The PlayStation 4 makes a hell of an impact, even with its true potential to be unlocked years down the line.
After 7 long years waiting out the current generation of gaming, Sony has finally unleashed their next-generation console – PlayStation 4. We have played it; we loved it and were having a hell of fun with it. I am sure many people have concerns regarding on how the new system functions, what it’s capable of doing, how it looks and of course how strong is the performance of the hardware.
In this review, we will be going over specific details of the new PlayStation 4. We will be going over the hardware’s applications, streaming/broadcasting, games, DualShock 4, PlayStation Camera, PlayStation Store, sharing function, launch titles, and of course the potential future of the system and the generation as a whole. First I’ll be going over the physical looks of the console and then discuss every important factor of the system further in the review.
The Next-Gen Looks
PlayStation 4 has a very modern look to it and at the same time reminded us of the PlayStation 2 exterior. As a matter of fact, it’s almost as if Sony took 2 PlayStation’s 2 and put them together and offset them by a bit to create an interesting rhombus-like shape.
The overall physical representation of the system is quite appealing, it’s sleek and somewhat different then what you come to expect from previous console designs. The left side of the PlayStation 4 has an indent with a light-bar. The light-bar represents its state, when you boot it up it turns blue and once it’s fully powered on and ready to function it stays white.
The power on/off buttons were slightly hidden in front of the console, it was actually confusing at first and was a bit hard to find them due to their size and location. However, this is by no means a complaint but rather a statement.
Just like previous consoles, all of your main plugs including the HDMI and Ethernet port are all in the back. The proprietary PlayStation Camera plug is also at the back of the system. The PlayStation 4 has two 3.0 USB ports on the front so you can connect your DualShock 4 controllers directly and charge them while you play. You may also connect other devices such as the iPhone and anything that uses a USB cable.
"The overall physical representation of the system is quite appealing, it’s sleek and somewhat different then what you come to expect from previous console designs."
The Setup and Firmware
Setting up the PlayStation 4 for the first time was quite user-friendly. Simply by following the on-screen instructions I was able to play around in the UI in a matter of minutes and use the system without any flaws. As always, the system asks you to setup the current time-zone, sync your controller for the first time by pressing the PS button, setup the network/internet settings and so on. The overall setup procedure was quite similar to the PlayStation Vita and even the PlayStation 3 I would say.
However, in order to be able to use some of the online functions every PlayStation 4 owner must download and install a software update called Firmware 1.5. This system update was around 600+ MB and didn’t take long to download and install to the system.
Sony were smart enough to provide an alternative solution for those who are unable to connect to the internet on their PlayStation 4 for whatever reason. By going to their official website, consumers were able to download Firmware 1.5 to their USB sticks and apply the software update to their systems manually without having to get online on their PlayStation 4.
Exchanging the HDD
The PlayStation 4 also allows you to exchange its internal hardware. The original hard-drive packs in a total of 500 GB of space. However, the issue is that most PlayStation 4 games range from 25-50 gigs such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall and others. With games requiring such high amount of hard-drive space the system will quickly become filled, especially in the future. Thankfully, Sony allows the consumers to exchange the internal hard-drive of the PlayStation for a different one and they made the process easy and painless.
" When we replaced the hard drive with our very own which has a 32MB cache we experienced at least 2x faster loading for games and boot up."
All you have to do is take off the top left panel of the system and unscrew the hard-drive bay. Once you’re able to take out the bay, you unscrew 4 more screws from the bay itself to unlock the hard drive and replace it with your own. Once that’s done you have the complete freedom to put any type of Mobile Hard Drives, Solid State Drives, or even Hybrid Drives into your PlayStation 4 system. When we replaced the hard drive with out very own which has a 32MB cache we experienced at least 2x faster loading for games and boot up.
