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Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD

There’s many a reason why you may want to record your gameplay and up until now, there’s been two game recorders leading the charge from Hauppauge and Elgato. Late 2013 saw a new contender to the game recorder market from Kaiser Baas with the Game Recorder HD. Avanquest, the UK distributor for the Game Recorder HD, were kind enough to send over a unit for us to take a look.

I believe that with a game recorder, the most important criteria for a good recorder are quality of recording and ease to use the recorder. The Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD’s recording quality is brilliant and it has an ace up its sleeve that the competition don’t, but at a cost.

SHOT-OF-BOXLooking at the unit, it’s not the flashiest or most trendy game recorder on the market but it does sit nicely next to whatever it is you’ve got it plugged in to, in my case, an Xbox One. The recorder is a much smaller unit than the likes of the Hauppauge or Elgato counterparts, probably about a quarter of the size, but then…the best things come in small packages! There’s nothing really to write home about when it comes to the aesthetics, the Game Recorder HD is finished in gloss black plastic, the type that just loves to show off fingerprints and smudges. Put that aside, the controls, all three of them, are simple. The two buttons to control recording input type and whether you’re wanting 720p or 1080p HD recording are on the top and a nice big “Record” button on the front.

In terms of setting everything up, it’s a very simple affair. Power lead, HDMI from console and HDMI to TV all just pop into the back, as expected. For storing your recordings and capturing commentary audio, two inputs on the front take care of that. This is where is gets different. The Game Recorder HD lets you record directly to a storage device without the need of a computer. Simply connect a USB flashdrive or USB external hard drive to the Game Recorder HD and you’re all set. This really is where Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD comes into its own. My computer isn’t near my Xbox and I don’t possess a laptop so, what am I meant to do if I couldn’t just put an external hard drive next to the recorder, plugin and go? I’d have to run a cable across the room or move everything closer to each other. Health and safety would have a field day! Once you’ve recorded some footage, take the drive and plug it in to the computer. There, you’ll find all your recordings split into 2GB files ready for you to transfer to your computer’s hard drive or upload. What I would say is this though. For the love of God get a USB3.0 drive. The transfer times are dramatically reduced. If you’re not sure you’ve got USB3.0 on your computer, have a look at the USB ports and see if you have a blue one, compared to a black one. Blue USB port signifies USB3.0. If you haven’t, don’t worry, you’re just going to have to wait a tad longer to transfer files.

It is worth noting at this point, that while set up is a breeze, there is a fault with the code of the Xbox One that if you’re not familiar with, will leave you scratching your head. It took me several hours to research a solution. It’s no secret and Microsoft have said they’re working on it so we can expect a fix soon. What we know of the problem at the moment is that it lies with the “handshake” that takes place when you power everything up. When the Xbox One is in “Always On” mode, it doesn’t perform the handshake process properly and what happens is that it treats all content as protected content. What this means is that, no matter what brand, your game recorder won’t record. When using the Kaiser Baas, what you need to do is to turn the Xbox One into energy saving mode and go old school, using the controller to turn it on and off, and the remote for the TV. On top of that, if you do watch protected content such as a Blu-Ray, the Xbox One will need to be completely switched off and back on again before you can get your game recorder to work again for capturing gameplay.

Once you have got yourself set and started recording, everything works as expected and the results meet all expectations. The sound capture from a microphone is clear and crisp and video capture is perfect and smooth. The Game Recorder HD records at 60FPS which is perfect when games are running at 60FPS. There’s no tear or stutter in frames. There’s not much else to be said about what happens when you are recording, it does what it’s meant to do.

While the Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD is a very competent unit, there are some drawbacks and these come from the simplicity of the unit. With it being designed to work without a computer, it means there are zero settings for you to fiddle with. With other recorders, you have the ability to adjust in game volume and the like, so that you’re not drowned out by the game’s audio while you’re trying to commentate on what’s going on. This lack of ability goes further when the time comes to do something with the footage you’ve recorded. As videos are split every time they near 2GB, a game of FIFA14 or Battlefield 4 will leave you with multiple files to do something with. This means you’re going to need to stitch the files together and edit them into one seamless video. No problem, but have you got a decent quality video editing program on your computer? I’m lucky, I have the full Adobe suite but not many people do and the free video editors that are available tend to leave a lot to be desired. With the lack of ability to set up game audio etc, it makes the choice of your microphone all the more important. You’re going to need something that’s sensitive and preferably, with an option to amplify the input. It’s the only way to have control over the levels between what you’re saying that’s being recorded, and the volume of the game.

