October 16, 2013, 15:30

Hands-On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

By David Howard, Editor-in-Chief and Founder

Heading into the final stretch before release, the PlayStation 4 has ridden the successful waves of the onrushing tide so far. Almost everything bit of news that comes out ends up being positive, despite the occasion rumour that would suggest otherwise (such as the initial story suggest that HDCP would once again be used on the HDMI output of gaming content which was then quashed). How would the console hold up though under it’s first UK hands-on at EGX in Earl’s Court.

It was the first time that gamers had the chance to put the new controller in their hands and watch the spangling new titles on TVs before their very eyes. There was a huge PlayStation presence this year, bigger than previously. A giant suspended screen featured over an hours worth of PlayStation focused content above the open and welcoming PlayStation 4 booth, whilst the Vita showcased a wealth of impressive titles and many third-party titles used Sony’s upcoming machine to demonstrate, a stark turnaround from previous years.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Slick Lines And New Buttons

Whilst it was difficult to see the console hidden away in perspex containers beneath the glowing screen illuminated with a variety of next-gen goodness, the PlayStation 4 looks as beautiful in the flesh as its renders and photos suggest. Without getting my hands on one it’s hard to talk much more about it other than I was, even knowing the size, surprised at how small it was. Granted, it’s by no means a tiny bit of kit but it’s slick and compact that it reminds you just how behemoth the original PlayStation 3 was. Much more akin to the first version of the slim PlayStation 3 than anything it’s pleasing to see a console so seemingly well designed that it can both fit into such a small chassis and without needing to ship with a hefty power brick either.

The figurehead of the PlayStation 4 before the actual console’s eventual reveal was the DualShock 4 and it’s not hard to see why Sony lauded over the newly designed controller. A little bit larger than it’s predecessor the DualShock 3, the fourth numbered iteration of this iconic controller is wonderfully comfortable to hold. The triggers are far improved, as are the analogue sticks and the implantation and use of the touchpad was well demonstrated (though, as you can read later, Dave disagreed).

Really I’d need substantially more time with the DS4 to get a true understanding of any bugbears or potential wonderments, but my initial time was both pleasurable and comfortable so I expect big things from this controller – whatever that may actually mean.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Killzone: Shadow Fall

The big exclusive shooter for the next-generation launch is a refresh on the popular franchise of Killzone. Single player looks to add a lick of colour to the lauded grey and gloomy series, but that was not on show as it was all about the multiplayer.

Running at 60fps it’s the change that many wanted and it’s clear as to why. The weighty feel of Killzone is one of the reasons I love it so to have both that and a much faster response was enlightening. Shadow Fall felt both swift and heavy at the same time and seems to be the ideal next-generational successor in terms of controls. Then there’s the simple mind-blowing visuals. Comfortably the most visually impressive next-gen title currently, the team at Guerrilla Games have crafted a stunningly beautiful title that showcases the power of the PlayStation 4.

The multiplayer demo gave a first taste of Shadow Fall’s Warzone mode which sees objectives alter throughout the session from deathmatch to defend-the-base to capture-and-hold – which allowed variation in play style within a single mission. There wasn’t much time to take a look at much else other than try out some of the special abilities for each class and witness just how damn pretty it all was.

How Shadow Fall’s challenge based progression system rather than XP works will be interesting, as will combat honours, but after an initial session with it I cannot wait to jump back in.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Driveclub

I’ve always been a fickle creature when it comes to racers. I general like them all but it’s difficult to keep me hooked. Arcade racers is where I generally have a far more enjoyable time, but I’m never shy from giving a proper simulation a good go. Driveclub however, looks like the ideal blend of the two.

From Evolution Studios, the team behind the MotorStorm franchise, Driveclub will be seen as a direct competitor to the established Forza Motorsport 5 as the exclusive next-gen racers, but it offers something rather unique – the ability to succeed without having to win the race. As it balances between arcade and sim racer, the team element of Driveclub is what makes it incredibly appealing. With in-race goals such as top-speed, drifting, and following the racing line you can earn points for your club which is exceptionally gratifying even if you then fail miserably to post an impressive time as I did.

Beyond the enjoyable racing is a graphical prowess that kicks you in the face it’s so good. Videos on YouTube do it no justice as the environments and cars are something to behold. Not until you see them side-by-side, does Driveclub make the otherwise incredibly looking Gran Turismo 6 seem somewhat flat.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Warframe

Written by Dave Irwin.

Having this free-to-play game coming to consoles is a big deal. By taking advantage of the PS4 hardware, this frantic run-and-gun horde mode at times made me feel like I was a killing machine – butchering all foes that dared to get in my way. Not only did it look fantastic, but the framerate was consistently high, making my dance of death with the melee weapon look spectacular.

