December 30, 2013 – We have been waiting for next generation for a while now. While recent games like Grand Theft Auto 5 and The Last of Us show that the previous generation can still unleash visual masterpieces and enriched story-driven games. We always want the latest and greatest so this generation is a welcome. With full HD and multitasking features, online multiplayer being a given and the driving force; the PS4 enters the new generation with the Wii U and truly gives the gamer and fan what they want. I’m going break down this review into several sections so you know what Sony has packed into this little box that they want to dominate our homes with.
First let’s talk about the hardware. Sony began to talk about this generation in February 2013 at a special event where they talked about the new system, its direction and how the entertainment might of Sony will be behind the console like never before. It was here that they debut the official name of the console and showcased a few games and intuitive interface. By Sony not showcasing the console in its final form at this media event sent the gaming world into frenzy, trying to find any little bit of information they could on what the console actually looked like.
Later this year at E3 in June, Sony finally showcased to the world what the PlayStation 4 (PS4) looked like. Thank you Andrew House! It’s sleek and angular design had some saying the console looks like a big black eraser (from the side). And then the Sony fan boys will say “yea that’s to erase the competition (Xbox One)”. Here are the official stats; the console measures in at 12.01 x 10.8 x 2.09 inches. Horizontally the height of the PS4 is more compact then the previous generation PS3 models with the original PS3 being around 1.75 inches bigger and the PS3 Super Slim being 0.27 inches bigger than the PS4. Weighing in at 6.1 pounds it’s weighs around 5lbs lighter than the original PS3 and 1.5lbs heavier than the last PS3 model. While it’s a bit lighter than the original PS3; when you lift this bad boy out of the box make, sure to use 2 hands because it has some heft to it. More than I actually expected from just looking at it at E3 I almost dropped mine lol. The design of the console takes on an industrial look with hard angles and more modern appearance. And definitely will draw your eyes towards it because it is unlike anything in your media center. The PS4 has the ability to be oriented either vertically or horizontally depending on what kind of space you have available to you or whichever is your preference. If you don’t feel secure in standing it up out of the box there is a vertical stand that you can purchase to give it more support, it isn’t necessary though as I had mine standing up vertically for the first few days before I opted to lay it down.
There is also a lot of understatement within the design of the PS4. Sony removed all the loud logos and fonts and went very minimal with the markings on the console. You will most likely not notice them at all unless you’re up-close on the system. One of my friends purchased the system and he didn’t even know where to turn the system on at or where the disc drive was at first. The power and eject button are in the middle with the disc drive residing on the left. Had his system not turned on when he plugged it into the power supply, he would have been on the phone with me asking for help. The PS4 houses a Blu-ray disc drive with speeds of (6x for BD and 8x for DVD) with two USB 3.0 ports in the font which can be used to charge the Dualshock 4 and any other devices. I’m not a fan of only having 2 USB ports considering I have an old school fatboy PS3 that has 4 ports so it will take some time for me to get used to the compromise. But if you have one of the slim PS3’s you will be ok and use to this. Around the sides and back of the console are vents that have been cleverly disguised by the design of the system to prevent overheating and allow your system to run cool and quietly. The majority of noise you will hear is when you first install a game disc as the system ramps up to install the discs’ content for faster load times but once the game data is installed the loudness goes away and it’s once against quiet like it is when you’re playing a digital title. The only ports on the back are HDMI out, digital out (audio), Gigabit Ethernet port, and a port for the PlayStation Camera. There’s no charging brick like the Xbox One has to clutter your floor as once again Sony was able to design that to stay inside the console. The PS4 uses Bluetooth 2.1 and supports 802.11 b/g/n protocols.
To make the console easier to design games for Sony ditches the Cell architecture that kept many third party developers from developing great games for the PS3. Sony went with an low power x86-64 AMD Jaguar (8 core) CPU with a custom AMD Radeon GPU which is basically a high powered PC design and will make it easier to port games designed for PC over without all the extra work as well as games will be on par between all the different systems whether it be PS4, Xbox One, or PC. Including 8GB of GDDR5 RAM Sony made sure to future proof there console to last for a long time during the life cycle of these consoles. Supposedly giving the PS4 10 times the processing power of the PS3; time will tell if that lives up to being accurate.
