Review: The PlayStation 4 Is Fast And Fun, But Needs Time To Grow

Lifestyle

/ November 15, 2013

We live in a world where every other day there’s a new iWhatever, a new tablet, just something. In video game culture, though, those moments aren’t so prolific. As we celebrate the arrival of the PlayStation 4, we break down the ins and outs of the next-gen goliath.

Admittedly, two days is not really much time to get a fully actualized feel for the PlayStation 4. But, then again, you can learn a lot about a console in less than 48 hours when it’s been broken down ever since the announcement of its launch earlier this year.

After downloading and installing the Day One 1.5 patch that activated many of the system’s features, the PlayStation brand ushers gamers into the “next generation” with new features, a focus on social media and streaming, and a boosted emphasis on hardware that will surely pack a wallop when you play those first party titles.

The initial thing you’ll notice when you navigate the revamped dashboard is how clean and speedy everything looks and feels. We opened up the web browser to note how fast the PlayStation 4’s processing speed was. Running a custom eight-core AMD CPU, the PlayStation 4 was a dream when navigating online. Easy to punch in your favorite sites (VIBE.com, anyone?), the results were instantaneous and without lag. The PlayStation 4, which is capable of 1.84 teraflops performance, should be capable of much more in years to come — but for now, it was a joy and a pleasure. The physical box itself, designed by Mark Cerny (Knack), is a play off of the PlayStation 2 incarnation that gamers still love so dearly. Sharply-edged, drenched in ebony, the PlayStation 4 is roughly 11 inches wide by 2 inches tall by 12 inches deep and weighs just 6 pounds. Certainly, this looks better than the Betamax design of Microsoft’s Xbox One, and slims down on the weight the PlayStation 3 had when it clocked in at nearly 11 pounds and was designed at 13 inches wide by 4 inches tall by 11 inches deep.

During a marathon play through of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, the system became heated after a 10 hour timeframe, its rear-panel ventilation grid (which included HDMI out, Ethernet and an auxiliary port for the PlayStation Camera) and recessed side partitions allowed the PlayStation 4 to easily transfer heat from the internal parts such that it would remain lukewarm to the touch. Initial reports before the console’s release noted overheating and failing systems, but our review unit didn’t experience any of those existential problems so far.

With this console, it is very clear that Sony wants its number one spot back after falling to Nintendo and Microsoft in previous years. The “wow” factor is noticeable from the moment you power up the PlayStation 4. The first time you see the crisp graphics, rendered textures, and detailed characters and objects, your eyes may take some time getting used to enjoying 60 frames per second.

Aside from the lush graphics on the screen, gamers will revel in the updated PlayStation 4 controller. The overhauled DualShock 4 is prepped for next-gen enjoyment. After using it heavily for 48 hours, Sony was right in keeping with the same concept since the PlayStation 1. The controller feels great in your hands, one can feel the added texture to the back of the controller, and the redesign allows for easier indication as to where your thumb is when you place it on the Sixaxis or the back trigger buttons. There’s now an illuminated “Lightbar” between the triggers, faced forward, which identifies the player for multiplayer and can be partnered with the PlayStation Camera to enhance motion control. The Lightbar is also capable of feeding back color-based status information, such as a character’s health state, or tagging letters upon the PlayStation 4’s onscreen keyboard. On the gamepad’s bottom, the DualShock 4 has a new, standard-size headphone jack that will allow gamers to play quietly during the late night or enable voice chat, without needing the $60 dual-camera PlayStation Camera.

Another noteworthy change is the touchpad, which is a nod to the PlayStation Vita that lets you play games with one finger. Resting in-between the traditional d-pad and the face buttons, the touchpad is a depressible, dotted, and smooth that was very responsive. At the time of review, we weren’t able to put it into action, but during the PlayStation 4 demo, gamers will be able to call plays on NBA 2K14 or bring up your mechanized assistant in Killzone: Shadow Fall by swiping in a certain direction. Along with the removal of the “start” and “select” buttons in favor of the “share” and “options” buttons, the PlayStation 4 has doubled-down on its purpose to be the world’s first social streaming video game console. The share, obviously, allows you to upload videos or photos to your favorite social media hubs (see: Facebook, Twitter), while the options button will allow you to invoke context-sensitive menus. The Remote Play functionality allows gamers the ability to stream their gameplay live through Twitch, which is a great and well-implemented feature that will surely become very popular as we go into the next year. Through your PlayStation Camera, you can become a gaming legend through the TV sets of other gamers around the world. All in all, this means the DualShock 4 is equipped with some of the smartest updates to ever grace the gaming community in years.

The social streaming segues us into the improved Cross-Media Bar, which may become background noise as we go deeper into the console’s life. New features such as the “What’s New” section expands into a three-column feed showing everything you, your friends and interested parties have done on the PlayStation Network. Displaying when you or your friends start games, broadcast live Twitch streams, or even earn trophies could be easily ignorable or an rewarding experience depending on your gameplay preferences. If you are a true social butterfly, the PlayStation 4 offers you an ability to keep up with not just what your friends and family are doing now but what they’ve done recently. The downside to this is that the PlayStation, much like all social media streams, promotes ads and PlayStation products every few screens which could become annoying very quickly.

While you can send a “real name” request to your PSN friend online, the cumbersome back-and-forth process of requesting and accepting the offer could prove to be equally annoying to newcomers.

Still, for all the updates, bells and tweets, the common thread that seems to maligned the PlayStation 4 is the lack of quality Day One titles. DriveClub and Watch_Dogs have both been pushed back until 2014, which angered a lot of gamers, but that is not the only red flag. The PlayStation 4 is missing a game from one of their first-party studios that can be called a true blockbuster. During last night’s (Nov. 14) countdown, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4 was teased to millions, but with that not a Day One release, it makes the other titles look flat. The PlayStation 4 has a surprising 23 games slated for release, but many on the list are already available for the PlayStation 3. Titles such as Knack, Contrast, Resogun are aimed to distinguish themselves from the pack, but only the latter two are causing any excitement.

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a great looking game, which is no surprise given the power of the “Jaguar,” but boy is it a beautiful experience! Right now, this game is the one that will keep fans walking in the door, but the lack of premium titles at launch gives its competition, the Xbox One, a slight advantage. A plus for the PlayStation 4 is that now game installs are both compartmentalized and prioritized. You can play your game as it downloads. This feature never slowed the progress of the download or the game while being played, which is a reward all in itself.

With Sony’s PlayStation 4, they’ve managed to fix some of the problems from previous consoles, introduce new and impressive features, and indoctrinate the gaming community into the next generation of play. The console’s redesign is beautiful; the DualShock 4 controller is totally 21st Century with the introduction of the “share” button, and Sony’s launching of an iOS PlayStation App allows you to keep in tune to your console even when you’re away from the system. Clocking in at $399, the price is $100 less than the Xbox One, which is out one week later, but falls short in the exclusive gaming department.

The announcement of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4 does a lot to quench the thirst of hardcore gamers, but with it being so early in the game, the PlayStation 4 needs a little bit more time to grow if it wants that number one spot back.

Don’t believe us?! Take a look at the breakdown of the PlayStation 4 in this video below:

The PlayStation 4 is in stores now. Will you go out to get yours? Or wait until next year when there are more games?