While it's true that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, I don't imagine the executives at Sony Computer Entertainment are terribly worried about the future of their latest game console, based on the first round of PS4 coverage from game journalists the world over.
By this point, tracking down a PlayStation 4 review isn't exactly difficult. Dozens of outlets have posted their analysis of Sony's latest game console, offering up their thoughts on everything from the operating system and launch titles to more-direct comparisons with Microsoft's recently-released Xbox One. For their part, fans of both platforms are already well-embroiled in the PS4 vs. Xbox One debate, and numbers are being thrown around as if the latest offerings from Sony and Microsoft have already been on shelves for several years.
To be honest, I don't think 2-3 weeks is enough time to really figure out all the things that you do or don't like about a video game console so, rather than try to assign a numerical value to something that I still feel like I'm exploring every time I turn it on, I figured I'd jot down some of my initial impressions from my first fewweeks with a PS4 in my apartment. I'll still be compiling a more traditional PlayStation 4 review at some point down the road, but figured this was a more honest way of examining my current thoughts on the console.
PS4 First Impressions: What I Like
1. Install Times - Some wondered how well Sony's auto-caching system would work, and the answer is quite well. In fact, Kotaku did a relatively in-depth study of install times on both next-gen platforms and the results pretty much speak for themselves. Game installs aren't getting any less popular, so it's good to see Sony making certain that an unavoidable part of the gaming experience doesn't become more of a headache than it was on the PS3 or Xbox 360.
2. PS Vita-style Game Tiles - I don't own a PS Vita, but I'm a big fan of how Sony's portable device divides up much of the information related to the games you own. Fortunately, it seems someone at Sony Computer Entertainment agreed, because the game tiles are your primary way of interacting with your PS4 game library while on the console's home screen. The tiles allow you to track your Trophy progress, without digging through or syncing your entire collection, and also give you an easy means to interact with others who've been playing the same game(s) that you have.
3. Social Integration - The ability to share screenshots and gameplay footage is already proving to be extremely popular since the launch of the PlayStation 4, and users don't seem to be getting any less-eager to share bits of their digital adventures with friends, family and strangers. Console gamers have also taken to live streaming with the same sort of enthusiasm as their PC counterparts, though that's brought its own difficulties for those who manage services like Twitch.tv (more below).
4. Headphone Jack &Stand-By Controller Charging - These might seem like small changes to someone who didn't spend much time with the PlayStation 3, but they're basically godsends for those of us who were forced to play our games while tethered to the PS3 by the tiny charging cable that shipped with the PlayStation 3 controller. Even better, the DualShock 4 has a headphone jack on the bottom that can route ALL sound to your headphones/headset anytime its connected to your controller. Again, it may not seem like much, but the feature is likely to prove popular in households where the television and other devices typically battle for audio dominance.
PS4 First Impressions: What Needs Work
1. Downloads - Let me start by saying that download speeds seem to be vastly superior to what they were on the PlayStation 3, offering much larger PlayStation 4 games in half the time required to pull mos PS3 titles. Unfortunately, Sony didn't give owners any way to prioritize or pause certain downloads, meaning you'll regularly find yourself waiting longer for the download(s) you want most while your PlayStation 4 simultaneously updates the rest of your game library. It's not the end of the world, but download management tools would be much appreciated by myself and the PS4 community at large.
2. "What's New" Section - I'm not necessarily opposed to Sony trying to offer their most dedicated fans a social experience similar to what they'd find on Facebook or Twitter, but the current list of events that appears under this tile is little more than a garbled mess. Can we get a clear sense of progression, particularly after you begin scrolling, or (at the very least) a timestamp on some of this information?
3. Party Chat - If games like Killzone: Shadow Fall are going to rely on Party Chat as a way of appeasing those players who want voice-chat in their games, then Sony is going to need to increase the maximum occupancy for each Party Chat room. Being able to chat with seven of my closest friends is nice, but less-so if I'm still being left out-of-touch with four or more members of my team.
PS4 First Impressions: Other Thoughts
1. Bring Back 'Playroom' Streaming - While there are going to be some issues any time you introduce a million people to a service at once, it seems silly for Twitch to ban The Playroom as if it's the only game that's lead to problematic streams. I've been watching gameplay footage on Twitch.tv off-and-on for more than a year now, and encountered nudity, substance abuse and highly-inflammatory language LONG before the PS4 was even available for preorder. Sony and Twitch need to get together and come up with a solution to this one, and fast. How else am I supposed to get my Spartan Show fix?
2. Media Playback - Though support for additional forms of media are hardly the sort of thing that would inhibit my enjoyment of a game console, it would be nice to see Sony deliver support for 3D Blu-Ray discs and audio CDs sooner rather than later, especially after so many fans expressed disappointment over their lack of inclusion at launch. Same goes for mp3 playback. I'm not looking for an all-encompassing experience al a the Xbox One, but it would be nice if my PS4 could at least handle all of the same home entertainment purposes as my PlayStation 3.
3. More Twitch Overlays - It's clear that PlayStation 4 owners are becoming quite fond of Twitch.tv already, and the PS4 hasn't even been on the market for a month yet. Let's get some more Twitch overlay options, that way experience streamers have options for displaying their social media information without having to resort to sharpies and printer paper.
Be sure to check back with iDigitalTimes.com and follow Scott on Twitter for more on the PlayStation 4 as I continue to work my way through all of the content currently available to PS4 owners while keeping an eye peeled for new information on the next round of game headed to the PlayStation 4.
What are some of you favorite/least favorite things about the PlayStation 4? Glad you decided to buy a PS4 at launch instead of waiting until 2014 (or later)? Wish you'd saved your money for an Xbox One instead of spending it all on the PlayStation 4?
Let us know in the comments section!