PlayStation 4 vs PlayStation 3
How does the PlayStation 4 differ itself from its previous successor other than the major leap in power? Quite arguably, the PlayStation 4 is built more for the current digital modern days and of course, the future. PlayStation 4’s power, social and online capabilities surpass the last generation’s console just about on every level. However, the biggest change I would say is definitely the value of the system due to its surprisingly low cost of $399.
First, let us compare the power of the system before we dive deep into the new social and online functions of the system. After that, we will discuss how Sony has completely turned the tables around compared to the last generation.
The Power (Ram, Processor, GPU )
The PlayStation 3 was released in 2006 in the US and was priced at a crazy high $599. Sony was trying to justify the price point because of their investment in the Cell processor that cost them insane amounts of money and along with the fact that the PlayStation 3 was also a gaming system that had the capability of playing Blu-ray movies and games.
"It’s actually kind of scary to see what developers such as Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica will be able to do with these kinds of leaps in technology for next-generation gaming."
The PlayStation 3 had 512 MB DDR 3 that was split into 256 MB for video and 256 MB for the system. Sony’s new console, the PlayStation 4 contains 8 GBs of GDDR 5 RAM. This is such an enormous difference and it’s actually kind of scary to see what developers such as Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica will be able to do with these kinds of leaps in technology for next-generation gaming.
The GPU on the PlayStation 3 was the RSX which stands for ‘Reality Synthesizer’. The GPU was developed in cooperation with Sony and Nvidia for the PlayStation 3. As mentioned earlier it provided the PlayStation 3 with a total of 256 MB of DDR 3 RAM. Meanwhile the PlayStation 4’s custom made next-generation AMD Graphics Core Next Engine is able to perform at 1.86 TFLOPS. This is again, another major leap in technology and power for the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 4.
The CPU of the PlayStation 3 was the Cell processor, which was the major thorn in game development, atleast early on during the console’s life cycle, causing frustration and major development issues. Despite the expensive investment in the Cell processor, the CPU actually made things worse for multi-platform developers and gave Sony a lot of loathing from several developers. However with the PlayStation 4, Sony have totally scrapped the Cell architecture and instead invested in the industry standard x86 architecture. We think this is a great step and will hopefully make development cycles shorter and less costlier.
Operating System (XMB Evolution)
The operating system on the PlayStation 4 is an evolution of the PlayStation 3’s XMB (XrossMediaBar). The XMB on the PlayStation 3 was friendly, easy and fun to use; however, it also had its problems such as the speed and navigation. XMB would lag quite often and take its sweet time to load up menus if you moved too fast.
The trophy lists and icons took forever to pop on the PlayStation 3 and the same thing was happening with the friend’s list. PlayStation 4’s UI is amazing; its sleek , never slows down, loads super quick and is fun to navigate. Don’t get me wrong the XMB was a fantastic operating system for the PlayStation 3, but the improvements that Sony has brought for their new system are fantastic and much appreciated.
The DualShock 4
"The DualShock 4 controller is astounding and is a huge improvement over the last 3 generations of Sony’s controllers starting from the original DualShock on the PSOne and all the way to DualShock 3 on the PlayStation 3."
The DualShock 4 controller is astounding and is a huge improvement over the last 3 generations of Sony’s controllers starting from the original DualShock on the PSOne and all the way to DualShock 3 on the PlayStation 3.
After about 20 years Sony’s has finally decided to change the physical design of the controller itself. It’s about time they finally did that and it’s for the better. The controller looks smooth, sleek and feels comfortable.
There are many new features on the DualShock 4 controller. First off is the newly added touchpad that brings new functionality to games, then there is the built-in speaker, a light-bar behind the controller, a Share button that adds a whole new level of social interaction with video/screenshot sharing and newly improved motion tracking technology that works well with the new PlayStation Camera. Before we talk in depth about their functions I’ll discuss the overall improvements of the DualShock 4 compared to DualShock 3 first.