Another piece of hardware that’s included in that PlayStation 4 box is the newly designed and improved Dualshock 4 controller. Haven’t played with all of the other iterations of the Dualshock, but I will say this is the best controller Sony has ever released. The Dualshock 4 keeps the same controller layout from the Dualshock 3, but with a few key changes. The first of many enhancements include having concave thumb sticks for better thumb placement when gaming. Second, the tilt sensor and rumble motors are also included within both handgrips on the controller for better weight distribution and improved precision. The triggers also saw a big change where they stick out more and are easier to press and give more responsive feedback. I think they borrowed these from the Xbox as that’s how they feel definitely an improvement. Sony didn’t stop there when they chose to improve their controller they added some interesting components and removed some. Start and Select buttons have been removed, Share and Options buttons replaced them, and a light bar was added as well as a touchpad in the middle of the controller, and a speaker with a headphone jack in the middle at the bottom. The start and select button have been removed for the first time since we have had the start and select buttons on a controller. This was major as I didn’t know at first how to pause games or anything. This is a drastic move that will take time for most players to get accustomed to but once you do you won’t really miss them. The share button residing to the left of the touchpad, while the options button sits on the right-side.
The share button allows you to capture your gameplay whether it’s in the form of a screenshot, your last 15 minutes of your gameplay or to stream your gameplay via Twitch or Ustream services. This is Sony foray into social media on their console. When you’re playing a game and you hit the share button the last 15 minutes or so of your gameplay is there for you to edit and upload to your Facebook. You can also live stream/broadcast via Twitch or Ustream and people can watch you live play. Since the PS4 has been released the amount of hours is staggering of videos streamed and/or shared. Definitely a major hit that was very happy with.
The light bar is supposed to work in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera as the camera tracks where the controller is and also changes colors based on its status. When it’s blue it’s on and usually the only controller it will turn other colors like pink, yellow, red, based on if its charging, dying or if you just have more than one controller connected to your system. Most people will be annoyed with the fact that you can’t turn the light bar off it didn’t bother me as much as it does others, but I can easily see Sony coming out with an update where it can be switched off to appease those people who it bothers. The touchpad allows for innovations in games and some developers have already started to use it. If you press the touchpad on a game like Battlefield 4 you can enter your Battlelog and see stats and other things associate with the game. Other developers have opted to use it for puzzles or to see the score in multiplayer games. The audio speaker at the bottom doesn’t play all the audio from the game but only little snippets of commands. The headphone jack at the bottom allows any headphones to be plugged into the controller and if those headphones have a mic you can also talk to your friends through them. This is a great added bonus since out of the box most wireless headsets or usb headsets that you used on your PS3 and Xbox 360 don’t work. So this helps Sony keep from major backlash until the update is ready that will make those headsets compatible which should be the first of the year. The battery for the new controller is a bit iffy with some people not getting that much play time out of it, but personally for me the controller lasted quite a while and I never had to run and charge it. But if you do need to charge it comes with a micro USB cable to charge it with which I just plug into my laptop and keep playing while it’s charging.
Sony included a headset with every PS4 which I will say is crap but it’s better than nothing. Never been a big fan of the ear bud design. I rather have something that goes over my ear and head. The ear bud tends to fall out when you use it. But it’s a case of better than having nothing. The audio quality isn’t all that great but you do have the options of making the headset output all audio, or just the chat audio. If you’re going to be playing multiplayer you definitely want to output it on chat audio as you won’t be able to hear your friends if it’s on all audio.
Of course, the sum of all these parts is what matters most, and we’re glad to report that using the Dualshock 4 is a delight. It’s comfy, responsive, sleek and familiar. The Dualshock 4 is everything gamers wanted from Sony’s next gamepad without having to spell it out to the company. Unlike the Dualshock 3, we only have minor complaints for the PlayStation 4’s controller. It’s not simply a controller we’ll “put up with” for the rare exclusive PS4 titles; it’s one we won’t consider a roadblock when choosing where to play multiplatform games. For Sony, simply not getting in the way this time around represents a huge step forward. That the Dualshock 4 is as improved as it is speaks volumes.
Now that we have talked about Hardware let’s move on to the Software on the PlayStation 4. There will be a day one patch that you HAVE to get now I put the word have in all caps because without this patch the only thing you can do is play games there are no other features available to you. No Blu-Ray playback, No PSN, no online multiplayer, No PlayStation store, no streaming, no broadcasting, and no Remote Play. The Patch is around 323MB and it doesn’t take long to download it if you have pretty decent internet speed. If you don’t have internet at home you can get on a friends or family member computer and download it to a thumb drive and then connect that to your console and boot it up and it will install and update. The console will restart several times based on the way Sony still handles updates but once that done youre ready for the setup process which takes not much time at all. Whole thing probably took me 20 minutes. Included in the setup process is PSN with Facebook integration, privacy settings, power save settings, auto update settings and even facial recognition if you have the Camera.
