As we prepare ourselves for the launch of the PS5, let’s look back at the active life of its predecessor.
For Sony, the PS4 was a do or die situation. The PS3 era was far from successful for them, and due to a number of poorly made decisions, Sony had lost much over the course of the console’s life, from a surprising amount of marketshare to large amounts of money. The PS4, however, was a chance for them to get back on top, where they had been with their first two consoles- and they did it with great aplomb.
The era of the PlayStation 4 is coming to an end soon, with Sony ready to let the PS5 off its leash and out into the wild, which means now is the time that we will all be looking at the PS4’s life and its many highs and some lows- and boy is there going to be a lot to look at. In plain and simple terms, the PS4 is one of the best pieces of hardware that Sony has put out to date.
That’s not because of its technical proficiencies or anything like that- in fact, even when the PS4 first launched in 2013, it was still built on outdated tech. In fact, after the ambitious, eccentric, yet impressive hardware of the PS3, the PS4 did almost a complete 180, going for more standardized tech. That was a conscious move on Sony’s part, of course, who wanted to right their wrongs from the PS3 era, not repeat the same mistakes, and above all, make a console that developers would find easy to develop for.
No, the thing that makes the PS4 a jewel in PlayStation’s crown is the thing that always matter the most with any console- its library. It’s hard to point at a single PlayStation system with a library that’s anything less than great (maybe except the PS Vita), but even among them, the PS4 manages to strike an imposing presence.
The biggest reason for that is the fine form that Sony’s first party pipeline was in this generation. From Gran Turismo and Twisted Metal in the PlayStation days, to Ratchet and Clank and God of War in the PS2 years, to Uncharted and The Last of Us in the PS3 era, Sony has always had an excellent first party portfolio- one that’s clearly been getting over time. And with the PS4, they truly hit their stride.
The sheer number of games first party Sony games that can easily be called among the best of the entire generation is staggering. Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Dreams, The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima all came along and saw their creators touching new heights in every way possible. Beyond that, there were other first party releases, that may not have had similar universal acclaim, but were great games nonetheless, including the likes of The Last Guardian, Gravity Rush 2, Days Gone, Ratchet and Clank, and many more.
Truly, this is the generation where Sony’s first party stopped being consistently great and became consistently outstanding. Studios such as Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, SIE Santa Monica, Sucker Punch, and Insomniac all produced some of their best games ever for the PS4. Oh, and speaking of Insomniac, their addition to Sony’s first party proved to be yet another excellent buy from Sony.
On top of that, there were plenty of excellent third party exclusives (console exclusives and complete exclusives) on the PS4 as well. Persona 5, Persona 5 Royal, Nioh, Nioh 2, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Final Fantasy 14, for instance, stand out as some of the best games in the PS4’s impressive library. And, of course, once you move outside the restrictions of exclusivity, there were so, so many more excellent games on the console to dive into.
From games that were the best at what they did – such as the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Witcher 3 – to flawed yet brilliant experiences like Prey and Destiny, from massive open worlds like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and GTA 5 to horror standouts like Resident Evil 2 and The Evil Within 2, from excellent revivals of beloved series like Wolfenstein and DOOM to indie gems such as Hollow Knight and No Man’s Sky, from standout live service titles like Rainbow Six Siege and Monster Hunter World to wonderfully weird games like Death Stranding and NieR Automata.
The range, depth, and breadth of the PS4’s library is impressive, to say the least (and shows no signs of stopping just yet, with Sony seemingly planning on continue to support the console for the foreseeable future). The console was well worth the price of admission- which, sure enough, was easier for Sony to do this time than it must have been for the PS3. Right out the gate, the PS4 came out swinging, with Sony announcing that it would launch at a prince of $399 (which, incidentally, was also the price that the PS4 Pro launched at in 2016). Thanks to its competitive pricing (and the blunders that Microsoft were making at the time), the PS4 got off to a great start, and it never looked back.
But, of course, it wasn’t all completely rosy. There have been a few bumps along the road during the PS4’s life cycle as well. Its notoriously loud fan noise has been one of the most commonly criticized things about the console, Sony’s rigid stance on cross-platform multiplayer attracted a fair bit of controversy not that long ago (though it’s good to see that those walls have started coming down), while it’s also worth remembering that this was also the generation that saw Sony beginning to charge money for online gameplay (though not in free to play games, at the very least).
As most people would tell you though, even out together, the PS4’s issues seem quite insignificant, especially when put in context of all the other ways that the console has ben a resounding success. Entering into the generation, Sony had a very clear vision in mind, one driven by a desire and necessity, even) to stop doing what they’d been doing during the PS3 era and not repeat those mistakes. With the PS4, their focus was on games, on being more accessibly to wider audiences through cheaper but still decent hardware, on providing an ecosystem that developers of the industry would want to develop for.
At the risk of repeating myself, it’s fair to say that Sony pulled it off quite thoroughly. Whether or not the PS5 will follow a similar trajectory remains to be seen. Sony’s first party is stronger than ever, plenty of major third party games have been announced as exclusives, the hardware is much more powerful and capable than the PS4’s had been at launch, and even though the pricing isn’t exactly cheap, it’s not unreasonable either. Early signs suggest that the PS5 has the makings of a great console- that might turn out to be completely untrue a few years down the line, or it might not. Either way, we’re at least hoping that it gets off to a strong start less than a month from now.