Everything You Need To Know About The PlayStation 4 In 300 Words (and some pictures)

PS4 console

THE CONSOLE

The UI can be wonky, but it might be okay.

Be ready to manage your hard drive. A lot.

Navigating through your digital library of games might be a pain in the ass.

 

PS4-The-Games

THE GAMES

There is nothing out yet for PS4 to justify your spending $400 to upgrade. Play cross platform games on your PS3 and save a lot of money. For now.

 

PS4 controller

THE CONTROLLER

The new controller is awesome (but we’ve known this since E3 because we’re giving you the same talking points on the controller that we did back in June).

You can shunt all your game audio through the controller and into regular-ass headphones. This is also awesome.

You can charge your PS4 controller without having to actually turn the PS4 on. Thank god.

 PlayStation 4 Network

SOCIAL NETWORKING

We have no idea if PlayStation Network’s social functions on PS4 will be any good because no one is ON the PlayStation Network on PS4 yet.

We think Party chat will work correctly, but we’re not sure.

Streaming console gaming to Twitch or making some videos of console game play is now easy. Also thank God, if it works. Capture cards are a pain in the ass.

Get a Facebook account if you don’t already have one, because you can only publish clips or screenshots to Facebook.

Looking at your friends’ gaming activity is like looking at Google+. This is perhaps not a good thing.

 

Good-or-Bad

OUR CONCLUSION

We have no idea if the PlayStation 4 is any good because we have to publish these reviews two days before the system is released or else lose web traffic to all our competitors and/or be skinned alive by all the readers who want these drippings of information as ammunition to be hurled at their enemies in the ongoing Console Wars.

Being the good guy means getting hit first

I grew up during the Reagan ’80s, with Red Dawn and Rambo, with us vs. the Commies. Democracy versus the evil Soviet Union. Good stuff, were it true. Then I read Noam Chomsky’s Deterring Democracy in 1997. It’s a historical recounting of some of the dictators and tyrants the United States has armed and supported where it served our international interests. It was my first, real inkling that maybe all the lessons I’d been taught about America universally being the good guy were bullshit.

What was so devastating to me about the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was that it finished the job of shattering any illusion I held that the United States was always the good guy. Most of the time we’re just like any other nation, protecting our interests even if the ethical costs stand against our professed national beliefs. I try not to feel too badly about that, because the theme of Deterring Democracy is that all nations abandon their professed morals sometimes. That’s just what nations do. We should expect no less from any nation state, no matter what documents govern its laws, or what its history is.

Understanding this didn’t make it any less painful to learn how the National Security Agency has turned the philosophy of “nations do what nations do” against its own people, and is conducting domestic surveillance against all of us. Edward Snowden’s disclosure of PRISM and the other programs being conducted by the NSA was shocking to me. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, now, when it comes to government, but this was beyond the pale.

Part of me wants to think that if President Obama hasn’t moved to dismantle these programs that there’s a reason, that actionable intelligence which has saved lives has been produced through these programs, that there’s something we don’t know which, if we did, might change minds about the legitimacy of these programs. Then I think about what defines the good guy.

The good guy takes the first punch to the face before he hits someone else. The good guy gives the other guy every last chance to prove he can be trusted, or to prove that he isn’t a threat, before the good guy takes action. Maintaining that moral high ground is what allows the good guy to punch back while still remaining the good guy. And the good guy commits no wrong by punching back, not by any rational system of ethics, as long as he stops using force as soon as he’s no longer under threat of being punched by the other guy anymore.

The invasion of Iraq was so devastating for me not only because it clearly had nothing to do with the attack on the World Trade Center, but that I let myself get swept up in the fever of nationalism which made the war possible. For a month or so, I reflected the absolute worst of what the nation state inspires from its citizens. When the anger faded I came around, and I remember the vociferous debates I had with close friends over the coming war. When we invaded Iraq, we were nothing more than the schoolyard bully beating up a kid and taking his lunch money. We were acting like the bad guy, and for a while I’d been cheering the bully on.

The NSA’s domestic surveillance program, oppressive surveillance on civilians, is the kind of thing I was raised to believe was commonplace in the Soviet Union. It is just as blatant a signifier of being “the bad guy” as a war of conquest. And this is when I have to separate “the government” from “the people” and reflect on the fact that even if we vote our government into power, the evil of our government’s actions does not necessarily reflect back upon the rest of us. It’s not “America” which is acting like the bad guy, but “the American government.”

A month or two ago, I got into a Twitter conversation about Edward Snowden and how I thought he was a hero. The apathetic responses I received were distressing to me, to put it politely.

“I assume the government is up to things like this,” was the flavor of these responses. I understand cynicism about abuses of government power. Using that cynicism to dismiss the importance of learning that widespread, blanket surveillance of the American people is taking place under the auspices of the NSA is something I do not understand. There’s a difference between suspecting something is up and knowing precisely what’s going on.

If not for Edward Snowden, those of us under surveillance in the United States wouldn’t know we were under surveillance. Snowden sacrificed living in his own country, probably for the rest of his life, in order to arm us all with the knowledge we needed to fight these domestic spying programs. Sacrifice for the greater good is the definition of heroism, isn’t it?

