Playstation 4 Review

Sony’s shiny new console offers speedy gameplay options, but struggles as an all-round entertainment box.

Playstation 4: On the plus side

Just as with the Xbox One, there’s a lot of interesting technology under the hood of the Playstation 4, but ultimately that matters very little indeed. Aside from swapping out the hard drive, users aren’t going to change any hardware on the PS4 at all, and thus it becomes much more about the kind of experiences that you can have with Sony’s shiny new console.
It’s a smaller system than the competing Xbox One, and that has upsides beyond the aesthetic, because it’s entirely enclosed including power supply, meaning less cable clutter and an easier ride to acceptance underneath your TV, because it’s easier to place even in smaller spaces.
Sony’s game approach is a little different to Microsoft’s too. Both systems require software installs prior to playing, owing (so it’s claimed) due to the larger size of games and limits on how quickly you can read from an optical drive. Sony’s seriously spread around the pixie dust when it comes to installing games, however, as it went from disc insertion to game launch much more quickly than the same title on the Xbox One.
It’s hard to say whether that’s code optimisation, a faster read or write drive or some kind of trickery in terms of what’s really loaded first time out, but given the woes I had with next generation sports titles, not having to wait to play is seriously appreciated.

The PS4 DualShock 4 is groovy -- in a good way.
The PS4 DualShock 4 is groovy — in a good way.

The Playstation 4 controller — officially the DualShock 4 — has been given a very slight facelift for this generation of gaming. The touchpad somewhat leaps out at you, but at this stage the most useful revision has been the inclusion of small grooves in the tops of the analogue sticks that allow for easier ingame navigation. I’ve been switching between the PS3 and PS4 to test how the differences change how I play, and it’s quite profound. It’s unlikely at this stage that Sony will reverse engineer the same change for the PS3’s DualShock — but it’d be nice if they did.

Playstation 4: On the minus side

The Playstation 4 supports motion controls via the Playstation Camera, but it’s not part of the standard bundle. It wasn’t part of my review kit either, so I can’t fairly pass judgement on how well it works. What it does mean, relative to the bundled Kinect that comes with every Xbox One is that motion games are less likely to be a big feature of PS4 games, because the developer assumption has to start with owners not having the camera to hand.
Like the Xbox One, you’re going to be best served with the Playstation 4 if you’ve got a decent broadband connection with a solid quota to boot, especially given the focus on socially sharing content
From a games perspective, the Playstation 4 has exactly the same problem that the Xbox One does. It’s a brand new console, and despite efforts to have a large launch catalog, once you take out the franchises that have just been given a bit of graphical polish, there’s not a lot that’s genuinely new and absolutely worth buying a PS4 for just now.
Platformer Knack is cute, and it seems likely that it would indeed stretch the visual capabilities of the PS3, but it certainly doesn’t break any new ground in terms of gameplay features. Killzone is perfectly acceptable shooter fare, but it’s just the latest Killzone game, joined by games such as Call Of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 that you can get on existing consoles anyway.

It’s distinctly murkier right now on the general entertainment front for the PS4. Over time, the PS3 evolved into a reasonable entertainment centre to drop under a flat panel, but right now, the PS4 seems remarkably crippled. There’s Blu-Ray support, but no support for 3D Blu-Ray. Drop one into a PS4, and you’ll be met with a simple black screen of nothingness.
There’s no support for DLNA streaming, so those with home media collections are excluded.
There’s even no support for audio CD playback. Drop an audio CD into a PS4, and it’ll tell you it’s an “unsupported disc”. Given that even the original PSOne can handle an audio CD, it’s an odd exclusion, unless one subscribes to the theory that Sony’s pushing for you to only use its music and video subscription services instead. They wouldn’t be that Machiavellian… would they?

Playstation 4: Pricing

The RRP of the Playstation 4 is $549, although at the time of writing you’d have to be very lucky indeed to find one in stores.

Spot this many PS4 boxes in a store, and the odds are high that they're empty.
Spot this many PS4 boxes in a store, and the odds are high that they’re empty.

Playstation 4: Fat Duck verdict

The inevitable question when you’ve got two console launches so close together is which way to jump. A console investment isn’t a casual thing, either from a fiscal perspective or for how long it’s expected each system will last, after all.
I’ll note again, as I did in my Xbox One review, that there are those who stay devoted to a single brand, either to justify their purchase to themselves, or because they’ve chosen a “team”, or because they lack the emotional maturity to admit there can be other options, or… actually, I really don’t know. I’ve never really understood that kind of fanaticism myself, although it’s all over the Internet.
Anyway, I can’t write a conclusion for those kinds of people, because they’ve already made up their minds.
The reality there is that neither console has a truly compelling, must-buy argument in its favour just yet.
The Playstation 4 has some features that I prefer over the Xbox One — faster load times being a key one — but at the same time, it’s much more of a “pure” games play at this exact point in time.
Fast forward a year when there’s been more chance to develop exclusives and expand the feature sets, and there may well be a significant gap. Right now, however, there’s not enough between them to declare a “best” system, and anyone who tells you otherwise is fooling themselves.

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