I was well aware of the issues that arose during the first few weeks of the last generation’s life. It felt like every other Xbox 360 owner suffered from the death knell of three blinking red lights, forced to send the console back in hopes of landing a lucky unit that wouldn’t fall apart. While Sony’s PS3 had a smaller failure rate, stories still spread of a “yellow light of death” and ornery machines that swallowed discs whole but refused to spit them back out. It took several years before every kink was truly ironed out, and by then, many consumers swore that they would avoid buying the next batch of systems on day one, letting the rest of the world serve as beta testers until the machines were truly perfected.
Despite knowing all the risks and hiccups associated with being the first in the pool, I queued up on Amazon for a “launch day” PlayStation 4 unit. There was something alluring about owning a new piece of hardware in its newborn moments, through all its potential trials and tribulations. There was a chance that I could have received a bricked unit (several new owners have reported a blue light of death or broken HDMI port), or flooded servers would prevent me from reliably playing online for a few weeks, but my anticipation to jump to a more powerful console overrode any sensible concerns and the pre-order was fulfilled.
When I finally got my hands on the PS4, I was almost disappointed by the lack of any serious launch day catastrophes. Unpacking and preparing the console only took five minutes of my time, and when I tapped the power button, it immediately sprang to life. With no pulsing blue light and a crystal-clear image, had I really missed out on the typical day one experience? As if sensing my desire to see something break, my PlayStation Network login attempts were met with a lengthy period of inactivity, followed by an important-looking error code. Hurrah!
Aiming to please, the PS4 even threw in a few more errors while it was on a roll. Once I finally connected to PSN, whatever background magic the console used kept colliding with an “under maintenance” message that flashed under my screen every so often. This message was determined to inform me at any cost, and paused the game several times to say “Hey, just so you know, we’re still under maintenance!” After hammering the PlayStation button, it got the message and shut up, but not before crashing Assassin’s Creed IV out of spite.
Aside from the odd connection issues, crashes and other niggling bugs, I had a solid first evening with the PS4. The user interface sped along and never kept me waiting for long; it felt as pleasant as a fresh install of Windows, only faster. Sony’s newest controller felt downright luxurious compared to any other gamepad I’ve ever held, though it took me an hour or two before my hands were retrained to press down on the touchpad instead of the Share button on the far left (old habits die hard). I even managed to play Killzone Shadow Fall online without any disconnects or lag, which was a thoroughly pleasant surprise for someone who spent weeks suffering through botched launches of Blizzard games and massive online RPGs.
Beyond the war stories told by the veterans of previous console launches, I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I jumped into the wilds of the day one PlayStation 4 unit. Though enough went wrong to prevent me from diving into some of the newer features for a day or two, I ended the day pleased with the system and confident that Sony was prepared to ring in a new generation of gaming. As for the games themselves… well, that’s a story for another day.