PlayStation 4 Review — should I wait or should I buy?

PlayStation 4 Review — should I wait or should I buy?

PlayStation 4 Review — should I wait or should I buy?

Posted: 21 Dec 2013 04:40 AM PST

Sony has launched the PlayStation 4 and this is bound to trigger a wave of new models the console market. On the one hand, compared to the previous model, the hardware is a huge step forward, one the other, it actually shows in some respects that there are still plenty of holes in the PlayStation 4′s claim to be the premier console platform. I will show you where they are, for whom the purchase is already worth it and who is better off waiting.

playstation 4 consol and controller

This is a translation from German into English of a PlayStation 4 review on the site

PlayStation 4 Review: Buy now or wait till later?

“This is for the players” – is Sony’s advertising slogan for its PlayStation 4. It’s all about the games and the players, not the trappings. While Microsoft markets its Xbox One as Living Centre, the Japanese want to set the focus mainly on the game experience — alone and with friends. At a price of around $600 (≈ $600), the PlayStation 4 is about $100 (≈ $100) below the price of the competing console from Redmond. For the money, you get the minimum configuration, i.e. the console, controller, a simple headset and an HDMI cable. Optionally, there is also a bundle with a second controller, the PS4 camera and the launch title “Killzone: Shadow Fall”. Currently, however, Sony is struggling in all variants with delivery problems, as the demand for the new PlayStation clearly exceeds supply. I will clarify whether you should join the queue of people waiting or hold back from purchasing the PS4 just yet.

Hardware: Ten times the computing power of the PlayStation 3?

The bleeding obvious: the power of the PlayStation 4 depends on its predecessor. Sony even claims that the PlayStation 4 is ten times as powerful as the PS3. The interior is quite close to a classic PC architecture: So the AMD architecture has given way to the programmers at CELL processor, in a similar manner to the Xbox One. The graphics unit of the PS4 offers 1152 shader units so is, at least on paper, more powerful than the Microsoft competitor (768 shaders). I assume that both consoles can conjure graphically impressive games on the screen.

The internal memory has grown to an impressive 8 GB DDR5 RAM, which will chiefly result in shorter loading times. As with every console generation, games should be graphically superior once the developers have started to use the features of the PlayStation 4 hardware. To compare, just take a PS3 launch title from the latest hits list such as “The Last of Us” to get an idea of ​​how much further developed games get within a generation. Disadvantage: The downside to this is the PS4′s backward compatibility with the PS3. Sony will only guarantee compatibility with a small number of top titles via emulation.

As installed in the newer versions of the PS3, Sony offer a 500 GB hard drive. Given the fact that installed games like “Battlefield 4″ like to claim around 40 GB for themselves, this could prove to be a little short. Sony has, at least, allowed users to replace the HDD. The new HDD may be, however, no thicker than 9.5 mm.

playstation 4 consol and controller

playstation 4 consol closeup

I am excited by the form factor of the PlayStation 4: Not only is the console a good bit smaller than the Xbox One , they also waived an external power supply. Thus, the simple black case fits fairly unremarkable in most living room environments. The volume of the PS4 is on a decent level. The energy consumption is approximately 140 watts in-game: a little higher than the Xbox One (about 120 watts), but still significantly lower than a typical gaming PC.

The controller: new ways to control games

The included DualShock 4 controller is in every way an improvement over the DualShock3. It has grown a bit and is much more comfortable in the hand, also the L2 and R2 triggers are much less spongy than the DualShock 3 buttons. While the basic key layout has remained the same, the “Start” button has been replaced by an “Options” button and “Select” by the new “Share” button. The most striking innovation is a central touchpad, which also functions as a button. The feature could open up new ways of controlling the games console in the medium term. It has, however, been only hesitantly integrated into current games, e.g., to control a drone in “Kill Zone: Shadow Fall”.

playstation 4 controller

playstation 4 controller

Anyone hoping to regulate the team’s formation in “Fifa 14″ using a mouse, is currently disappointed. Strange but true: Even in the pre-installed Internet browser in the PS4 we can not position the cursor control via the touchpad, it is instead pushed across the screen on the analogue stick. After all, the two sticks have also received an update and are much better thanks to the concave surface of the thumb as was the case with the DualShock 3. This plays especially well in combination with the PlayStation 4 camera.

