It’s been seven awesome years with the PS3, but the PlayStation 4 is finally here and with it comes the next generation of gaming. I’ve clocked more than 24 hours with the console and I have to say I’m impressed. The console itself has a sleek parallelogram like design and is thinner and more compact than the first two generations of the PlayStation 3. It retains the slot loading Blu-ray design of its predecessor, and has two inconspicuous buttons along the front of the console for powering on and ejecting discs. The power indicator is now a long thin LED light that glows blue when the system is turned on and white when the operating system loads. Gone are the standard A/V outputs present on Sony’s previous consoles, replaced by a single HDMI output signifying the jump to HD proper, optical audio port, Ethernet port and power connection. The system comes with a single DualShock 4 Controller, charging cable and mono headset for chat sessions. Ultimately though it’s the capabilities of the box that matter most.
The UI of the PS4 is very efficient and deceptively simplistic. Upon powering on the console for the first time I was prompted to install the mandatory day one update, five minutes later I was off to the races. The menu design has very few similarities with the PS3’s Cross Media Bar and instead opts for a menu system that is far more intuitive albeit less pretty. With that being said the apps are easy to get to and run extremely fast. I do wish I could customize the background image, but given how easy to operate the menus are it’s a minor gripe. Simply put the interface just works, and works well.
The DualShock 4 might be as close to the perfect controller as we will ever get. When I held it for the first time it felt like what I imagine Arthur felt like the first time he held Excalibur. The analog sticks have a new design that makes you feel more confident and precise with concave-convex rubberized hybrid pads on top that make it nearly impossible for a gamers thumbs to slip off. The face buttons have a firm click to them and the directional pad has been tweaked to improve on the DualShock 3’s awesome design. The wider space between the analog sticks makes the controller feel less clumsy than the previous controller and the triggers have been modified to feel more like actual triggers. Then we have the touchpad which is far more than the gimmick many close to gaming thought it would be and is actually a welcome addition to the controls. It functions in many games as a means to switch between inventory and weapons that feels like it should have always been included. Gone is the numbered indicator that showed you what controller number you were, instead there is now a light bar that glows a specific color showing you your player assignment and also works with the PlayStation camera for motion gaming. If the Xbox 360 controller fit like a glove than the DualShock 4 is the Infinity Gauntlet.
Remote play is the streaming of PlayStation games to a handheld device that has been advertised since the days of PS3, but never quite worked as described. This is the exception to the rule. Remote play worked flawlessly in my home network and I was able to use my PlayStation Vita to play PS4 games throughout my entire house with no lag or latency in the controls. There is however a caveat to this feature, and that is your PS4 should be connected to your home router via Ethernet for this function to perform flawlessly. The controls on the handheld are optimized and the visuals are on par with that of the PS4 playing on your television. This feature is perfect for playing PS4 when others in the living room want to watch something else and truly give you an uninterrupted gaming experience.
Second Screen Experience
We’ve already discussed the remote play experience, but you can also reap second screen benefits from your IOS or Android device via the PlayStation app. This app allows the player to power on the console remotely, schedule downloads via the PlayStation store, input text, and navigate the User Interface. This feature was as intuitive as the UI itself and made my overall experience that much more robust.
The PS4 has access to a bevy of video and music apps, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video, and Sony’s own Music and Video Unlimited services. Surprisingly these function smoother and faster than on the PS3. Sadly as of now there is no YouTube app (so you still need to watch Nerdlocker on your computer or smart phone). Also at launch MP3 playback is unsupported (Sony Interactive Entertainment’s president Shuhei Yoshida has said that this feature is being addressed and should be rectified in the near future) which makes the feature of playing your own music during play session tied to Sony’s Music unlimited service. The system still plays Blu-Ray and DVD movies, however in order to do so you need the day one update previously mentioned.
Sony has come a long way since the inception of the PlayStation Network. The latest iteration of the service is quick and allows Facebook integration as well as video capture and sharing of gameplay footage to Ustream and Twitch (Youtube is currently not supported but will be in the near future). Cross game chat is also a new feature added to the console which is long overdue. The often imitated but never fully duplicated PlayStation Plus Service is back and full of value giving you a library of free games (five available for the PS4 at launch). Online trophies are also back and give the same feeling of accomplishment and competition to your friends list.
The PlayStation 4 is a definitely the next step in gaming and entertainment, with features for all budgets and plenty of value. That being said there are many features that cannot be taken advantage of if you are without internet. With unparalleled control and functionality this is the best console I’ve ever played to date. No console is perfect at launch but the PS4 is the best I’ve ever seen.
I’m giving the Sony PlayStation 4, 4.5 out of 5 NerdSkulls.
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