Console Reviews

PS4 Review - One Weekend In by Allison James

I've now had my PlayStation 4 for one weekend (it came out on Friday two days ago). For anyone considering it, here's a concise review of both the system and the games I've played so far.Wot I Like:Games look and play excellently. I've yet to witness any slowdown in games yet, even in something like Assassin's Creed IV if I ascend a high building and look across an entire city. Most games run at 1080p and are either a solid 60fps or a solid 30fps.The controller is the best I've ever laid hands on. Button placement is great, it fits my hands perfectly, the triggers are better than both the DualShock 3's (by far) and the Xbox 360 controller's (marginally), the rumble is meaty, and the motion sensing is accurate. You can use the latter to point at the on-screen keyboard, which surprisingly is faster than D-pad selection. I would have mourned the loss of the Start and Select buttons, but Start is now Options and is functionally identical, and any game that used Select as "open map" (the only reason I used select for) I've tried so far has simply moved that to pushing on the touchpad. The touchpad is also responsive, if barely used in anything I've played yet.Out of the box, it's the most "complete" system I've used to date. Without spending any extra money after the base system, you can access three pretty good free-to-play games, as well as 14 days' worth of both Resogun and Contrast. If you get a camera you can also play Playroom.Update/install times are far quicker than PlayStation 3. You only need to wait around a minute for a game to install enough of itself that you can begin playing it, and then it will complete the rest in the background while you play the game. I have yet to experience a point where I have to wait for further installation while playing a game.The launch lineup is strong. See below for individual game mini-reviews. And there are a bunch of great games set for the near future, including inFamous Second Son and Watch Dogs.The console design is nice. It's simple enough to not be tacky, but quirky enough that it's not just another box.Wot I Don't Like:The lack of backward compatibility. For full PlayStation playing, my TV now has a PlayStation 2, 3 and 4 all plugged in at once, along with a plethora of different controllers for each one. And of course, my PS4 library is much smaller than others at present.Install sizes. While much faster (see above), games now eat up the entire game size. I'm assuming this is to alleviate what would be gigantic loading times, given the extra detail of the games, but at 8 games installed, its 500GB harddrive is nearly half full already!Everything about the USB slots. There's two of them. The controller takes up one, Skylanders portal takes up another... and that's your lot. They're also recessed into the console's recessed design, which isn't a problem yet but a lot of USB devices have thicker, greedier designs which would not fit in the recess.The price of games. This isn't too big a problem, PlayStation Plus is ace and there's always simply waiting for them to come down in price. But £54.99 for a standard boxed game is about a tenner too much for most games. And the non-deal prices on PSN are even worse.The home UI feels like a step down from PS3's XMB. It's usable, but it's just not laid out quite as well. And the voice controls feel very incomplete - I'm sure they were an afterthought after the big deal made about Xbox One's voice controls.Game Mini-ReviewsKillzone: Shadow FallIt's alright. Fantastic graphics, but I'm not big on FPSes, especially "realistic" ones (I prefer arcade Unreal Tournament-ish FPSes personally), so it's a little dull. Let's go with 7/10.Skylanders: Swap ForceSexy, excellent game. It's colourful and appealing. The figurine adverts are back in full force, but it's solid, great fun in two-player, and my 7 or so Skylanders figurines from the previous games work in it as well, so there's little need to buy further ones.ResogunJust as good as Super Stardust HD before it. Cracking music, responsive controls, addictive, and shiny as all hell.ContrastFlatmate Dan played this one, I watched. But it looked like an artsy game with very little in the gameplay department, so meh.Need for Speed RivalsBest NfS I've played, and the first racing game I genuinely am enjoying since Burnout Paradise. Again, looks nice, although perhaps not quite as gorgeous as I might have wanted, but it feels ace.Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagThe best game I've tried so far, am a good several hours into it. It's got the looks, the gameplay, it's immersive and addictive, it's bloody brilliant and highly recommended, even if you're not getting a PS4 or Xbox One just yet.DC Universe OnlineIt's alright for being completely free! Worth a look even if you delete it an hour later.I also have Knack and have downloaded the other two F2P games, War Thunder and Warframe, but haven't touched em yet so can't comment.Conclusion: I'm thoroughly enjoying my time with PS4 so far, and have no regrets buying it day one. Would I recommend it? If you're into the same stuff as me, yes. It's not a 100% must-have device right now, and I can't tell you if it's better or worse than Xbox One. It appeals to me more, but it's really down to your personal taste.

