Because hey, why not?
Part One: Getting One
I put some money aside some months ago to purchase a Sony Playstation 4. Didn’t have the extra funds on hand to catch the initial wave of pre-orders, so I knew I had to break down and do the nerdiest thing possible: wait in line on launch day with other Sony Fanboys. Left the house about 9:30 PM and thought about what my strategy would be. There was a shopping center close-by with each a Best Buy, a GameStop, a Wal-Mart, and a Sam’s Club, so this might be the best place to start, huh? Then I thought about it. Everyone’s going to that parking lot. So I decided to skip it and try elsewhere. After visiting two Wal-Marts and driving by Fry’s Electronics just off the strip to discover that all of the units were spoken for, I decided the next thing to do would be to go deeper into Las Vegas. Went to a Wal-Mart in the neighborhood I grew up in, which coincidentally was the first Wal-Mart in the city. The area is pretty run down now, and there weren’t a lot of folks there looking for PS4′s. Asked the dude in the electronics section what the deal was on PS4′s, and he told me that most were spoken for, but they had *six* units left for walk-ins, and then handed me the sixth ticket. I felt pretty lucky at this point, and decided to stick it out with the literal geek squad and wait the extra hour-and-a-half in line. Free donuts, at least.
Part Two: Set Up
Got home, promptly swapped out my original PS3 for the PS4. I’m hearing that the Four uses the same HDMI and power cables as the Three, but my PS3 is the old fat edition, so I did have to switch out the power cables. Set up was relatively quick and easy, as I went through the motions to update all of my account info for the Playstation Network, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. The launch edition came with a voucher that includes free trials for each Music Unlimited, Playstation Plus, and a $10 credit to the Playstation Store.
Didn’t buy any games for the new rig, so I decided to just see what it was about, bare bones style. The Playstation Plus trial period came in handy, which let me download a bunch of free games for play as long as I hold a $50-per-year subscription. This service also allows you to play online, something that was free for Playstation in it’s last iteration. I suppose thanks to the “Instant Game Collection” this is a good deal, but I’m also a sucker for cases.
Part Three: Digging In
As far as the games available in the Playstation Plus set, the only one I have played thus far is Resogun, which is sort of the cylinder-answer to last gen’s Super Stardust HD, where one stick controls the ship, the other controls it’s gun. The new controller feels great in your hands, and its “Share” button – which allows users to record or broadcast their gameplay on various social networks – just might be the thing that wins this console war, as it will literally make the system go viral.
This feature is pretty cool, as the Live On Playstation community is already flourishing, with plenty of people playing their new games online, streaming for you to watch instantly. It’s a pretty dope new feature that lets you get an unfiltered feel for the newest games without buying them or downloading demos. Speaking of demos, I thought I recalled Sony originally saying that one could try any game in the store instantly, without having to download a demo? Maybe I misunderstood that, or maybe that feature is coming later. Either way, that’s not the case right now. You can, however, start playing a game while it’s downloading. This seemed to be a bit buggy on launch night, but doesn’t seem like it will have a problem working. Couldn’t download the cross-buy PS4 version of Flower, which I already own for PS3. Gave me a “we’re sorry, this title cannot be downloaded right now” type of message.
Part Four: PAYstation
I then decided to try out Music Unlimited. It’s a robust service for streaming music on the PS4, which seems to have all of the standard catalog titles. Obviously hot albums by Eminem and Lady Gaga graced its front page, but I decided to dig a little deeper. Surprisingly, they had the whole Kool G. Rap catalog, however only had J-Zone’s newest album. That unfortunately is a deal-breaker for an avid music head like myself – I want to be able to access my whole library, not just what Sony has rights to. Another huge let down is that the system lacks MP3 support – which in a word, is fucking crazy. If you want to listen to music on your PS4, you must do so via Music Unlimited, which comes at a price. I understand that there has already been a backlash regarding this, as PS4 boss Shuhei Yoshida has stated: “We didn’t really think about MP3 or DLNA. We always thought we’re going to do that eventually. We’ve been doing it with all the products. So it caught us off guard.”
I also seemed to have been under the impression that we could listen to our music whilst playing our games. This feature was disabled on the first and only title I have played on the system, Resogun. Very disappointing. Bad enough you have to pay for Music Unlimited to listen to music on your PS4, and it doesn’t even work on every game? Not looking forward to sinking 100+ hours into the next Fallout and being forced to listen to the old timey soundtrack on repeat the entire time. This needs to be changed immediately.
So anyway, you cannot use your PS4 – at least at this point – as a Media Server. No, you cannot stream movies from your PC/Mac to your PS4, like you could on your PS3. And no, you cannot copy an MPEG file to a USB Flash drive thumbstick, nor to an external hard drive, plug it into your PS4 and watch it, like you could on a PS3. Unfortunately, that means even content that you own, such as home movies, iPhone videos, or even movies downloaded legally from third party websites, are completely unplayable via PS4. If you want to watch video on PS4, you must pay to do it, via Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, Redbox, etc. This might not be so bad if we weren’t accustomed to doing this over the last seven years on our Playstations and X-Boxes, but try explaining to your wife that your sexy new $400 machine lacks half the features of it’s last-gen predecessor. Instead, I refer you to Yoshida, who promises “As we speak … the teams in Japan and U.S., the system guys are discussing how and when we can put these features on PS4″
Hopefully they discuss it fast ;)
Another missing element here is 3D support. I understand that this is not a hugely popular feature with gamers / movie viewers, however studios still support this, as movies like Iron Man 3 and Man Of Steel were just released on 3D Blu-Ray. Considering Sony was such a huge pusher of 3D last generation, they owe it to the people who bought into it (ahem) to deliver 3D support on the PS4, in both movies and games. With another wing of the building developing a motion-tracking 3D wearable TV, this seems like a no brainer.
Part Five: Summing Up
While it may sound like disappointment in the PS4, ultimately some of these reactions are more shock and surprise. Many of us have become so accustomed to using the PS3 or XBox 360 as an all-in-one-it-only-does-everything device, to see these features gimped out-the-box on the PS4 is bewildering. Naturally it sounds like either pressure from the record labels / movie studios is behind this, however if they have the ability to “put these features on PS4″, then they should by all means do so, as soon as possible. Buying a new system is expensive and some can’t afford to grab a handful of games with it. We should at least be able to use it in the ways we did its predecessor.
However the PS3 got off to a very rocky start, and they ultimately turned the thing around, releasing some of the best games of last generation exclusively on that system. And historically, the PS3 did not launch with features like DNLA or 3D support, so we can cut Sony some slack; we know they are coming. Oh, and the fact that you can play PS4 games remotely on your PS Vita – at least in the house – is a very forward-thinking, impressive new feature. With strong launch titles like Call Of Duty and Battlefield available now, Sony (and Microsoft, for that matter) can look forward to a much smoother launch this time around, despite it not being perfect.
Ultimately, I am glad I made the jump to next gen, however am also glad I kept a PS3 around, as that old dog will have to pick up the PS4′s slack for the time being. If you’re like me, and you still have some triple-A, last gen titles like The Last Of Us and Grand Theft Auto V in your queue, Sony’s minor missteps here suggest you can wait a while before jumping to next gen. But I think this is ultimately where you’ll want to be.
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