The Playstation 4 – A rocky start

Console gaming is a slow moving beast, particularly when compared with the fast moving online and app world. But after twenty years in the business, and with a desperate need to distinguish themselves from Microsoft’s offerings, Sony should know better, try harder, get the digital side working seamlessly.

Santa brought us an incredible gift this Christmas, in the shape of a Playstation 4. It’s been well documented that we don’t really do gifts, but this was something we wanted and would have bought ourselves as soon as we could have found stock, so it was really the perfect present.

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Except maybe perfect isn’t the right word.

As a digital-first, or perhaps now digital-only, household, console gaming has always been a little removed from our sights. Recently, there’s been more of an effort made for downloadable games and updates, and Sony’s Playstation 4 had all the main titles available for launch (admittedly not that many) available to purchase without leaving the house. Sign up, download, and start playing. That’s how simple it should be.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy.

First, there were problems getting the account to accept any funds. Sony’s networks were hammered over the festive season, and navigating the vast menus would more often than not end in an error. Then, there were problems with not having the right equipment to play a downloadable game. Perhaps we should have checked, perhaps it should have been more obvious before we hit the buy button. Then, and this one really gets me, the driving game wouldn’t work.

After frustrated attempts to get a game, we finally ended up with Need for Speed: Rivals, a new edition in the franchise which involves the usual winning races, hitting jumps, avoiding getting caught by the cops. After waiting a while for it to download (Sony’s slow networks again), it installed and loaded, we sat through a hefty introductory monologue and then, finally, a car appeared and we were ready to drive.

But the car wouldn’t move. Any and every button was pressed, twisted, jabbed, and there was nothing doing on screen. Having some forward motion is a pretty key concept for a driving game, I always thought, but here, we had an incredibly pretty backdrop (great graphics) and a parked car.

It turns out, this is a known error, something to do with the patch that automatically installed on download. It’s been fixed. It was probably poor timing that the error occurred over Christmas, where no one was around to repatch the patch. Now it works, the game is awesome. But it’s an error that shouldn’t have happened, and couldn’t be allowed to happen if it was a physical copy being picked up in the shops.

If it hadn’t been a present, I’m sure the Playstation 4 would have gone back to the shop. It’s early days, a new generation of hardware, but some problems are too fundamental for us to live with. As we stuck with it, things seem to be smoothing out, and Need for Speed is an awful lot of fun. But it was a rocky beginning to a relationship we’re not even sure we’re ready for. Hardcore gamers will no doubt love the all-new PS4, and those still visiting Game and HMV for their discs have had few problems. But we’re on the periphery, we’re the ones that Sony need to convert, and they’ve not made a very good start.