Fifa 14 on playstation 4

Also new is the option to connect a headset directly to the controller. As if that weren’t enough, you can choose to hear only voice chat with friends though the headset or the entire sound. Like the Wii, the controller also offers a small speaker, allowing sound effects to fire close to the player. In “Resogun”, for example, you are warned if a too powerful “Keeper” Alien appears. If you don’t like this option you can switch it off.

Overall, Sony has got almost everything right with the new controller when compared to the new Xbox. In a direct comparison, I prefer the controller of the Xbox One, but this is a matter of taste. It will be interesting to see how the developers will integrate the new capabilities of the DualShock 4 into their games.

Sharing experiences via social media games: On-line features

Since the launch of the PlayStation 4, Sony has incessantly touted the new “Share” feature of the console. And indeed, if you want to share with friends in their games, is the PlayStation 4 the right place to do it? Apply pressure on the Share button at any time and you can record gameplay video or screenshots and share them instantly via Twitter and Facebook. But that’s not all: The streaming services Twitch and Upstream are tightly integrated into the system, so you can stream your sessions in no time – you need only enter your credentials. Conversely, if you are considering a purchase, you can quickly get an idea of a game by watching the streams. About the “Live from the PlayStation” menu allows these streams to be found quickly.

Sony has restored its online network PSN and simplified the navigation. Getting into a friend’s game is done in a few clicks. The connection in my tests was always stable. Via headset you may now chat with up to seven friends in the so-called “Party Chat”, which is independent of the current application. Here, Sony has been inspired by Microsoft, which offers the feature already on the Xbox 360.

The same is unfortunately also true for multiplayer games that are possible only in conjunction with a paid PlayStation Plus subscription. This costs around $40 (≈ $40) a year. In return, you may download games at the usual discounts from the PlayStation Store. However, there seems to be no better PS Plus exclusive than the ability to download games and updates in standby mode, which, considering the sometimes huge game files, is a comfort plus.

It must be said that the Sony developers have done their homework with regard to the online features of the PlayStation 4. Both the integration of the “Share” features as well as friend connections works perfectly and is much more comfortable than on the PS3.

Games offer: Still relatively small

Need for speed: Rivals on Playstation 4

Currently, the range of PlayStation 4 games is still quite small, but this is typical for a console launch. The higher figures include, in my opinion, the multi-platform titles from EA and Ubisoft. Although “Battlefield 4″, “Need for Speed: Rivals”, “Assassin’s Creed 4″ and Co. are already on the PS3, on the PS4 they not only look beautiful, but some feature improved gameplay (for example, the team AI of “Fifa 14″). In terms of exclusives the shooter “Killzone: Shadow Fall” stands out with fine graphics and, while not revolutionary, quite useful gameplay improvements.

I was disappointed by the childish platform game “Knack”. The ability of the title character to change size and shape removed any sense of challenge from the game. A positive surprise in turn is the arcade shooter Resogun, which is available free for PSN members. In the modern version of Defender you fly within a cylindrical world dodging row after row of alien ships and rescue the pixel-sized humans from the battlefield. The gameplay is simple, but intense and the title looks great. In contrast, the second PSN exclusive game, was not so exciting. Although the concept is to change a parallax layer graphic format into a three-dimensional world, the game turns out to be rather conventional.

Of course it is difficult to assess a recently released console based on the available games, as most manufacturers just make the leap to the next generation of consoles. On the other hand, it is exciting, because in the near future the number of titles for the PS4 will sky-rocket. So you can expect in the coming year, for example, the next part of the “Thief” series, the long-awaited hacker epic “watchdogs” and the open-world role-playing game “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”. And then of course there’s the exclusives!

Planned for the first quarter 2013, but then postponed to 2014, is the racing game Drive Club, which boasts particularly fancy graphics and a sophisticated multi-player mode. The action series “Infamous” will continue in March with “Second Son” exclusively for the PlayStation 4. We also expect the latest CES in January, the announcement of further innovations, such as Sony’s favourite Naughty Dog (“Uncharted” and “The Last of Us”) or even a new part of “God of War”. In general, the following applies: Games replenishment is the name of the game for the PS4 in the years to come to no lesser extent than on the Xbox One.

Multimedia: Reduced functionality for the PlayStation 4

Playstation 4 as media server

The PlayStation 3 has blossomed over the years as an outstanding multi-media player. Anyone who expects the same versatility of the PlayStation 4 will be disappointed – at least for now. The new console plays, of course, continuing to render Blu-ray movies, but only in 2D. Sony has completely scrapped the DLNA media stream system. So if you want to play movies from the NAS, you will have to look for it somewhere else. This is also true for locally stored content that can not be opened due to lack of support for USB storage devices. Not even MP3 files or audio CDs can be played on the PlayStation 4, so that the new console is inappropriate as a home entertainment centre — for now.