So, what’s the overall impression that I’ve been left with after my time spent with the Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD. Well, it’s great being able to record to hard drive. It really is a big big plus not having to have a computer plugged in to it. Just search the internet for people in the boat where they don’t have a laptop and the computer’s in another room. However, the inability to plugin to the computer and have a plethora of options, settings and packaged editing tools, let’s the Game Recorder HD down massively. It’s just too simple and with the need to buy storage and an editing software package, the decision whether to buy becomes very simple. The additional costs involved will more than likely double the price of the unit. I’m using a 2TB external drive that’s £75 from Argos and a simple video editing software package will set you back another £25. So that’s £100 extra, in addition to the expense involved in  purchasing a high quality microphone. As I mentioned, a good quality microphone is key and you’re looking at something like the Rode NT1-A which is another £150. Not that you should skimp on a microphone but you could get away quite comfortably on a lesser mic on the Hauppauge due to being able to adjust the volume of the game on the fly via software. Add in the price of the Game Recorder HD, £140 which is pretty much the same as the rivals, a quick tally puts the initial start up cost for the Game Recorder HD at £390!!!

Maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on the importance of getting a high quality microphone, even though you should, and you could perhaps get away with one for £50 and yes, you could use a 64GB USB flash drive but you’re going to be needing to transfer the data over to your computer for every 6 hours of gameplay. And of course, you can get away with using free video editing software but, there should be no need to compromise when there’s a better equipped game recorder on the market for pretty much the same price.

Overall, I like the Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD. It records well and is a breeze to use. I like the ability to record direct to storage but I can not ignore the lack of features compared to equally priced game recorders on the market. I’d have to give the Game Recorder HD an overall score of 6/10 and say, that it’s perfect if your computer is nowhere near your console and you don’t have a laptop but be prepared to put your hand in your pocket once or twice more after purchasing.

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The Nintendo Wii U Review: A great example of ‘old fashioned gaming fun’

A lot of ink in recent weeks seems to point towards the decline and destruction of Nintendo. Those headlines aside, the Nintendo Wii U is a next-gen console and we wanted to check out how epic it ranked along side other alternative next-gen consoles.

 

THE BASICS

THE COST

Out of the flurry of the so-called ‘next-gen’ consoles, the Wii U is ridiculously cheap! To put how cheap it into perspective, the Xbox One costs around £409 to £429 (depending on which reseller you go to) and similarly the PS4 costs between £ 325 to £ 349 (again depending on which reseller you opt for), now the Nintendo Wii U Premium with a choice of game (The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker, Super Mario Bros or Wii Party) sets you back an easy £ 239. That’s over a hundred plus pounds cash savings. Now there’s no sensor (because it’s part of the package) and no membership (like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live). So, £239 gets you a next gen console, a game and everything you need to set up – that’s an epic price tag!

 

THE DESIGN

The Wii U, unlike the other consoles, has decided to opt for sleek minimalism. It is a smaller construct than the other two devices. It has curved exterior – with two colours: black or white. The exterior has a gloss design aspect that gives the console box a little gravitas. However, in the design stakes it is not a PS4. That said, it could be worse. It could look like the Xbox One. It’s sleek curved exterior hides the air vent grills on the side which is a rather nice design touch. The ease-of-use is similarly aped on the rear of the device. There are only four input sockets (one for the power cable, one for the sensor, one for the HDMI and another for AV multi-output socket. There are no LAN sockets. However, it does support Wifi (892.11b/g/n).

 

THE CONTROLLER

Let me introduce you to the innovative and genius GamePad. It is a big boy – at over 11 inches wide and nearly six inches tall. You would think such a device was a laptop-esqe device. However, it somewhat apes an iPad or tablet. It holds incredibly well in your palm – this is partially due to the contoured structure of the rear of the device. The contours ape the open hand ridges that your hand creates when it grips the controller. This means the physical playability is improved as you ‘feel’ connected to the controller. The central part of the controller is taken over by a pixel-driven display. It is a very GameBoy-esqe display. However, its usable and quite intuitive. You can use a stylus (provided) or your fingers both of which are easy to use.The only down side was battery drainage – there are no funky Micro USB charging facilities. This means good old fashioned batteries are requires. This can be problematic as after 2 1/2 hours of game play the controller died – this is a regular occurrence!

