PlayStation 4 inside Sony’s new powerhouse

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The PlayStation 3 came out roughly seven years ago and had a stumbling start. The main thing that scared off many consumers was its insane price. The system cost $1200 which was too high for most people. The PS3 remained on store shelves for many months until Sony released new models that were cheaper. Since that time, the PS3 improved over time and has slowly become one of my favourite consoles to use.

Fast forward to 2013 and the PlayStation 4 has arrived. As of time of writing, the PS4’s release is opposite of that of the PS3. The system costs and affordable $649 and the system is selling out worldwide. Here in New Zealand, the PS4 was sold out months even before its official launch on November 29th. Yes, the PS4 is one great system, but does it really offer everything you want from a video game console?

Size and Design

One of the things I disliked about the original PS3 was that it was huge and very heavy. Being a skinny guy, I struggled to even carry the thing. Not to mention the original PS3 took up a lot of space that it was hard to find space for in my living room. Sony of course listened to the feedback and made the PS3 slimmer.

The PS4 on the other hand is already quite slim and sexy looking. It is exactly the same size as the Slim PS3 model that Sony released in 2009. I have both consoles sitting under my TV and they are around the same width, height and weight. I really liked the fact that the PS4 weighed a lot less than the original PS3, because I was able to carry the PS4 more easily with my skinny arms.

Another great thing about the PS4 is that it doesn’t require a power brick. Even though my Nintendo Wii is small, it uses a heavy power brick that you need to situate somewhere. The same can be said about the Xbox 360 and Xbox One as well. The fact that the PS4 has no power brick means all of the power is built inside.

Even though the PS4’s power is built inside, Sony smartly built many ventilation shafts in order to keep the console’s temperature cool. I left on the PS4 for a few hours and I have to say, it doesn’t get that hot which is a good thing. I remember my original Xbox 360 console got really hot every time I turned it on.

It’s worth mentioning that the PS4 includes an HDMI cable right out of the box. This will save some people money since they never supplied a free HDMI cable to any of their PS3 models. With that being said, you will need an HDTV in order to play on the PS4. If you have an old TV that only has AV outputs, you are out of luck because the PS4 doesn’t have those connections in place. Component AV output is not supported either. At the front of the console are two USB ports and the power and eject buttons. The power and eject buttons are touch sensitive so they’re not really “buttons” per se.

DUALSHOCK 4 Controller

The DUALSHOCK 4 controller has been redesigned slightly to add more features than ever before. It still has somewhat of the same design as previous DUALSHOCK controllers, but the subtle changes make is arguably the best DUALSHOCK controller ever made.
First off, the DUALSHOCK 4 feels better to hold than the DUALSHOCK 3 controller. This is because it weighs a bit more and feels sturdier.

It is also far better to hold than the light and useless SIX AXIS controllers Sony released before the DUALSHOCK 3 came out. One thing to note is that the controller has more grip too. This is better for those playing games during the Summer because it makes the controller less slippery when your hands would be sweatier.

Another redesign that has occurred are the analogue sticks. They now have a concave design so your thumbs won’t slip of so easily. Again, this is a great thing because I always felt my thumbs would slip off from time-to-time using the older DUALSHOCK controllers.

The L2 and R2 buttons have been altered and they feel more like triggers this time around. They are better to press than the L2 and R2 buttons from the DUALSHOCK 3. The face and directional buttons have been left unchanged, but this doesn’t bother me at all because they were fine in the first place.

The biggest changes that have been made lie in the middle of the controller. The Start and Select buttons have been replaced with the Options and Share buttons respectively. PlayStation fans now need to press Options to pause their game. This is something I had to learn because I had been pressing Start for many years. The Share button is used to upload videos and screenshots of gameplay.

The touch pad is the biggest thing on the controller and it acts like a mousepad on a laptop computer. It’s very responsive and fun to use, but only The Playroom and Killzone: Shadow Fall have used it so far. I look forward for future games using it because it adds a wealth of interesting possibilities. There is also a headphone jack so you can listen to your PS4 games using any headphones you have lying at home. There is also a speaker on the controller too that will add additional sounds to your games.

Fast and User-Friendly

I have to be honest with you; I hated many things about the PS3 when it first came out. One of the things I hated the most was the mandatory installations. I had never been a PC gamer so mandatory installations was new to me. The worst game was Metal Gear Solid 4 because you had to install the game every time you played a new chapter. Not to mention it took ages for the game to install every time you played it!

Thankfully, the PS4 does things right as mandatory installations still exist, but you can play your game in mere seconds. I was amazed at how fast it took the PS4 to install games. This is mainly because the game now installs (fully) in the background as you play. Those long mandatory installations you had to suffer in the past is now gone thankfully. Downloading things also feels faster too. This might be different depending on your internet connection, but I noticed downloading content felt faster on the PS4 than on the PS3.

