Seven years ago, Sony released its then state-of-the-art video game console, the Playstation 3, to gamers everywhere. Throughout its life, the PS3 had considerable trouble competing with its biggest rival, Microsoft’s Xbox 360. The other system boasted a more comfortable controller, a better multiplayer experience, and the beginnings of immersive motion capture with its Kinect camera. This time around, it seems like Sony may have learned from the mistakes of the past, putting out a system that is more comfortable fighting on Microsoft’s home turf. But, is the Playstation 4 worth digging $400 deep into your piggy banks for? Headset Buddy is interested to find out.
The console sports a sleek new look, which, out of the box, bears a strong resemblance to its two most recent predecessors. Upon start-up, you’ll notice a light strip running down the middle of the console. This makes for an admittedly cool effect (and a status indicator for the system), and helps jazz up your shelf a bit. Under the hood, the hardware is, obviously, HD compatible, and will play Blu-Rays and DVDs. Like with the PS3, you can install apps for music and video streaming software like Netflix as well. You can also access PSN and the Playstation Store to buy downloadable content. In fact, you can do pretty much everything you were able to do on PS3, with one notable exception. You can’t play PS3 games, meaning if you’re planning an upgrade, you should not plan to sell your previous gen console just yet. I repeat, this is NOT a replacement.
The Operating System
Just a tad bit confusing. The menus are divided up into two horizontal strips, one of which contains most of the system menus, and the other holding all of your software. This means your software (games, apps, etc.) is only organized by way of a single horizontal strip, without the ability to create or manage folders or have any real way to organize your library. At this time, it appears as though your most recently opened titles are moved to the left, as inactive stuff pushes to the right, but I definitely would have preferred a more easily navigable menu. Tiles maybe?
This doesn’t strike the same chord that many other modern operating systems do as far as cutting edge appearance and functionality. It is, unfortunately, disappointing.
Here, I can finally talk to something overwhelmingly positive! Sony seems to have taken all the criticism around its Dualshock 3 controller from the previous generation (and, by extension, those before it), and addressed all of it in this latest endeavor. The PS4’s controller is slightly bigger and heavier than its predecessor, making it more comfortable to hold. The triggers feel like triggers, and are more gratifying when used as such in FPS games. In a ballsy move, the PS4 has done away with the traditional “Start” and “Select” buttons, opting instead for a touchpad in the middle, an “Options” button, and a “Share” button (more on this in the “Multiplayer” section). Pressing the PS button allows you to break from any game you are in and return to the interface to adjust settings or navigate menus without actually closing your game. And, at the bottom of the controller, is an audio jack for your headset. Don’t have one? No worries! Sony packages an earpiece with the console so out of the box you can enjoy the social element of the experience. And obviously if you need an adapter to use your favorite headphones with the Playstation system, you know who to hit up for that!
The Dualshock 4 is a slam dunk, and a pleasure to game on.
It might have been only a total of 90 minutes before I found myself getting trash-talked by an opponent in Call of Duty whose voice hadn’t yet deepened. I could only bite my lip and nod at it. That is how it goes.
Sony is taking measures to adopt some of the more social elements that the Xbox has traditionally been known for, making it easy to integrate your profile into your Facebook page, make friends in-game, and hold voice conferencing with people through pre-arranged parties. Even if you’re gaming, you can opt out of the in-game chat sessions to keep talking with your friends, clan, or whatever. That is a nice touch. Additionally, as mentioned before, there is a “Share” button on the controller that you can use to instantly capture and save a screenshot, along with the previous few seconds of video from your screen. So you can brag about your accomplishments instantly and easily no matter what you’re up to.
I do need to gripe about something though: Sony is now charging for all multiplayer content. Yep, you can still download your apps and whatnot for free if that’s what you’re using the console for, but for access to the Playstation Store and any Multiplayer gaming online, you need to fork over the subscription fee to PSN. I’m hesitant to complain about this only because Microsoft was doing this with its previous generation system since launch, but still, it is disheartening to have this feature suddenly get a price tag attached after all these years. It’s only $50 for a year of play though, so at the end of the day, it shouldn’t break the bank. It’s just something of an inconvenience.
The launch library is not anything to get too excited about, unfortunately. There are, as of this writing, 14 full-length games listed on Sony’s store (including a $50 adaptation of the infamous Angry Birds Star Wars?). Now the biggest of these titles are of course not bad. Call of Duty, Killzone, and Assassin’s Creed are all fun titles, particularly for players who are long-standing fans of these series. But truthfully, they don’t seem to be very different from their counterparts released on the PS3. You don’t need a PS4 to play these titles, or even to make them look good. Naturally there is some graphical improvement, but at the end of the day, it’s not significant. And these games alone make it very hard to justify the purchase if, like us, you are buying this platform primarily for gaming.
Disappointing as this is, software is one area where improvement is built in. As more games are released and developers begin transitioning production efforts over to the next-gen consoles exclusively, we’ll begin to see more pull here. And there are some good-looking titles coming in our near future. Watch Dogs? Metal Gear Solid V? I’m looking at you.
The PS4 is a very decent console. It has some flaws, but it’s solid. The controller is an improvement, and the multiplayer experience is fun, even if it now comes at a price. In addition, there is also a camera that can be used similar to the Kinect, but this is not included in the box, which is odd because the system prompts set-up for it. Regardless, the use of this camera combined with the light strips on the backs of the controllers should eventually make for some innovative ideas. Just not yet.
Long story short, none of this makes it necessary to run to the store and buy the PS4 at launch. Headset Buddy recommends that you take a seat, relax, and buy one when it makes sense, when it’s getting content you want to play and can’t get on your current-gen platforms. Otherwise, it’s really just another object that’ll collect dust in your living room while you’re waiting for a reason to game on it.