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THE SET-UP

It comes in a nice matte box. Out of the box its sleek minimalist console is a doodle to setup. You connect sensor bar (place the senor bar above or below your TV), you connect power bar and then place batteries in console controller and then, attach HDMI to console and then into the TV. You are now up and running. This is the difference between the Nintendo Wii U and the PlayStation 4/Xbox One experience. You can start gaming pretty much ASAP. No huge 1Gb+ ‘patch’ or ‘system updates’ will be awaiting you. If you want easy and pain-free gaming experience, the setup and get-go of the Nintendo Wii U is impressive – especially in the context of the next gen rivals. Once you have connected to your WiFi, which is easy, and created your Mii character – you are good to go!

 

LIVING WITH THE NINTENDO WII U

SONY DSCOnce it’s setup you wont notice it -unlike other next gen consoles. It’s a tiny box and the sensor can nestle behind the bases of many of the larger LED TVs. Therefore, living with the design is easy. The other side of the experience is different. The UI is easy – it is designed for a lower age group than other next-gen platforms. We saw it operated by children as young as four, with ease. This means, unlike other consoles, it can be played by the whole family with ridiculous ease. However, the UI and more specifically the menus do have one issue. They are ‘laggy’, there is a constant lag between choices and actions. This can be an issue when all you want to do is play a game or watch a movie on NetFlix.

 

WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: GAMING

The crux of any video games console is gaming – as much as we like gimmick and entertainment factors, the gaming attributes are a core reason for purchasing the console in the first place. Therefore, the Nintendo Wii U is awesome – it’s not a powerhouse but it’s fun. You can play games as simple as booting up and clicking go. However, what makes the Wii U so great is the pure fun aspect of gameplay. Nintendo has a heritage that Sony and Microsoft have yet to completely achieve. For over 25 years, Nintendo characters from Donkey Kong to Super Mario have set the tone for gameplay. For all the rhetoric of Call of Duty or KillZone, playing Super Mario Bros or Zelda is just as entertaining and thrilling. Yes, the gameplay rendering could be better, more RAM and a more powerful graphics processor could have helped. They could have a LAN port to help make internet more stable and they could have made the controller a little smaller. But you get to play Mario and Donkey Kong! You get to be the controller in a way we have yet to see or experience on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

 

THE EXTRAS

WEB BROWSING

Just like the PS4/XO, you have access to a flash-enabled browser. It’s a lot more functional than the PlayStation 4’s horrid browser however, it doesn’t give you the same technical prowess of IE on Xbox One. It is a nice middle group between a horrid experience and a rigid IE experience – this is due to the presence of Mozilla code at it’s core. But as I have always pointed out – in an age of smartphones, PCs and tablets who the hell really uses their consoles to search the bloody internet?

 

NO APP HERE

Unlike the Microsoft and Sony alternatives, Nintendo has yet to release a Miiverse inspired app for iPhone or Android. There are rumours of an app in 2014 (however many said an app was imminent in 2012 and then again in 2013). However, it’s a gimmick and the presence of the GamePad really makes the app redundant. The Xbox One SmartGlass and Sony app makes the case for another ‘visual entity’. However, you don’t have a four inch screen on your Xbox One or PS4 controller do you?

 

THE GAMES – WHAT TO BUY?

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A lot was made from Electronic Arts’ downsizing in 2013 of it’s Wii U offering. Many developers have literally avoided the platform. However, whilst sales figures have been cut – they have not removed the console from any single global territory. Units are shifting. Therefore, you need to consider the games you can buy. They are cheaper, which is a big plus, as the £50 price tag on Xbox One or PS4 is dwarfed by the price reduction of the Wii U titles – starting from £ 14.99 and upwards to £39.97. There is a huge selection. If you want Disney Infinity or Skylanders, its there. If you want Just Dance or Wii Sports Connection, it’s there. If you want Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong or even Sonic – it’s all available. You want Call of Duty Ghosts or FIFA 14, guess what, it’s also available. So don’t be put off by online rumors of ‘lacking solid titles’. There is a whole plethora of single player to family friendly titles available – at a fraction of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 price range.

 

THE VERDICT

Unlike the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One experience – it feels more fluid (albeit with a dodgy UI). The Wii is a family-friendly console – it’s designed for fun and not long periods of solo multiplayer carnage. So if playing Mario Kart with your niece and Nan is not your cup of tea then opt for another console. However, if you want to experience an open and friendly gaming console that can bring families together, you can do no worse than buying the sweetly priced and well title-stocked Nintendo Wii U. The main drawback of the Wii U is technical – it does not have the equal power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and this is clearly visible.

