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 .
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 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!
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!
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!
WHAT 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.
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!
APPY 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!
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