Top 5 Things to Do With a PS4 Until the Games Arrive

Posted by DAJB Thursday, January 2, 2014

Now that Christmas is over, the frenzied campaigning for and trolling against both Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's XBox One has finally died down. Whether based on hyped-up expectations or long-held prejudices, gamers have made their choices and, by now, it's estimated that Santa has probably filled around four million gamers' stockings with a launch edition of the next gen console of their choice.

images ps4 vs xbox one console pictures
Picture of the PS4 complete with upright stand. Incomplete without one. You know, just like the actual ones you can buy.
It's something of a truism to say that a console's long-term viability is dependent upon its games, but with any new console the number of AAA-rated games available at launch is pretty limited and - with several of this generation's top titles having been delayed until next year - there's one question that can't be answered by simply comparing sales figures: was it really worth placing a pre-order back in June, just to be sure a shiny new games machine would be nestling under the Christmas tree?

Well, I opted for Sony's stylish little number and, even without those AAA titles, I've fallen in love with it already. Why? Here are the top five things my PS4 and I did together over the Christmas break:

PS4 DC Universe Online review
For America's Got Talent, the Scarecrow sang
"If I Only Had a Brain", while Batwoman acted out
emotes. Here she demonstrates "ROFL".
5.  DC Universe Online

As a comic fan, DCUO is a game which I've been wanting to play for a long time. After all, what fanboy or grrl wouldn't want the chance to save the world alongside Superman or Wonder Woman?

Despite my love of heroes in capes, however, I'm not a huge fan of MMOs (as Sartre might have said if he'd embraced his inner geek: "Hell is other gamers!"), and the prospect of paying a monthly subscription just to be shown up by a bunch of rabid 12 year olds is distinctly unappealing. Like many other MMOs, DCUO converted to a free-to-play model some time ago but, frustratingly, I haven't been able to take advantage of it before now. My laptop just isn't up to the job and my console gaming so far has been exclusively XBox, on which even free-to-play MMOs require an XBL Gold subscription.

Unlike XBox Live, PSN allows access to DCUO without a subscription to its premium service, PS Plus. Much of my Christmas, therefore, was spent playing superhero (and villain), patrolling the streets of Metropolis and Gotham. I fought against Brainiac's robotic minions alongside Superman and Lex Luthor; I freed Zatanna from a bunch of evil cultists, helped Wonder Girl take down Giganta, fought the Teen Titans, and rescued Raven from the clutches of her father. I joined up with Batwoman to defeat the Scarecrow and visited both the Hall of Doom and the JLA's Watchtower. And that was all in just a couple of days' play. There's clearly a lot more to explore in this game, and already I've been rubbing caped shoulders with some of DC's heaviest hitters. What better way is there for a fanboy to spend the run up to Christmas?!

4.  Watchmen

sexy malin akerman of Watchmen and The Heartbreak Kid
The answer is lots of talcum powder.
You know what the question was!
Unlike many fans of Alan Moore's superb graphic novel, I really like Zack Snyder's movie adaptation of Watchmen. When I heard there was going to be an extended Director's Cut, I put off buying the DVD and began mentally putting away pennies in my imaginary penny jar. Sadly, when it was eventually released, the Director's Cut was only available on BluRay. Naturally, I didn't have a BluRay player at the time, and the idea of buying one just for that one movie seemed a tad excessive!

Over the years since then it's become increasingly common for the BluRay editions of major movies to include additional extras not available on the DVD and so it was inevitable that I'd eventually relent and buy something to play them on.  Well, now I have that something and the first thing I played on my PS4 was the Director's Cut of Watchmen. Honestly, I don't think the additional material adds very much but, after four years of waiting, at least I can finally say I've seen it. Score two for the PS4!

3.  A message to Microsoft

I am not a Microsoft hater. I've been a loyal XBox gamer ever since MS released its first chunky black shoe box. Yes, I've missed out on Playstation exclusives like Uncharted and The Last of Us, but I've also enjoyed many happy hours with XBox exclusives like Halo and Fable 2. Before last year's calamitous press conference in the run-up to E3, therefore, there was no way my next gen console purchase was ever going to be anything other than an XBox One.

