The PlayStation 4 is a slick machine. Let's just get that out of the way immediately. I had an hour to play some games and try out some features.
The hour long demo was held at the Bryant Hotel in New York City. The Sony guys offer snacks and drinks. This is not part of the PS4 package at retail, so don't expect jams and pastries to come in the box when PS4 launches on November, 15 2013.
But I wasn't there for the snacks. Bring on the PS4.
There we go. So the PS4 is a slick looking system, but you knew that already. Up close though, getting a handle on the thing, it feels solid.
But the most important part about the "feel" is with the new dualshock 4 controller.
It feels great in your hands. Consider this is coming from somebody who mostly plays Xbox and is used to the Xbox controller configuration and size. The major changes from the last-generation PlayStation controller to this one are most immediately noticed in the touchpad, the motion sensor, the light and the speaker.
These were all put in play and practice during the first demo of "The Playroom," which is pre-installed on every PS4. "The Playroom" uses all of the features on the new dualshock 4 controller in tandem with the motion tracking PS4 Eye Camera. It's worth noting the camera isn't part of the PS4 bundle, and must be bought seperately.
Here's the camera.
Here's me. Hi!
So at this point I dove into "The Playroom," which essentially consists of a bunch of little actions and not much actual game. This is fine. It is an augmented reality demo for the most part meant to get you comfortable with the new control setup and show off features.
Nothing extreme here, but "The Playroom" does the job of getting beginners into thinking about new ways of control and interaction.
I started by swiping the touchpad on the controller which resulted in multiple little robots entering the room space all around me. Then I waved my hand around at them on the floor and they shooed from side to side. It was fairly responsive, very much like the Kinect for Xbox.
Next I pressed down on the touchpad and sucked all the little buggers up "into" the controller, where I made them dance by pressing random buttons, and tilted the room sending them careening around by tilting the control.
The next bit involved scanning my head, then calling forth another hovering bot that I whacked around until it got angry and set my hair on fire, which I put out by shaking my head.
Then there was the air hockey game, which is an updated version of pong. You control the paddle by swiping on the touchpad and pressing it to return a shot at a higher power. Polygon said it was "actually kind of a blast," but I wouldn't go that far. I did beat the Sony rep, but he was likely going easy on me.
Next it was on to "Killzone: Shadow Fall," one of the highly-anticipated PS4 launch titles, and a title that is also thankfully not releasing on the PS3 as well.
For anyone familiar with previous "Killzone" games, you know that this is a first person futuristic shooter. I got to play through one chapter of level four, which took me around 10 minutes. Being somebody who's mostly played FPS on Xbox, the dualshock 4 took a little bit of getting used to.
This being the first PS4 game I've gotten my hands on, the first thing I noticed was the crispness of the graphics. The next generation of console is definitely a step up from the last. Though, I wasn't entirely blown away. Not that it didn't look fantastic — it did — but like when the PS3 and Xbox 360 were first released, they were a step up from the Xbox and PS2, but it took a while for developers to really harness all the juice under the hood.
What you do notice is a lack of issues at a really high quality graphic standard. There is no stuttering, no alaising or screen tearing, the vistas are really crisp, detailed and sharp and the lighting is spectacular. This is a game that will look better than anything on the current generation of consoles.
Next up was the arcade game "RESOGUN," a classic-style shooter that reminded me of a hybrid between "Geometry Wars," "Pacman DX," and a touch of "Galaga Legions DX." It looked OK, not spectacular and it played like an addictive "I want to get the highest score!" arcade shooter should, with simple controls and objectives.
The press materials on "RESOGUN" say that the "PS4 renders the entire world and every enemy, using millions of individual building blocks (voxels) that break up in real time." I didn't necessicarily see the "power of the PS4" in this game, though it did look nice.
The last game I dabbled with was "Knack," which Sony bills as "a mesh between a Pixar-like family film and the character-action games."
"Knack" is 100% a mix of "Metal Arms: Glitch In The System" and "Kameo: Elements Of Power." Kameo, as those of you Xboxers out there will remember, was an Xbox 360 launch title that was good, but not great. It was a platformer meant more to show off as much of the new hardware's power as anything else.
I didn't feel like there was any new ground broken with "Knack" based on my short time with it, but considering I only had a short amount of time with it I can't really claim much either way. Just that this is a launch game that will likely be fun, appeal to the family demographic (with some casual co-operative play) and shine a light on some of the PS4's graphics capabilities.
So what did I think after an hour with the PS4?
There's huge potential here. For the games, these are launch titles, and launch titles are never going to be as good graphically or technically as the games that come out a year or two down the road. But they still look great.
I was most impressed with the dualshock 4 controller. The touchpad works surprising well in games and doesn't feel awkward in this generation of mobile gaming. The rumble function feels like it adds to the experience instead of just shaking your hands at every opportunity. It is subtle and effective. And the speaker on the controller itself as a great feel of ambiance and immersiveness with an added layer of sound.
I was surprised at the deep motion capability of the camera and the controller. I wasn't expecting it to be so fleshed out.
Not much longer now until the November 15 launch date, and November 22 for PlayStation 4's main competition the Xbox One. We'll have much more gaming coverage, so be sure to check back in.