One of the biggest changes on the DualShock 4 are the triggers and shoulder buttons. These buttons have received a lot of criticism in their past years and Sony has finally re-designed them. The triggers and shoulder buttons are completely different now, obviously, they’re still placed in their proper location but their design and look has completely changed. The triggers are now much more comfortable to hold and press because of their curvature. The shoulder buttons feel much more functional and comfortable due to the same curvature changes.
The Select and Start buttons are now replaced with a new button called Options. Meanwhile, the PS button remains the same way as it was on the DualShock 3 and serves the same purpose to bring the player into the XMB/Dashboard menu.
Sony also fixed the analog sticks. The analog sticks don’t slide all over the place anymore like the DualShock 3’s did, and they also don’t pop out. Sony also gave them a concave look which allows the players to have more control.
The new ergonomic design of the DualShock 4 allows for tighter feel and control of the overall experience when playing games. Out with the angular look and in with the curvy is a good thing for gaming.
Sony have fully went out on the PlayStation 4 when it comes to upping the system’s social and online features. Everything on the system is completely seamless, you can easily talk to your friends via cross-game chat while playing games, messing with the UI or browsing the PlayStation Store for the hottest new stuff.
"There are absolutely no limitations to your freedom anymore when it comes to multi-tasking."
Consumers are now able to download and install games while playing games, browsing the built-in web browser and so on. There are absolutely no limitations to your freedom anymore when it comes to multi-tasking. PlayStation 3 was much limited when it came to online functions. No one could download and play games at the same time, or even voice chat with their friends while playing their favorite game. Thankfully, PlayStation 4 fixes all of those issues on top of adding new social features such as sharing videos, screenshots and streaming.
The PlayStation Store is quite infamous on the PlayStation 3 for it’s lag/framerate issues and annoyingg wait times when switching menus. We are happy to report that it’s definitely better on the PlayStation 4 however we still think it can use a bit work.
One of the biggest things you will notice with the new PlayStation Store is that the lag is less frequent and changing menus is smoother and the load times into specific categories don’t take forever to load. However, there were a few times when I had hiccups and the PlayStation Store would maybe lag for a split second. It’s not as bad as the PlayStation 3 store but it can still be noticeable.
"If you’re used to the organization of the PlayStation 3’s store then you will have no problem understanding what’s where and how to get to it."
If you’re used to the organization of the PlayStation 3’s store then you will have no problem understanding what’s where and how to get to it. If you’re new user to the PlayStation Plus and browsing online content for the first time on the PlayStation 4 then you might be a-bit confused for a few moments.
Overall, it’s a solid improvement that will hopefully get better overtime. I remember that Sony changed the PlayStation Store back on the PlayStation 3 a couple of times due to the fact that it received a lot of criticism for the way it organized things and the performance issues. I am expecting the same thing to happen here, although I don’t think major overhauls are needed. A few stability patches should do the trick.
Players are now able to broadcast their gameplay simply by connecting their twitch.tv or Ustream account through the PlayStation 4’s broadcast settings. Setting up a broadcast was super easy, all you had to do was press the share button on the DualShock 4 and choose broadcast. From there the system asks you to log in to your streaming provider, once you log in you will also be able to enable/disable your PlayStation Camera’s microphone and video.
"However, streaming is also not without its issues. One of the main problems right now is that twitch.tv is not able to archive videos that are streamed directly from the PlayStation 4."
When a stream starts, the game’s screen becomes a bit smaller and shows you twitch.tv’s chat channel and comments below your gameplay screen. For the last three days, we have been streaming gameplay of Knack and it was one of the most amazing social experiences we’ve ever had on a console. Seeing people type and comment on how you play, cheer for you and talk to you as you play is something that has never been done before on consoles. This is arguably, one of the best features on the PS4 besides the obvious hardware/tech upgrades.
Streaming has been quite popular for the last few years for games such as League of Legends, DotA 2, StarCraft 2, and Call of Duty and so on. However, it was only do-able on PC, but now the PlayStation 4 has changed that and I see a very bright future for streaming on consoles.