PlayStation Vita: First Impressions by Allison James

I've already done one of these for Nintendo 3DS the day it came out in UK, so I think it's only fair I do one for Sony's newest handheld, since I got it today :)I've always been a Sony fan, ever since I first got the PlayStation. I've generally enjoyed its franchises the most, even though I wish more of them would carry through generations. Well, with their original developers, at least. (Hi, Skylanders, how're you doing?) I was huge on Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Ape Escape in the 90s, the Jak and Daxters, Ratchet and Clanks, Sly Raccoons and the GTAs on PS2 (back when the GTAs had at least a year of PS exclusivity!), and I've also loved PS3's continuation of Ratchet and Clank (bar All 4 One - bleh), as well as its Uncharted series - one of the big reasons I put down the Vita preorder so easily.So, before I even turned it on, the first thing I noticed was how damn shiny the thing is. Pictures of shiny devices never seem to illustrate just how so they are - Vita's press screenshots all made it look matte black. The entire device is shiny, even the rear touchpad! Second thing I noticed was the size of the device - it's like a PSP, but bigger. Maybe a slightly thin version of the original Gameboy, to compare it to something. I wouldn't call it a huge inconvenience with its size, though I never find myself needing to put such a thing in a small pocket, so it's no bother to me.It came with a selection of goodies. The pre-order bonuses are lovely, a good quality set of earphones in a metallic blue colour that are snug in the ears, and a little voucher code for £5 off one of four Vita games (Super Stardust Delta for me, following previously-planned-to-get Little Deviants' much higher price and average reviews), as well as some stuff like Frobisher Says and a few items for PlayStation Home. It also comes with a set of six Augmented Reality cards - a completely original idea that nobody has totally done before. (less sarcastic: the Nintendo 3DS came with a set of Augmented Reality cards...)Anyway, plugging it into the mains and turning it on brought up a flashy FMV sequence. I pretty much ignored it, thinking that if I could delete it from the system, I could probably use that space for game saves. Sadly, doesn't seem like this is possible. I was then chucked into some basic detail filling-in, and the ability to sign into my PSN/SEN account. Next, into the menu. Seems usable - very iOS - though I wish it could be navigated with buttons. When there are buttons on a device, I naturally tend not to want to smear fingerprints over the screen. I'm not entirely sure why they couldn't just evolve the XMB a bit more for Vita, though. I love the XMB! By the way, yes, the 5 inch OLED screen is absolutely beautiful. Vibrant, clear, high-ish resolution.I went into the Welcome Park but swiftly left it since it's just a big tutorial. For anyone used to touch and accelerometer based gaming on any mobile device or 3DS, you probably wouldn't need it. I did return to it eventually - it's a set of little games that are fun to try (with associated trophies!), but even though they save your fastest times, it's unlikely you'll revisit the app except to demo it to others. I had Uncharted: Golden Abyss sitting there, I wanted that, not swiping numbers in sequence!So yeah, straight into Uncharted: GA. I've not played a vast amount of it, but from what I can tell, it's Uncharted alright! The gameplay (and graphics!) are nigh on identical to the PS3 series, and therefore it's a bloody good fun game. The touch screen stuff seems relatively unobtrusive too, which was pleasant since it was my biggest fear of the game. Ignoring the option to use touch screen gestures for most of the main gameplay (no.), the only two mandatory uses I've encountered so far are for melee attacking enemies to death (swipes in prompted directions) and reloading the gun (just tapping on its icon on screen). I'm looking forward to getting properly into this game! I've also ordered ModNation Racers: Road Trip, as well as buying Motorstorm RC and Super Stardust Delta off the Store, though I've not got into those yet.I've given the AR stuff a quick go. They're pretty good, and certainly not complain-worthy given they're free with the system. All that rattled through my mind as I played them, though, was "3DS! 3DS!!!". Vita's AR seems slightly more accurate than the 3DS', though it's still not going to put you in a trance thinking "holy crap, there's an [x] that's just jumped out of my table!". Associated - I've not tried the cameras of the device, but I got a preview during the AR stuff since it streams the video from the camera as part of the gameplay. Verdict: okay. Certainly better than 3DS' camera, but no better than any good smartphone cameras out there.Other smaller points. The music played during the