Our verdict, we gave the Nintendo Wii U a solid 7 out of 10

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The Xbox One Review

November 22nd 2013 was a long time ago, but we have been biding our time in regards to reviewing the Xbox One. Ultimate Gaming Paradise believes a great review takes a lot of time, patience and resourcefulness to be able to explore the disparities and nuances that exist within the confines of a brand new gaming eco-system. Therefore, we have spent a great deal of time finding out if the Xbox One really makes the grade?

The current media reportage surrounding the consoles seems to indicate that a “war” is in full swing. However, this review will give the full verdict on the gameplay, the experience and the playability of the console. In full, it will tell you whether you need it or need to avoid it?

 

THE BASICS

THE COST

Xbox OneLet’s not skirt around the issue here. The Xbox One is a hundred pounds more expensive than the PlayStation 4. It should be noted that for that extra hundred quid, you do get the Kinect sensor kit. Hardcore gamers seem to have thrown their teddies out the pram at this one! However, what’s done is done. The Kinect is part of the entire eco-system, so there’s no point whining about it. So the US-designed console is £80 more expensive than its Japanese rival and you also need to remember that Microsoft has its unpopular gold-walled network – which requires a Microsoft Xbox Live Gold membership (which costs £ 39.99). So, your inward cost is £ 480 or there about.

 

THE DESIGN

The PlayStation 4 with its angular minimalism and streaks sets the bar for great design, very, very high. The Xbox One, on the other hand, has an abysmal design approach. It is a boxy affair. It has no pizzazz, no flair and no wow-factor whatsoever. The design harks back to that of a 1980s VCR cassette recorder. It has a dual design aspect that sees one proportion in matte and the other in gloss black. This is aped in the Kinect which similarly mirrors the console. There are smaller, more nuanced, touches. For example, the slot loading mechanism is nestled within the chrome effect that hides the slot loading drive. It is a nice touch and one that shows some innovative design inspiration. However, these touches are few and far between. The rear of the machine is a boring affair, unlike the PlayStation 4, with no design influence. But this practicality makes the setup a breeze. The rear end has slots for HDMI in and HDMI out (so you can play video games on High Def and have your TV provider’s box, such as Sky or Virgin, connected and playing through the console. There is also a proprietary socket for the Xbox One Kinect, additional USB and of course, a power socket.

 

THE CONTROLLER

“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” This seems to have been the mantra Microsoft followed when considering the design and functionality of the controller. However, they did play around with smaller elements. These include removing the outwards bulge of the battery pack (on the Xbox 360) in favour of horizontal batteries within the structure of the controller. This has caused many industry voices to ask why Microsoft didn’t opt for a battery-free user existence. The PS4 has done it, why do you need batteries. However, I believe the batteries are a right balance. Lithium batteries do have a long life but, if the batteries die, so does the controller. Some ‘pundits’ might have more money than sense, but this reporter believes keeping the battery option means lengthening the longevity of the controller. Another issue with the console is the USB element. The Xbox has two slots at the front. However, the Xbox One has one side USB socket backed up by rear USB sockets. Fine until your console is in a cabinet or unit and then this might be impractical.

 

THE SET-UP

Getting your Xbox One out of the box and set-up is a massive chore. You will have approximately, if you are in the EMEA area, a 1.3 GB patch update from Microsoft, followed by smaller WiFi/Security patches totalling 550mb. Thereafter, if you connect the Kinect Camera with social media, you are looking at – depending on your broadband speed – a good one hour set-up process. You need to be aware that ALL of the current game titles will require massive patch updates. So, once you have installed the system updates you can look forward to the game updates. Some of these are enormous, from 540mb for Forza 5 to a whopping 13 GB for Dead Rising 3. So hopefully, you will have something else to entertain you during this long and arduous stage in the Xbox One ownership timeline.

 

