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PS4 Review: Sony Takes One Giant Leap Into the Future

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Sony’s PS4 console has been publicly available for almost two weeks now, and based on its launch day sales, millions of gamers have adopted the next-gen system to lead them into the future of console gaming. Sony took great care with the reveal and launch of the PS4 to avoid the PR nightmare that plagued the PS3 during its first few months at retail, and it paid off in regards to public opinion of the PS4 console. Many gamers were swayed by Sony’s claim that the PS4 was about gaming first, and ancillary content second, which helped to win over some loyal Xbox fans to its cause.

We all have at least one friend who jumped ship for the PS4 just based on Sony’s PR work, which is impressive, but now that the console is finally available does it hold up to Sony’s claims? For the most part yes, but a weak exclusive launch title lineup has hampered the PS4’s claim of being about gaming first. Even with only three exclusive launch titles the PS4 still has oodles of features and great experiences to offer gamers, and my time with it has revealed that the PS4 is definitely a next-gen console that has potential to wow gamers for many years to come.

 

Hardware

The PS4 is locked and loaded with enough electronic guts to keep up with today’s most demanding next-gen titles. Its 8 cores of processing power coupled with 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM don’t miss a beat while playing games, fast-switching between apps, or connecting with the Vita for remote play functions. The speed increase is most realized in the boot up process of the console itself, and when loading a game. The PS4, while in standby mode, can ready itself for play in less than 30 seconds, making waiting for a gaming console to boot up a much more tolerable process. Playing games also takes less waiting when they’re launched from the main menu, and even the in-game load times were minimal, especially in Killzone: Shadow Fall.

The sleek and sexy PS4 console

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The 500 GB HDD runs quiet, but may not be enough storage to hold a large library of games. Most games have to install themselves to the HDD, and retail games can take upwards of 30 GB of storage to install, so space will be precious once your PS4 game collection begins to grow. While we’re on the topic of disc drives I’d like to mention that the PS4’s blu-ray optical drive does run extremely loud when loading a game, or even while booting the console if a game disc is in the drive. The sound is reminiscent of the Xbox 360 and its extremely loud disc drive that often sounded like a Boeing 747 taking off from your entertainment center. Luckily this noise tends to subside once the PS4 loads whatever it wanted to load from the disc, but the loud hum is still a concern since it sounds like the drive is going to spin itself right out of the PS4 chassis.

Dualshock 4

The PS4 is a beast when it comes to its innards (for a console, PC master race people), but with that being said Sony still needed to improve upon its controller design to win over new fans. Based on my time with the Dualshock 4 Sony most definitely invested its R&D time well. This new and improved game controller feels infinitely better than the DS3 while in your hands, and it no longer feels like you could snap it with minimal force. The Dualshock 4 just feels natural when grasped between your hands and fingers, and the new concave joysticks actually provide a bit of resistance to give them more precision for games that require it like FPS games.

The included touchpad is a nice feature to have, but it’s up to the software developers to take advantage of it. Guerrilla Games used it perfectly in Killzone: Shadow Fall where it was used to control the OWL drone through swipes of the touchpad. Curiously the touchpad isn’t really used for any of the PS4’s UI functions, so for now its uses will be limited to the dreams of game developers around the world.

The Dualshock 4 – Sony’s best controller to date

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One of the Dualshock 4’s most useful new features is its share button, which when pressed allows you to send gameplay clips or screens to Facebook or Twitter (screens only on Twitter). You can also use the button to begin a livestream to either Twitch or U-Stream. There’s even quick button press shortcuts (tutorial) to make sharing your gaming habit even more efficient and menu free. In short, Sony made all the right moves with the DS4, so if the only thing that ever bothered you about the PS3 was its controller, I can confirm that won’t be the case with the PS4.

Software

UI

One of the more impressive features of the PS4 is its overhauled user interface. The PS3’s XMB is gone for the most part, replaced by an organic collection of your installed games and apps in tile form, as well as a minimalist top menu full of various functions to toggle settings and manage your account. The overall look of the PS4 UI is quite clean and concise. Each installed game or app can be hovered over to reveal real-time information about it such as your trophy progress, your friend’s accolades, or information on upcoming DLC and other game related offers.

The PS4 UI is clean and minimalistic
The PS4 UI is clean and minimalistic

Navigating the menus is a breeze thanks to the uncluttered arrangement of the PS4 UI, and fast-switching between apps takes place in milliseconds. Having an app or game running and being able to switch over to the PS4’s UI is a godsend when it comes to multi-tasking on the console. If you get stuck in a game you can quickly switch over to the PS4’s browser to pull up a guide, or you could try your luck in the Live channel, which features livestreams of games you may be playing, or pre-recorded clips of a section in the game you’re having trouble with.

For now the PS4 UI can’t be customized with themes or new color palettes, which is a bummer if you’re into putting your mark on your gaming console’s interface. Regardless, most people probably prefer function over design, so as it stands the PS4 UI is a solid improvement over the PS3’s interface, and makes using the console as simple as possible. So much so I’d wager a non-gamer could figure it out with a little time and testing.

Hovering over an installed app or game opens up a wealth of real-time information
Hovering over an installed app or game opens up a wealth of real-time information

Games

One of the biggest downsides to the PS4 right now is the fact that it only has three exclusive launch titles to choose from, and one of them is free for PS+ members (not a downside). The only games you can play exclusively on the PS4 are Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, and Resogun. Luckily there are a few 3rd-party titles to keep you busy while you wait for games like Infamous: Second Son to release, but if you’re looking to get an edge on your friends with new next-gen games, the Xbox One has more exclusives to choose from.

