At first glance, the PlayStation 4 Slim looks like a couple of pieces of burnt toast. Like, really burnt. Blackened.
It’s hard not to focus on the aesthetics. This redesign of the original PlayStation 4 is more or less all about the looks, and at first these come off as a bit of a downgrade. When it was announced on September 7 (and leaked well before that), Twitter was alight with people comparing the Slim to a staircase, a sandwich, and other bizarre things a console most definitely isn’t.
The rounded edges were criticized as unnecessary childproofing. About the only thing people could appreciate was the matte finish as a replacement for the original’s half matte, half glossy case.
Now that the Slim is on the market, it’s possible to set first impressions aside. The Slim is a really attractive, sleek little monster of a console. It is a thinner, smoother update to the original’s trapezoidal design, with all the same gaming power. About a third the height of the old PS4, it sits smartly on my entertainment table next to my PlayStation 3 and (truly vintage) Nintendo GameCube.
A Brief Bit about Tech Specs
The console is impressively quiet when running and stays cooler than the original, even after hours of consecutive gameplay. Sony has advertised that the Slim also uses 28 percent less energy, which is exciting news for both the environmentalists and my electricity bill.
Audiophiles may be turned off from the Slim’s omission of the optical audio port, a feature found on the original PS4. Most casual gamers probably won’t care, and they may even take a liking to a minimalist backend on the machine. Meanwhile, it is now easier to access the hard drive for replacement in the event that the standard 500GB of storage space is not enough for all the games and other media one comes to own. The original PS4 had no easy way of getting to the hard drive, while on the Slim it’s a simple matter of unscrewing a latch.
The controller has also seen a bit of a redesign. There’s now a thin slit on the front to allow light to shine through from the internal LED, which some games use supplementally to indicate information such as health levels. It used to only shine on the bottom of the controller, which was more or less useless without constantly flipping the controller over while playing.
How It Feels to Play on the Slim
Enough about the specs. How does it feel to actually play on the thing? The first game I tried out was “Journey,” indie developer thatgamecompany’s highly cinematic 2012 release. The game reads as a touching exploration of subconscious yearning, told entirely through musical and visual cues. There is no dialogue or narration. It’s probably one of the best titles to demonstrate the PS4’s graphics, especially since it’s a port of the original PlayStation 3 version.
Next I popped in “Destiny.” When I first loaded it up, I was almost angry at how much better it looked than on the PS3. To think that I’d spent hundreds of hours slaving over the appearance and weapon selection of my characters in outdated image quality? I was clutching my pearls, that’s for sure. That game runs like a dream in 60fps and 1080p.
So it’s safe to say I’ve been having a great time with the PS4 Slim. Yes, the graphics are amazing and the user interface is state-of-the-art, but the real reason I decided to pick one up is that for me, it represented acceptance of the fact that I’m a full-on gamer for the second time in my life. Allow me to explain.
A Return to Gaming
I was obsessed with video games while growing up in the 1990s, stowing my GameBoy in with my schoolbooks and spending Christmas break plying the rounded plastic of Nintendo and PlayStation controllers. But in high school and college, I got more interested in getting better grades, so digital playtime waned.
When all that hard work in school paid off, I was living in Washington DC, working days at a newspaper and nights at Kramerbooks, that staple of the capital’s literary scene. The evening managers were a couple of Midwestern Gen-Xers with a taste for dark aesthetics—industrial music, black T-shirts, things like that—and a wealth of knowledge on various topics, from the esoteric to the mundane. One night, their discussion turned to their favorite video games.
“You guys still play games?” I said. “Aren’t you a little old for that?” They were quick to inform me how outdated my understanding was. There were plenty of games whose aesthetics, storylines, and difficulty levels had been designed with the grown-up in mind. The conversation from that night a few years ago planted a seed in my mind. It eventually sprouted and led me to what I am now: a reborn, unabashed gamer girl.
As with most mid-lifecycle console updates, Sony’s aesthetic redesign of the PS4 is in part their attempt to draw in any stragglers who don’t already own one. I was one of those stragglers. Spending the years 2006 to 2014 on a hiatus from gaming meant letting countless changes in the industry pass me by. When I decided to get back into it just last year, I hedged a little and opted for the then-already-outdated PlayStation 3. While the PS3 has a great game selection, I’ve been kicking myself a bit for not going all-in sooner. But at the time, I was so far-removed from the gaming world that I had no way of knowing my childhood hobby would be reignited in the form of a full-on passion.
The PlayStation 4 Slim is a sleek, moderately priced means of deepening my involvement in an interest I once thought I’d lost forever. For most avid gamers, the ones who have been at it this whole time, the PlayStation 4 Slim is a tidy addition to Sony’s lineup, neither disappointing nor particularly remarkable. But for someone like me, it represents a return to self. Many people who share my passion for video games will understand when I say that in a way, I have come home. So maybe the burnt toast trapezoid isn’t so unremarkable after all.