background of the menu is pretty annoying, though can be muted. The dual analogue sticks are very, very welcome, and certainly superior to the PSP's singular nub. I do wish they'd click in though - there's something satisfying about clicking an analogue stick in. The buttons of the device seem adequately placed and feel fine to use while playing games - I certainly had no issues and felt no discomfort during Uncharted: GA. While large, the unit is pretty light. Not cheap light, just nice light. I've not used it for anything but its Welcome Park tutorial, but the rear touchpad is responsive. However, it's awkward to judge where you're poking. I'm hoping most games that use it use it mainly for gestures rather than precision touching. And I love its incorporation of Trophies, as well as the fact that Trophies, Friends etc are synced flawlessly with PS3.In all, I'm pleased with the device. There were no inherent/immediate points that I found awkward. I feel like the Vita will mostly be for games, though - so I think the first impressions won't be the best impressions I get. There are at least 5-10 games I still want to buy for the system, and that's only its launch line up (3DS comparatively had zero games I genuinely wanted at its launch - really!).I've learnt from the 3DS not to dwell on first impressions though. With the 3DS first impressions, I was really happy with it. Then I stopped using it. Then Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land came out, and I played both to death and fell in love with the device. Now, it's dormant again!But the Vita is a PS3 but portable. And I goddamn love my PS3. What more is there to say?!

Nintendo 3DS: First Impressions by Allison James

Nintendo's 3DS, their sixth (as far as most people would concerned) portable device line following the Game & Watch series, GameBoy, Virtual Boy, GameBoy Advance and DS, goes with the standard Nintendo formula - family friendly + interesting gimmick + relatively cheap + relatively low-end technology. It's also their second attempt at 3D following the disastrous Virtual Boy. Thankfully, it's learnt its lesson. No more red and black games. No more goggles on legs. No more "portable, but not really". And no more Waterworld.I'll start with the bit that is the main focus, naturally - its 3D capability. Now, I hate that phrase that always gets attached to the 3DS - "you have to see it to believe it". Unfortunately, it's right. Although the viewing range is feeble (tilting up and down is fine, but go five degrees left or right and the 3D will turn into a weird graphical effect similar to those little Pogs (or whatever) with scratchy plastic surfaces that you can tilt to get different images. The slider is a nice addition - you can fine tune it to your eyes very, very easily, or turn it off if you start to get a headache (some people get them after five minutes of 3D, I find that I can watch it for around an hour as long as the slider's adjusted properly). It's worth playing in 3D when you can though - the polygonal graphics, which aren't fantastic (PS2-Wii-ish looking maybe?), suddenly burst into life and look really good.However, 3D isn't all the 3DS has going for it. It also features a number of "Augmented Reality" items, including built-in games and general fun. Two front-mounted cameras allow for the 3DS to map out the area infront of you in 3D. It can then "add" objects or items to that world. A set of six included physical cards enhance this further, allowing specific items and models to be added accurately to your surroundings. The first game you get when using the first card starts with target practice, dotting targets around your desk or whatever you have infront of you. You move the console, and indeed yourself, to aim at these targets and shoot them. It is VERY, VERY intuitive - I cannot state that enough. There's none of that slight pausing if you're using the likes of a Wii remote to make sure you're on target - you can just judge it perfectly, as the game world is your world.Just as you think it's reached its peak with plopping targets around, you realise that there's a hole been dug into the desk, and you still have one target left to shoot - but there isn't one. It's not until you reach over the virtual hole that you discover one last little target down there. THEN, it goes another level. A dragon spurts out of your work surface - it's long and fast. (Woof.) Then, out of the blue, it lunges at you - with the 3D effect on, this can make you jump until you're used to it. You actually have to get out of its way sharpish, shooting its neck until it bites the dust.The other feature of the double-front-mounted cameras is to take 3D pictures. These are saved to the 2GB SD card that comes pre-inserted into the 3DS' SD slot (mouthful), or whichever SD card you've replaced it with. As with everything else, the 3D works a treat on these photos, though