So there we were, in the centre of the hot and increasingly stuffy Earls Court, lining up to play PlayStation 4 for the first time. It took us 15 minutes to reach the “one hour” sign in the queue and even that wasn’t an accurate measure of how long it took to get to the front as I’m sure we were in line for almost two hours. We entertained ourselves by talking shop, we’d discussed games, PS4 and next-gen whilst watching trailers and episodes of PlayStation Access that was being played on a large screen above the queue.
As we got to the front we played with the several demo PSVitas down the sides and eventually got to a display case containing the PS4 console, controllers, the “Eye” camera and the mono headset. This is when it finally hit home and the excitement manifested: I was about to play next-gen.
See with your eyes and not with your hands.
Now at the front, one of the booth (if you can call the large open space off blue carpet, blue displays and blue lighting a “booth”) attendants gave us a PS4 neck lanyard with a card on the end reading “I played PS4 first at EuroGamer” and two tickets, which could be exchanged to play two games out of a choice of about ten.
Stingy but fair I suppose, seeing as there were so many people passing through the booth, giving everyone a chance to go hands-on with the console.
Finally we got in to the playing area and were surrounded by screens, DualShock 4s, games and gamers. We had a choice of games such as Octodad, Blacklight Retribution, Knack, Assassins Creed IV, Killzone Shadowfall, War Thunder, Warframe and Driveclub.
Annoyingly Killzone and Knack, the two games I really wanted to try, happened to be on the same ticket, so I made a tough decision and decided to try out Knack and the free-to-play third-person shooter Warframe.
I went straight to Knack first, the game from Sony Japan, a title developed under Mark Cerny. You play as a little robot who can grow larger by absorbing more parts, they also act as a kind of life or shield, when you take damage you lose parts, getting smaller. The art style is what initially grabbed me when it was unveiled back in February, a kind of CGI anime movie but then the gameplay, a third-person adventure platformer.
Before any of that, the DualShock 4, I got my sweaty little mitts all over it. The whole controller felt solid, more solid than the DualShock3. Where the 3 feels slightly hollow around the end of the “handles” or grips, whatever you call them, the 4 felt tougher and weighty. It’s main “body”, the centre where the speaker, PS button and touch-pad are, is much thicker than the 3’s. It reminded me of the Xbox 360 controller, just chunkier all round. The tall shoulders now gone, bringing the triggers and L/R1 one closer to the body and face buttons, not spreading your thumbs and index finger too far apart, sitting more comfortably than before. The analogue sticks felt a little smaller and the indent in the centre of them was strange to me, having been used to the same convex nubs for the last 15 years. The face buttons felt fine, the “face area”, the circular part which the buttons are in, is smaller than previous versions, trimmed right down to the edge of the buttons. The triggers were great; the new elongated flat L/R2 are a welcome change to the DS3’s inward-curved ones.
Pretty little thang.
The touch panel is smooth and not textured, decorated with small white dots, a design that reminds me of the PSVita’s rear touch. The panel felt a little small for my liking, I would have prefer it to be larger and perhaps more central in the body of the controller but it’s not a major design fault. I didn’t get a chance to use it with Knack but I did with Warframe.
I played about 5-10 minutes of Knack which took me through in a few different areas in the early chapters of the game. I started off as the small, probably the smallest iteration of Knack, in an outdoor environment. The protagonists, Goblins, were present here, just regular soldier Goblins armed with swords for close combat and ones armed with crossbows for ranged attacks. What struck me first about the gameplay is how it reminded me of a hack’n’slash game, you’re presented with several enemies in a small area and have to dodge and attack using combinations of moves. After a few enemies I travelled to the next area and fought a “brute” Goblin, I suppose you’d call it, was larger, had more armour and wielded a double-ended sword.
Like someone plugged a controller into a DreamWorks movie.
Knack can attack with a series of melee punches or special power moves like a jump “kick” where his body reforms into a ball and strikes an enemy. From what I played I saw that he has elemental attacks, fire, electricity, etc. The gameplay was fine, worked well, I couldn’t quite get into the combat but this is due to the hectic environment I was playing in.
Like any convention demo, you’re thrown into the game with no tutorial or chance to learn.
A cool feature I discovered was an example of the PS4’s social networking. I discovered a hidden chest containing an energy crystal, when I collected it the PS4’s friends list popped in the side of the screen and showed who on the list had also found this collectable. I thought this was a good idea and I can image it being the same for trophies. It’s another way of sharing your gameplay with others, perhaps when you first boot your PS4 it’ll show you what your friends have collected.
The visuals were gorgeous, there was no sign of jagged edges, the environment was very sharp, colourful and just seemed to pop out the screen. The character models looked great, so smooth and well-crafted, it looked and felt like I was playing an interactive CGI movie.
Knack was already in my sights at one of my first PS4 games so it was nice to see it running in front of me, to play it and reaffirm my interest it. A friend I was with, who prior to EuroGamer had not seen or heard of Knack, tried the demo after me and was instantly impressed with it. It’s a game that a lot of people have already dismissed but I sure a PSN demo will change a lot of minds.
In the back corner of the PS4 area is the 18+ section, which unfortunately had its own queue and ID checks, was Warframe, Killzone Shadowfall and Assassins Creed IV. Each of the games had their own small lines, queuing in front of the screens. After about a 30 minute wait, I got in and went straight to Warframe.
The Cyborg Ninja Action Hour!
In Warframe you play as a choice of different futuristic “cyborg space ninjas”, it’s a third-person team-based online shooter. The booth attendant explained to me that the demo I was playing was networked to the two other PS4s next to me, as soon as two other players joined the game started.
The objective of the round was to defend, what appeared to be a casket, like a cryogenic tube or escape pod, from waves of AI bots. You’re ninja has a blade for melee and firearm. Depending on what ninja you play as determines what weapon you have, so it’s set out in kind of classes. The round wasn’t very long and not too challenging as the other players were doing their bit, the enemies also have different varieties such as foot soldiers and strange walking turrets that look like the fishing rod-Barbie legs from Toy Story.
Ninjas, space stations, flaming swords, just another day at the office.
The attendant told me that the DualShock 4 touchpad can be used to activate different powers. You slide in a direction to activate the ability. In all honesty I didn’t use it hardly at all as I was preoccupied with keeping waves of enemies away. Being a local multiplayer game, networked between consoles, I can comment on connection but the visuals were smooth, the particles effects and spray of blood were nice and sharp.
As a free-to-play experience I can’t really fault it too much at this point, plus I didn’t play enough to judge it as an entire game but what I did play I liked.
It didn’t blow me away, the style and visuals are good, the controls felt a little stiff but probably nothing a tinker with sensitivity won’t fix.
I don’t imagine this game standing up to Killzone or Titanfall but it’s something I’d also recommend at least trying. The free-to-play model is an interesting one and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of it down the road on the big consoles.
Overall I’m even more stoked for the PS4 after my EGX experience. Being in the presence of next-gen made it feel more real, like now it’s really happening, and it is, the time of writing this it is less than two months until the launch of the new Sony platform and I can’t wait to get my own PS4 and try out all the bells and whistles.