Review: PlayStation 4, Part 1

Sony, Playstation 4Model: CUH-1001A


MSRP: $399.99

The Playstation 4 is, of course, a Playstation 3 plus a Playstation One. Or two PlayStation 2’s. You get the idea. It’s the new one. I got the system on day one, despite the fact that I had no interest in any of the launch games. So instead of reviewing a system I wasn’t really using I decided to wait for a few months, get a couple software updates under my belt and maybe wait for a game.

I’ve already given some initial impressions, and a small gallery of photos, in my day-one article, “PS4 First Impressions“. In the first part of this review, I’ll focus on the hardware. Part 2 will focus on the system interface and software.

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Game Review: Brothers

Game, BrothersReviewed on Playstation 3, Official Website

Rated “T” for Teen

Many successful indie games feature a novel game play mechanic (or several). The world-revealing ink splatter of “The Unfinished Swan” [Our Review] is immediately understandable and visually stunning. The “light equals existence” rule of “Closure” and the shadow-play of “Contrast” [Our Review] need a few moments of experimentation, but quickly become second nature. Indy games excel at exploring gimmicks.

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Game Review: Bioshock: Infinite

Bioshock Infinite, Cover ArtReviewed on Playstation 3, Official Website

Rated “M” for Mature

A spiritual follow-up to 2007’s critical darling Bioshock, this first person shooter replaces the story of the original while maintaining many of its gameplay mechanics and flair for drama.  As usual, I will keep story spoilers to an absolute minimum.

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Personal Archaeology: Virtual Reality, 1995 Style

Virtually Wired 1995, Virtuality 2000With the simmering success of the Occulus Rift, Sony’s announcement of their “Project Morpheus” device for the PS4 and persistent rumors that Microsoft is doing something similar for the XBox One this definitely seems to be the year when head-mounted VR will make its push into our living rooms. What people forget is that this is far from the first time that this has been promised.

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Game Review: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider, 2013Reviewed on Playstation 3, Official Website

Rated “M” for Mature

Like many older gamers I was first introduced to Lara Croft in 1996 on the original PlayStation. By today’s standards it controlled terribly and featured a murderous camera. The environments were blocky and the movement digital and unnatural. Lara may have been cool, smart and strong, but she also looked like a blind arthritic carved her from driftwood with a trowel.

I devoured the game. When I finished it, I immediately started it over and devoured it again.

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Game Review: Contrast

ContrastReviewed on Playstation 4, Official Website

Rated “T” for Teen

You are Dawn. Tall, beautiful and dressed as a Parisian vaudevillian acrobat. You’re the mute companion of the precocious young Didi.  You’re also imaginary. Or, perhaps, you’re not. Didi, of course, has a firm opinion in the matter, but as this entire experience may only exist inside her head we may not want to rely on her.

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“Infamous: Second Son” Video Orgy

YouTube user “DuskBit” has uploaded a nearly thirty minute video collecting much of what we know about Sucker Punch’s highly anticipated PS4 exclusive “Infamous: Second Son”. The video presents several behind-the-scenes vignettes and includes 15 minutes of actual gameplay footage that I hadn’t seen before.

While I presume that the footage is from a pre-final build (I assume the final game will have a HUD of some kind) it’s incredibly impressive. The destructibility of the environment, the fluidity of the movement and quality of the particle effects are all amazing, but expected on a next-gen console. What really struck me, however, was the increased quality of the experience.

The ambient animals, fluttering banners and fully-rendered fallen leaves will likely be missed, but add subtlety to the reality. You’ll see enemies use their powers to alter the environment and create “shelves” for them to stand on to get a height advantage over our hero. You’ll see others decide to give up the fight completely and attempt to flee. Building from
“Infamous 2” there are also clear improvements in the in-game cinematic cameras that add dramatically to the personality of the game.

I’ve made no excuses about my adoration of the series as can be seen in my review of “Infamous 2”. This is the game that my PS4 is waiting for and from the looks of it I won’t be disappointed.

“The Last of Us” and Narrative Decisions

The Last of Us Cover“The Last of Us” [My Review] is, rightfully, being lauded as one of the best games of 2013. It provides mature gamers a tight, immersive gameplay experience framed in a smart and engaging story. It also handily demonstrates the high quality that can be wrung from seven year-old hardware. I enjoyed the game deeply but, as is often the case with something so close to perfection, small issues take on significantly more weight.

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Initial Thoughts on the Steam Controller

steamcontroller-640x542The Steam Controller was recently unveiled as part of the larger set of Steam Machine announcements. The Steam Machine is an open specification for console-like PCs allowing for easy integration of PC games into your living room. While boxes can vary in power and capacity – and so in cost – the Steam Controller is an attempt to normalize the interface.

The controller represents a significant evolution of what’s become a relatively stagnant controller design. While this is a pre-release design that may change it’s unlikely that the core features will change drastically. It shares the two lobed, split-surface design first popularized by the original PlayStation controller but with significant differences.

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Game Review: The Last of Us

The Last of Us CoverReviewed on Playstation 3, Offical Website

Rated “M” for Mature.

20 years after a pandemic fungal infection has wiped out civilization and created a feral hunter-class of infected, humanity lives on the edge. Rigidly controlled but exquisitely vulnerable quarantine zones represent the last of organized government. People get along as best they can under constant threat from sickness, starvation and their fellow survivors.

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