Saturday, November 30, 2013

Waiting for greatness-Playstation 4 at the ready

16 Gigs. That is how much RAM I am writing you from today. Imagine my disappointment in learning that my brand new PS4 only has 8 for me to play with you on, or how it’s reduced to 4 gigs because the PS4 needs 4 of those gigs for it’s Operating System. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t seem like such a huge leap over the PS3.

At present, my video card needs to be upgraded, but it won’t take much to make my current 2-year-old PC dramatically more powerful than the PS4. It already has double the RAM, though Sony is using GDDR5 ram and I am still using DDR3, but in the end, my machine is faster. My Computer also sports 2 Terabytes of hardware, plus 2 more externally. The PS3 might seem like a good deal with a 500 gigabyte hard drive, which is upgradable, but when you factor in the fact that you now MUST install the games, which run 40-50 Gb easily, you will likely only get some 10 or so games on there before you MUST upgrade… Oh there is no support for external drives.

 And speaking of speed, one of my biggest gripes about the Wii U was that it was ridiculously slow to boot up. The same is true of the PS4, which is worse, because while at least Nintendo had a white screen and music play the moment the device is turned on, it takes the PS4 ages to even display the Playstation logo. When I first hooked up my PS4 I freaked because a great deal of time had passed and nothing was showing on my TV. I had been reading about PS4s with bad HDMI ports, I started to cry, my wife to rant… then after what seems like several minutes the white Playstation logo emerged on our TV screen. There is no excuse for such a long boot up process.

Thus far, the vast majority of the games are all ports of existing PS3 titles, and many only look better at the margins. Sony has become hostile toward 3D, removing the feature at the last second, you can tell it was hastily removed, because when you go to set up the display in the options, it still asks you to input your screen size so it can properly display 3D images. Then you plug in your 3D Blu Ray… “Your Blu Ray Player does not support 3D Blu Ray.” Jerks. I am actually really angry about this, because I have three, not one, not two, three 3D monitors. One Sony, two LGs, one I use for a computer monitor. The first one I bought was a Sony. Guess which company’s marketing convinced me to invest in a 3D TV? Sony. Why’d I go to LG? Because Sony abandoned me, and are now, as far as I am concerned, outright hostile toward me and other consumers who let Sony stamp “sucker” on our foreheads. Jerks.

Also not included, no CD playback, no MP3s, or a lot of other digital media. Sony has said they are planning to address a lot of this later, but here’s the thing.  I know enough about disc drives to know that some of these features need to be actively turned off to not work. Most disc drives should play CDs by default. Some might say, well it’s 30 year old tech. Nobody buys CDs anymore. Me? It’s about half and half. I do buy a lot through ITunes, but if I see a good deal on a CD at Wall Mart I still buy it. If they didn’t sell, Wal-Mart would not carry them. Same with 3D Blu Ray.

Incidentally Sony, Fandango reported that 91% of its ticket sales for the movie Gravity went to the 3D version. -1 Iron Man 3’s 3D returns were pretty strong, and the Wolverine’s were about half and half. Yes Monsters University and World War Z posted lower than expected returns, but this was a year where ticket sales on the whole were in decline, so you can’t blame the 3D. I admit the market for 3D is still mixed, and 3D TVs have still not taken off the way some hoped they would, but Gravity proves there is definitely a place for it. So too did Life of Pi, Avatar, even The Avengers.

Even better is gaming in 3D. Plug in Assassin’s Creed III on the PS3, turn on the 3D and put on your glasses. Suddenly you aren’t just playing a game, you are experiencing a world. Sony’s hostility toward a technology they helped push to market is disappointing, especially since I observed something interesting at Target over Black Friday. Consumers given a choice between a $99 2DS and a $150 3DS XL wipes out the stock of the 3DS XL and left the 2DS behind. Given a choice between 2D and 3D they choose 3D IF they don’t perceive that they have to pay much more for it. As the prices of the TVs come down, more people will jump on board. Sony just needs to be patient instead of rushing to…

…4K technology! Included in the PS4 and completely useless. You cannot see beyond 1920 x 1080 resolution, so times that by 4 and you get resolution the human eye cannot detect, so what was the point in including this?

Now for the good stuff. The one game I got that is exclusive to the new console is Killzone: Shadowfall, a reboot of the classic franchise. It is among the better looking games out there, it’s a lot of fun, and certainly maintains a leap enough over the PS3 to justify the need for new hardware. Unlike the Xbox One, the PS4 does natively broadcast a 1080p signal, the Xbox One only does 720p natively. There are a lot of games on the horizon that look amazing, that I am excited about: 1886, The Evil Within, Infamous: Second Son, and so on. Also Square-Enix will be upgrading people who bought Final Fantasy XIV on the PS3 to the PS4 at no charge, and considering the graphics on the PS3 version were a bit disappointing, I appreciate this move.

The PS4 takes its own time booting up, but once it’s up, you can bounce between tasks pretty quickly. When you do something neat, you press the share button and the last 15 seconds of your game are posted online instantly. Xbox one send’s it’s recordings to a separate site where you have to edit and post those recordings on your own. I like the direct-to-facebook approach Sony has taken.

All things considered, a year ago I was down on the Wii-U. Today, I recommend it. The games that have come out changed my tune. I’m sure the same will be true for the PS4, but this is the first time I’ve felt let down by Sony at launch. Aside from Kill Zone, nothing I bought isn’t available on PS3, almost as good, and significantly cheaper. To Nintendo’s credit, that wasn’t true of the Wii-U. Everything we bought for it, at the time, was exclusive. In fact, everything we have bought since has been exclusive to the system, and right now, PS4 may offer the best versions of these game out there, but it doesn’t offer a lot of unique experiences.

That said, I love the new controller. It’s about time Sony rethought it’s Dual Shock line. It’s wider frame fits into my larger hands much better than the PS3. I love the groves in the analogue controller, which grip my thumbs, preventing it from sliding off. The PS4 controller which are purchased separately from the console have a rubberized grip which makes it even more comfortable. However, I do hope future versions will pull the blue light. It is useless, and drains the battery quickly. If Sony wants to get into the motion gaming business, then they need to look at the one thing that Xbox One kicked their trash at… Kinnect2 is way awesome. I haven’t purchased an Xbox One yet, but I will say that it is much better than the original Kinnect, and leaps and bounds better than Sony’s PS4 Camera offerings.

All in all, my PC is one graphics card upgrade away from being able to run circles around the PS4. In that way, the system is a let down. On the other hand, gaming on a PC is usually a cumbersome affair, requiring hacks, and patches, and hours on the phone with tech support to even get your game going. Games like Skyrim, which is a showpiece for what a PC can do when it wants to, are few and far between. Generally the Console is the easier, and over all better experience. In that regard I cannot wait for Christmas 2014, when I know, inevitably, I will be dancing and singing about how great the PS4 is. As for now? Marvel Lego Super Heroes, and Assassin’s Creed 4 are just not enhanced enough to justify spending $400.00. Plan on getting a PS4, but wait.

This year, get a Wii-U, with the HD Windwaker, Super Mario 3D World, Monster Hunter 3 and the upcoming Donkey Kong game, there is plenty of fun to be had… also Duck Tails, yeah, it’s back.


-1: ‘Gravity’ 3D Presales shoot into Box Office Stratosphere-Todd Cunningham 10-3-13, accessed 11-30-13

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