner’s friend lists) all over again.
It doesn’t partner with your TV or offer Kinect-caliber voice recognition.
Not yet, and not ever if you’re looking for something as deeply integrated as the Xbox One’s TV-assimilating HDMI passthrough. The PS4 has Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon. It has troves of TV shows and movies for rent or purchase. But it’s designed to live beside your cable box, not front-end it, as Xbox One does, eliminating remotes and “input” switching and having to remember what channel goes where. If you value that kind of flexibility above all else, it’s Microsoft’s Xbox One or bust.
Watch here to see our video review:
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