Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been out in North America for over a week now, and is finally heading to Europe this coming Friday. Thanks to the efforts of our game-loving staff in the US, we managed to pick up a few units, and have been tinkering with them for about a week now, so felt it was time to share our thoughts on the new hardware.

Rather than getting all techy and giving you lists of stats or focusing on frames per second, however, we decided to take a slightly more human approach, and talk about how Sony’s newest console rates in the eyes of both a self-confessed Sony fan and a long-term Xbox lover.

Let the mud-slinging begin!

For the record, neither Michelle nor Phil are genuine “fanboys”. Both are happy to pick up a controller of any shape or size so long as it’s connected to a decent game. There are reasons, however, why each usually prefers either Microsoft or Sony’s hardware, so at this time when both existing PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 users weigh up whether Sony’s newest console is right for them, we felt it best to provide an honest opinion from either camp. Enjoy!

Each armed with a laptop, a shiny new PS4, controller and a handful of games, Michelle and Phil went their separate ways last week and got to grips with Sony’s new console, recording their thoughts as they went. In an effort to keep the debate on track, they were given a matching list of points to consider when approaching the new device. Here are their findings.

  • Meet the “fans”

Michelle: I am by no means a hardcore gamer, but I do spend most weekends and many a weekday evening jamming on those joysticks after work. I’ve always been a little bit biased towards the Xbox and have played more games of Halo than I care to admit (there’s nothing more satisfying than sticking someone in the face with a plasma grenade). However, I at least know my way around all four of the most recent Microsoft and Sony consoles. So take my comments with a grain of Clicker crust, and keep in mind that I live and game by the Xbox.

Phil: Having owned pretty much every major console since the NES in the 1980s, and about half a dozen PCs along the way too, I consider myself a gamer rather than a “platformer”, and would never snub a game because it didn’t appear on my current machine of choice. That said, since my Xbox 360 red-ringed in 2008 and I picked up a PS3 to see what I’d been missing out on, I’ve felt most at home with Sony’s offerings and never felt the desire to go back to Xbox. I dabble in 3DS and enjoy a few indies on PC, but for the most-part I like what Sony has to offer, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the PS4 for some time now.

  • The console design


Michelle: At first I wasn’t impressed with the PlayStation 4’s design, but as I sit here typing, my brand new Xbox One is positively towering over my PS4, convincing me that Sony might have gotten it right when it comes to visual design. The PS4 is by far the sleeker console, and I like the “black parallelogram” look it has taken on. I really like the tray-less DVD – excuse me, Blu-ray – drive and the hidden power button had me searching for a few extra seconds when I first unwrapped it–very minimalist and stylish. Overall, it’s a nice solid design that has grown on me over the past week.

“the PS4 is by far the sleeker console”

Phil: When the PS4 was first unveiled earlier this year, I have to admit I wasn’t exactly bowled over. It looked awkward, and I couldn’t understand why Sony had opted for this peculiar slanted design. Now that I see the unit sitting beneath my TV, however, I’m a changed man. This thing is gorgeous. The PlayStation 4’s low profile and mostly matte finish help it slip effortlessly into the background in my living room and – especially for a console that will likely appear in an even more slimmed-down form at some point during its lifetime – is surprisingly small. The power and disc eject buttons are almost dangerously low-profile, but this adds to the machine’s sleek, non-invasive design and it’s really nice to have capacitive buttons like those the original PS3 had back. If only that glossy section on the left didn’t attract fingerprints like ants to a picnic…

  • The controller


Michelle: This opinion is coming from a puny little girl, but the PS4 controller is just too big. The elongated and wider body makes it hard for me to reach the analog sticks, and forces my thumbs into an awkward position. I’ve always been partial to the substantial feel of the Xbox 360 controller over the comparatively pint-sized DualShock 3, but my affinity for Microsoft’s controller is even stronger with the release of the next-gen hardware. I also really don’t care for the on-all-the-time light bar on the controller’s console-facing edge, making for a distracting blue glow while playing in the dark (maybe it’s meant to double as a flashlight?). However, I have to admit that the DualShock 4 feels good in my hands with respect to the new texture, especially when it comes to the analog sticks. No more awkward slipping and sliding over the formerly convex nubs, and the added ribbing (was it made for her pleasure?) is a nice touch, as is the “enhanced vibration.” Innuendos aside, the new design is actually quite nice. Other than the size being almost too big to handle and the glowing blue light, the DualShock 4 is a definite improvement on the DualShock 3.

