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PlayStation 4 Review

PS4 Review

Here we are already a week after Sony has released it’s fourth entry into the home console world.  Coming into the launch the console seemed to be poised to make a big splash, and had quite a bit of momentum behind it.  It was clear that Sony had taken note of the misfires that may have led it’s PS3 to a slower start than desired and wanted to not only build on the great success the PS3 had achieved in recent years; but also prove themselves to the undisputed king of entertainment.  The sales numbers alone show that they were very successful in winning over a very large crowd of people and it’s dedicated fanbase seemed poise to continue growing.  What is it that you are getting with your PS4 though?

Out of the Box

In terms of the system its self the content in the box is pretty standard.  You get the system, one controller, a power cord, a HDMI cable, and an ear bud for basic chat capabilities.  Be mindful that if you are getting or have gotten the system for your kids to play together you will need to big up an extra controller separately or else have them go by the standard of taking turns.  The same can be said about games to play (assuming you didn’t buy a bundle) though you have some options with that regard that I will get to in a bit.  Definitely nice to see HDMI cables being included becoming more of the norm and the one included is long enough that it should work for most entertainment setups.

You also get a few coupons included.  A free code for a trial period of the Playstation Network as well as a free trial period of Music Unlimited.  Not sure how long the promotion will last but at least in the first run there is also a coupon that gives you $10 worth of cash to put towards a purchase off of the Playstation Network.  Pretty good deal that can go towards anything you want, whether it’s a new game, arcade title, or even some DLC for your favorite game.

Setting up the system is extremely simply.  You’ll get the typical prompts for language, time zone, etc and will have to update the system to have access to all of its functions.  This can be done either via a high speed internet connection or you can download the update on a PC and transfer the file to your PS4 via a USB drive.  The file is just over 300 MB and depending on internet speed really should only take a few minutes to download.  Be aware though that there may be a period of time in which your screen goes out and stays out for a few minutes and the system shuts down.  This is all a normal part of the process so DO NOT TURN THE POWER OFF OR RESTART.

PS4 Pic01

Functions

For those who had the PS3 the change to the User Interface will be apparent immediately.  While it is a change from the PS3 I for one think the change is a good one.  It may take a little exploring to learn where some things are just because they have been moved.  The final result though I think believe is a much more streamlined experience.  Even though there is quite a bit of information placed throughout the UI, Sony did a good job of not overwhelming the user by throwing too much at them at once.  Instead secondary data is hidden through drop down screens while the main focus is placed on the games and apps that you have used most recently.  As someone who was never a huge fan of the PS3’s interface this was one of the first major improvements I noticed.

The ability to stream content may not be everybody’s cup of tea but the ease in which the PS4 allows you to do so makes you be unable to help yourself. Right on the controller is a share button and pushing that gets you started.   All you need is a Twitch or Ustream account and you are ready to go.  You have the option of using the Playstation camera (sold separately) if you want but its inclusion only adds your face to the stream and can be used as a alternative to the included ear buds for audio.  In terms of the streams themselves, I have been very happy with the quality.  For those whom enjoy streaming their gaming exploits the ability to do so without any type of equipment could very well be a console mover in itself.  At the very least it’s fun to do even for the casual gamer.

The games themselves may not all seem like a huge step forward from your previous gen consoles but that’s to be expected with launch titles.  Go back and compare PS3 launch titles to the graphics of some of your more recent PS3 releases and you’ll see what I mean.  That said all games look great but the real improvement is in the way the system handles them now.  For the most part loading screens are either gone completely or greatly reduced.  This is because the game data itself is installed to the cache of your hard drive allowing for the data to be read a lot easier, thus improving the experience for the gamer.  The trade off is you will have longer installs than your PS3 BUT every game I’ve played so far has allowed for the ability to play the game while it installs in the background once a certain percentage is complete.  NOTE:  Some modes may be missing prior to the install completing.

The Controller

Comfort is a big key to gaming.  If your hands aren’t comfortable while playing then chances are you aren’t going to spend as much time gaming.  Thus the controller is the ultimate key to dictating how much time you’d put into a good game.  I have to say that pictures really don’t do the Dualshock 4 much justice.  At first glance it seems mostly the same as the Dualshock 3 but the second it hits your hand you can tell that absolutely is not the case.  In fact it was the controller that I first fell in love with as far as the system goes.

So what is so different you ask?  For starters the analog sticks are noticeably smaller and seem more tight.  I don’t mean the response but just the overall feeling in terms of movement range.  Pushing to the upper left isn’t going to register as simply left or up, the feel makes the movement feel much more crisp.  The decrease in size of the analog sticks also fit the thumb much better and the added indention makes it feel like a natural extension of your thumb.  The D-Pad also feels way looser and more responsive.  This was obvious the first time I inputted a digital code.   The process was a lot better thanks to the improvement.  An Options and Share button replace the Start and Select buttons respectively, with a new touchpad button taking over the functions of the former Select button.

Speaking of the touchpad, it works a lot like a touchpad on your laptop would.  It can be used much in the same way a mouse would be used as well as being pushed in.  Unfortunately this feature hasn’t reached its full potential at this point with none of the launch titles using the touch portion of the pad at all.  The only function on the PS4 that uses this at this point is the Playroom app that comes installed on your system out of the box.  Still it has some huge potential there.

PS4 Pic02

The Network

Some people will be disappointed to learn that Sony has abandoned their policy of free online gaming this generation.  While you can still play games, access apps, stream content, and download content you will be unable to access online content such as multiplayer without being a Playstation Plus member.  It’s an aspect that Microsoft has done since day one and Sony has implemented as a way to keep up with the costs of things such as server maintenance.  Obviously it’s optional but for $49.99 (US) for a full year of service it is quite the bargain.  Especially when you take into consideration what is included.

Remember earlier when I said that the PS4 didn’t come with any games in the box unless you ordered a bundle?  Well that doesn’t have to be a true statement.  While the yearly subscription is the best price, you can also purchase a 3-month subscription for $17.99 (US).  Why this is significant is that in becoming a Playstation Plus member you get 2 free game downloads every month.  Your membership also applies to your other Sony systems such as your Vita and PS3.  On top of that, the PS4 has three free-to-play online titles available right now.  So doing the math, you can potentially have 5 new titles just by signing up for Playstation Plus.  It’s hard to argue with the value there.

The Final Say

The Playstation 4 is a beast of a console from it’s specs simply down to what it is capable of.  While none of the launch titles have been particularly weak in my opinion, things are only going to continue to improve as developers get better acquainted with the software.  The fact that the PS4 very much feels like a Next Gen console rather than the Playstation 3.5 with the tweaks and improvements made across the board, have me saying this is absolutely a buy.

PlayStation 4 gets a four out of five: GREAT.

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