LIVING WITH THE XBOX ONE

Okay, it’s updated and stored away underneath your nice TV stand. Your imposing entertainment and gaming bedrock is now ready. Once you start-up the console, welcome to heaven folks! It is, within seconds of booting up, at a funky Windows 8 Metro inspired home screen. The UI is intuitive and as such has many factors that can help individuals in terms of multitasking, communicating and entertaining – whilst still able to play games like an old fashioned console should. The home screen structure is very simple. You have a home panel that has your current app, followed by a plethora of smaller tile panels that inform you of other apps/games that are available. You can swipe across to a media centre where you can buy new apps, videos or music to your hearts delight. This is a central element, media functionality – there are great features like snap which allows you to have Skype or TV whilst looking at Internet Explorer or editing your Avatar. This multi-tasking element is very good. Consider those times, on the Xbox 360 when you waited and waited for a CoD online multiplayer game to begin. Now you can minimize the game and get cracking with something else. Once the game is ready you can jump back into the action. No more waiting. This is probably the best feature of the new UI. Therefore, the multitasking element with the freedom and functionality of Snap and the wider customisation abilities creates a truly free gaming and entertainment experience. Many have bemoaned the entertainment aspect but many users will spend more time on NetFlix than Battlefield 4 (not because the game is buggy and crap, but because more people spend longer watching movies than playing games on consoles). Many have argued that the Xbox Live Gold membership is unfair – on the PlayStation network, for example, you don’t need PlayStation Plus membership to use LoveFilm. That said, the redeem codes for games and other aspects of the PS experience are mitigated by the Gold price structure.

 

ryse_son_of_rome_wallpaper_3_1920x1080  _ultimate_gaming_paradiseWHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: GAMING

Whilst the ‘always-on’ and ‘entertainment centrality’ of the Xbox One is cool and yes, most will spend more time on Lovefilm or NetFlix, the main reason for the console is gaming. Therefore, how is it when you’re playing games? If you have a fave game, one that will be living in the slot and not the case, it’s easy as hell to get cracking. You boot up, and get to the home screen and it’s ready and waiting and getting online to play games is easy-peasy on the Xbox One.

Gaming playback is exhilarating on the Xbox One, as the console is equipped for 720p and 1080p HD graphics. The console packs a punch with 500 GB storage, 8 GB RAM and a whopping 8 core processor. Now yes, these are slightly put to shame by the PlayStation 4. For example, PlayStation 4 opted for 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM; the Xbox opted for old-fashioned DDR3 type RAM. This means, at a base level, the PlayStation’s short-term memory is faster than the Xbox One. However, this is a minuscule difference and you cannot really see any difference. The Xbox One really is a great gaming platform – only made more superb by the gaming experience all these hardware elements provide.

Finally, the controller – getting to the bottom of the console and how well it plays games needs a thorough analysis of the controller. The controller on the Xbox One is perfect. The removal of the battery pack opens up the rear space – so any feelings of cramped fingers, like on the Xbox 360, are removed and this ‘freedom’ helps improve your finger work on the controller. Another element of the controller is the balance, the trigger buttons and the Xbox button changes, along with the battery pack bulge removal, has created a controller that brings everything together through a sense of tactile balance. Your fingers, when they interact with buttons, feel like the movement is natural and thus, increases you engagement with the game and deepens your experience.

 

THE GAMES – WHAT TO BUY

There are some great headline titles. Ryse: Son of Rome, FIFA 14 and Forza 5 are epic titles. The buggy Call of Duty: Ghosts and the awful Battlefield 4 are worthy of your time for a bit of fun. However, in 2014, some of the next wave of great titles will explore on the platform. For example, you will soon be able to play, Titanfall, an epic new game that sees humans’ battle evil in big robotic suits. Other games include Thief, Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition, Rayman: Legends, Watch Dogs, Quantum Break, Dying Light, Mirrors Edge and Destiny. Finally, Halo 5 is going to be the one-to-watch in 2014. There you have it. A plethora of titles that will really bring out the gaming genius of the console.

 

XBOX TV

You might have Sky or Virgin Media? Perhaps your TV has only one HDMI socket and you can’t be bothered switching cables every five minutes. Whatever your needs, the Xbox One can allow you to input your HDMI digital television services into the Xbox. All you need to say is “Xbox, watch TV” and Bob’s your uncle, you are watching TV through your Xbox. You can switch between a game and TV with ease.

 

THE EXTRAS

WEB BROWSING

On the Microsoft Xbox One you are lucky. The PlayStation 4 browser is the worst example of an internet browser ever created. It is a simple function for logging into Twitter. However, IE (not the best browser) allows you a more liquid and contextual browsing experience. In an age of smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, using your Xbox One to search Google (sorry Bing) might seem bizarre. However, if needs must, you can rest assured that your experience is not stifled by naff development and you can trust IE as a dependable workhorse browser – used by most of the corporate world. Therefore, over the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One has an unrivalled web browsing experience.