Remote Play On PS Vita

Personally, this is my favorite feature on the PS4. As a PS Vita owner, it’s great that I can now play PS4 games on a portable system. Setting up the two devices was super-easy and all you need is a stable internet connection for it to work. Bear in mind, you will have to use the same PSN profile in order to play PS4 games on the PS Vita. I tried using my friend’s PSN account on the PS4, but remote play wasn’t possible because both machines only interact with the same account.

Another thing you will have to know is that remote play only works if the PS4 and PS Vita consoles are pretty much in close proximity with one another. I left the PS4 in the lounge and tried using my PS Vita in my bedroom across the other side of my house. The gameplay on the PS Vita started to lag and distort when I was away from the PS4.

Still, I think it’s rather neat that you can play PS4 games on the PS Vita. It’s really helpful for me if other family members are hogging all of the other TVs in my house. If I want to play a PS4 game, I can easily play them on the PS Vita. The PS Vita’s rear touch screens are used as the R2/R3 and L2/L3 buttons in most games for those that wanted to know.

Where Are The Apps?

Apps are things that have become common in today’s society. People download apps all of the time on their smartphones and many other devices. Even though the PS4 is Sony’s newest and flashiest device, it lacks any apps to speak of. Even the PS Vita has more apps on it…

I went to the PSN store and the only apps that were available was IGN, Vidzone and Quickflix. That was all. There is currently no app to download Youtube, there are no apps for movies and there are no apps for TV shows either. The only other app that was Music Unlimited. Music Unlimited is pretty redundant because you have to pay to stream music. Most people I know would rather use Spotify since it’s free.

I had a look on the USA PSN store to see they have (I live in New Zealand). They have a bit more because they have Netflix, Amazon and other apps. Americans can also buy and rent Hollywood movies using their PS4 too. Even then, the apps that are available (right now) are thin compared to the PS3.

Lack of Media Features

Another thing that I think the PS4 is lacking is overall media features. I liked using my PS3 to watch videos, listen to music and view my photos. You cannot do any of that on the PS4 sadly. USB devices right now can only be used to back up saved data and nothing else. You cannot even change the menu’s background either. The blue default design gets boring to look at after a while. Audio CDs don’t work on the system and only 2D Blu-ray discs work on it too. Sure not many people own 3D Blu-ray movies, but this just seems like a step backwards from the PS3.

The PS3 might be lacking in some areas, but it’s a very great media device. I have used it to play and store MP3 files, my photos and various videos. I also use my PS3 to play Youtube videos too because they look better on an HDTV as opposed to watching them on my laptop I have also used my PS3 to watch various 3D movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man, Tekken Blood Vengeance and more.

I just don’t know why the PS4 takes a step backwards in the media department. It’s possible these media features could be added in the future but as of right now, there’s nothing to do on the PS4 other than to play video games.

PS4 Launch Lineup

The PS4 launch lineup is good, but not great if you are looking for exclusives. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t mind the annual releases of Assassin’s Creed, FIFA and Call of Duty, you’ll probably think the lineup is fine. For me, I don’t really like annually released games and l usually like to play different genres. The PS4 only offers Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack at the moment. The rest of the PS4 exclusives are only downloadable titles. Unless you are a hardcore gamer, I would say it’s best to wait to purchase a PS4 until there are more games to play. I’m a fan of RPG and fighting games, but there are no new PS4 games from either genre at the moment. 2014 will be a stronger year for the PS4 because the likes of Infamous: Second Son, Driveclub and Watch Dogs will be available. If you don’t get a PS3 this year because it’s sold out, don’t worry because I feel all of the better games will be out next year anyway.

In terms of graphics, the PS4 reaches heights that the PS3 can only dream of. Most games look smoother and brighter than ever before. The best looking games I played on the system thus far have been Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall and NBA 2K14. NBA 2K14 is probably the best looking of the bunch. I would even go as far as saying it’s the best looking game I’ve ever seen so far.

It’s also worth mentioning that the PS4 is not backward compatible with any previous PlayStation games. Yes, this even includes digitally downloaded titles as well. Sony is expected to roll out the Gaikai service that will allow you to play old games, but it’s likely you’ll have to pay to play your old games all over again. As of right now however, only new PS4 games will work on the system.

Verdict

The PlayStation 4 is a very great system that improves on the PS3 on so many levels. The console runs very fast and installs and downloads times aren’t as slow as they used to be. Remote Play with the PS Vita and the impressive DUALSHOCK 4 controller makes playing games more fun than ever before. The console itself is small and sleek so those with a small living room won’t have trouble fitting it in. The main gripes I have is that the console lacks additional features that the PS3 had. The PS4 should improve over time, but right now it’s best only as a games machine. If you want to use the PS4 for other things, it’s best to wait to purchase it when Sony will hopefully add new features via future firmware updates.

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