It’s quite incredible that we’re about to be celebrating the Playstation 4’s first birthday in the UK this weekend. Last November many of us were taking our first tentative steps into the gorgeous vistas of Killzone Shadow Fall or flying through millions of exploding voxels in Resogun, or perhaps you’d only got as far as marvelling at the glowing stripe in that distinctive case. Or perhaps that was just me. Either way, we thought it would be a great opportunity for us here at TSA to look at what our highlights of the PS4’s first year have been, as well as those troublesome disappointments, and some thoughts on what the next year could hold. As always, we’d also love to hear about your personal take on Sony’s first year, both positive and negative!
Straight out of the gate, one of the biggest improvements over the previous generation was the addition of that Share button to the Dualshock 4. In fact, for our editor Blair it was a huge asset for everything we do here; “my highlight has been just how connected it all is – the Share button was a genius move on Sony’s part, allowing you to upload screenshots, videos, and even just broadcast your game to the masses. It’s been great for content on TSA, and it just works so well”.
That interconnectivity really makes a marked difference to how we access games now, with Peter summing it up, “The share button has been a revolution, with Twitch streams and tweeted screenshots regularly piquing my interest in games that I would otherwise perhaps have passed on – or at least resisted a little longer. Share Play is also going to be amazing for the way we play games, if the big publishers don’t conspire to ruin it by blocking off their games.”
Sony have certainly seemed to grasp the potential that the network provides for gamers to connect to each other, despite the problems that PSN has had over the past year. Aran has seen his multiplayer gaming time expand greatly thanks to this; “Possibly my biggest highlight has been the online multiplayer. On the last gen I did quite a bit of it, but it died down over the last couple of years. However, on PS4 I’ve had the pleasure of playing Destiny with a lot of the TSA community, and Share Play is also one of my favourite features where I can chat with people while they’re playing on my PS4 while being somewhere else in the world”.
That Destiny multiplayer had many of us hooked, with Tuffcub right in amongst the action; “A highlight has to be completing that blasted Vault of Glass raid in Destiny for the first time, an immense, if utterly pointless achievement. I understand now why people complained about a lack of party chat on PS3, it makes such a difference in multiplayer games and the PS4 is much more social.”
The technology that Sony gained when they purchased Gaikai has definitely paid dividends, from Share Play through to the emergence of Playstation TV and Playstation Now. One of my personal highlights has been the functionality of remote play between the Vita and the PS4. It seems unbelievable to be able to turn my console on from my in-laws house, and play an almost lag-free game of Final Fantasy 14 over the internet on my handheld from miles away.
No new console is complete without software, and Matt found a lot to love in the first PS4 Playstation Plus title; “I think one of the biggest PS4 highlights for me continues to be Resogun. Not only is it a great game that many PS4 owners got for free right at launch, but it’s aged really well and continues to be supported by Housemarque with expansions and free content. As AAA games come and go, I keep going back to Resogun to wind down a night of gaming or to just kill time”.
The other two Playstation exclusives at launch may not have hit the mark for some, but there were still incredible moments to be found in them. Tuffcub cites his first moments in one of them as a pivotal PS4 moment; “My highlights would include the first time I saw the stunning swoop through the city near the start of Killzone Shadow Fall. Not only was it technically impressive with reflections a-go-go, particle effects and waterfalls, it was a sunny blue day filled with cherry blossom and laughter, a stark contrast to previous Killzones which were dark and grim.” Personally I really enjoyed the other Sony exclusive Knack, which despite some lacklustre check-pointing had a great graphical style and challenging old-school gameplay.
I also loved the improved graphical fidelity of cross platform releases like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and the definitive edition of Tomb Raider. Matt highly rated another returning game; “The Last of Us is another high point of the PS4 for me so far. I understand the complaint about too many remakes and HD collections these days, but we’re talking about one of the greatest games of all time. A very shiny new coat of paint was reason enough for me to beat it two more times and reinforce my own opinion of just how great that game is. It also gave me a chance to check out the multiplayer this time around, something I really enjoyed after never giving it a shot on my PS3.”
Dan also got a lot out of some of those same remakes; “Playing Tomb Raider and The Last Of Us again, the latter in the rather brilliant 60fps, has been a blast. I still can’t get over how good of a game The Last Of Us is, with the Left Behind DLC providing a great back story to Ellie, which I hadn’t had the chance to experience on the PS3.”
It wasn’t necessarily all just about the graphics for some members of the team though, despite the new consoles muscle, with Stefan enjoying some of the smaller experiences on offer. “I had a lot of fun with indie games like Transistor, Octodad and Velocity 2X,” he said, “and while they struggled with the bigger budget games, Ubisoft’s little experiments with Child of Light and Valiant Hearts were wonderful. “ Dan’s own personal gaming highlight of the year was downloadable title Outlast “It’s a wonderful game, that has really freaked me out at times. It looks great too and the sound does a fantastic job in creating a nail biting atmosphere, even if you’re just watching and not playing.”
Despite a few missteps, it’s been an excellent year for gaming, with some fantastic titles appearing for PS4. Jim sums it up perfectly, saying, “Just look at the last couple of months. From Destiny and Shadow of Mordor to Advanced Warfare, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Far Cry 4, all are spectacular games and, what’s more, this is just the beginning.”
