After spending some time with the PS4 here is my review of Sony’s latest console.
The Next-Generation of consoles is finally here and it seems to be making a strong entrance with over a million consoles sold in North America on day one alone. I was lucky enough to get two that happens to work. Let’s take a look!
This review is an unbiased ‘as is’ review of the PS4 in its current state on firmware 1.50. Given that there have been a small number of faulty units with blue lights of death and HDMI ports this review is based on 2 fully functional PS4 units.
The moment you open the box of your new PS4 you’ll instantly be greeted with a package worth more than its asking price. It almost feels like a steal as soon as you see what’s included. Included is the PS4 itself, an HDMI cable, Dual Shock 4 controller with charging cable, and a headset. My PS4 also came with a free month of PS+ and Music Unlimited and a free voucher for $10 in the Playstation Store.
Sony’s design on the PS4 seems to be simplistic and sleek and it works well. From the box, to the console and the new OS it is trimmed down yet profoundly beautiful and complex in the best ways. Interestingly enough while it’s simple it’s more ambitious and a true step up from the PS3 XMB.
The first thing you’ll notice right off the bat is how gorgeous and small the actual console is. Considering the amount of power under the hood; how they’ve managed to pull it off and yet be so slim is astounding. The fact that it also doesn’t need a power brick either shows smart engineering. The first iteration of the PS4 is so slim and compact for being the launch model that I really don’t see how they could do a PS4 Slim. For the size and the power, it’s also dead quiet except for one initial fan spin which was barely noticeable. Doing a stress test after playing and being on for more than 24hrs straight it stayed relatively cool too.
starting it up (the console and os)
With no physical buttons on the PS4, touching the power sensor automatically sends a beautiful glowing blue light across the console and a PS4 logo on your screen. There is no barrier, within 4 seconds you’re already at the home screen. That speed is there and you’ll notice it instantaneously. Even when in game you can go back and forth between game and home screen by pressing the PlayStation button on the DS4. It’s also the full homescreen too unlike the PS3. Sony really put some time and effort to minimize the pain of navigating through multiple sections to get where you need to be. Its more refined and shows the XMB to shame which at often times was cluttered and unorganized. Within seconds you’re staring at your content instantly. You’ll see almost like a Netflix style interface Que with all your games and recent content going across the screen. Using the D-PAD you go into an XMB like section that shows your general categories. Even those sub-categories are more refined and easier to browse. It’s extremely fluid and works very well.
Along with the UI adjustments the trophies section gets better in every aspect. The only downside is that you still have to sync your trophies unlike the Xbox One which is more organic in nature. Even small things like the settings and PSN interface is improved, more accessible and stable than the PS3 version.
While the OS is great it does feel bare bones on 1.50. There a quite a bit of missing features which will most likely going to show up later but its hard to understand why some of these simple things aren’t here at launch. For example you can not transfer any data between the PS4 or Vita or download Vita content from the PSN store. Another example includes not being able to play MP3s, Bluray 3D videos, changing the themes ect. It’s also frustrating not being able to pin or favorite/organize content on the homescreen like the Xbox One. The PS4 feels very undermined also if you do not connect it to PSN. Its a nice option to be able to use it offline but the full potential of the PS4 comes from being connected to PSN.
One of the more prominent issues with the PS4 is storage. The PS4 now requires you to install games, however with the option of doing it in the background. While it is necessary with the PS4 for the best gaming experience possible it becomes troublesome. With only 6 games and Netflix I had already used up around 200GB of my available 500GB HDD. What is going to be imperative is that you upgrade to a bigger HDD.
NEXT-GEN FEATURES (REMOTE PLAY WITH VITA AND STREAMING)
The huge marketing point for the PS4 was the ability to play remote play PS4 games on the Vita and it works wonders adding huge value to the Vita. I was able to play Killzone and Battlefield while watching TV and actually took it with me on the go out of the house without a hitch. The colors pop on the Vita’s OLED screen and look great.
Your connection plays an essential part in the experience and sometimes you’ll notice some lowered video quality and other issues. Mine is extremely fast and worked well but I did notice a slight dip in framerate and some delay once in a while. But it is completely playable and future updates will surely help the remote play experience get better. The controls actually work well. Each game has its specific control setup to compliment its gameplay. The back touch pad becomes useful in allowing a number of options. I’ll most likely see myself using this again.
The other huge selling point which happens to actually be on the controller itself is the sharing experience. I spent some time playing around with it and it adds such an intricate part to the gaming experience that I actually ended up using it a lot. I even used it to take all the pictures you see in my review. Being able to take a screenshot or video clip of something crazy I just pulled off was neat. No more did I have to buy other gaming video capture equipment. I did try the streaming option and it has its ups and downs. The two major downfalls were the quality and the option to not be able to stream to Youtube. The only available options are at the time right now are Twitch and Ustream. With Twitch being some peoples go to streaming service and the Xbox One not having it at launch may draw some to the PS4.
