PlayStation 4 Review: Is it a Must-Have for the Holidays?


ps4b 620x411 PlayStation 4 Review: Is it a Must Have for the Holidays?


It has been a long time coming, but the PlayStation 4 has finally arrived. You’re probably wondering what is the experience like on the PS4? Should this be a must on your holiday gift list? Read on for our thoughts on this highly anticipated next gen console.

The actual design of the PS4 is not at all that exciting but we do appreciate its pretty sleek form factor with its sharp slanted angles on the front and rear sides of the console. Sony has opted to go touch sensitive for both the power and eject functions. But it’s really the new Dualshock 4 wireless controller’s design that is worth focusing on. The overall design of the Dualshock 4 is not very different from the PS3’s controller, but it has been refined and tweaked. And after using the controller for hours on end, we have observed that our hands are cramping up a lot less than they did with the PS3’s controller, so there is something about these refinements that does make the controller more ergonomic.

But beyond some design tweaks, the PS4 controller sports a whole bunch of new tricks in the form of a touchpad, a speaker, a share button, an enhanced rumble function, and a light bar. The technology from the Move wand has actually been built right into the new DualShock 4 controller as a light bar. The light bar works in tandem with the PS4’s camera to track player positions. So not only does the light bar look trippy, but it also serves an important purpose. Except here is the catch – you’re going to have to get the the new Playstation Camera to take advantage of both voice and motion control on the PS4. Unfortunately, the PS Camera will run you an additional $59. That said, the 720p HD camera is a significant update over its predecessor, which was the Eye camera for PS3.

Again, the voice navigation commands on the PS4 are only supported if you have the PlayStation camera. Currently, there is a limited amount of system navigation commands you can use and we had some trouble with the PS4 recognizing our voice from time to time.

Sony has also revamped the PlayStation’s interface for the PS4 and it’s being called the PlayStation Dynamic Menu, and it is certainly a welcome improvement. This time around, Sony has made the text, icons, and visuals larger on the PS4 and more enjoyable to navigate. Navigating around the menus is a lot more intuitive and logical. Switching between apps, and games is quite pleasant – you can exit a game, and once you open the game up again, you can continue right where you left off.

Furthermore, on the PS4, interacting with the rest of the gaming community has become front and center. When you log into the Dynamic Menu, you’ll first see What’s New – this is an activity feed of what’s happening with you and your friends in the world of PlayStation gaming. The activity feed includes recent achievements, scores, etc. This activity feed basically forces you to think socially from the moment you turn on your PS4. Personally, I’ve been somewhat of a loner gamer in the past, and I have rarely gotten involved with online multiplayer games, but the What’s New activity feed has been getting me more involved. I also think that the ability to share your gameplay on Twitter and Facebook will help draw new gamers into the fold. Besides, if you cant show off your latest kill to your friends, what would be the point?

In the past, the PS3 has been criticized for its weak social experience, but that all changes with the PS4. Instead, Sony is really emphasizing the connected user experience. Heck you can even have up to 2,000 online friends! They have also made it a cinch to share your gameplay footage and screenshots directly onto Facebook and Twitter. The controller’s dedicated share button lets you quickly upload a video clip or screenshot. The system automatically records the last 15 minutes of gameplay. You can even broadcast gameplay directly to a Twitch or Livestream account. Unfortunately, there is no direct to YouTube option at the moment, but we’re hoping that that will eventually come with an update.

The PS4 also supports up to 16 users at once, but if you want to be apart of the online multiplayer experience, you’re going to have to get a PlayStation Plus membership. Fortunately, PlayStation Plus doesn’t just enable you to play against others online – but it comes with several other benefits. Membership offers you access to exclusive free downloadable games, it provides you with 1GB of cloud storage for your game saves, special discounts, early access to exclusive game content, and more. Pricing is quite reasonable too for all that PlayStation Plus offers – the service will run you $49 a year or $9.99 a month. Right at launch, Contrast is one of the downloadable games that is available for free with membership. This indie game is noir inspired and quite a treat. So you’re definitely getting a lot of value with PlayStation Plus.

The PlayStation Store has also been revamped and it allows you watch a trailer before you buy a game. And for those of you that are a PS3 gamer, and you recently bought a PS3 game, the store is offering an upgrade program for select titles, for just $9.99.

