The future is finally here—it’s only a couple days until the PS4 release, and a couple of weeks until Xbox One hits store shelves. The fact looms over you: walking into any GameStop you can see (but not touch!) the game systems behind their glass cases. The games and controllers line the walls, but until the consoles are out they are no different than AOL demo discs—completely useless. We couldn’t stand it either, so we hit the streets to play these consoles first hand to give you our first impressions.
PlayStation 4 was an easy place for me to start. Launching in only four days, touching and playing it was an itch that just needed to be scratched. I needed to assure myself that my pre-order went to the right company. I rushed to the nearest Sony store in Garden City, NY to test out the couple of games they had lined up for demoing:Knack and Fifa 14.
Though I was excited to see the console in person, my expectations were swiftly crushed. The model PS4 there was nothing more than a plastic shell, the technology working somewhere unseen. Picking up the PS4 controller gave me the same minor disappointing experience. I have been an avid PlayStation fan since Sony first entered the gaming market—the difference between the stereotypical PS controller and the new DualShock 4 is jarring. It was missing the signature shape that I remembered playing Crash Bandicoot and Twisted Metal on in years past.
The mild uncomfortable impression shifted wildly as soon as Knack was able to boot up. Suddenly, the controls became natural. Though it is clear that I will have to get used to the controller, I could feel how it makes sense. There is little more I can say beyond that—it is really something you are just going to have to play for yourself. The demo started us off in a city level, filled with baddies, secrets, and treasures. I had an enormous amount of fun exploring every inch of the environment while people around me watched and made suggestions:
“Can you double jump onto that building?”
“Use the bomb to destroy the car!”
It’s been a long time since I‘ve played a good action/adventure platformer on the PlayStation; maybe going as far back as Jak & Daxter or something in the Ape Escape series. However, Knack has that distinctive feel. With beautiful graphics that rival Pixar and some fluid gameplay, I would be lying if I said I’ve been able to think of another game since. All I know is this is going to be my day 1 purchase.
As far as Fifa 14 goes, it was enjoyable. I am not a Fifa player. Save a few pick-up games my freshman year of college, I have hardly touched the monumental franchise. That said, I had a good time with it. While the gameplay was fluid, my eyes were trying to focus on the smaller details. The crowds behind the game were animated and perfectly detailed. The players jumped around, seemingly self-aware, with some of the best emoting I’ve seen in sports games.
The PS4 seems like an amazing system—while not being able to see a retail version of it, the demos played were addictive and enticing. If I thought I was in next-gen paralysis in my social and work life before, I haven’t been able to do anything since.
After my small rendezvous with PlayStation 4 was over, I drove to Huntington, NY to test out the Xbox One in a small demonstration for Middle of Nowhere Gaming. The Microsoft store had two demos playable for us off the bat: Forza Motorsports 5 and Killer Instinct.
Picking up the Xbox One controller was a lot less jarring than the DualShock 4—I wouldn’t be able to say which one is better (that is a debate for another time) but the Xbox One feels familiar. It is the clear descendent of the Xbox 360 model.
I watched the Microsoft employee play through a level of Forza so I could record the game (see video here). The game looks amazing. While I’m not sure if I’d be able to separate the difference between current and next gen yet, it is clear that the atmosphere, lighting, and graphics the Xbox One presented were stunning.
After taking that video, I picked up the controller for a round of Killer Instinct. The series is one dear to my heart and is the biggest point in dispute when considering where to place my pre-order (you heard me, Titanfall). Killer Instinct was one of the few arcade games I can remember playing as a kid (along with The Simpsons Arcade Game) and it was a blast from the past. I had a great time picking the game up and banging out a couple of rounds as Sabrewulf, breaking a combo or two, and getting my butt handed to me by the rep. Being a Sony fanboy has always been easy for me; after trying my hand at the Halo and Fable series, it became clear there were no Microsoft exclusives that interested me. Lo and behold, Killer Instinct is now that game. I won’t be switching my PS4 preorder, but I am now deeply considering an Xbox One.
All fanboy-ism aside, this weekend was eye opening. After trying my hand at both consoles, I have come to realize that I would be happy with either experience. Though my preference is still leaning towards Sony, the blowout that I was expecting is non-existent. Get ready for the future everyone, cause it is here.