There can be no doubt, the PlayStation 4 is a shiny piece of machinery. The first thing that strikes you is how incredibly small it is. Measuring only about a foot square and 2 inches high, the PlayStation 4 will not take up a huge footprint, especially if you use the bracket which allows you to rest the PS4 on its side. It is a slanted rectangle. A parallelogram. Ostensibly to give that elegant, designer feel, but it also makes for easy access to the front 2 USB inputs while making the cables in the back hidden from view. In the back is the input for the AC cable, which thankfully does not require a big brick transformer, as well as an Ethernet input and the connector for the optional PlayStation Camera. The wire for the camera is inexplicably heavy gauge again, so you will have some trouble wrestling it into the right position just as you did with the PlayStation Eye. A single HDMI and an optical audio output round out the connections available.
It seems like the PlayStation Camera was at first intended to be more integral to the PlayStation experience. If you have the addon attached, you can log into your profile with a nifty facial recognition software, and each PlayStation 4 comes loaded with an augmented reality demo called the Playroom. The Playroom lets you play with some cute, cartoony robots that get trapped inside your Dualshock controller. It's a neat diversion, and it shows off the PlayStation 4's capabilities nicely, but it's odd you can only access it if you have the $59.99 camera attached.
As for the real input, the new Dualshock 4 controller is a dream to play with. The buttons seem masterfully molded and placed in exactly the correct place for your thumbs to press. It also feels a lot more substantial than its predecessor, with a hefty weight that doesn't feel chintzy or flimsy in any way. The touchscreen isn't utilized by every game, but those that do use it seem enriched. You can flick, slide and press the touchscreen to access weapons or interact with the world, and because of the familiarity we've built up with our phones and tablets, it feels like a natural extension of the console game experience. The light bar on the back of the controller could have been a hokey feature, but several games use it in interesting ways such as Thief which indicates whether Garrett is visible with a bright white light emanating from your controller. The built-in speaker on the DualShock 4 is another way designers can create an immersive game, and Sony has once again executed the feature well.
The hardware lives up to its billing in delivering beautiful, immersive worlds. The smoke effects in Infamous Second Son, the moving parts of Knack, the rolling thunder in Thief, all seem incredibly lifelike. Even the multiplayer of Killzone Shadow Fall felt rich with detail and the movement in the environment was something that you just couldn't achieve on older tech. So far the PS4 exclusives we've been able to play are beautiful games that draw out the best in the gaming hardware packed into the little parallelogram.
We've only had our hands on the PlayStation 4 for a few hours, and haven't had a chance to test its network capabilities because the external servers haven't yet turned on. The demonstration promises easy integration with Twitch, Facebook, and a slew of new features which allow you to download Sony's infamously long updates while still playing, but we can't offer an opinion on that tech in the wild yet. We can report that we put Knack in to test the console, and were forced to download an update before jumping in, and then had to restart the PS4 and install the upgrade. The whole process took about 10 minutes start to finish. The updates needed to play when the PlayStation releases on November 15th may be harder to obtain due to server overload, but when you do finally get in to start playing with Sony's new tech, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
A firmware update went live this on the morning of November 13th, and we'll be testing out more capabilities of the machine, posting further impressions, and of course reviewing the launch games like Killzone and Knack.
Stay tuned to The Escapist for more PS4 coverage and please make sure you check out all of the interviews at the Sony Launch Event in right here.