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Hands-on with the PS4

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Sony's PS4 has emerged from this week's console slugging match in LA as the crowd's favourite. The press conference hiccups (most notably the Assassin's Creed IV demo that crashed before the end) were all forgiven and forgotten the second the words "three hundred and forty nine pounds" ($399) were uttered. But undercutting Microsoft by £80 is only a good thing if the console is something people want to own. How it plays - that's the key. So what's the answer? We spent some time with it to find out...

(Images: Sony)

The controller

Think the games are the most important thing? You're probably right. But you have to pick up a controller to play the games (this isn't Kinect) so that's where we're starting. The PS3 controller was much like the PS2's - the same shape, but noticeably lighter. That sounds like a good thing, but it wasn't in practice - it's too light. The redesigned PS4 controller is satisfyingly sturdy with ever so slightly stiffer thumbsticks that, once you've got used to the difference, makes it feel like you've got more control over what you're doing. The redesigned shape is an improvement too - it's basically more like the Xbox 360 controller, which is a good thing.

Driveclub

Or #DriveClub, as Sony has styled it, in the hope that's how you'll write it on Twitter. It's worth mentioning that it'll be available free for a year if you're a PS Plus member. The demo of the game consisted of one track that you raced round twice, completing mini challenges (can you out-drive your rival through this chicane?) as you went. At the end of the day, the fastest times and highest scorers were visible for all to see. Where did we finish? That's not important. This appears to be a solid, fun racing game, with good multiplayer elements. But there are lots of racing games like that at the show, Driveclub isn't doing a lot to make itself stand-out. Yet.

Killzone: Shadow Fall

Now this was a surprise. Mostly because it looks nothing like the Killzone games you know (if indeed you actually do know any). Famed for their worlds of brown, and slightly different shades of brown, that we were planted in a forest was a surprise. But a nice one. In fact, the game doesn't play like previous Killzones - you're a solo operative (at least in the bit we experienced) rather than part of a war machine and you've got some handy new tech called the OWL. A miniature drone unit, you can send it into new territory to scan for enemies and, if it finds them, draw their fire or engage them itself - allowing you to flank them or, once they're weakened, simply finish them off and take the glory. Set in a huge level with three objectives you could complete in any order you liked, Killzone could finally fulfil those "Halo Killer" headlines of a decade ago.

Knack

Save the worst for last. In fairness, Knack is simply aimed at a younger market. A third-person action game with a Saturday morning cartoon art style, you're Knack, a creature created to fight the goblins that have attacked Earth's cities. So while it looks nice and plays well, it doesn't feel like something we'll be rushing to experience on the day we unpack our PS4. Not when there's a stunning new Killzone.

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