 

KINECT VOICE / VISUAL COMMANDS

The Xbox One has one really, really, really cool extra. That is the ability to voice command your console. You can literally say, “Xbox, go to… Netflix” and Netflix will launch. You can watch a DVD or Blu-Ray disc and say “Xbox, pause” and the movie will pause. Furthermore, you can point your hand/finger towards the console and select apps/games by gesture. It’s very gimmicky and it’s all very 50/50. A lot of people have noted that once set up, it can find listening to other voices difficult and can be temperamental. However, it is a cool little trick. For example, it can ‘sign-in’ by simply seeing you through the Kinect camera. It’s all gimmicky as I have already stated and the real ‘use’ of the technology is still a long way away but the ‘wow’ factor of these technologies means in the short term they are pretty cool additions.

 

Xbox One controllerAPPY TIMES – XBOX ONE SMART GLASS APP

The Xbox Smart Glass app for Xbox One is a multi-app/game tool for smart phones or tablets. It is available on Android, Windows Phone and Apple iOS. It has the ability to act as a second source of data. For example, on CoD it can act as a map and respawn tool. On Forza 5 it can give you real-time updates of fellow racers and your own experience. The app also allows you access to your avatar and gamer history. However, there is no real use for the smart glass app. My app languishes on my phone and tablet without much use. It’s gimmicky and without real and profound purpose which makes it a one-off download worth forgetting.

 

THE VERDICT

Our final verdict. The Battlefield 4 and CoD patch debacle hasn’t helped the situation of next-gen gaming. The current trouble with Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome has increased the chatter around the ‘quality’ of titles. However, the awesome gameplay, whilst not epic like Killzone: Shadow Fall on the technically superior PlayStation 4, wins out through its spirit of gaming. The console, with its multi-tasking and entertainment factor means you can enjoy the platform because of its diversity. This results in the console having more ‘heart’ than the PlayStation and makes the Xbox One more spirited than the PS4 alternative, which we argued was too clinical. The Xbox One, however, gives it it’s all and you can see that in the user experience.

The design of the console is shocking! Put that to  one side, you will get used to the console (however much you hate it as it is a pure dust magnet) and you will come to love its UI’s simplicity and, wider application and system freedoms. These elements along with “snapping”, Kinect gestures and the user interface, create the right balance for those looking for a gaming console, those looking for something to play games a bit whilst watching LoveFilm and those unsure of what they want. It has it all for many different people. It is understandable why ‘hardcore gamers’ felt let down by the Xbox One, the entertainment factor is all-encompassing. However, this is not a bad thing. Indeed in our opinion we believe the Kinect always-on strategy will help improve gamer experience over the course of the next five years in terms of games development. The pure heartfelt joy of the console (and therein gaming experience) means any perceived technical inability (in comparison with rival consoles) of the platform is meaningless. Its spiritual superiority over the rest of the field means the Xbox One offers more to different types of users. This is what gives the Xbox One it’s ‘edge’ over the rest of the pack.

Out of 10, I’d give Xbox One a 9!

 

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Playstation 4

PLAYSTATION 4 REVIEW: A technically brilliant example of console creativity

Okay, the PS4 has been out for a while now so you might be thinking – UGP is a bit behind the curve? Well, no! First day reviews are shit. They fail to really pick up on the nuances that make a console great or bad within the scope of an hours’ ‘supervised’ gameplay in some PR office. So, at UGP, we have spent two weeks in the company of the PlayStation 4 and we now think we are in a good position to really tell PS4 fanboys or those who are unsure about which console they should get – the full skinny on the console.

We live in difficult times. The launch, last month, of Microsoft and Sony’s next-generation consoles have created a lot of ‘head scratching’. This review will give a neutral and un-biased examination of the PlayStation 4 .

 

THE BASICS

THE COST

It’s cheaper than the Xbox One. At its core it is cheaper and it only costs £ 349, which is cheaper than the Xbox One, which costs £ 449. You should be aware that you don’t get the Sony EYE camera – the PS4 alternative to Kinect bundled free of charge. That’s an extra £ 59.08 plus an extra £ 14.99 for the table surface clip. You will also need PlayStation Plus membership for multiplayer – something you didn’t need for the PS3 – which costs £ 39 for a year’s subscription. Your total inward cost is £ 462.07.

 

THE DESIGN

The console has something the Xbox One doesn’t have, which is design flair and a bit of pizzazz. The Xbox One is a bit of a pig. However, the PS4 has a design nuance in terms of minimalism fused with art deco. This mash-up gives the box a certain uniqueness that really gives it some presence and some gravitas. The PS3 could ‘blend’ into your cable or satellite box and your huge ass TV. However, the PS4 won’t blend so easily. Its design is very ‘in your face’ but with a scope of angular minimalism that hides great touches like touch-sensitive power and eject buttons along with a beautifully almost engraved PS4 logo that, on its own, is a beautiful analogue to the core design principles of the system. The slot loading mechanism is beautifully crafted – the very slot runs into a narrow gap that adorns the fascia of the console. Here further along you will find hidden away the USB sockets. The rear end continues this design flair with block vents on an angle. These block grooves hide the multitude of connections – including the HDMI, PS4 EYE Camera socket and the HDMI. There rest are vent holes for the console’s big processor, graphics card and mainboard!