The user interface on the PlayStation 4’s is an improvement over the PS3 XMB and is glad they changed things up. They went with square tiles that expand out once you click on them to more content. When you go to a game you will see several options for an overview tab which includes screenshots, videos, etc., the ability to like the game on PSN and to see any other content or items associated with the game like downloadable content. A familiar tile you will recognize from the PS3 is the ‘What’s New’ tile which provides you with a steady stream of what you and your friends have been up to on the PlayStation Network. Which games you have played, what other activities you have done like Netflix, Hulu, and other apps in the TV/Video section, Live from PlayStation which is where you can go and watch all the live game streams from everyone on PlayStation 4, or if you used the Browser which isn’t that great, or Music or Video Unlimited which gives you access to Sony’s huge library of music and movies. In regards to the built-in internet browser, it’s a huge improvement over the one that Sony included with the PS3 console. It still has a ways to go before it comes close to the experiences provided by Google Chrome or Firefox, but it’s a step in the right direction for Sony.
When you insert game discs into your PS4 they will be auto-installed onto the 500GB HDD that Sony includes inside every PS4. And it will place a tile on the bar where it will stay till you uninstall the game. Downloaded games from the PS Store get the same treatment. Since this is the beginning of the console generation it’s not that cluttered but once we start acquired more and more games this could end up being a giant mess of endless scrolling. What most people may not be aware of is the fact that you don’t have to stay with the preinstalled 500GB HDD. I personally bought a 1TB HDD and replaced my 500GB one to future proof it so I didn’t have to worry about running out of space a few years down the line. The process for swapping the hard drives is fairly easy and is best done before you even boot up your PS4 for the first time that way you don’t have to worry about backing up content or games data. This is just something that you should consider if you tend to store a lot of content on your system.
There is another bar above the main content bar where your games, and TV/audio tile and music and video unlimited tiles lie. In this bar on top is where your settings, power button, trophies, messenger app, party chat app and your friends list and the PlayStation Store are located. The PlayStation Store received an upgrade and overhaul that makes it easier to navigate and doesn’t take 5 minutes to load up. Streamlined to work better than its previous iterations, there’s a column on the left that allows you to search by film, TV, Games and clicking on those options branches out to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. The ability to queue the downloads is back and if you decide to shut down your PS4 the download will resume when you turn it back on or you can put your console in standby mode and the game or content will continue to download while you’re gone.
I touched on a few of your media options earlier on when I mentioned Music Unlimited, Hulu Plus, and Netflix. The PS4 at its present moment can’t set up a media server on or play MP3s or audio CDs so Music Unlimited is an incredible service. When you buy a PS4 you get a 30 day free trial which may get you hooked into the service. There are some perks to the service as you can play music on a system level which means in the background you can keep listening to the music no matter what you’re doing whether it’s playing a game, surfing the internet or even watching a movie. You have the ability to build a playlist so you can listen to all your favorite songs whenever you want. Hulu Plus and Netflix suffer from a little bit of lag, which is most-likely due to the apps not being fully optimized for the PS4 console in the same way that they are on the PS3. This tends to happen when you rush things so they can make the launch. Although there is a noticeable lag navigating the actual apps isn’t any different there PS3 counterparts. Now these apps aren’t the only ones there’s Crackle, Amazon, and some sports apps that can all be downloaded off the store.
Another key feature of the PlayStation 4 is Remote Play with the PlayStation Vita. Remote Play was a feature that was supposed to be huge on the PS3 but never really got traction or worked like I thought it would. So when Sony said it was coming to the PS4 I was like uh-oh not again this isn’t going to be good. And after getting my PS4 I will say that it’s not good at all it’s freaking amazing. I’m not for sure if it’s all games but every game I have played on the PS4 can be played on the Vita via Remote Play. Setting up the feature is incredibly simple and will make everyone who doesn’t own a Vita to go buy one and those that do own one to use it a lot more. You download a PS4 Link app which came with the latest update for the Vita. Once you launch that app you will get two options Remote Play or Second Screen. Both options mirror the PS4 UI but Second Screen allows you to control that PS4 UI. Once you select remote play it will search for the PS4 over Wifi and then you have to enter an eight digit code that will register the device with the PS4. That’s all it takes from now on you can stream the PS4 UI to the Vita, if you have connection issues because your Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough you can use the cable to connect it to the console. Once remote play is set up you can play games, music, access the PS Store, the browser, messages the only thing that’s doesn’t work is the voice commands, or broadcasting. You are allowed to use the share button to upload your clips and screenshots on the Dualshock 4 however this will slow the connection of playing on the Vita. Don’t worry about the button configuration sine the Vita doesn’t have all the buttons as the Dualshock 4. The developers will have to remap certain buttons to make the experience playable and enjoyable when streaming to the Vita. A downfall or limitation of remote play is that it currently only works over Wi-Fi. So those people that have 3G Vitas and not just Wi-Fi will still be tethered to their homes. Hopefully somewhere down the line Sony comes up with a way to stream your library of games over the cell networks.
