We watched the PlayStation 4's interface in action this morning at Sony's big review event, and we got to see some of the cool little hardware quirks that make this system really feel next-gen.
Seriously. For a while I've been skeptical about these new machines, but once you see the PS4's interface in action, that old PS3 UI will start to feel pretty damn obsolete. (Keep in mind that these are all hands-off impressions, but we've got the system in our office and we'll have tons of coverage throughout the week, including a full review on Wednesday at 9am Eastern.)
Straight from my notebook, here are a few cool things you should know about the PS4's interface:
You can have two groups of PSN friends: regular friends and "true" friends. To be true friends, or BFFs, you both have to agree. Regular friends will just show up on your lists and games by their handles, but the machine will display true friends' real names, so you don't have to keep remembering that SexCowboy77 is actually Kirk Hamilton.
Multitasking is super-easy. If you double-tap the PlayStation button on the DualShock 4, you'll swap between your last two applications. So if you play a game, then pause to look at your friends list, it's easy to switch back to where you left off. No saving required. This is the future!
There's a whole hub for broadcasting. This is a system built for sharing and streaming—Sony's so into this stuff that they even put a share button on the controller. The PS4 will automatically record up to 15 minutes of your gameplay, and you can edit/trim that footage using a snappy interface that seems to work well. (We didn't get our hands on it, but we'll have more definitive thoughts when we do.) You can also broadcast live gameplay on Twitch or Ustream, and you can search for keywords on the system's broadcast hub to see what people are sharing at any given moment. This could be big.
The homepage shows what your friends are doing. You'll see things like "Stephen just started streaming Knack" or "Evan is playing Killzone: Shadow Fall." You can interact with your friends from that page.
As you download a game, you can start playing it before it's finished. It'll take a bit—an hour at most, lead architect Mark Cerny says—for the system to install enough data for you to start a game, but you won't have to wait for the software to download completely—which is good, because these games are big. Different games will allow you to prioritize based on how you want to play while they download—Call of Duty: Ghosts, for example, will let you choose whether you want to start playing single- or multi-player, and then you'll download the bits accordingly.
Playing as a guest will let you sign in on other peoples' PS4s. You can just choose "play as guest" and sign in on your own account. It'll automatically wipe all of your data when you're done with the machine.
You can watch Netflix without a PlayStation Plus subscription. Okay, so this isn't a fun fact about the UI, and really, we already knew this would be the case, but it's pretty damn cool that Sony isn't locking this stuff behind a paywall. On Xbox One, just like on the 360, you'll need Xbox Live Gold to use Netflix and other media services.
The machine is designed to stay in stand-by mode. And it'll charge your DualShock 4 while it's resting. FINALLY.
The PS4 is shaped like a parallelogram. Not a rhombus. Just FYI.