the pictures taken are disappointingly pretty low-resolution. You can then whip out the SD card, stick it in a computer and look at them there. Mike discovered a great website, 3dporch, where you can then upload these photos, and others can view them by saving them to their own 3DSes, with a pair of red/cyan anaglyph glasses, or just in 2D. This is a picture taken by Mike of the YoYo Games office with a 3DS - gives you an idea of the resolution it takes pictures at, or the effectiveness if you have the glasses or 3DS.Onto the actual games. The launch lineup is... poo. Thirteen games, three of which are Nintendogs and one of which is Rayman 2. That's nearly a third of the launch lineup which can immediately be laughed at then ignored. I personally got Pilotwings Resort and The Sims 3 with mine - the game I felt would be best for trying the 3D (though it's trumped by the AR stuff packed in!), and the game I felt I'd be likely to play the most, respectively. Both games are alright, but when alright is the best the system can offer, meh. The future of 3DS gaming looks far more promising, though. While Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Metal Gear Solid 3 are both old games, they're also both very good, and should be given a new lease of life with the extra stuff (though I'd rather have seen Wind Waker than OoT - personal preference). The new Mario game in production is almost certainly going to be strong, if familiar, as is Mario Kart 3DS. My personal biggest looking-forward-to is Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle. A new instalment of the game that single-handedly made me give a shit about DS again? Yes please!If it's of any interest, the boxes are pretty similar to the DS'. In Europe at least, it uses a white box, and has a number of rounded rectangles cut out of the plastic so you can poke the inside of the coverart. The cartridges themselve are weird - they're a much lighter grey than DS games (though not white), and they have a single little tumour-like dimple protruding from the top right hand side to prevent trying to stick them into original DSes. Could probably cut it off and try it anyway, but it'd be a waste of time.Hardware-wise, a couple of complaints. The entire thing is shiny. Y'know what that means? Fingerprint vacuum. It's very pretty for the five seconds you don't touch it, after which it requires frequent wiping to keep clean. Even the buttons are shiny. The design is a downgrade from the likes of the DS Lite - the lid is very slightly bigger than the body, which produces a weird aesthetic to it. It's miles ahead of the original DS though. The hinge also feels a bit of a downgrade - while it goes to default positions fine, it's loose in any other position and so difficult to adjust to the angle you may want it. I quite like the analogue nub/stick it now has, though I question why they didn't one-up the PSP and give it two of them (PSP2 now going in the double-stick direction). It renders the D-pad awkward to use though - it's too far down the system so you can't grip it properly AND use the pad.The stylus on the other hand is a major improvement. Gone is that thin, short bit of plastic - in its place comes a sleek, thicker metal number that, with the magic of telescopy, can double in size with a quick yank. It also feels more solidly held within the system when not in use too, producing a satisfying click when both removed and replaced. Lastly, the docking station that comes with it is flat-out amazing. You can still plug the 3DS straight into the wire if you'd rather, but with the dock it's a quick plonk to charge it, and a grab to get it back. Either charging method still lets you use the system.Its battery life isn't great, taking more time to charge than the 3 hours of use you'll get with using it normally. It's a little stingy, though if you're at home or just stationary in general, docking it when not the main focus of attention becomes second nature very quickly.So, final verdict? I love it. Well worth the £187. If you're tempted by it and have the money, I can't recommend it enough. It doesn't have a good library, but that's only now. It will improve drastically in the future. And with all the packed-in features and games, I can confidently say you could actually get hours of fun out of it without even having a dedicated game. Call it an investment if you please. The 3D is immersive and unobtrusive, being compatible with nigh on everything (except original back-compatible DS games) and easily removed or tweaked. The AR is just flat-out amazing to use. The potential of the games to come for it is undeniable. It is just a very high-quality system in general. I'd put it as the single most-improved Nintendo hand held I've bought (I've been around for the GB, GBA and DS before it) - fun, interesting, often amazing, feature-packed. And that's just first impressions.