However, one detail turned this experience to a sour one for me – the gimmicky use of the PS4 controller’s touchpad. Swiping in certain directions activated powers the hero has, bolstering his defence or creating shockwaves to send enemies flying. The dissonance that surrounds this one mechanic made me question for the first time whether or not developers could wisely use the touchpad on the new controller. As a free to play experience, it is perhaps the best the PS4 has to offer, but I can’t help but wonder if it has highlighted a flaw with the controllers design.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Written by Dave Irwin.

As one of the first to play this particular game at EGX this year, I found I had longer than others did to sail the Caribbean seas. When I wasn’t engaged in ship battles or swimming through the first island I came across, I found my crew and I singing sea shanties as the realistic waves crashed against the side of my vessel – plundering all in my wake.

Coming across a few islands, each with scattered treasure and villages, I decided to answer a behest to assassinate two poachers. Upon arriving in their island hideout, it was clear that going in all guns blazing was not a wise idea. Instead, sneaking up on them to eventually put these poachers in their deathbed was the way to go. Alas, while my assassin skills were still top-notch, I was rumbled on my escape as I tried to save two hostages they were holding. A sword fight later and they were dead. The two hostages joined my crew and after some more time sailing aimlessly, my voyage came to an abrupt end.

Having the map on the touch pad is a nice feature and the game feels better being on the new hardware. As a pirate simulator, it is one of the best out there, with the next-gen version showing a significant leap in quality.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Resogun

Set to be the dark horse of the next-gen launches, Resogun is Finnish developers Housemarque’s latest venture into potential greatness as they attempt to resurrect and redefine classics arcade game Defender. Having already stormed the PlayStation Network with the Super Stardust series, we should expect a similar standard from Resogun.

A bold and vivid art style, super smooth and responsive controls, incredible particle effects, and an urge to defeat wave after wave of enemies sets this side-scrolling shooter up to be a colossal hit.

Needing to save humans from abduction, powering through lines of enemies with boosts or disintegrating them out with a mesmerizing bomb, tackling goliath bosses and weaving in and out of danger is what Resogun is about. SCEE’s Senior Business Development Manager, Shahid Ahmad threw money at his screen when he first saw Resogun and it’s not hard to see why.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Hohokum

“So what do I do?”, I gingerly asked a PlayStation rep who responded with a simple shrug of the shoulders before telling me to just have a go. What followed was equal parts bemusing, wonderful and mesmerizing. Hohokum is of similar vain to Flower, a game that doesn’t explain what to do and lets you figure it out for yourself and the result is joyous.

Set for release on PlayStation 3 and Vita as well as the PS4, the Honeyslug developed title sees you play a serpent creature as you fly around in the non-linear and wacky environment, free of scores or time limits. There are no lives, no tutorials, no crushing potential pitifuls; just a relaxing and enjoyable space for you to explore. Visual cues were used to highlight tasks to complete but all without the challenge to advance or needing to avoid failure.

I flew around, interacting with pipes, pine cones and creatures with balloons, providing lifts for elephant-esque fellows to suction up some gooey substance and just admiring the delightful art style. It was a joy to play; some simple yet complex, allowing you to discover things for yourself rather than hand-holding you at every corner – and something that others certainly were intrigued by as they crowded round to watch. Hohokum is just one of the marvellous looking titles that Sony invests in and hopefully it can be placed amongst the best.

Hands On With The PlayStation 4 Ramps Up The Excitement

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

As you try to live out your life as an Octopus masquerading as a human, Octodad: Dadliest Catch looks set to feature great humour alongside it’s frustrating yet novel controls. Aiming not to alert others of your true nature, you must prepare Octodad for his wedding which incurs great difficulty. The controls are certainly unique with a single tentacle arm controlled by both analogue sticks (one for height and width and the other for depth with regards to position) and each leg controlled by first switching to leg mode and the holding either the right or left triggers.

Featuring a quirky art style, Octodad has garnered a rather substantial following since it’s Independent Games Festival and then the Dadliest Catch’s Kickstarter funding and it’s easy to see why. A lovely, mad, frustrating, satisfying, funny and clever title is something anyone can get on board with.


It’s difficult to judge a console on such little game time given that it will become a mainstay in households day-in-day-out for foreseeable future. There was little on show though that did anything other than ramp up the excitement around the machine and both the quality and diversity of launch titles is immensely promising. Hopefully the full titles will live up to their snippets as we soon enter a new era of videogame history.

Sony’s had the bulk of the positivity since the PlayStation 4′s announcement and there was nothing here to suggest that that’s anything other than fully warranted.