Safety first.

Like 250,000 other gamers based in the UK, I decided to pick up a PlayStation 4 on launch day. It’s been almost one month since I booted up the console for the first time, eager to see what the “next-generation” of video games would hold, but I’m afraid to say that my enthusiasm has waned considerably since then. In fact, it’s almost completely dried up.

I am, to put it bluntly, bored of the PS4.

Don’t get me wrong, the PlayStation 4 is exactly what I expected it to be: a sleek, powerful, and a highly-capable games machine, one that appears equipped for the future. But it’s also what I dreaded and, in hindsight, ultimately predicted it would be: an incremental step over the last generation, offering little to no surprises other than noticeable advances in graphical fidelity.

Will that be enough in a five years time? I sincerely hope so, because Sony has seemingly placed all their eggs in one basket, much like the Vita – and that hasn’t worked out so well.

You may consider the above to be a brutal assessment, but currently, it’s a fair one. Even when you discount the average games – which are admittedly a large part of the issue – and focus on the hardware itself, the PlayStation 4 doesn’t bring anything truly new to the table; not yet at least. Sure, the ability to play games after you’ve downloaded a specific proportion is a pleasing novelty, and the “share” functionality seemed an initially promising feature (even though videos are crushed by compression when uploaded, some games don’t record audio, and the console has a habit of saving the wrong last 15 minutes of gameplay!) there’s no real wow factor to speak of.

PlayItSafeStation

Even though it’s early days, I can’t help but wonder what Sony could have created if they had decided to push forward with a cohesive vision as opposed to this “tick every box” mantra they’ve adopted. Strangely, there are still signs (or relics?) of Sony’s more risky ideas, hidden away or ignored entirely by the lacklustre launch line-up of cross-gen ports and graphically impressive yet hollow games. Clearly, Sony was trying to do something new and then, for some unknown reason, decided against it. Here’s some examples:Everything about the PlayStation 4 screams safety first and clouds the console in a disconcertingly familiar haze. Innovation, in this case, has made way for calculated and careful refinement; it’s more of the same – a simple retune rather than a daring rewrite.

Everything about the PlayStation 4 screams safety first and clouds the console in a disconcertingly familiar haze.

The camera (now sold separately) has become a superfluous, undercooked addition, unlikely to topple Microsoft’s imposing yet inconsistent Kinect camera. The DualShock 4, although arguably Sony’s finest controller since the original DualShock, is already carrying what appears to be a redundant piece of technology: the controller’s lightbar. But more worryingly, the touchpad on the controller seems about as innocuous in its lack of system integration as the Vita’s rear touchpad – an interesting input that will be ignored freely by all but first-party developers. So, currently, we’re left with a controller that does the same thing as others before it, with more arrows in its quiver than ever, but with a pitiful battery life as a consequence. Wonderful.

sony playstation 4 dualshock 4

Look at all that untapped innovation, waiting to be ignored.

Naturally, my eyes – the clever blinking organs that they are – have already adapted to the new visual candy on offer. I’m suddenly no longer amazed by the mesmerising cloth simulations of NBA 2K14 or the realistic lighting of Killzone: Shadow Fall. Nor am I enamoured by the PS4’s clinically bland “What’s New” section or the tame social features. Worse still, the game that has garnered the most attention during my time with the PS4 (and that’s what it’s all about right, the games?) is Resogun, a free arcade shooter which is undoubtedly brilliant but by no means revolutionary. (But it did successfully turn my eyes bloodshot for several days, so kudos for that.)

Knackered

Of course, every console suffers during the launch period (Nintendo 3DS, I’m looking squarely at you), so it’s perhaps unfair to wield the hammer of judgement this early on. But the PS4 definitely lacks soul. It’s as though the PS4 represents its closest mascot Knack, while Crash Bandicoot was the embodiment of PSOne and Nintendo (still) has Mario yelling out “Wahoo!” with unwavering gusto.

Dare I say Sony just isn’t much fun these days?

Naturally, my eyes – the clever blinking organs that they are – have already adapted to the new visual candy on offer.

As the years go by, the PlayStation 4 will undoubtedly improve; bigger experiences will arrive, more guns and violence will probably accompany them, and hopefully Sony will keep their promise in championing indies. For some people, that will be enough – they want a games machine that will repay their investment over the next five or so years, give them access to the biggest annual franchises and let them chat to their friends while collecting trophies. The PS4 will certainly do that. But at this stage, from the evidence on offer, and the increasingly disturbing practices from third-party publishers porting over last-gen games to the next-gen consoles (Lara goes on a killing spree in Tomb Raider again, only with better hair for £49.99!), the PS4 hasn’t shown the potential to make me feel comfortably numb with unbridled gaming euphoria.

But by all means, Sony, please prove me wrong…

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