To celebrate the release of the Playstation 4 Slim and the fact that our executive editor Dominic is now able to ignore me on PSN, I (Julian) decided to have a conversation with him about his new console. This parlay begins before Dominic owns the PS4, and ends with his preliminary reports after 3 days with the machine in question. It is lengthy and technical in parts, but does provide Insights You Won’t Regret Reading™ and touch on a bunch of exclusive games and upcoming releases.
“Having owned a PlayStation 4 for a little less than a year, I’m basically the brains behind the system’s architecture.”
Julian: I’m personally very excited that you finally broke down and purchased a PlayStation 4, Dominic, but I am a little disappointed that you went for the Slim. What’s wrong with the normal, plus-sized PlayStation 4? Body shame much? That aside, I want to welcome you to a universe in which I consider myself a specialist. Having owned a PlayStation 4 for a little less than a year, I’m basically the brains behind the system’s architecture. As such, I have some advice for you as a new owner, and also wanted to field any questions you may have about your new baby. Additionally, Sony just rolled out system update 4.0, and I know a lot about it, if by “a lot” you mean “very little.” My first piece of advice is to put your PS4 into sleep mode instead of shutting it down when you aren’t using it. That will allow for updates (to games and the system) to install themselves while you take naps. (You do take naps in Britain?) My second piece of advice is to avoid using Wi-Fi. Even if your newfangled beast has the latest 5ghz wireless receiver, it can’t beat an old-fashioned ethernet cable. One more piece of advice before you jump in: you can take a simple screenshot without any bullshit menu stuff by just holding down the share button for a moment until a small camera icon pops up in the top left. You know, for your articles and stuff. You can then find all of those files in the Capture Gallery application and copy your works of art to a USB key from there.
Dominic: Well I’m glad we’ve resolved the pressing issue of screenshot functionality. That’s exactly what I, and our readers, care about here. Really getting right into the meaty philosophical and conceptual issues there. In any case, I’m glad to have your expertise because I’ve got a confession to make: this is the first non-Nintendo console I’ve ever owned. Ever. I’m already getting childishly excited though — as I write this Amazon just told me they’ve dispatched it, and I’m already mentally drawing up a list of the PS4 releases I need to get my hands on — and all the old PS2 and PS3 exclusives I need to work through on PlayStation Now. It all seems like good timing too — between the new Resident Evil 7 demo update and and a host of other sites writing up their reactions to playing a snippet of The Last Guardian, it’s very easy to be excited about getting my hands on the PS4 right now. So temper my enthusiasm a bit, lower my expectations for me: after almost a year with yours, what don’t you like about it? What are the gripes, the frustrations, and the duds in the lineup I need to steer clear of?
Julian: Personally I never use the streaming stuff like PlayStation Now. For some reason the weird compression artifacts that sometimes show up really bum me out. It’s why I almost never use my Steam Link either. But hey, go ahead and let me know if it’s any good. One thing I will say about PlayStation 4 is that you will often feel like you’re being forced to pay full price for a game before you even find out if you like it. Jake knows what I’m talking about. Unlike Steam, you can’t just get reimbursed if you realize it isn’t your cup of tea after an hour and a half of play. And there aren’t many demos either. So get ready to hover over the purchase button and hesitate. A lot. Or just purchase physical copies, which is what I’ve started doing. Resale value is decent on most titles. One of my other big frustrations is the loading times. The hard-drive isn’t an SSD and most PC users are spoiled with this. I feel like Nintendo doesn’t really have this issue as much because their games are less asset-intensive. Oh god, I’m being boring again.
