PlayStation 4 at E3: the hands-on experience with PS4

After Sony’s triumphant night in the spotlight (read our reaction piece to the PS4 E3 2013 press conference here) we were all left full of feelings of next-generation positivity and a sense that everything might just be alright. But discussions of DRM systems and low price points are not the ends in themselves, they are merely the means by which we get at that which we’re really after. And what we’re really after is games. And, as exciting as trailers and demos can be, what we’re really, really after is the playing of games.

PS4 E3 2013 hands-on

As such, getting to go hands-on with next-generation games for the first time is hugely exciting, and not least of all because it offers up the chance to cop a feel of the new DualShock. I’ve lusted at it from afar ever since the PS4 reveal event back in February, so clasping my waiting paws around it for the first time is something of a thrill. Albeit a slight confusing one. Having expected a rubbery, ‘grippy’ feel to the back section I’m surprised to find that it’s plasticky as before, only this time the plastic has a sort of cross-hatched effect. Additionally the first press of a face button gives rise to a raised eyebrow, as they don’t protrude from the body of the pad as much as before. That said, the outwardly the curved triggers are lovely – plenty of range and they feel solid beneath the fingers – and the new analogue sticks are excellent, with none of the dead zone of floppiness of years gone by. And no-one should have to put up with a floppy analogue stick.

My day one hands-on consists of Driveclub and Knack (there will be more to follow tomorrow), and individual looks at both games will be forthcoming. But while neither title (especially the latter) tells of a marked shift in the gaming landscape in itself, there is a sense of change that’s arises from the mere fact that one is interacting with this new hardware.
It stems largely from sensing the potential that  lies within the machine, and seeing how this might be made manifest in the future. Driveclub is all about its social features, but then so was Need For Speed: Most Wanted. However when you’ve just been involved in a spectacular crash and sent your gorgeous, next-generation Audi barrelling across a field and into a ditch, you then look down and see the Share button. And you realise that racing games now have a whole new world of possibilities open to them that simply weren’t there before, no matter how well implemented the online leaderboard systems.

Then there are the visuals, which are already a step up from the best that PS3 has to offer. And while that may be a given, the mind then compares the difference between early PS3 titles and what we have now. Even contrasting one of the current gen’s strongest early titles, the original Uncharted, with the same developer’s swansong on that hardware (The Last Of Us) makes clear the visual chasm between the two. So casting thoughts forward to even a couple of years from now, let alone half a dozen, it’s inevitable that visual fidelity will be at a level beyond which we’re expecting or even hoping for right now.

And while Knack may not lift the spirits when looked at from an isolated perspective, somehow within the overarching message of PlayStation 4 there’s cause to be optimistic. The machine’s low price point should lead to a wider install base, while the inclusivity and approachability of Sony’s overarching strategy makes it seem like this will be a console that reaches the family/casual user in addition to the more seasoned gamer. So much as you or I may scoff at the idea of spending our evenings playing a simplistic children’s platformer, it’s important that software is produced that appeals to and caters for that audience. Sony is already upping its game in this regard with the impressive Wonderbook (and the PS Eye is sure to feature heavily in PS4 plans), and it’s important that such a market is not ignored.

The truly innovative and boundary-pushing next-generation titles are not those that will be released at the console’s launch window, nor even most of those that we know of that are penciled in for further down the line. And even some of those that do offer the most hope in the short term have yet to go under the thumb. But an early foray into interacting with Sony’s new console offers many reasons to be positive. For instance, that sleek new pad and the enhancements it offers in terms of control and inputs. The increase in graphical processing power, which we know hasn’t even scratched the surface of what’s to come. The range of software and the message that Sony is conveying in that regard. And, most of all, the potential that is so clearly evident in that little black box. There’s something special on the horizon, and I’ve already felt it.

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