Speaking of game titles, the PS4 is launching with several big titles. Some of the stand out titles include Killzone Shadow Fall, Knack, Need for Speed Rivals, and Battlefield 4. We’ll have reviews up soon of many of the PS4’s launch titles, but we will share some first impressions of our gameplay experience with stand out titles like Killzone Shadow Fall and Knack. In particular, Killzone Shadow Fall does a superb job of showing gamers what the PS4 is capable of. Playing from the first person perspective in Killzone is nearly a life like experience. Between the realistic water effects, the rich textures, and the crazy amount of detail in the world around you, the gaming experience is practically cinematic.

Knack on the other hand, is quite a different beast altogether. This game offers a nice balance of story and adventure as well, but it’s artistic style is completely different in the way that it’s designed to resemble a 3D animated film. And Knack’s character, with all of his constantly changing body particles, does help to show off some of the PS4’s graphics prowess and abilities, at least somewhat. Unfortunately it doesn’t show off the PS4’s graphics prowess as much as Killzone does. That isn’t too say that the graphics aren’t very good, because they are, but it’s not as impressive a next gen game as the likes of Killzone.

But enough with some of the headliners, the PS4 also heavily focuses on indie games, such as Contrast, that will be available as digital downloads. These indie games include lots original titles that will be released over the coming weeks and months, including the whimsical and artistic Hohokum with its extremely casual game play, and the sort of odd duck – Doki-Doki Universe, which looks silly and child-like at first, but can also be quite psychologically intense. And with so many of the big PS4 and Xbox One game titles bound to overlap, these Indie games help provide an extra unique flavor to the PS4. To that effect, indie games might end up being the shining stars of the PS4.

And when it comes to special features on the PS4, if you’re a PS Vita owner, you’re in luck. That is because the PS4 offers a second screen experience, so if you own a handheld PS Vita system, you can actually play your PS4 games on the PS Vita – as long as you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi network. We didn’t get to try this feature out ourselves, but we think it’s pretty neat, especially in households with just one TV – this way someone can watch TV while the other person can continue to play their PS4 games on the Vita.

But even if you don’t own a Vita, and you do use a smartphone or tablet, the PlayStation app for iOS and Android extends the PS4’s experience to your mobile device by letting you do cool things such as purchasing games while your away from home and having them downloaded directly to your PS4.

Not surprisingly, Sony is heavily pushing their Video unlimited service for streaming TVs and Movies to the PS4, and their Music Unlimited services for streaming music. Both offerings are capable services with a nice catalog of media. But if you’re a NetFlix user, or have another streaming provider that you like to use, you can always download their app in Sony’s store. Currently the selection of apps available include Amazon, Crackle, Epix, Hulu Plus, Redbox, and a few others. But don’t let all of its entertainment features fool you. While the PS4 does offer an improved suite of streaming media entertainment and apps compared to its predecessor, the PS4 excels first and foremost as a gaming machine.

The PS4 retails for $399, but the camera is not included. The $59 camera is not exactly a must have feature, but that extra accessory cost is something to take into consideration. That said, we would say to go for a PlayStation Plus membership first, if you have to choose one over the other.

Verdict

It has been 7 years since the PS3 was released, and the PS4 is a massive upgrade over its predecessor. On some titles, like Killzone Shadow Fall, the gaming experience is practically life-like and offers a vision of what is to come. However, the PS4’s user interface still feels like it can afford some refinements here and there, but we’re confident that they will be addressed with updates. Overall, the PS4 is absolutely worth its $399 price tag for all of the features, gaming performance, and the entertainment value that you’re getting.

Order a PS4!

The Good: Support for up to 16 users, web browser and apps are free, parental controls, second screen experience for PS Vita, healthy launch title lineup + cool Indie titles, store lets you try games before you buy, Playroom experience is downright adorable, improved controller is more comfortable to use, gaming experience is top notch, user interface is improved and easy to navigate, camera adds voice and motion control to the system, and play as you download feature.

The Bad: Voice control doesn’t always work on the first try, camera is needed for voice chat with friends and voice navigation of the system, hardcore gamers will run out of hard drive space pretty fast, no sharing gameplay videos to YouTube, and the user interface can use some tweaks.

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