“There’s something about the closed, un-moddable, couch-bound experience that I find much more relaxing and engrossing”
Games you should avoid (I’m going to be hung for this): Bloodborne. It’s too fucking hard and if you aren’t a masochist you probably won’t enjoy it. But hey, if you like Dark Souls you will definitely enjoy Bloodborne. The more I try to think of anything to warn you against, the more I realize I haven’t played most PS4 exclusives. That includes Uncharted 4 (which I plan to play soon), Ratchet & Clank, Resogun, N++, God of War III Remastered, Until Dawn, and inFAMOUS: Second Son (what a crappy name). I did however play The Last of Us and yeah, you should probably play that. I didn’t finish it, but you know my history with linear cinematic games. I tend to get bored with them. What’s funny is that I actually choose to play lots of games on my PlayStation 4 instead of my PC, despite the latter being a more powerful machine. There’s something about the closed, un-moddable, couch-bound experience that I find much more relaxing and engrossing. Plus my TV is bigger than my monitor. The PlayStation 4 — other than offering me all those wonderful hours of Destiny — has really revealed to me what I want from gaming, especially with stuff like The Witcher 3 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, these big RPGs that play quite well with the dual sticks and a comfortable seat. Of course once Civilization 6 comes out, goodbye PS4 for a while, because there’s nothing like a mouse and keyboard for those kind of management/strategy games. Oh, and one more thing. The PS4 kinda blows when it comes to local co-op. Minecraft was pretty fun for a while, and there’s always Rocket League, but when it comes to just picking up a controller with a friend (who might not be a huge gamer), there’s nothing like Nintendo. Then again, I’m not a sports game fan, so I might be missing out on a whole range of cool shit there.
Dominic: Well, I’ve screwed up at the first hurdle: one of the two games I’ve bought is the first one you warned me away from, Bloodborne. I’m not even sure why I opted for it. I played about half of the first Dark Souls before giving up, and have never gone back to the franchise. I think something about Bloodborne’s Gothic/Victorian plague-ridden setting appeals to me, though I fully expect to only last a few hours before giving it up for good — difficulty porn has never really been my thing in games.
My other game is similarly disease-y, but probably more up my street: The Last of Us. It’s the game that nearly got me to buy a PS3 last generation, so I’m excited to finally get my hands on it. Unlike you, I’m a total sucker for linear single-player cinematic games, so that’ll likely be the first thing I load up once I get my hands on this thing tomorrow. (Tomorrow!) I’m also going to grab Journey from the PS Plus program — I loved Flower when I got the chance to sit down with it on a friend’s console a few years ago, and always looked at Journey with jealousy. Plus, it’s a nice short game to balance out the two epics I’ve just picked up.
I’m with you on the benefits of the couch-and-controller combo though. I’m already looking forward to getting to play Mass Effect: Andromeda in my living room, rather than hunched over my desk, and am regretting picking up Batman: Arkham Knight in the last Steam sale now (performance problems aside). That’s part of what I’ve missed over the last few years. In days gone by a Nintendo console offered that too, but my Wii U only gets dusted off for sporadic first-party releases these days, and with the NX on the horizon I can’t imagine I’ll ever buy another game for the Wii U. I can’t help but associate console gaming with being more relaxed — maybe even more fun — not least because that’s what almost all my gaming was as a kid. My only worry now is that I’m too set in my ways. 90% of my gaming has been PC for at least the last five years, if not longer, and a part of me suspects I’ll always default to it, that Steam will always be the first place I go to grab new releases — not least because I expect it’ll normally be cheaper than the PS4 alternatives.
As you know, I’m opting for the PS4 Slim because a) it’s sooooo pretty (I genuinely do not understand the backlash against its design even a little bit) and b) it fits my meagre budget. But you’re looking ahead to trading in your PS4 Amateur and the Pro in November, right? I don’t get this. Is it really worth $400 to play the same games, but a tiny bit shinier? What am I missing? Help me understand the appeal of the upgrade.
Julian: Speaking as somebody who played games in 4K on my computer in France and then shifted to a PC setup that would give me 2560X1440 resolution with frame rates between 30-60 after my move to Los Angeles, one of the things I feel I sacrificed when I started gravitating to the couch (and my PS4) was image quality. I’m a huge electronics nerd and own a 55″ 4K TV. Most of my PS4 games visibly shudder and show some pretty rough textures in places. For me, the PS4 Pro is the promise of a console that tries to make the best of my TV, either by making the resolution better than the standard 1080p (which currently gets ‘upscaled’ by my TV) or by making the frame rates smoother. Short answer: I like shiny things, and with many of the current games going for some form of photo-realism, I’ll take the best I can get. It won’t be as good as my PC, but we’ve already gone over what draws me more to the console. It’s easier to pick up a game on Steam, and easier to drop it. PS4 has a limited range of choices, but they’re a little more ‘solid’ feeling. I know this is mostly just mental illness speaking. I’m aware of how crazy I sound. But when I see Mass Effect: Andromeda and Horizon: Zero Dawn demoed on PS4 Pro, I’m exactly the kind of guy who sees the difference. I’m hopelessly obsessed. It’s the same thing with coffee. Most people just want “a coffee”. I want a single-origin Ethiopian espresso. I’M NOT CRAZY. THIS IS WHAT SOBRIETY FROM DRUGS AND ALCOHOL DOES TO YOU.