It’s also added entertainment being able to watch other peoples streams instantly right from the homescreen and watch their adventures. You can interact with other viewers in a comments section adding a sort of “Playstationtube” so to speak.
controller, headset and camera
The controller is above and beyond the toy like Dual Shock 3. It’s about as light give or take as a Vita and fits almost perfectly in your hands. The new design choices, materials, textures and hand grips are comfortable to hold. And believe it or not, the thumb-sticks are incredible. They are spaced perfectly and the feel is perfect for FPS games. Running through Killzone with the DS4 felt natural. I played mostly on Xbox 360 last gen so I was used to the positioning on the 360 controller and had doubts as to how it would feel. I was shocked because I thought it would be another DS3, yet Sony’s design team hit the nail on the head. I actually ended up liking it more than the 360’s positioning after playing two days straight with it. At no time did it ever feel uncomfortable. It even works great on PC.
The headset or rather earbud mic that’s standard really bummed me out. The ear bud was somewhat comfortable. I actually ended up trying the Rocket Fish Sony headset which has an actual head piece and felt better using that. Regardless of preferences the quality is a step up over the PS3s however does need some work in quality.
While taking a back seat to the PS4’s marketing campaign the camera is a great addition to further improve your experience. It works extremely well and was able to understand my commands. With the exception of not being able to turn on the console with it, it can be used for a lot of features both for the console and in certain games. You can also use the camera for adding your commentary and face to broadcasts.
In regards to software with the camera, Playroom is fantastic as a sort of tech exercise for the camera. For its price it is not a necessity but an added value. However I found my self using it and then disregarding it as I got sucked into the games. It does not feel like a gimmick but Sony will need to step their game up and produce some software to fully justify its existence.
Visual FIDELITY and launch games
The PS4 is a powerhouse…..with a powerhouse inside. The graphically capabilities at launch are astounding. Load times are non-existent. The sported x86-64 AMD Jaguar with 8cores and GDDR5 8GB memory shows its punch without a hitch when you go to play through games like Killzone and Battlefield. Simply the massive scale of what has been able to be produced while running at 1080p and close to 60FPS is staggering. You’ll find yourself in awe and not playing the game most of the time.
I’ll admit that I was in doubt at first before the PS4 was out. The compressed gameplay trailers and rendered looking screenshots didn’t convince me that the Next-Generation of consoles were going to be all that different. Once you play it in person its an entirely different story and that’s all I can say. Below you can see one of those awe moments in Chapter 4 of Killzone: Shadowfall.
An actual in game (not a cutscene!) screenshot I took using the share button on the Dualshock4.
But with this power becomes a whole new way of being able to put you in a more detailed story. Battlefield 4 and Killzone are must pickups, campaigns are gripping and undoubtedly the best installments in their respective franchises. But not every launch games. I actually have just about every launch game already (yes I know ) and found some to be just plain mediocre. While Resogun lived up to its hype, Knack, something that I happened to be looking forward to just ended up being mediocre in context.
Another ingame screenshot via the share button.
Madden 25, FIFA 14 and NBA 2K14 besides from their visual upgrades didn’t feel worth the purchase and rather just a better looking game with a roster update. Assassins Creed and Call of Duty were also very bland and again just plain mediocre besides the visuals.
There was nothing very innovative in some of these games but Im sure that’s to be expected at launch. With that said its the best launch line up for a console (same said for the Xbox One) yet. With these games out, its more of an appetizer as the better looking launch-window games are finished.
BUGS AND ISSUES
Aside from the pulsing Blue Lights of Death, which luckily I have not encountered yet since Sony is saying it is less than 1% of consoles sold, everything has been smooth. There has been some occasional bugs here and there though with the PS4 OS. Some of these bugs included being stuck on “please wait” screens, lock ups not allowing you to select anything, and one random phenomenon where I couldn’t eject my disc. One bug also left me with a throttled game install that instead of normally taking minutes took well over an hour. Another frustrating yet common issue I am facing is where Battlefield 4 randomly crashed and then every time there after I could not load past the start screen giving corrupt data. I found my own solution to this issue yet it has happened again rendering BF4 useless unless I do a long work around. Even though its annoying it’s an issue that EA is blaming on firmware 1.50. Whether it’s the truth or not its’ a problem. Hopefully the promised patch is out soon for it. Sony is working to fix a lot of launch problems and add these features soon and it should improve it. But it does impact your experience for now.
For the most part these are minor software issues and can be fixed. In regards of the console’s physical build; running consecutive stress tests on two PS4s I found it held a cool temperature and kept games from being scratched or damaged if moved which is a huge plus. But on the other hand it does displace a lot of heat after long periods so being well ventilated is key.
The PS4 is a bundle of joy and its made its mark. It looks as if it will be here for the next decade or so. For the price of $399 and what’s included its a great package. While there are issues that are typical for a massive launch like this, there are some things that will need fixing and improving. Still at the core, its one of the best console launches yet for Sony and shows its capabilities to come. The launch games are great however but the catalog probably wont justify the upfront investment just yet for some people. For those that it does, it will be highly enjoyable and stunning.
Sony built a gaming console and its exceeds its mark in entertainment standards from previous consoles. With the PS4 getting ready to face the Xbox One and its launch it will have a tough brawl but for now it is hard to not recommend the PS4. If Sony can keep their promises and further improve with updates and first party titles, the PS4 will have the edge in winning the race.