Hands-On With The PS4: The Controller, Features, and Design Impressions

Hands-On With The PS4: The Controller, Features, and Design Impressions

After what seems like years of waiting, the Playstation 4 finally hit Europe in all its slanted-design glory last week. This new dawn of consoles has people excited, the opposing directions of the Xbox One and PS4 has people talking, and now we finally have both systems released. Consequently, the stores were jam-packed with people, with separate lines for PS4 customers, but with a large majority buying games for systems new and old.

There’s always a strange sense of giddy excitement that comes with buying a new console. The moment you finally see what you’ve only previously gazed upon in photos and videos is a strange but enjoyable experience. For me, once the PS4 was tagged, bagged, and handed over, the burning desire to get home and connect it up kicked in. It signaled the start of my dirty weekend with the PS4.

The PS4 itself isn’t exactly an attractive system. In fact, it’s slightly ugly. The strange squashed-and-slanted look resembles something like a toaster. It stays true to Sony’s obsession with starting off ugly only to get progressively slicker after the second or third redesign. It’s not exactly a small system, either, but nor is it as large and awkward as the first two versions of the PS3.

The Playstation 4 slots in nicely into most set-ups, and once its weird design is partly hidden, it does look…okay.

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The PS4 controller, however, is leaps and bounds above than the spongy triggered and frail Dual Shock 3 controller. This new controller feels a lot more solid and natural in the hand, with its analogue sticks keeping the thumbs in place, stopping any slips that the Dual Shock 3 made irritatingly frequent. Also, the shoulder buttons and triggers carry a satisfying click to them–similar to the brilliant Xbox 360 controller.

The position of the touch surface on the controller makes using it a smooth and easy process. After less than an hour with the pad, the touch surface began to feel natural to use, almost like it’s been part of Sony’s system since the PS2. It’s a truly wonderful design that corrects all of the faults of the Dual Shock 3 while proving a newer, sleeker, more well-rounded controller in the process.

On top of that, the LED light and speaker in the pad look slightly gimmicky, but when used efficiently by games (Killzone, for example), they add a nice little touch to things.

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In terms of software, the PS4′s UI impressed me from the moment I set eyes upon it. It’s simple, neat, clean, and efficient–all rare things in today’s world of excessive clutter. Almost every issue I, and others, had with the PS3′s clunky UI have been addressed and fixed. The new interface works like a charm, with it being incredibly simple to navigate and flowing with a sense of finesse. Within five minutes the whole UI seemed familiar; its accessibility is simply unparalleled at this moment in time.

The PSN store has also been vastly improved. Pages now load much faster, there’s no delay when navigating each window, and none of the PS3 store issues are present in this iteration. Colour me impressed, Sony, colour me impressed.

One of the features that had the internet buzzing–and Twitch readying the banhammer–was, of course, the streaming abilities of the PS4. Everyone wants to share their videogame exploits these days, and Sony totally supports this. The PS4′s Twitch/uStream feature was shockingly easy to use. There’s no messing around with settings, no buying expensive capture cards. All you need are a few presses of a button and boom, you’re streaming. Users can either view PS4 streams directly from the PS4 menus or watch directly on Twitch, with the latter being a consistently better option.The quality is pretty decent and consistent, too, though the feature isn’t perfect. Only two comments from viewers can be viewed at any given time, making it difficult to catch any comments made when the room is busy.

 

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The ability to use the PS Vita as a means to play PS4 games is a feature that hugely impresses. Setting it up is an easy enough process (a running theme with the PS4) and yields instant results. There’s little-to-no lag when using the Vita for remote play. Battlefield 4 looked great on the small screen, even if the controls did feel rather awkward on the Vita. It’s not an essential feature but does fill me with hope that developers will finally make use of it, as it truly holds a lot of potential to enhance videogame experiences.

Overall, the features, UI, and controller impressed me above all else. Sony have clearly took note of the problems with the PS3′s controller and interface and went to great lengths to address each issue. While the system itself is a bit on the ugly side, it works and flows extremely well. Improvements to the PSN Store are warmly welcomed and allow for a much more enjoyable browsing experience. Remote play works well and feels more like more than a gimmick. It remains to be seen if developers make the most of the feature, however. The share options and streaming features are a lovely touch that the PS4 has to offer, with the features being so simple to use that anyone will be able to appreciate it. The PS4, on the features front, is impressive and solid and suggests Sony has truly got their game-face on this generation.

The future looks bright–as bright as the funky LED on the PS4 controller.

 

Sean Halliday


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