“The PS4 controller is just too big”

Phil: When I moved from Xbox 360 to PS3 a few years ago, the only thing I missed (besides playing Halo 3 online…) was the controller. Don’t get me wrong – I like the PS3’s pad, but the DualShock 3’s thumbsticks were too loose and the trigger buttons felt too soft and squidgy for me. With the DualShock 4, I feel like Sony have made it their goal to silence Xbox fanboys by addressing these very issues – this controller gets everything right. The triggers are now concaved and sturdier, the thumbsticks tighter, smaller and have a raised edge to prevent slipping mid-play, and the controller now actually fits in the palms of my, admittedly clown-like, hands. The only thing that I found strange with the new controller is its tiny “options” and “share” buttons that exist in lieu of “start” and “select”, but this might just be the effect of nearly 30 years of using the latter set of buttons. Every now and then I notice the glowing light on the back of the controller. Without a PlayStation Eye camera to use it with, it seems a little bit over the top, but I did like the way it turned red to match my on-screen icon while playing FIFA 14. I’ve yet to use the touch pad on the controller’s surface, so can’t comment on its accuracy, but if developers make the most of what the DualShock 4 has to offer, this could well become my pad of choice this hardware generation.

  • User interface


Michelle: After being welcomed by the Xbox 360 user interface for years, when I finally purchased a PS3 and fired it up for the first time, I was surprised to find myself staring at a large empty screen. Oh wait, that was the home screen. To me, it wasn’t very well organized and made the PS3 somehow seem cheaper. There are those of you who may think that Microsoft’s UI is too cluttered, but to me it makes it appear as if they have their act together and are constantly updating and changing things; Sony’s is just a bare bones, “click here to get to your game” kind of screen–it just didn’t appeal to me. With the new updated interface for the PS4, Sony has made some design improvements and although it is still simple compared to the Xbox One interface, Sony’s new UI is more pleasing to the eye, makes it easier to find games and the larger square icons neatly lined up in a row are easier to navigate. However, I do have one complaint about the PS4 UI: the updates at the bottom of the screen get a little annoying especially if you’ve been playing one game repeatedly. I really don’t need to see “Michelle played CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS” 11 times on my screen – I get it, I shot a bunch of people!

“everything works as it should”

Phil: The PlayStation 4’s UI is pretty basic. The old PS3 XMB still exists (though in a slightly simplified form), but users must tap up on their controller to access it as it runs parallel to the more visually rich main menu bar. This menu bar is nothing to write home about: everything exists in a long horizontal line, with downward presses on the d-pad or thumbsticks taking users to additional options for each tile selected, be it for a game or some other application. It’s fairly basic, but it gets the job done. It’s nice not to be bombarded with ads and recommendations as soon as you power the system up, though. What did impress me is how smoothly it all runs, from the menu bar itself to navigating the online store and downloading content. Those of you who have used the PlayStation Store via a PS3 will no doubt have found it very clunky and slow. I myself wondered why Sony saw fit to “update” its online store a few months ago, making it about as easy to move through as jogging through a vat of treacle. It turns out this was all simply preparation for the PS4: everything now works as it should, and it’s fast.

  • Overall impressions of the PlayStation 4


Michelle: Despite the PS4’s clear improvements over its predecessor, I will be sticking with Xbox this gen. Being able to walk into the room and command the Xbox One to turn on makes me feel like some kind of sorcerer and lives up to the “next-generation” tag these two new consoles have been slapped with. Yeah, yeah, I hear you “hardcore gamers” belly-aching about how Microsoft “forgot about the gamers” but the Xbox One with its fully integrated camera and voice command is undeniably futuristic. And when the graphics are almost identical, why not go for the Xbox One, which packs more into the same, albeit larger, package? PS4 is nice, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

“this is a tough deal to beat”

Phil: PlayStation 4 is a superb system. It looks gorgeous, is well designed, easy to use, and probably the most well-rounded, capable piece of gaming hardware Sony has even made. Xbox One will no doubt appeal to a select group of people, and that’s fine, but for straight-up console gaming – for $100 less than its competitor, despite a number of hardware advantages, I might add – this is a tough deal to beat. What I suppose this comes down to is what people want from the box that sits beneath their TV. I personally couldn’t care less about watching live TV, or using picture-in-picture features, and since my wife really doesn’t “get” gaming, the last thing I want to do is bark orders at my console or wave my hands around to make it do what I want. As a box that plays games – that look better than its rival, no less – and fixes pretty much every complaint I had with its predecessor, PS4 is king in my eyes, and will make any gamer happy for years to come.

Do you have a PS4, an Xbox One or maybe even both? How are you finding your new hardware after the long wait between console generations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Photos: RocketNews24
User interface image: Gimmegimmegames