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Patrick Hope: PlayStation4 off to a good start

By Patrick Hope

Our Town Columnist

Console wars. Console wars never change. From the early days of the Intellivision vs. the Atari 2600 to the storied conflict of Genesis vs. Super Nintendo, to last generation’s three-way dance of PlayStation3 vs. Xbox 360 vs. Nintendo Wii, one thing holds true: you pick a side and then you defend your chosen console under penalty of death.

Well, you defend it until you decide to buy the other one and act like you’re way too cool for console wars, but that’s incidental.

And now we have a new console war brewing with the recent releases of the PlayStation4 and Xbox One.

Yes, I know the Wii U is there too, but it’s kind of doing its own thing right now. Anyway, it’s time to pick a side. And I went with the PS4. So will my choice dominate the console battlefield? Or will it get blitzkrieg-ed into a quick defeat?

Note: The games I’ve played on the PS4 are Assassin’s Creed IV, FIFA 14, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Madden NFL 25 and NBA 2K14.

Console gaming is in a much different place now than it was back in 2005-06, when the last generation started. Online play is pretty much a requirement. Gaming has a large, integrated social media presence. There is an entire cottage industry based around watching other people play games on YouTube. One of the biggest changes to the PS4 involves harnessing this not-so-brave, not-so-new, but still a world of an online presence.

That select button that used to be on your controller? It’s gone now and replaced by the Share button. This allows you to record or stream video, or take screenshots. These can also get immediately posted on your Facebook or streamed on Twitch TV. Oh, right. It should also be noted that you can link your PlayStation Network account to Facebook now and even use your real name when playing online if you feel so inclined to give up your privacy rights.

Linking your account also allows you to spam your friends’ feeds with messages about what games you’re playing and what achievements you’ve earned if you feel like being especially obnoxious.

While all of this social media integration is fine and dandy, it doesn’t particularly appeal to me. Maybe it will when I become a huge celebrity thanks to my 100-part video series of me doing pirate-y things in Assassin’s Creed and people are lining up to play online with me.

But doing all sorts of fancy video streaming won’t matter a ton if there’s nothing to play. So how does the PS4’s launch lineup stack up? And more importantly, how does it look compared to its current gen counterpart?

Contrary to what many remember, launch lineups are rarely very exciting.

Even Super Mario 64, considered one of the best launch games ever, was one of a whopping two games available immediately on the Nintendo 64. It usually takes consoles some time to get rolling, and the PS4 will likely be no exception.

There are a lot of ports of last-gen games here but, by and large, they look and/or perform better than their PS3 versions.

For example, Madden looks almost exactly the same, but the game works much better, with offensive linemen actually blocking for what seems like the first time ever. NBA 2K14 feels much smoother and has a dramatically improved presentation that comes as close to an actual NBA broadcast as we’ve ever seen in a game. Assassin’s Creed has better-looking water and an improved draw distance that really captures the vastness of the Caribbean Sea that you’ll be sailing. There’s a lot to like in these games over their previous versions, even if the upgrade isn’t incredibly dramatic.

It’s going to be a long time before we can pass judgment on the PS4, but it’s off to a pretty good start. The exclusives of Knack and Killzone weren’t exactly lighting up the charts with their review scores, but by all accounts they’re perfectly passable.

Greatness might not await you now, but the system has a lot of time to grow. And for now, that’s good enough for me. And no matter how this console war goes, things could always be worse.

It could be the Vita.

Hope is a Dickinson attorney and video game enthusiast.