After all, the PS4 can feed via various streaming methods. For example, the console comes with preloaded apps for online video stores Max Cathedrals, Watch Ever, Amazon Lovefilm and Sony’s streaming services Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited. The former can be used to purchase or rent the movies, where the prices are dependant on quality and content. Music Unlimited (which works alongside the PS4 also on smartphones and tablets as well as on the PC) lets you stream from an archive of several million titles for around $12 (≈ $12) a month and like their competitors Spotify, Google Play, Radio Sony grants you a free sample each month.

Overall, the multimedia features and the associated offers are expandable and it seems that the failures above are only due to lacking software. We can only hope that Sony retrofit at least a couple of missing features by future system updates.

Extras: Additional costs are incurred

Unlike Microsoft Sony sold its camera attachment for around $75 (≈ $75) as a separate accessory. Like the Kinect sensor, the PlayStation camera determines the position of the player and the DualShock controller in space and cooperates much more accurately than the EyeToy Camera on the PS3. Currently, however, only the included demo “Play Room” and the dance game “Just Dance 2014″ can connect with the camera – Sony promises a speedy remedy for this. Until then, I do not recommend purchasing the camera, as what you pay for is no better than a technology demo.

There is already interest in the advanced remote gameplay in conjunction with the PlayStation Vita. What has worked in the PS3 with selected games, has become a system-wide standard feature on the PlayStation 4: You can download any games and other functions via Wi-Fi streaming to the PS Vita in another room, when, for instance, a room-mate would rather watch television where the PlayStation 4 is hooked up. The concept is reminiscent of Nintendo’s Wii U. Assuming stable and fast Wi-Fi, the game updates are broadcast instantaneously to the Vita, so that gameplay is even responsive enough for “Need for Speed” or a multiplayer party in “Call of Duty: Ghosts”.

Playstation 4 Vita

There is a fly in the ointment, however, in that the buttons L2 and R2 are only emulated on the Vita using the rear touchpad and the Vita can not be used as a second controller. But you will be able to use the portable console as a “second screen” for additional information in future games – also reminiscent of the Wii U.

When you buy the PlayStation 4 You might want to keep on-going costs in mind. New games cost almost universally around $80. (≈ $80) In the medium term, Sony will probably re-introduce the reduced Classics. Until then (and also the absence of a large range of used games market), buying the games will be an expensive business. Multi-player fans will also have to take into account the cost of the PlayStation Plus membership, at around $60 (≈ $60) a year depending on the duration. Since Sony not only discounts games to PS Plus members, but also regularly gives away full versions of older games or indie titles, I believe this is a good deal.

Another expense is the purchase of a second DualShock controller at another $75 (≈ $75) or so. The charging station costs about $50 (≈ $50) though is isn’t strictly necessary. Cheap Third party controllers are available for the PlayStation 4 though it is not yet clear whether these will bring down prices in general.

Conclusion: Who should buy and who should wait?

Like Microsoft and its Xbox One Sony has enjoyed a successful upgrade and in a core discipline — the games. If your budget is enough for only one of the two consoles, you should especially consider which platform’s exclusives excite you more. Even more than with the previous generation, the hardware of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox are pretty similar, so most likely only marginal differences will be detectable in games for both platforms.

For console newbies, owners of the older consoles and die-hard games players, my conclusion is: Hold off with the purchase. The games train for the new generation will not really start rolling until next year. Presumably, the PS4 will then also appear at a reduced price with a games bundle.

An exciting question is that of whether the new input options such as the touchpad on the controller or the PlayStation Camera will allow more precise control for new games, such as strategy games or shooters. For sceptical PC gamers this might not be enough for the final transition to the PlayStation 4, but even if it is the transfer will be slow and only if the console is seen to provide a more living-room friendly experience. In particular, the measures announced by Valve for 2014 Steam Machines could turn out to be surprising competition for the PS4 (and, of course, the Xbox One) because the Valve with Steam controller requires traditional mouse interaction.

While these are all predictions, I can at least think of one group that I can advise to buy the PlayStation 4 now: the video watchers. But as a full-on Media Player, you can only hope that Sony will supply the relevant functions via updates.

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