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Published on November 19th, 2013 | by Chris Scott

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Question of the Week: So, you’ve had the PS4 for a weekend. How is it?

Welcome to Critically Sane’s Question of the Week, where we do our best to answer an inquiry posed to us by the community. Have your own question? Tweet it to us @criticallysane or put it in the comments below!

So, you’ve had the PS4 for a weekend. How is it?

I’ve had the Playstation 4 since launch day and have spent about 20 hours with it. In relation to the lifetime usage the system is probably going to get, I’ve experienced a meager fraction. As such, developing a definitive opinion on the system is a long way off but first impressions are important to get a baseline.

The system itself is nice and sleek. It has a small footprint and fits perfectly into my entertainment system. The system has no external power brick and learning from the lessons of their PS3 launch, where Sony shipped an HD system with composite cables, the system includes an HDMI cable in the box. All of this makes for less clutter behind the television.

Once I found the power button, which is set nearly flush against the face of the system, set-up was quite easy. The device did give me a bit of a heart attack as it did not appreciate being plugged into my HDMI hub and would not complete the handshake with the television until I plugged it in directly. However once it made the handshake things were smooth sailing.

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The system requires a much publicized patch to enable a variety of features. Having used the PSN over the last six years, I dreaded this update. Fortunately it was pretty quick and painless, taking less than five minutes to download and install. Between this and the download speeds of titles from the Playstation Store, I am feeling more confident that PSN has turned the corner.

Signing into PSN is the same as it was on PS3. Now though, users have the ability to send real name requests to their friends and have your display showcase your real name instead of your online persona. It is a small feature but one that offers a more personal touch to the system. Sony is really trying to make the PS4 a social console and the What’s New tab shows the recent PSN activity of both you and your friends. Unfortunately this is something of a cluttered mess resembling facebook if everyone allowed access to everything to post the most mundane garbage. There is valuable information to parse from it all but I’m not sure I feel it is worth the trouble.

I didn’t buy the PS4 to have it be some sort of weird social media hub though; I bought it to play games. And it does play games pretty well. Games load quickly into their menu screen but from there load times are, as always, game dependent. I wouldn’t expect a game like Contrast to take long loading its assets, and so do some other games, like Knack. This leads me to think that some of these titles were not optimized to take advantage of the PS4’s power but that should also improve over time.

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Games are played with the new Dualshock 4. As an upgrade to the Dualshock 3, the new controller is phenomenal, fixing nearly every problem that the DS3 had. The sticks are further apart and feature a slight concave gap for player’s thumbs to rest, making for a more comfortable experience. The triggers on the controller are also much improved, rivaling those of the Xbox 360’s controller.  All in all, it is a better feeling controller than the DS3 but after a long play session of Killzone: Shadow Fall, I still had some cramping in my left hand and this has me still favoring the 360 controller. This might not be a big issue though being as the battery life on the controller is a scant 6-7 hours, and I’ve already had to recharge it three times.

The Dualshock 4 does boast a few new “features” that may or may not enhance one’s gaming experience. The biggest of these is the share button. Pressing the button allows players to share video or a screen shot to facebook (and only facebook at this time) or stream gameplay to their Twitch accounts. It all works pretty easy and the quality is acceptable for what most people are going to want to do with it. The lack of YouTube archiving is a big let down and something that Sony hopefully gets around to allowing in the near future. The second, and most instantly visible, change is the touchpad. Killzone and Knack both utilize it with varying degrees of success, although neither game uses it for anything remotely revolutionary. Finally, and least important, at least for those without a Playstation camera, the controller sports a light bar on the underside of the controller. What it is for though is beyond me.

For those that asked for it, the PS4 sports remote play via the Playstation Vita. I sampled it out, playing the first two levels of Killzone using it and I’m happy to report it does work. Why you would want to play this way is beyond me though because the Vita does not sport the same functionality as the DS4 controller. The non-existent R/L2 and 3 buttons are mapped to specific areas on the back touch pad and I often found myself missing to press because there is no marker. This made for some awkward and frustrating gaming moments playing the game. The range seems to be a bit better than the WiiU tablet, although not considerably so. It is not a feature that I will probably ever use again but it is there and it does work for those that want to utilize it.

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Overall, the PS4 is a nice piece of hardware. It being a game playing device purchasing one will depend on your taste in games and if some exist on the system that you want to play. My personal experience with the titles left me feeling that the free (via PS+) or free-to-play games outshined the exclusive retail games Sony launched with (Killzone and Knack) but then again, that could just be me and mileage may vary. Needless to say though, we are in for a long ride with the PS4 and it is just beginning.

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