Hear that? No? Pause your music, mute your television, close your windows, and tell everyone around you to shut the hell up. That sound, right there—that sweet, beautiful silence—is the sound of PlayStation 4. Silly Ari, you say. Your system’s not even on. That’s why it’s so quiet! No, it is very much on. And it’s running Killzone: Shadow Fall, a game that, if you remember, is a whopping 39 GB. That, presumably, requires a lot of horsepower to run. Yet, my system is more silent than John Cage’s seminal “Four thirty-three.”
I was one of the lucky few who got a PS4 at launch. And oh boy, is it shiny! (And all sorts of other stuff, too. It’s really all sorts of awesome things.) But you knew that. I’m not here to tell you what you already know. I’m here to tell you what you don’t.
The DualShock 4, for starters, is not the best controller of all time. I think some people were expecting it to be, seeing that it is an improvement on everything the DualShock 3 did right—same genius shape, but it’s wider, heavier, and has thumbsticks that your thumb can actually grip.
That said, it feels a bit light, like a cheap toy that could snap if the wrong person sat on it. The GameCube and Xbox 360 controllers never felt like that. Plus, the plastic is so sleek that if any of your, um, dirtier friends—oh, you know the type—hold it, they’ll easily leave marks and fingerprints. I’ve taken to keeping a bottle of Purell® next to my console, but I’m insane and more than a little bit of a control freak.
So, yeah. Moving on! Though the controller is a marvelous concoction of button design, comfortable weight, and stylish black, it feels a bit fragile; cheap, even. There’s also a pointed lack of a “Start” button. Maybe you hated it, maybe you didn’t. Point is: we’ve had it for, I don’t know, two decades? And now it’s gone. Presumably forever. Next-gen gaming, guys! Woo!
In its place are “Options” and “Share.” Not sure what “Share” does—I’m having some trouble maintaining a good connection between the system and the Internet, and I believe that button is for sending out your credit card information and social security number into the wild, sexting and selfies, which require the Internet—but “Options” basically serves the same purpose as “Start.” I’m just lamenting here. Between “Options” and “Share” lays the PS button. Press that to go to the dashboard!
For those who had the PS3, I will assume you weren’t fond of the dashboard. That’s not me going out on a limb; I’m just telling it how it is! That dashboard was a cluttered, unorganized disaster; you couldn’t find a single thing! For the record, this isn’t opinion; this is fact. Indisputable fact. The only—I repeat, only—thing the PS3’s dashboard boasts over the PS4’s is an easy way to switch users. For the PS4, instead of moving to the “Users” tab, you have to hit the PS button and select “Log out of PS4,” then log back in under the account you’d like to play as. Not a huge pain, but it’s an extra step that seems more like regression than progression.
The rest of the dashboard is as modern as you’d expect—maybe moreso. The whole thing is a pleasant sky-blue; no more transient, fickle color swirls! You see everything laid out, in small, easily viewable icons, at the top bar. You can seamlessly scroll between your games, a Web browser, Netflix, PSN, and a manner of other, useless applications (like ESPN). If you press the PS button, it pauses the app you’re currently using. I cannot stress how amazing this is! Say you’re playing a game and your roommates or friends walk in, demanding to watch The Venture Bros. First off, say “Nope, that show sucks.” Then, after they never shut up about how funny-but-not-really-you-just-don’t-get-it-Ari the show is, succumb, hit the PS button, and select Netflix. Then, when they’re done watching that stupid television program, go back to whatever game you were playing and you’ll be in the same exact spot, except paused—ahem, “Options”-ed. It’s strange that this technology took so long to come around—it’s been present in smartphones for years, now—but it’s a step forward that really draws the line between this generation and the last.
The coolest thing about the PS4, though—I honestly don’t know why everyone isn’t incessantly raving about this—is the inclusion of background music on the dashboard. Did the PS3 have this? Mine sure didn’t. If yours did, I’m jealous. Because, for me, this is the console’s selling point.
It’s this beautiful, swelling ambiance; electronic, but not in the tubthumping—or “Tubthumping”—way. Serene and mellow and relaxing, it’s perfect music to listen to while typing, cooking, reading, thinking, thinking too hard, eating, drinking (read: everything I’m doing right now, if you can count “cooking” as boiling water to make tea because it is literally the most soothing music of all time and only tea could make this a more relaxing experience). Every console, from here on out, should include something like this. Can this be mandatory, guys? Let’s make it mandatory. From now on, every new console must have a) and HDMI cable, and b) soothing dashboard music.
Sweet. I’m terribly fond of muted and minimal undertones because—surprise, surprise—the industry’s obsession with heavy electronica isn’t going anywhere. Load Killzone and you’ll immediately be overwhelmed by distorted synths and syncopated, digitized drums. It’s like a bad club or a broken eight-track.
A year ago, Borderlands 2 handled that musical genre with stylistic composition and graceful irony. I laud that soundtrack to this day. But Killzone is utterly devoid of irony—unless I, by some crazy how, missed the joke—so it just sounds tired, lazy, rote. You know, like the rest of the game.
I’ll be frank: Killzone is beautiful. It is the single most stunning game I have ever seen on screen. Every technical aspect, from the visuals to the sound design, is masterful. The folks at Geurrilla Games deserve, I don’t know, technological black belts or something.
You’ll marvel at—no, be absolutely floored by—the imagery, the textures, the draw distance, the concept art, the coloration, the lighting—oh man, the lighting! And the sound: besides the music, every sound bite is meticulously assembled. Bullets whizz by with startling frequency. Explosions rip and shudder through the speakers. (If you’re lucky enough to have surround sound, turn that shit up.) And, despite being all sci-fi and futuristic, robot and laser sound effects are not, in fact, direct copies of Star Wars audio files, which is refreshing, to say the least.
This game looks and sounds better than real life. Fo’ real.
I’d consider Killzone a system seller. It’s just so damn beautiful. At this point in the system’s life cycle—AKA: birth—we don’t expect any masterpieces; we just want to see what this machine can do, and Killzone shows off. Remember last generation? The difference between, say, Oblivion and Skyrim?
Now, imagine what this generation will look like, by the end. Yeah. I hear your shivers. They’re louder than my PS4.