This is just the beginning; we can’t wait to see what the streaming community will be doing in the later down the console’s life cycle. We are excited to see how much fun you can have when the entire internet will be watching you earn that top-tier difficult trophy in one of the hardest RPG games.
However, streaming is also not without its issues. One of the main problems right now is that twitch.tv is not able to archive videos that are streamed directly from the PlayStation 4. This is a major problem because no one can go back to your channel and re-watch something they missed. However, Sony did confirm that this would be patched and fixed sometime in the future, but never gave a definite date.
Sharing Videos and Screenshots
PlayStation 4 can also upload video footage and screenshots to your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Once you’re in the Share menu after pressing the Share button on the DualShock 4 you will be given two other choices besides broadcasting/streaming, and that is uploading a video or sharing a screenshot.
In order to record a video you must press the Share button and then back out, once the share button is pressed, the PlayStation 4 will start recording where you are. The system is able to record up to 15 minutes of footage. Obviously, you can upload videos that are less than 15 minutes if the particular section of the game is shorter than that. Once you’re done recording you will be able to upload a video.
"Similar to setting up a twitch.tv account for broadcasting, the system will ask you to link either a Facebook account or Twitter depending on your choice. Once you have linked the account information to the PlayStation 4, the system will start uploading whatever it is that you have chosen."
Similar to setting up a twitch.tv account for broadcasting, the system will ask you to link either a Facebook account or Twitter depending on your choice. Once you have linked the account information to the PlayStation 4, the system will start uploading whatever it is that you have chosen. Screenshots upload instantly, but videos may take anywhere between 2-15 minutes depending on their size, length and your upload speed.
This is a great feature for those that are not into streaming and just feel like showing off their favorite area in the game or want to share their favorite killing streak records in their favorite competitive first-person shooter game. This can also be a great tool to show how to earn specified trophies in the game or even create a video/screenshot guide for secret collectibles in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
We have two issues with sharing/uploading videos and screenshots. Originally, Sony promised to allow users to upload their videos to YouTube besides Facebook and Twitter. However, that is not the case and the feature is missing at launch. Although they did confirm that it will come back and be patched in a future Firmware update for the PlayStation 4. Secondly, we were hoping that you could record videos longer than 15 minutes. It would be great if Sony eventually updated the recording time on the videos or better yet at least make them an hour long and let us have the ability to cut/split parts of videos to our liking. Either way, we think this is another great feature. We hope that it will eventually become better and evolve overtime just like the streaming.
The PlayStation 4 launch line-up is actually quite decent. It’s not amazing but its way better than the PlayStation 3’s was 7 years ago. The launch-line up ranges from the ever-popular first person shooters such as Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and PlayStation 4’s first party exclusive – Killzone: Shadow Fall. The usual sports games like NBA 2K14, Madden NFL 25 and FIFA 14 and Need for Speed: Rivals (racing game.)
Free-to-Play games like Warframe, Blacklight: Retribution, and DC Universe: Online and action games such as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes make up for a pretty decent launch line up.
The system also launched with digital titles like the PlayStation 4 exclusive arcade game called Resogun, Contrast, Tiny Brains, Super Motherload and 2 previously released PlayStation 3 exclusives Flower, and Sound Shapes.
"Overall, it’s a pretty solid launch-line up that offers a variety of different genres to play at the beginning of a new generation system."
Sony has also decided to launch with a new exclusive platformer IP called Knack which is a first-party title developed by Sony Worldwide Studio in cooperation with Japan Studio. Mark Cerny who is the main man behind the PlayStation 4’s architecture and engineering choices also directed Knack while developing the PlayStation 4. The man is mostly famous for blockbuster IPs such as Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank on the PlayStation 2 and the original Crash Bandicoot on the PSOne.
Overall, it’s a pretty solid launch-line up that offers a variety of different genres to play at the beginning of a new generation system. However, we all know that it’s always about the future titles of the system rather than the ones in the beginning.
