The dawn of a new era is upon us. The Playstation 4 has officially launched, ushering in the next generation of console gaming. I was one of the lucky first to lay hands on the PS4 and planned to spend the entire night immersed in “the future”. I was immersed in something alright, but mostly a suffocating inability to play games and the deafening silence of my own disappointment.
And F bombs. A lot of F bombs.
Rather than scrapping my frustrated footage, I thought it would be much more productive to share with you my experience over the past 9 hours: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the awesome. Let’s start where it all begins… with my mission to acquire the brand new Playstation 4.
GameStop: Getting the Goods
I didn’t pre-order either of the new consoles, but as you may have guessed, decided at the last minute that I wanted – no, NEEDED – the PS4. So at 2PM on Thursday afternoon, I strolled into the Fells Point GameStop in Baltimore, MD where 3 freezing souls were already waiting in line. The store manager suggested I come back by about 6PM if I wanted a chance to buy one.
No chance I would wait 10 hours in the cold. Even the 6 hours from 6PM to midnight seemed pushing it. So I rolled back up to GameStop around 7PM where the manager informed me they had run out of systems. What happened to waiting in line until midnight?
Unlike my disastrous Wii U Walmart launch, GameStop had it all figured out. They monitored the line, and when the number of people in line matched the number of available consoles, they gave everyone a reservation ticket, had them purchase the console on the spot, and asked them to come back at 11:30pm to pick it up.
Luckily the employee on duty (thanks if you’re reading this!) contacted several other GameStops and let me know 3 local stores that still had availability. So off I went… winding up on the Merritt Road GameStop with plenty of PS4s to spare. I made my purchase at 8PM, returned at 11:30pm with about 100 others, and in assembly line fashion they checked receipts and passed out consoles.
Despite all the crap GameStop takes, I can’t imagine the experience being much better. It was organized, employees were helpful, wait time was minimized, and they had everything running on all cylinders.
Then I got home.
Sony: WaitStation 4
Prior to the public launch, we had already heard about a number of PS4 problems. Some reports indicated corrupt PS4 hard drives. Others were saying HDMI output was broken or shoddy. My primary goal in life quickly became to set up my PS4 and realize it wasn’t bricked.
Marvelous. Now for the next hurdle: in order to play any online games, PS4 owners need to perform a system software update to version 1.50.
One could imagine that a huge, simultaneous influx of 300MB software downloads would cause a bit of a clogged network. Those of us who prepared in advance were able to download the update ahead of time and manually install it with a USB drive. That’s what I did and it worked out wonderfully:
Relatively painless. So now I’m in the clear, right? Not exactly.
Beyond this step, almost everything involved with setting up the Playstation 4 was a nightmare. The “loading” screens would load infinitely, leaving you without the option to back out. Random network connection errors popped up. Some blamed Sony Entertainment Network System Maintenance . Doing anything except crying seemed close to impossible.
That video was only a few minutes… but it took place over the course of 4 long hours. It was painful. Every time you thought you were in the clear, more infinite loading would ruin your day. But as you can see, I eventually got through.
I spent about 30 minutes attempting to connect for online gameplay, which in hindsight, seems completely idiotic. The sun began to rise, indicating to me that my all-nighter would soon be a failure if I hadn’t at least played some actual game. I cracked open Madden 25 and Killzone and gave each a quick spin, trying to forget about my previous 5 hours. Afterall, this is the price early adopters agree to pay, both literally and figuratively.
PS4 Verdict: Outlook Amazing, Infinite Potential
I chose Madden 25 because it’s a game with which I’m intimately familiar and I wanted to compare the experience to my Xbox 360. I chose Killzone because it’s a PS4 exclusive and seems like it could really show off what the PS4 has to offer.
I was absolutely blown away by both games.
I started with Madden. I figured it would simply be a rehash of Madden 25 on the other consoles. Same graphics. Same gameplay. Same announcing. Same everything, just a different console to put it in. Boy was I wrong.
Don’t get me wrong: Madden 25 on PS4 may seem identical to folks who aren’t used to Madden, but it only took a few plays for me to see the power of PS4. On offense, movement in the backfield seemed fluid and natural, making it more realistic to play on both sides of the ball. For the first time in awhile, the Madden game physics seemed perfect. Was it the clarity and smoothness provided by the hardware? Did EA put in overtime hours on their end? Probably both.
Then, while on defense, I slammed the opposing receiver out of bounds after a long gain. FLAG! What?
I haven’t seen this before in any other version of Madden… I got an Unnecessary Roughness penalty for hitting the player late, while he was out of bounds. The penalty was deserved, but I didn’t even know the penalty existed in Madden! It all happened so smoothly that it felt like watching one of today’s NFL games.
The NFL has changed a lot in the past 5 years, but in many ways, the Madden franchise has been walking on a treadmill. I’ll need to put in a lot more hours before I can offer a verdict, but this was the first time in years that I’ve been wowed by Madden. In fact… I’m usually extremely disappointed.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
After playing one half of Madden I jumped over to Killzone and started a campaign.
Full disclosure: I’m not traditionally a big FPS type guy. Don’t get me wrong, I play my fair share, but I don’t naturally gravitate towards them. After 30 minutes of Killzone, that might all change: within the first 10 minutes you’re blown away with gorgeous scenes and sucked into a cinematic story that has a few heartstring moments. It’s the type of game that can pull a Netflix on you… watch the first little bit and before you know it you’ve wasted your whole weekend, you’re done the series, and you’re already looking for a new addiction.
Thanks to the solid set of Playstation 4 launch titles, there are plenty of addictions to be had. I’ll be spending all weekend enjoying a wide spectrum of games so I can bring you guys a little bit of everything, and then in the coming week(s) and month(s), much more in-depth pieces will come.
A few important reminders:
- Head on over to PS4 Forums if you haven’t already… it’s where it’s at.
- You still have the chance to win a PS4 in our Mega Contest. Entries are being accepted until Sunday.
- We’re looking for contributors!
As I previously mentioned, the problems I experienced should be expected for a launch of this magnitude. If everything went perfectly smooth, THAT would be the surprise.
I’m assuming in the coming days things will start to stabilize. Sony will release some software patches. They’ll better load balance their servers. They’ll figure it out. This is an unfortunate but relatively acceptable evil. I hope everyone getting a PS4 over launch weekend can understand and appreciate this concept. You may get frustrated, but put it into perspective… at the end of the day, they’re still just games.
Fortunately for me, PS4 games will be my best friends this weekend, and I take my friends very seriously.