 

PS4 Controller

THE CONTROLLER

The DualShock 3 controller was praised by many as a solid controller – not equal to the Xbox 360’s well-received controller. But, none-the-less, fans and aficionados did pick up on failures with the length of the grips and the stick playability. However, Sony took the design back to the drawing board – the result is the new DualShock 4 controller. It’s longer more angular grips mean your gameplay experience is more defined and, to me anyway, more concrete and solid. I always thought the PS3 DualShock was flimsy compared to the more rugged Xbox 360 controller. The increase in size hasn’t quite made it ‘rugged’ but it has given it more prominence and thus made it more comfortable. Technically, they have also moved the rumble sensors which mean the video game feedback is more precise. This was another fault on the DualShock 3 gameplay. Another big plus is the fact you can charge the controller through any Micro USB cable you have, from your phone to computer. [UGP HINT: When you first get your PS4, you will need to switch on charging functionality as it isn’t set automatically]. The controller isn’t cheap – £ 51 for a console controller is a lot of money. Therefore, you need to think about this if you’re a parent with 2 or more kids!

 

 

THE SET-UP

Getting the PlayStation 4 out of the box is a doddle. It takes literally seconds. However, downloads, patch-updates and signing into WiFi can eat up a lot of ‘start-up time’. So please be prepared for “You need to download…” messages. Since launch day there have been 4 patches from Sony PlayStation 4 EMEA and they have been fixes for 1080p, the PlayStation Store and GUI innovations. If you opt for the PlayStation 4 EYE Camera – the setup process will be a wee bit longer (around fifteen minutes calibrating the camera). You will also need to be aware that EVERY game will need a ‘patch update’. It took me around 40 minutes to setup the camera, Twitter, the PlayStation 4 store and all patches for games/console.

 

LIVING WITH THE PLAYSTATION 4

It’s there underneath your TV. You’re setup and now, and only now, will you experience the pure genius of the console. Once you are up-and-running it’s a delight. The boot-up time is seconds – the home screen has hundreds of avenues of entertainment and gameplay – all at your fingertips. The Xbox One ‘Windows-esqe’ metro UI has been attacked by many critics for being to messy. However, the PlayStation 4 UI is intuitive and beautifully minimalist. The home screen has a simple wheel-driven scrolling graphical array that you can use to choose your entertainment format. The UI is intuitive and the process is so fluid – you simply scroll around bars of ‘items’ and then they have sub-menus. It’s a simple interface. However, therein I believe is the GUI’s failure to capitalise on the success of the Xbox One layout. The lack of customisation, as opposed to the Xbox, means it can be a chore to get to certain sections (like your account etc.)

The console has a big plus – in the shape of the PlayStation Network Plus membership. Unlike the Microsoft Xbox One console – you don’t need PlayStation + membership to watch BBC, NetFlix, LoveFilm or IGN on the console. All you need to do – similar to the Xbox One – is download the app. However, the PS+ allows users to access media without a subscription. This is a big plus for the console!

 

Killzone-shadow-fall-ps4-wallpaper-in-hdWHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: GAMING

At its core, the PlayStation 4 is a video games console. So living with it also means playing some games. The media aspect, the design aspect and other elements are great touches – touches you can live with! However, it’s all about gaming! Unlike the PS3, getting right in there and just booting-up and playing a game is much, much easier. The new UI makes simple video gaming a doddle. It’s as easy as ABC, all you do is boot-up, home screen and then click on recently played. It’s that easy.

Playing games on the console is delightful. The 1080p HD graphics, the super powerful processor and RAM and other technical elements really highlight the difference. This is a powerhouse console. It’s technically gifted and as such the on-screen results are marvelous. It is easy on the eye whilst showing media renderings that are out-of-this-world. When you play, for example FIFA 14 or even KillZone Shadow Fall, you will be amazed by the graphical detail – the arenas and the grass on FIFA to the awesome thematic gameplay on KillZone. The console makes the visual element of gameplay awesome.

