What It Could Be Like To Play Games On PS4

Yesterday, Sony dropped a massive FAQ full of PS4 tidbits and details. While it's certainly interesting, it's also very long. You might not have the time or energy to read it all.

So based on this FAQ, we thought we'd try a little thought experiment: let's zip ahead to November 16, the day after the PlayStation 4 launches, and try to figure out what it'll be like to play Sony's next console.

It's Saturday morning. You wake up, stretch your legs. Put on some coffee. Oatmeal. You think about going for a run and maybe getting something productive done, but then it hits you... you have a PlayStation 4.

So you walk over to your television. You look at your shiny new gaming console, which you decided to put next to your Xbox 360 and PS3, because none of the games you've bought over the past 5-6 years will work on this new beast. It looks good. Sleek.

You turn on the machine. Your controller is already charged, because unlike the PS3, the PS4 can power up your DualShock overnight. The latest system update finished downloading while you were asleep. You didn't have to connect to the Internet to play any games, but the day-one system update enables a lot of features, like online multiplayer and Remote Play, so you figured you'd just get it over with.

The suspend/resume feature isn't working yet, but at least you can leave your PS4 in stand-by for charging and downloading. Eventually, you'll be able to put games in sleep mode and just pick up where you left off, like you can on the Vita or 3DS.

You put in a game. Maybe Killzone or Knack. Definitely not Watch Dogs or DriveClub. They're delayed until next year. Let's say... Knack. (Here's a full list of all the PS4 games you can get at launch.)

There's a little graphical flourish... some music. You've gotta install the game, and you can't use an external device, so you put it on the PS4's built-in 500 GB hard drive.

You can't decline the installation. It's mandatory. (Sony hasn't yet told us just how long it'll take—or how much of each game you'll have to install before you can start playing. We'll keep you updated when they let us know.)

You can't play music on the system while you wait—or at all, unless you subscribe to Sony's Music Unlimited program—so you use a pair of iPod speakers instead.

You start playing the game. It looks good. Immediately, things feel different. More... next-gen. You can stream gameplay on platforms like Twitch and Ustream (but you can't share it to YouTube yet). You can press the Share button on your controller to export the last 15 minutes of gameplay, which is automatically recorded as you play. You can trim that video right on your console.

Just to see what the online services are like, you pop in Killzone and set it up. You register for a PlayStation Plus membership so you can play the game online, where you can now have up to 2,000 friends. (Don't kid yourself: you'll never have that many friends.)

You toggle your online account to display your real name and Facebook photo, so people don't have to remember your PSN handle, xxsephirothgoku4000.

As you play online, you use the mono headset that came with the system. You can't use wireless stereo headsets—at least not yet. You can't send your PS3-playing friends any voice messages, so you send them text messages, bragging that you have a PS4 and they don't.

The DualShock 4 feels pretty good in your hands. It's got a touchpad that could either be awesome or a major distraction, depending what developers do with it. There's a light sensor on the back that can interact with your games, too.

So... once Knack is ready, you start playing it on your TV for a while. Just for kicks, you pull out your Vita and test out Remote Play, which allows you to play PS4 games on the portable machine. It works well, so long as both systems are on the same WiFi network. You can watch football while playing PS4 games in your lap.

And that's your day-one PS4 experience. This whole scenario is, of course, contingent upon the system working as advertised. If there are problems we don't know about yet—like, say, the PS4 catching on fire whenever you turn it on—then November 16 might turn out a whole lot differently.

As details of how Xbox One will work at launch become more concrete, we'll run this thought experiment for Microsoft's console as well.