Like many others, however, that all changed when Microsoft announced its plans to seriously curtail my consumer rights, to force me to buy a peripheral I saw no value in and, in some circumstances, even to deny me access to the games I'd bought. I thought hard about whether I was just being a bit of a Luddite and simply refusing to acknowledge the advantages of the MS proposition. By the end of E3, however, I just couldn't see any significant benefits to the gamer at all; certainly none that would offset the many downsides. And so I placed a pre-order for a PS4: my first Playstation ever.

legal promotion xbox one vs ps4 executive
Voice-activated control now as standard. And by "standard", we mean "compulsory". 
That was over six months ago now and, after a series of disastrous surveys and negative pre-order numbers, Microsoft famously reversed most of its draconian policies. Even so, from time to time it still hints at the possibility of reintroducing its original plans at some stage in the future and so, every time I fired up my PS4 over Christmas, I felt like I was doing a little bit more to protest against unprincipled DRM restrictions. Of course, every time I did so, my faithful old 360 glowered sadly at me from the corner!

2.  Netflix

most popular crime titles with country of origin Norway
This year the international gurning contest will be held
in Norway.
Thanks to UK satellite TV, I already have access to movies and a lot of HBO shows, so I haven't felt any great need to subscribe to yet another Pay-TV service. That was especially true since, for something like Netflix, I'd also have to subscribe to a gatekeeper, such as XBL Gold.

Well, times change. Netflix is currently producing a number of excellent shows which aren't available elsewhere. Breaking Bad, for example, never made it beyond Season 1 on UK TV, while other shows like Orange is the New Black still haven't been shown at all. The allure of Netflix has therefore, been growing slowly in recent years and, with the PS4, I can now access it without paying for a PS Plus premium subscription.

So, when I wasn't soaring over the rooftops of Metropolis or watching the Watchmen on BluRay, I was discovering some great Netflix shows. My favourite so far is probably the Fargo-esque Lilyhammer (you can read the Fanboys Anonymous review here!), a gentle culture-clash comedy starring Steven van Zandt as a New York mobster relocated under the Witness Protection Program to Lillehammer in Norway. With so much snow, it felt more like Christmas than ... well, Christmas!

1.  Contrast

Contrast game available for free dowload
Dawn could make amazing shadows with her hands,
but Didi was beginning to think she cheated.
One of the PS4's strengths, at least according to Sony (although a few developers do appear to be corroborating this), is just how user-friendly its architecture and procedures are for small games developers. Of course, that doesn't mean a lot to the average gamer sat in front of his TV. We can only judge the success or otherwise of a supposedly developer-friendly policy, based on the quality of the independent games which eventually make their way onto our consoles.

One of the highlights of my Christmas was discovering Contrast, a short but delightfully innovative, puzzle-solving game in which you play as Dawn, the "imaginary friend" of a little girl called Didi. The main gameplay mechanic is Dawn's ability to turn into a shadow in order to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. I expected that much from the trailers I'd seen. What I didn't expect was the noirish atmosphere, the wonderfully stylish 1920s environments, or the way shadows are also used to tell the story of the on-off relationship between Didi's parents.

There are a few minor elements that could have been expanded upon but the game's endearing sense of charm more than compensates for those. If you take out a PS Plus subscription, Contrast can be downloaded for free. It's a short game but, even without a PS Plus subscription it can be downloaded for a mere £12.79 and, unlike some bigger blockbuster titles, it actually feels like good value right up until the closing credits. There may have been a dearth of next gen AAA blockbuster titles available in time for Christmas but, with indy gems like Contrast to keep us entertained, my PS4 and I hardly noticed!

So, did Santa put a new console in your stocking this year? Tell us whether you went for the XBox One or the PS4, and what's been the best thing about it so far!

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY A GUEST WRITER

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