The controller really does improve the balance between you and the console. The DualShock rumble really ‘hits’ the spot when you’re playing, and wanting tactile feedback from the game. This really helps improve, in my opinion, the relationship between the gameplay and the console. The Xbox One controller is epic. However, the tactile feedback is much more constructive on the PlayStation 4. This means your connectedness with the game is deeper.

 

THE EXTRAS

WEB BROWSING

With tablets, smart phones and netbooks, you might not use the PS3 or Xbox 360 as a de facto web browsing device. However, on the PlayStation 4 the browsing experience on the whole is shit! Sorry for the crude language. I did attempt a more caustic response. But the experience left me scarred and on the whole is not something I want to ever experience again. The Xbox One has IE, whilst crap compared to Chrome or FireFox is still a lot better than the crappy browser bundled with the PS4. The issue surrounds the thought raised by the browser – they seem to have developed the browser to help you sign-in to social feeds (and that’s it!). This makes the text unreadable and as such the whole experience is dreadful – one I would really not want anyone, including an enemy, to attempt in the comfort of their own homes! Keep to your phones, tablets or PCs people!

 

PLAYSTATION VITA – REMOTE PLAY

A little cool feature, which I stumbled upon, is that you can play video games using the PS Vita. As a proud owner of a PS Vita, I found that you could use the VITA when playing Marvel Super Heroes. It’s gimmicky but its cool gimmicky. Remember that you will need an internet connection and to have updated you PS4 to the latest patch and connect into the same PS Network + account for both devices.

Sony is hoping that this will help to increase the flow of gameplay data and metrics to help improve gameplay experiences. However, many argue the move is too gimmicky and backwards. Some journos are arguing that the move is just a way of helping to ship more PS Vita consoles – a console that needs more sales to save it from ruin! I found it fun. However, I didn’t use it all that much. In fact I tried it only twice. So for a ‘wow’ factor with your mates it’s fun, but on a daily basis is a bit boring!

 

Sony-Playstation-4APPY TIMES – SONY PLAYSTATION 4 APP

We live in ‘appy’ times, and no games console experience is complete without the assistance of an ‘app’. PlayStation is no different. Go on to the Apple App store or the Google Play Marketplace and you can download a PS4 app. The app is, much like the Xbox One alternative, crap. It really is just a ‘web’ capture of your PS network website data. It gives you information on game stats – its only saving grace is the ability, like the VITA experience, to double-up as a ‘second’ view screen for game play. But again I found this a little too gimmicky.

 

THE GAMES – WHAT TO BUY

The next six months will bring about a barrage of great titles. Therefore, if you want a great video gaming experiences why not feast your eyes on these upcoming gems? I played Call of Duty: Ghosts, Marvel Super Heroes and KillZone Shadow Fall. However, I felt underwhelmed – this was in part due to the patch-happy approach of the games developers. There doesn’t seem to be that one ‘killer’ PlayStation 4 video game yet – KillZone Shadow Fall is close, but not close enough! However, we have 2014 and some great titles to look forward too?

Thief (Feb 2014) is coming back to the PlayStation. The game sees you become Garrett, a thief with stealth capabilities who is trying to save his city from forces intent on destroying it. Another great title is Infamous: Second Son and The Elder Scrolls: Online due out in early Q1, 2014. An epic zombie-esqe title called Outlast will be launched in early 2014. The game sees you take control of a photojournalist at an insane asylum – just before a ghoul/zombie attack – looks epic!

 

THE VERDICT

BattleField 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and FIFA 14 glitches and patches haven’t helped the perception that next-gen gaming seems a bit ‘buggy’. However, the PlayStation 4 is super powerful and has a lot of potential for gamers and entertainment fans alike. The graphics power is awesome and as such, completely peerless. The next wave of 1080p PS4 games will be awesome on the console.

The design, the UI and the controller is brilliant – they are minimalist and yet have a hidden depth. However, you feel that you are missing something ‘big’. The Xbox One has the right balance of epic coolness and some solid titles. But you feel underwhelmed at the helm of the PS4. However, this might be down to a lack of ‘must-have’ titles on the platform. If you are a Sony fanboy (or girl) you will love it. If you want the most powerful next-gen console then buy the PS4. If you are an Xbox’er wanting to switch – there isn’t enough pizzazz to really push you overboard into the PlayStation sphere of influence. You see that the console, whilst brilliant and powerful, seems to be soulless and this lack of ‘heart’ gives the console a sense of technical superiority whilst inferior spirituality as a gaming device.

Out of 10, I’d give PlayStation 4 an 8

 

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