Unfortunately, the last twelve months hasn’t all been plain sailing for Sony, with the PS4 beset by various problems. One of the key issues has been the release of games in a frankly unfinished state, with graphical, performance and connectivity issues all raising their head, occasionally at the same time.
For Tuffcub it was a huge problem; “Day one patches. It is become increasingly common for games to “go gold” and yet be a mess. Yes, I’m talking about you AC Unity. The Evil Within was also completely and utterly borked without the day one patch, with terrible frame rates, the wrong resolution and loads of glitches. Sadly I can only see this practise becoming more common, it won’t be long before the 50GB Blu-ay will only contain a 100MB downloader app that will download your £60 game in 5GB chunks as and when the developer gets round to finishing the next level. “
Dan was also disappointed by the Assassin’s Creed: Unity problems, stating that it was simply “not acceptable for such a huge release”. Hopefully Ubisoft have learnt from their mistakes this autumn, as it’s safe to say that consumers will be wary of trusting their games again on future release days.
Another key problem for the tsa staff has been the Playstation Network, which despite being a paid for service now still hasn’t improved much beyond the PS3 era, with both Blair and Aran citing it as an issue. For Matt it was the main disappointment of the year; “I only really have one complaint about the PS4 so far and that’s the continued inconsistencies of the PlayStation Network. Don’t get me wrong, my Xbox One has network down time now and again as well, but it seems to happen a lot more often on PS4, and often right when something I really want to play is coming out. The regular network maintenance and the times they choose to do them are also obnoxious.”
Peter’s main problem with the PS4’s first year was the lack of truly compelling exclusives, a fact which has been amplified this autumn with both the Xbox One and the Wii U receiving a number of high quality exclusives while Sony has faltered. “In general, I think the exclusives haven’t been good enough,” he said. “Killzone: Shadow Fall was gorgeous but the campaign was a bit hollow, Knack was unimaginative and tedious, Infamous: Second Son was lacking that little bit extra to take an undoubtedly fun experience and make it into a truly great game. As time has gone on, things haven’t improved either – Driveclub’s release has been a mess that’s seen a great looking game with an enjoyable driving model wither under the noxious stench of broken online play and broken promises to Plus members.”
It wasn’t just the big hitters that drew ire from the team with Tuffcub beset throughout the year by his pet hate; “Pixel games. Hundreds of the bloody things. They were quirky at first, ho ho look at my hipster cleverness for making your brand new beast of a machine look like a 1980’s PC, but now they are a plague infecting the PS4. I simply just won’t bother playing pixel games any more, I don’t care how acclaimed they are. They need to go away, and fast, ‘This is not what I bought my PS4 for!’”
Unfortunately, myself, Aran and Stefan were all hit by that most feared event of the early adopter – hardware failure. However, I was very impressed by the service they provided, and both of us received replacements consoles from Sony. Fortunately it seems as though they’ve managed to prevent a widespread disaster like Microsoft had with the 360, and have managed to retain good will by rectifying any problems very swiftly.
What does the next year hold for Sony? The team here at TSA is certainly very positive about what’s possible in the next 12 months, with Blair hopeful that things will pick back up in 2015; “Sony started with a bang, which has been slowly quietening down since launch, even with a brilliant E3 showing this year. Once Bloodborne and The Order get the ball rolling from February onwards, hopefully they can pick up the momentum again.” Dan meanwhile kept his hopes short and sweet; “Simply more great games like Outlast and inFamous, no more shambolic releases, more racers and better Plus offerings.”
Peter is pinning his hopes on Sony’s exclusives, stating “I’m extremely optimistic about the potential of Uncharted 4 and there will undoubtedly be several fantastic third party games to look forward to but I’m really hoping that there will be a few more blockbuster exclusives to brighten up the PS4’s second year.” Stefan meanwhile just hopes for improvements across the board, “2015 should really see everyone hitting their stride. I look forward to more indie games, more polished big budget titles and, most importantly, more PS4 firmware updates!”
Personally, I can’t wait for No Man’s Sky, a game which has enthralled me since its original announcement, as well as the incredible looking PS4 exclusive Rime. I also, like many of the team, can’t wait to return to Nathan Drake’s story in Uncharted 4, especially as Naughty Dog are likely to draw every last drop of processing power out of Sony’s newest console, just as they did with the PS3. I also can’t wait to see how Playstation Now pans out with its EU beta and launch, and hopefully Sony will settle on a sensible pricing structure for its streaming service.
Further interaction with other members of the community is high on a number of the team’s plans for the year, with Aran looking positively into the next year “I’m hoping for a lot more playing time with the TSA community, as well as more interactivity through streaming on the console. There’s definitely things that need sorting, but overall, the future looks bright for the PS4”
I’ll leave the final word to Jim, who said, “Looking forward, things are only going to get better. If nothing else, Uncharted 4 will see to that. From Sony, we can expect to see new and more inventive titles such as The Order 1886 and Bloodborne. Though neither look to be particularly ground-breaking, they are far from being safe bets either. Further down the line we’ll see third party publishers starting to deliver on their pre-launch promises. From multiplayer marvels such as The Division, Deep Down, and PlanetSide 2 to sprawling epics like The Witcher III, we’re finally going to playing the games we could only dream of playing just a few years ago.”