Here at Maxim, if there’s one thing we love more than scouring the planet for the hottest women in the world, it would be...nothing. That is literally our favorite thing to do. But a close second would be the once-a-decade launch of new video game consoles. At long last, the moment is here for us to saddle up our home theater with the brand new Playstation 4 and run our battle-hardened thumbs across its controller. We’ve been waiting seven years for this.
Tearing into the PS4 box, we immediately noticed the minimalist sleekness of the redesigned body. There’s surprisingly less heft here than we expected after seven years of our anvil of a PS3. Conveniently, the PS4 requires the same connections as its predecessor and, if you’re willing to make a straight swap out of your PS3 for your new arrival, you’ll find the HDMI, Ethernet, and power cords all easily substituted. We give Sony big credit here for, again, managing without an ugly, annoying, impossible-to-fit-behind-your-wall-unit power brick. We took the extra step of connecting the new PS Camera (a simple USB cord to the back of the PS4) and fired up our system.
If you’re not hardwiring your system to your network, you’ll go through a typical Wi-Fi setup. The PlayStation 4 requires a day one system update. We’re not sure if it’s actually necessary or Sony just threw it in there to show that they learned their lesson after the PS3, but this is a speedy download and a quick install, a far cry from the hours-long tedium that frustrated PS3 owners last generation. Best of all, this update very well may be the first and last one of which you’ll be aware, since the PS4 is now able to do all system updates and game patches from standby mode. Plug in your PSN details (or make new ones if you’re a first-timer), and off you go into the new dynamic OS, where games, videos, music, and social are front and center and key system functions like notifications, friends, chat, trophies, and settings sit above, ready for you to access them with a quick flick of the analog stick. Normal navigation via the PS4’s dualshock controller is present, but utilizing the PS Camera or plugging in the included headset enables a voice control option. Wonderfully responsive, the voice control is a fast and easy way to get around the top levels of the PS4’s menus, but it is seriously lacking support in important areas like navigating Netflix or sharing options. Still, this small hiccup is easily overlooked and, we imagine, will be short-lived when one of those updates we’ll never see adds some extra depth to the voice control scheme.
The first time you go to stick a disc in the PS4 may be the console equivalent of taking a bra off a girl. Finesse is required until you’ve gotten the hang of it. To continue the metaphor, there’s an equal sense of victory once the deed is done and you gain access to...the game that’ll immediately start installing on your PlayStation 4. Sony does require every game to install on the hard drive of your system, but the intelligent way they’ve approached this hurdle is laudable. Games install in a sort of sequence, pushing the beginning of campaigns through first so that you can start playing even if the install is still working in the background. It’s as if Sony had listened to PS3 users’ gripes and worked their tail off to fix the problems, and we find that damn commendable. Games that we played on the PS3 (Assassin’s Creed 4, Battlefield 4, Madden 25) are largely identical, but do seem to benefit from a slight graphic boost. Other games, like Killzone Shadowfall or Need for Speed: Rivals, which were developed specifically for the next-gen system, seem to fare better in the looks department. Loading times do still exist, but we’re putting that on the devs; Rockstar figured out how to cut down and mask loading times, the rest of the industry can’t be far behind. Sharing – whether that means cutting videos, taking screenshots or live-streaming a broadcast of your gameplay – is deceptively easy. The PS4 automatically records the last 15 minutes of your session and can upload that entire video, or, if you just want to use a single frame, crop or cut a screenshot using its uber-simple video editor. Likewise, broadcasting is initiated with two button-presses and gives you the option to overlay your PS Camera’s audio and video feed as well as displaying comments from viewers at the bottom of your screen.
Tips and Tricks
Broadcasting: PS4 currently allows broadcasting your livestream to two services; Twitch and UStream. We took to Reddit to see what gamers preferred and the answer was unanimously Twitch because of its simple interface and better community – and they were right. Twitch was easier and got us plenty of viewers, even from our totally unpublicized stream. If you don’t have one already, signing up for a Twitch account is free and we recommend doing it on your computer so it’s ready to go when you are.
Creating Your Own Videos
In a world where Apple’s iMovie and YouTube have brought simple video-editing to the masses, PS4’s video editor’s learning curve is non-existent. Our one major warning is that videos cut on your PS4 can ONLY be shared to Facebook, and we find that lack of options (especially the conspicuous omission of YouTube) annoying. Similarly, screenshots can only be uploaded to Facebook and Twitter.
PlayStation Network Plus
Sony is now requiring that you have PSN+, their premium online service, in order to play games with other people online. To soften that blow, they’ve thrown in a month trial of their Music Unlimited service (which also lets you create your own soundtracks for games), $10 to their video store, and free downloadable games each month. Wisely, Sony will not require a PSN+ subscription in order to use services you already pay for like Netflix. They seem to understand that double dipping is a scummy thing to do.
Demos on the PSN
We dug pretty deep but weren’t able to find demos of games that you can download and try on the PSN. However, Sony reps have confirmed they are coming soon and will be treated similarly to their PS3 counterparts.
Sony is doing their best to make all games, including AAA Titles, simultaneously available on the PSN and in brick and mortar stores. Just like installing a disc, downloadable games will sequentially install games so that you can start playing while the download and install continues in the background.
Well, sort of. Similar to an iPhone, the PS4 allows you to access key functions of the OS without losing your place in a game. Pressing the PS button will take you out of the game, into the menus, but double tapping the PS Button will immediately switch you from your game to an app like the web browser. Note: The PS4 can only run one game at a time so, if you think you’re gonna be able to multitask a game of Madden and Battlefield, think again.
Your Existing Stash of Videos or Music
Regardless of how you’ve obtained them, the videos or music that currently reside on your computer or external HDDs cannot be played on PlayStation 4. This is an awkward step backwards when you consider how well the PS3 handled your personal files, whether you streamed them from your PC, kept them on a networked HDD, or tossed them on flash disks as you need them. Sony “appreciates the feedback” on this front, but only time will tell if they choose to address the issue.
After an outstanding PS2 and a middling effort with the PS3, Sony has come back strong with their fourth go-round. We’ll have to wait and see whether the PS4 is looked upon as the beloved living room accessory that the PS2 was, but, we have to say, they’re off to a damn good start.
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