And isn’t the only way you can say that Snowden wasn’t sacrificing for the greater good is if you don’t believe that the notion of freedom, in its most abstract sense, is at the heart of what America is, more so than any other nation which has ever been?

I was in Boston on April 15th when two pressure cooker bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and on April 18th when the entire city was locked down after a running firefight broke out between the bombers and the police. Later I learned that the United States government had intelligence to give them cause to place the Tsarnaev brothers under surveillance. The attack could have been averted, but law enforcement agencies didn’t have the Tsarnaev brothers under surveillance.

Lack of domestic intelligence gathering was not what made the Marathon bombing possible. It’s more reasonable to believe that government inefficiency, lack of cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and a lack of resources were responsible, none of which I believe are addressed by PRISM and the other, related programs. They’re band-aids thrown over a systemic, open wound.

I look at America right now the way I imagine a parent looks disappointingly at a child who just isn’t trying hard enough, and is screwing up their future on account of it.

Other democracies have lived under the sort of threat we’re living under for decades without reactionary policies like PRISM coming to light. The NSA’s domestic spying programs are lazy shortcuts, nothing more. Even if dismantling these programs does put us under greater risk of attack in the short term because we’ve been relying on them, and we’ll need to go back to figuring out how to effectively and efficiently use the legal methods of domestic intelligence gathering which were available prior to the Patriot Act, which was another lazy shortcut, dismantling these NSA programs is still the right thing to do. We have the strength to pay the price of being the good guy, and I honestly think the world needs at least one nation with our power and reach to play that role.

The last time I protested over a political issue was during the gay marriage debate here in MA, when I participated in a rally in front of the State House. I’d like to think that protest was a small part towards helping the good guys win that fight.

I hope the protest against NSA domestic spying being held in Washington, D.C. on October 26th is a large part of helping the good guys win this fight:

https://rally.stopwatching.us/statement-by-edward-snowden/

On David Cage and page counts

There are a few varieties of the screenplay format, but a screenplay generally looks something like this:

FADE IN:

1. INTERIOR – OFFICE – AFTERNOON

The sun beams off the clean, white walls and a white bookshelf broken up five-by-five into cubes. The back of every cube is stuffed with books, and toys and Legos cover the remaining surface of each cube.

Dennis sits at his desk, typing, and pauses to look at the bookshelves to his left.

DENNIS
I really need to put some of those toys away.

FADE OUT

The screenplay format is set up in such a way as to make each page equivalent to a minute of footage. A tight screenplay ought to translate into a structurally tight film. In film school we learned to set a 90-page target, and not to exceed 120 pages, to match up with the average run time for a Hollywood feature.

What got me thinking about all this was reviews of Beyond: Two Souls that were critical of the story, and the storytelling. Considering that David Cage is a filmmaker who is using video games to make his movies instead of actually, you know, making movies (if you have any doubt that Cage is a filmmaker in a game developer’s clothing, this GDC 2011 talk from Cage was basically a screenwriting course during which he flat-out told the students in the audience to forget video game rules), I wonder if we ought to just start reviewing his games the way we’d review movies?

This, then, got me thinking about movie length. If a studio is going to release a 2 1/2 hour movie, it had better be damned good or the audience is going to get bored. And if a 2 1/2 hour movie is a challenging feat to pull off, how about an 8 hour movie? That’s one way to look at a game like Heavy Rain, which might take at least 8 hours to finish.

That would be 480 pages of script, excluding the page count for different scenes the player would have seen had they made different choices. If I’d handed in a 480 page screenplay in film school I have no doubt it would have been thrown back at me by the head of the screenwriting program because no one has the time to read a bloated screenplay like that.

What kills me about David Cage is that I think he’s capable of telling a story cinematically, but he’d have to stick to the rules of film, which doesn’t seem like it’s asking for much considering Cage takes issue generally with the way video games are designed. In 2012 Quantic Dream produced a PlayStation 3 tech demo named Kara. Call it a seven minute short film. I think it’s brilliant, and shows the potential for film making using game tech better than any other project. If you’ve never seen Kara, please watch it now? It tells a wonderfully-structured, complete story in less than 8 minutes.

Heavy Rain, on the other hand, had a ton of dead space, and I think that dead space comes from Cage’s insistence on making video games. He tries to give the player choices to make and things to do, but the game could have functioned without a lot of that content. Cage tried to walk a tightrope instead of fully committing to what he really wants to do.

I bought my PlayStation 3 specifically to play Heavy Rain, because it sounded like an important game. Beyond: Two Souls, on the other hand, sounds like a game I can afford to skip, which makes me a little sad. I was late to the David Cage party. I’d never heard of Indigo Prophecy until a few years ago. But I suspect that Cage is a one trick pony who keeps recycling the same design over and over again, and I’m not willing to pay $60 to confirm that, especially when I hear that Beyond is even longer than Heavy Rain, like possibly 10 hours long for a playthrough. That would be a 600-page screenplay.