The games I’ve played on the PS4 all exude a next-gen quality and feel, which is all we can ask for during the launch window of a new console. Killzone: Shadow Fall (review) is a thing of beauty, and really showcases the power of the PS4 with its dynamic lighting, rich background textures, and realistic weather effects. Resogun (review) epitomizes the awesome value of the PS+ membership with its free price tag, and it also offers amazingly addictive gameplay set to an explosion of colors and particles that will mesmerize you as you shoot your way to victory. I’ve also played the free-to-play Warframe, which is actually very fun and has potential to dominate a lot of your early PS4 gaming hours.

The use of lighting is simply stunning to behold in Shadow Fall
The use of lighting is simply stunning to behold in Shadow Fall

The PS4’s exclusive launch title lineup is lacking, but the fact that you can download four games for free should sweeten the deal, and give you plenty to play while you wait for more exclusives. It just would’ve been nice to have one more triple-A title in the mix to really showcase what the PS4 can do to your non-next-gen-having friends.

Remote Play

One of the most excellent and most useful new pieces of software on the PS4 is its revamped remote play capabilities. The PS3 had remote play with the PSP, but it didn’t work well, and really couldn’t play that many games. This is not the case with the PS4 and its ability to stream games to the PS Vita. Depending on the wifi connection of the Vita, and the connection speeds of your PS4, you can technically play PS4 games from anywhere that has a stable Internet connection. I have used this feature extensively, and walk away from it impressed every time I use it. There’s nothing better than riding an exercise bike and playing a PS4 game like Killzone: Shadow Fall, or Resogun. Ok, there’s plenty of better things to do than exercising and gaming at the same time, but you get the point.

Once connected the Vita screens mirrors the PS4's
Once connected the Vita screens mirrors the PS4’s

I wrote up a full impression piece on this feature, which you can check out here to get more details. It really is a standout feature on the PS4 that you can’t get anywhere else but the Wii U, and it’s even more functional than that. If I were asked about the most impressive new PS4 feature, I’d have to say it is its remote play function, because it really does feel next-gen even if Sony had the concept in place many years ago on the PS3.

Social Features

The socialization of gaming is at the forefront of both next-gen consoles, but as of right now the PS4 has a clear advantage. The built-in share button on the DS4 makes distributing your gaming life as simple as possible. Sharing the highlights, or lowlights of your PS4 gaming experience is actually much more useful, and possibly more fun than you may have thought. For someone like me who writes about video games it’s a godsend to be able to record gameplay moments in video or picture form to use in review pieces, or other gaming related articles. Just imagine what these abilities can do for younger gamers who have grown up boasting about their lives on Facebook and Twitter? There could definitely be an influx of new online personalities thanks to these features, but they’re not even the most spectacular sharing options that the PS4 offers.

Gameplay captured using the PS4's share function - Click to watch
Gameplay captured using the PS4’s share function – Click to watch

That award goes to the PS4’s ability to livestream gameplay right out of the box. With the tap of a button and a few menu selections you can livestream your PS4 gameplay to the world on either the Twitch or U-Stream networks. This function has already started a new wave of video game broadcasters, and has led to a deeper community feel on the PS4. There’s an entire app/channel on the PS4’s main menu dedicated to the streaming community, so Sony has thrown its full support towards it, and so far it has paid off. Sony definitely has the edge in this department for now, and it is a completely valid reason to buy the PS4 over the Xbox One if live streaming is near and dear to your little gaming heart.

Final Thoughts

The PS4 didn’t have many PR hurdles to overcome thanks to Sony’s masterful reveal of the system, but it did have to convince gamers that it’s worth a $399 investment to upgrade from the current-gen machines. After spending time with the PS4 I can say that Sony and its next-gen console achieved what they set out to do back in February of 2013. The PS4 sports a much snappier and functional UI than the PS3, and its internals produce some glorious looking video game visuals that have never been seen on a gaming console. The new controller feels a million times more comfortable than the DS3, and its share button opens up all sorts of new avenues for social gamers to pursue.

Outside of a lackluster exclusive launch title lineup the PS4 is a solid next-gen console that packs enough innovation to wow even the most cynical of gamers. It’s definitely multiple steps up from the current-gen machines, and at $399 it may be more enticing than the Xbox One to thrifty gamers who don’t have deep pockets. After the disastrous PS3 reveal and launch, Sony has more than made up for those errors with the PS4. It truly is a next-gen gaming console that has the potential to revolutionize how gamers play games, as well as how gamers consume video game related media.

[schema type=”review” name=”PS4 | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Fast UI, Capable hardware, Next-gen visuals, Social features | The Not so Awesome: Crappy pack-in mic, Lack of exclusive launch titles” rev_name=”PS4″ rev_body=”The PS4 really is a next-gen gaming console. Its improved UI and beefed up hardware put the PS3 to shame in both function and gaming. The integration of social features is a nice touch and much more useful than you may have first though. The ability to livestream your gameplay is a definite bonus, and will surely create a few new Internet legends. Outside of a weak exclusive launch title lineup there isn’t much to complain about when it comes to the PS4.” author=”Matt Heywood” pubdate=”2013-11-26″ user_review=”8.5″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]

Review Statement: The reviewer purchased a PS4 console for the purposes of this review.

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Tags : PS4Tech Review
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.