“I’m completely ignoring the offering that was supposed to attract PC gamers like me. I’m clearly just being contrary at this point.”
Dominic: To be fair, I’ve seen your TV, and I think it’s probably bigger than my whole apartment (hooray London rental market!) so I imagine you’re right in the target audience for it. I’m looking to upgrade my setup once my wallet’s health bar regenerates a bit from the console, but suspect 4K might not be in the cards. Though graphics have just never been a major concern for me. Don’t get me wrong, the visual component of games is important, and I love playing something with exciting visual design. But a couple extra frames-per-second or a few more pixels just aren’t likely to do it for me. Even when I can spot the difference, it’s way down on my priority list. Though I can’t help but see the irony in the fact that I’m finally returning to console gaming just as the manufacturers are trying to emulate the PC ecosystem, even though I’m completely ignoring the offering that was supposed to attract PC gamers like me. I’m clearly just being contrary at this point.
Julian: That’s ok, it’s your right as a post-Brexit citizen. At the end of the day, I think you’re correct about the differences being minor. For people like me, they won’t be. But for the average human on earth? They’ll probably just buy the PS4 Pro or Slim based on whether they’re feeling like spending 300 or 400 dollars. I sort of imagine parents asking the guy at the store what the difference is, listening to the answer, not understanding, and then going with “little Jimmy’s worth 400,” or “he won’t know the difference anyways,” or “I’m so rich I’ll take one of each.” Speaking of purchases: have you received your PS4 Slim yet? I’m jealous you’ll be more ‘next gen’ than me until the PS4 Pro releases on the 10th of November. I also agree with you that the PS4 Slim’s design is fine. Not sure what people are complaining about. Trolls, etc.
Dominic: So, uh, I’m getting to this entry a bit later than I expected to. Yes, the Slim has now arrived. 3 days ago. Which might go to explain why this is so late and my inbox has been filled with increasingly agitated messages from you about doing my goddamn job. Believe it or not, it turns out there are some really great PS4 games out there. Who’da thunk it?
“Bloodborne is blindingly, infuriatingly difficult, but I love it — though if anyone wants to beat Father Gascoigne for me, that’d be much appreciated.“
In brief: the Slim itself looks even better up close — this is by far the prettiest bit of console hardware I’ve ever owned. The Dualshock 4 is solid, though I think the Xbox One ‘troller still tops it slightly for comfort. The Last of Us is cinematic in all the right ways — it had me on the verge of tears by the end of the prologue, which is pretty quick work. I suspect this game is going to get to me. Bloodborne is blindingly, infuriatingly difficult, but I love it — though if anyone wants to beat Father Gascoigne for me, that’d be much appreciated. I played Journey through in one glorious, beautiful sitting; scared myself shitless with the Resident Evil 7 demo; and after two hours with the Destiny demo I now accept that it’s a matter of when, not if, I buy the full game.
I still sort of resent having to pay a subscription fee for online play, despite free games sweetening the pot a little (though man, Lords of the Fallen kinda sucks). In the end it seems like a small price to pay for catching up with the gaming world circa 2013. Given that I’m mostly playing PS3 re-releases so far (+ Bloodborne), I’m not sure I feel very next gen yet. But I’m getting there. Now I just have to tear myself away from it for a week of vacation — I’m taking my 3DS, so hopefully that will make it up to my inner Nintendo fanboy after this fundamental betrayal.
Julian: Welcome into the fold, my friend. One last recommendation (and I can’t believe I’m saying this): Uncharted 4. I’ve only played a few hours, but it’s really amazing what they did with the graphics and the writing is surprisingly enticing (despite my aversion to linear games). Alright. That’s it for me. I’m sure you’ll be teaching me what’s good by the time we write another article like this.
PS: Fuck you for beating The Cleric Beast. I never even got past that thing. Enjoy being a Real Gamer.