Written by Matthew Wingler
The launch of the PlayStation 4 is now officially behind us in the United States, and while those of you on the other side of the pond still have a two week wait ahead of you, here’s a few initial thoughts on the PS4’s interface and network functions to hold you over.
For starters, moving around on the PS4’s equivalent of the XMB (now called the PlayStation Dynamic Menu) is quite easy and very fast. Moving in and out of apps, games, and network functions is a breeze and the whole thing is just very zippy. I’ve yet to get stuck on a function when navigating that had to wait to load for more than a split second, and it appears all the options on the dynamic menu are always available, even when you’re in the middle of the game.
Probably the most requested feature on the PlayStation 3 was cross-game chat and it’s finally here on the PS4. Good news: it’s easy to use, it works across all games and apps, and the voice quality is quite good, even when using the rather cheap and flimsy chat dongle included in the PS4’s box. One odd thing to note about party chat is that it doesn’t completely mute the voice coming from other people in the public multiplayer game lobbies.
It mutes your voice from them, so long as you choose to stay in the party chat channel, but you can still hear other members of the public lobby talking. Some may prefer that and if you’re truly looking for an uninterrupted conversation with your pals while playing multiplayer games, you can still completely silence other gamers by using the mute function inside the game.
Trophies have really caught on with the PlayStation crowd and they’re better than ever on PS4. The trophy list loads quickly and a neat “rarity” system has been added, identical to what was implemented on the Vita last week. One other great thing about trophies is that it’s much easier to compare them to others this time around. On PS3, if you wanted to compare trophies with a friend who had many of them, it took quite a while for the PS3 to populate the list and then re-order them based on what was played last. On PS4, the list comes up much faster and it populates based on their most recently played games, so you likely won’t be left waiting for more than a few seconds to compare with your friends.
Also worth noting is that the trophy delay from the PS3 is long gone. Trophies now pop the second you complete the required objective and the new notification is quite lovely. Unfortunately, trophies seem to be an online-only feature and they still require a manual sync if you want them to update immediately after earning them. Anytime I signed out of the PlayStation Network, it stopped me from viewing my trophies and prompted me to sign back in.
Speaking of signing in, that’s been a bit of an issue over the launch weekend. With the PSN experiencing such heavy traffic during, getting online has been a bit of a hassle. Luckily that seems to be the biggest hurdle, and everyone I’ve talked to so far say they were eventually able to sign in with a bit of patience, and everything worked fine once they actually connected to the network. I suspect we’ll experience another round of sluggish behavior when the PS4 launches in Europe but to be frank, I’m pretty impressed that a delay while signing in has been the only real issue that’s faced me and the others I game with so far.
Another one of the things I’ve been very pleased with is download speeds. Though it has fluctuated a bit here and there, it seems much faster than what I traditionally experienced on PS3. Resogun downloaded in about three minutes (with an 18Mb connection) and I’ve heard from two other people that their initial firmware update of roughly 300MB took only about a minute to download.
While we’re on the topic of firmware, I can confirm that loading it onto the console via a flash drive works very well and took less than 10 minutes with the new 1TB drive I installed before booting the console for the first time.
I don’t think I can possibly say enough about how well the new sharing features are implemented into the PS4. Setting the functions of the share button is easy, managing screenshots and video clips is a piece of cake, and streaming your own gameplay is literally as easy as pushing a button (after you’ve signed into the streaming service of your choice, of course). The only gripe I have about the share features – and it’s a minor one – is that regardless of what you set the share button to do when you press it, it always takes a screenshot and always stops the current video clip being captured (and saves it) and starts a new one.
It does whatever it’s programmed to do too, but I kept noticing a large amount of screenshots and small video clips saved that I didn’t intend when I was just trying to navigate in and out of the sharing section. Luckily, these files don’t take up quite as much room as you might think and they have their own section in the storage management area, so multi-selecting and mass deleting a lot of stuff at once is very easy.
There are many other areas of the PS4’s UI that are very nice but don’t really warrant extensive conversation. The What’s New section of the dynamic menu is nice and keeps all your recently used apps and games in a very easy to access place, I love the new friends list and the additional sorting options, and the settings section of the UI doesn’t seem to be as convoluted as it used to be.
It’s not perfect and I do have a few minor gripes to go along with some early PSN hiccups, but overall I’ve been very satisfied with the new UI. It’s really a step up from what we had on the PS3 and for the most part it just feels like a next generation. Hopefully the next two weeks pass quickly and you can experience the PS4 for yourself.
We’ll have more PS4 content as we edge closer to the UK launch, with forthcoming reviews and opinion pieces as soon as we’ve got our hands on the console here in the UK.