PlayStation Vita Remote Play
Sony’s new mission with the PlayStation Vita is to create an ultimate companion device for the PlayStation 4 and this is where PlayStation Vita Remote Play function comes into play. When the PlayStation 4 was first revealed Sony touted how the PlayStation Vita will be able to directly stream gameplay from PlayStation 4 and allow you to play remotely as long as you had a good Wi-Fi connection whether you’re at work or at home.
How does the Remote Play feature function and how do you connect the two devices together? It’s frankly quite easy, all you simply have to do is press on a button that says PS4 Link on your PlayStation Vita main-screen and have it look for your PlayStation 4. Once you’ve done that, simply go to your PlayStation 4 settings menu in the XMB, choose “PS Vita Connection Settings” and then make sure “Enable Remote Play” is checked and choose “Connect Directly with PS Vita” and it will give you a special code that you have to input into the PlayStation Vita. Both systems will now be able to recognize each other and function accordingly after both systems are linked.
Via Remote Play is quite amazing, not only are you able to play games on your handheld but you can also control your PS4 from it. For example, I was able to quit from Knack on my PlayStation Vita and play Warframe instead just like I would on my PlayStation 4. You can even send messages using your Vita to your friends, invite them to chat, buy and download stuff from the PlayStation Store, and check your trophies.
I could even talk to my friends through the Vita itself whenever I was in a party chat with somebody and you don’t have to use your microphone/DualShock 4 to talk to people. It’s such an interesting experience that it almost feels like the PlayStation Vita is not only just a second screen peripheral, but an actual device that can fully utilize the PlayStation 4’s UI and even play its games on itsbeautiful 5 inch LED screen.
Remote Play Games
We have tested two games PlayStation 4 on the PlayStation Vita, Knack and Warframe and both played fine. The games still looked good and played smoothly. I really enjoyed playing Knack in my bed whenever I didn’t feel like sitting next to my monitor to play games or sometimes I would be tired and wanted to lay down. The PlayStation Vita Remote Play allows you to do just that and the transition is quick and easy. Warframe played well, controls were fine and gameplay felt decent. Warframe was a bit hard to play than Knack due to the fact that the game requires more precise aiming as opposed to a platforming/action game like Knack.
One amazing thing that Sony has done is that every game that is being released on the PlayStation 4 is Remote Play capable and you will never have to worry about not being able play your favorite games on the handheld. The only gameplay function you will have to be concerned with are the Vita controls for those games. It’s up to the developer on how they want map the game’s controls to the PlayStation Vita, so hopefully they will be able to figure it out for themselves and make it work well on a handheld.
Remote Play Issues
However, Remote Play is not without its problems. There were times when I wanted to play downstairs in the kitchen and I would lose the connection most of the time between my PlayStation 4 and Vita. The screen would just bug out, start lagging, then disconnect from my PlayStation 4, and tell me that the connection has been lost. I am not sure, if it was an issue with the Remote Play itself or whether the Wi-Fi in my house is crappy. I do have many devices connected to my Wi-Fi so maybe it was interfering too much and causing bandwidth issues. Whatever it was, we hope that this eventually will be taken care of one way or another.
Remote Play Conclusion
We look forward to seeing how Remote Play will work out for Sony and the gaming community in the future. It’s an exciting feature and I already see the potential it could bring for both the consumers and developers. We can’t wait to play and test upcoming games such as Infamous: Second Son, the new Uncharted and indie titles such as Oddworld: New’n’Tasty, The Witness and Secret Ponchos.
The Playroom Experience
The new PlayStation Camera is best demonstrated in a already-installed app called The Playroom. The Playroom is basically a tech-demo that showcases how the new PlayStation Camera works along with the DualShock 4’s motion sensing technology. It’s an app that consists of three different mini-games such as an alternate reality 2-player ping-pong game, ASOBI Bot who’s a individual robot who interacts with people in the real world and the small bots.