The PlayStation 4 comes with all these features and apps, but what about the games? What do they feel like? What do they look and play like? Are they really next-gen? Some of the games we have at launch are pretty good representatives of what this generation is going to provide to us and those games are Killzone: Shadow Fall, Resogun, Knack, Battlefield 4, and Assassin Creed 4 Black Flag to name a few. Killzone: Shadow Fall is an amazingly beautiful game the colors and the lighting make the game feel so realistic, it is also a console exclusive. The full HD it’s running in helps showcase that the PlayStation 4 is a powerful device with a bright future. The story is a bit ordinary and not overly memorable but the looks and feel of the game, as well as the multiplayer make up for the story’s shortcoming.
Resogun is another great experience, exclusive to the PlayStation 4 console. It’s a game where you pilot a 2D ship in a 3D world saving humans as they break free and destroying other ships along the way. Think of Super Star Dust HD, but even crazier. Boss battles are pretty cool and the music is intense and if you happen to get the PlayStation Plus service, you get this game for free. This is by far my favorite launch game so far. Knack is a game I played quite a bit at E3 and definitely shows off the graphics on the PS4. This game will have a lot of people comparing it to Crash Bandicoot and I can understand that to a point. This game is pretty simplistic and if you’re a casual gamer Knack is a good first game to start off with as its very linear. Very safe, beautiful game.
Battlefield 4 is a game I have invested a lot of time into from the PS3 release and when it was released on PS4. The power of EA’s new Frostbite 3 engine is really taken advantage of on the PS4. The depth and powerful graphics are very evident when you’re playing campaign and walking through areas after a firefight. You can actually see the veins on leaves as you pass by trees and the lighting is just beautiful. But multiplayer is where this game truly shines. Remember when it comes to playing online you will need a PS Plus membership as that’s the only way to play multiplayer on the PS4. 64 player maps, full HD, 60fps full destructible buildings, vehicles, levolution this game has it all. If you’re a FPS nut BF4 is where it’s at, downfalls are it’s a bit buggy right now but when it works it works great. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag puts you in the shoes of a pirate assassin with pirate ships and sea battles surrounding you with some of history’s most famous pirates as you play as Edward Kenway. If you’re an Assassin Creed fan this is definitely a title to pick up as it also shows off the graphics pretty well on the PS4 and it’s just fun.
Sony has also released a dedicated PlayStation App alongside that of the console for those looking to have close ties to their console while away from the house. The app is currently available for both Android and iOS devices, which allow you to check your messages, keep tabs on what your friends are doing and even access the PlayStation Store to make purchases on the go. You can also utilize the PlayStation App and your mobile device to act as a second-screen; similar to that of the PlayStation Vita. You pair it with your PS4 pretty much same way you do with the Vita with an 8 digit code and a search for on Wifi. Notifications, Game Alerts, Invitations, and Messages all have tabs at the top you can check. The what’s new tab, Store, Friends, Settings, Trophies, Profile all make their way onto the App which allows you to check all of these things? And there is even a link tab that lets you in on latest news, blog posts, game releases and other things. You can also power down your PS4 from the app as well.
I have spent an extensively long amount of time with this system and I will not hesitate in suggesting you take your 400 dollars and buy this console as soon as you can. Powerful as most gaming PCs, nice interface that isn’t too confusing. The ability to pair your Vita and play all titles and movies and music is an added bonus. Little things like MP3s and audio CDs playback will come with an update as well as the headsets you used last generation will also be useable after an update. It’s not perfect yet, but with social integration and being dedicated to creating a unique gaming experience, the PlayStation 4 is well on its way to putting up a hell of a fight in this generation console war and winning the hearts and loyalty of millions.