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By 11 December 2013 | Categories: news

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Despite the rain and the momentous occasion of Mandela’s commemoration, as the entertainment world is fond of saying, the show must go on, and thus the PS4’s launch event was held last night on the edge of Sandton’s urban fringe.

Of course, the star of the show was the PS4 itself, with about six PS4’s dedicated to each of the several launch titles, the likes of Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

As once dryly observed, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and the good news is that the PS4 made a fantastic first impression during the time we spent going hands on with it and several of the titles on display.

All shapes and sizes

To start with, the distinctive oblong shape of the console is actually less imposing in the flesh than the images of the console suggest, looking more modern and ironically less conspicuous than the original PS3 (prior to the PS3 Slim). It is also smaller and neater than the PS3 was at its launch, and we suspect it could more easily fit into a home entertainment setup.

It was the sumptuous graphics on offer from the PS4 that really caught our eye right away. As befitting a next gen console, the graphics, when compared to those offered by the still very good PS3, are certainly on another level. It brought to mind comparisons to the leap from a standard definition TV to a high definition one, or the difference one sees on a tablet sporting an adequate display as compared with one boasting a Retina display.

The DualShock 4 controller was both light and comfortable in our hands, while the concave analog sticks offered greater grip than that found on the DualShock 3.

Additionally, we were glad to see that the DualShock 4 controller was particularly comfortable in our hands, and the concave sticks are certainly a step forward from the previous DualShock. One of the things we did (and still do) appreciate about the PS3’s controller is that it is light enough to disappear in our hands, a trait shared by the PS4’s DualShock 4 as well.

Furthermore, another point in the DualShock 4’s favour is that it is a bit broader in its width, which makes it feel more spacious, and which should keep carpal tunnel syndrome at bay during longer gaming sessions. Finally, the headphone jack on the controller itself meant that we were able to immerse ourselves in a game while still appreciating great sound, despite plenty of ambient noise.

K.I.S.S clutter goodbye

In terms of the general user interface, Sony has heeded the advice of Kelly Johnson, the lead engineer at Lockhead Skunk Works, the creators of the Lockhead U-2 spy plane. Much like the PS3’s XMB, the PS4 benefits from the decision to “Keep It Simple, Stupid”.

We found it was quicker and easier to jump from playing a game to the store or console settings. Also, each game has its own page with related information; something that we imagine could be used to great effect in multiplayer titles in particular. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see some integration here between a main gaming title and companion apps once developers cotton on to the second screen trend.

Alas, we couldn’t test the much touted social strength of the console and how well its friend chat or share features work. However, if our general exploration of the user interface was any indication, we expect it to be just as smooth and accessible.

Clean, simple, attractive,and accessible were some of the words that came to mind when exploring the PS4's user interface. 

Game on!

Finally, the games themselves managed to catch and hold our attention. Killzone: Shadow Fall looks spectacular, and was one of the titles that was all too easy to become engrossed in from the get-go.

Another launch title that we played, Knack, also appealed, although we are keen to see whether the game picks up pace beyond its initial introduction. Where we really saw the difference though is in the new PS4 version of Injustice: Gods Among Us (review). In this game, the level of detail in the PS4 versus the PS3 versions are day and night, and Injustice was already a beautifully detailed game on the PS3.

After playing a bit of the titles on offer, we came away suspecting that the launch titles are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the new console’s graphical prowess, and excited about where developers could exploit the PS4’s obvious power in the months and years ahead.

The console launches on Friday, if you are fortunate enough to have your pre-order already locked in, although Ster Kinekor Entertainment CEO Mario Dos Santos said “some units” may make it to the shelves.

Considering that the PS4 has already sold in excess of two million units following its launch around the world, Dos Santos summed it up nicely by pegging the PS4 as providing the biggest console launch to date.  

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