The Playroom is one of the weirdest but an interesting experience I’ve had with alternate reality games. It’s not really a virtual reality but more of a combination of a virtual world that interacts with the living world. My favorite mini-game were the small robots, you can use your controller to get them out by rubbing on the touchpad. As the robots come out of your controller you will see everything in-front of you, once they’re on the ground level they will turn around and stare at you. If you decide to wave at them then they will wave back.
While it’s obviously all programming tricks, it’s really fascinating to see how technology has progressed to such a level and what can be done with it in the future. You may also suck the robots back into controller and see them struggle in-front of you trying to hold on to the ground and not get inside.
It’s a cute and quite funny experience at the same time. When the robots are the inside the controller you can actually feel the weight of them according to which side they’re on. If you tilt you’re DualShock 4 the weight will shift and that creates an immersive experience for the users. Pressing the buttons on DualShock 4 while the robots are inside will make them dance as if they were in a disco club. Sony clearly went all out to showcase what the new DualShock and PlayStation Camera can achieve. The question is…will this actually be utilized to its full potential in the near or distant future? Only time will tell.
The PlayStation 4 also has a couple of TV/Video applications such as Amazon, Netflix, Redbox, Crackle and so on. If you’ve used Netflix previously on your PlayStation 3 then you know what to expect. It’s just a standard package of different applications that all try to accomplish the same thing which is buying/renting movies/shows digitally. If you already have a Netflix or Amazon account then you will be right at home and ready to watch your favorite stuff.
However, the biggest star here is the free PlayStation App. It is a companion App for the iPhone/iPad/Android devices that allows you to link your device to the PlayStation 4. With this application you can check on your friends, send messages, look at your trophy status and best of all buy and download games from the PlayStation Store while you’re far away from the PlayStation 4.
Thankfully, the PlayStation 4 is able to download in Standby Mode, so when you get home everything is already installed, depending on the speed and game file size. Linking the PlayStation App to PlayStation 4 is similar to linking a PlayStation Vita to the PlayStation 4, so if you have done one of them, then you know what to do for this one.
PlayStation 4 Conclusion and Future
Overall, we are quite satisfied with how the PlayStation 4 has turned out so far. We are stoked to experience new titles, social aspects such as updates for broadcastings and uploads and of course the evolution of the system as whole. Despite a few hiccups such as uploads not being able to go onto YouTube, twitch.tv not being able to archive PlayStation 4 streams and a lack of a proper Standby Mode, the PlayStation 4 is still a great console. All of these additions should be added in future firmware updates.
If I was to complain about anything, then it would just be me being nit-picky and there is absolutely no point in doing that. Sony has done a great job and they’re off to a great start in the next gen console wars. We are excited to see what the future holds from development studios such as Sony Santa Monica, Naughty Dog, Media Molecule and of course third party developers such as Bethesda, Epic Games, BioWare and many more.
With PlayStation’s 4 hardware it will be intriguing to see what developers can and cannot achieve. Do we have high expectations? It’s hard to say and to be honest we really don’t know what to expect, but we are anticipating something new, innovative and beautiful. Last generation we had many great franchises being brought to life such as Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, inFamous, The Last of Us and more. What will the new generation bring? Only time will tell. With that being said, I am only going to say one more thing. We’re now officially in the next-generation. Next-generation is now current-generation and it feels great and it will hopefully be phenomenal in the future. Kudos Sony.
Decent launch line up of games, UI navigation is fluid, Streaming, PS Vita Remote Play, Powerful Social and Online Capabilities.
Streaming videos are not archived, Videos can't be uploaded to YouTube at launch as originally intended, PS Vita Remote Play has some connection issues at times.
PlayStation 4 is looking like a huge success for Sony as opposed to last generation's PlayStation 3. Much better launch-line up, extremely powerful, amazing social features, PS4 has plenty room for growth even though it's missing a few things that originally were supposed to be at launch.