PS4 Console Review

Before we start, the PS4 is apparently all sold out until next year but don’t dismay. I was actually fortunate enough to walk into an electronics store and buy one off the shelf on launch day. Make a few phone calls and don’t forget to ask at every stockist that you walk by, you just might walk out with a brand new console!

Sony have made no secret of the fact that their next gen powerhouse is specifically focused on gaming especially with their #4THEPLAYERS marketing campaign. This in itself is a dangerous position to be in when challenged by a console that pretty much promises to yet again be an all-in-one entertainment machine. The PS4’s saving grace, however, is that it’s actually very impressive gaming machine.

Having previously owned a PS3 and three Xbox 360’s (a pox on you, red ring of death!) I can safely say that I’ve always been more impressed with the overall features and build quality of Sony’s products, excluding the Dualshock3 controller. I always loved the ability of both machines to play video on both hardcopy and digitally, a feature which is extremely limited, especially to those of us in the Australian market. Gone is DLNA support, MP3 support, PlayTV and even a number of video apps such as YouTube, Plus7, SBS on Demand and ABC iView. Hell, it won’t even play music CDs. Even though these omissions mean that I have to run my PS3 alongside as a media centre, I can’t deny the fact that this is one lean, mean gaming machine.

Immediately upon removing this little beauty from the box, it’s evident that Sony have taken a more focused view of Playstation’s future. The look of the console appears to reflect Sony’s previous business model of providing games consoles, not multimedia machines. In short, it looks like a sexy little italicised version of the PS2. Rather minimalist in approach, the box only contains a power cable, a brief manual, one Dualshock4 controller and one HDMI cable. So wit hough buying anything extra (except for a game) the console is ready to go. Optional extras include additional controllers, console stand and the PlaystationCamera.

The controller has finally had a more substantial redesign than previous iterations which have all closely resembled those of the first Playstation. The Dualshock4 is a near perfect design in both aesthetics and practicality. The grips are now slightly bulbous, fitting well in the palm of the hand while the textured coating gives the impression of better grip. The twin thumb sticks have a domed head with a ringed lip which is surprisingly easier to control than the Xbox’s concaved sticks. Although there's no noticeable difference in weight between the old and new, the Dualshock4 feels a lot more solid and sturdy in the hand. 

A minor redesign, but one that makes a hell of a difference, is the shape of the R2 and L2 triggers. They have been re-moulded so that when the controller is sat on a surface such as a coffee table or the couch, the triggers will support its weight instead of triggering the… err… trigger. This is because the triggers are now recessed away from the body instead of curving in. As an added bonus, it gives the triggers much more grip. The much publicised light bar is inconsequential. If you’re looking at the light bar on your controller to see if your health is low, you’re doing gaming wrong. Finally the touch pad. It’s a rather novel inclusion and one that has only really been utilised in full in KillzoneShadowfall so far. It will be interesting to see how this feature is used in future games. On a side note, the controllers tiny speaker punches out a fair bit of sound so you may want to turn down that particular speakers volume in the system settings.

Turning the console on for the first time is a painless experience with only a minor set up required before delving into the rather minimalist design. Gone is theXcrossMediaBar and many of the features that came with it. At present, there are no themes available and you can’t even change the colour of the main theme in the system settings, you're stuck with Sony azure. This new user interface delivers the bare basics of the XMB and instead appears to focus on building a social network of PS gamers. This is punctuated by the consoles “share” ability wherein gamers can share clips of their gaming experience, complete with their own commentary, images of in game play or even images of themselves using the Playstation camera. The only real apps to speak of are Sony ones which gives the feeling that the omission of CD playing/ripping, DNLA and even video streaming through the browser is aimed at funnelling users toward services like Sony’s Music Unlimited. Smells like Apple. That said, recent announcements have indicated that certain features of the PS3 such as CD and DNLA may make an appearance in an upcoming firmware update. Fingers crossed.

Upon popping in a game you’ll face only a minimal install time before you can jump on in and play. Load times are minimal and the graphics are notably better than what you’d expect from PS3, of course. On the whole, textures are better, lighting and motion are brilliant and the draw distance is exceptional. There are moments in Killzone, moments without the gunfire, when you look out over the cityscape and think “damn, I can’t wait for Mass Effect 4”. The gaming is very pretty, of course, but it’s the small details such as being able to jump in and jump out of a game without quitting. Want to start downloading a movie mid-game? Press the PS button to jump out to the main interface, do your business, then jump back in and continue shooting up Helghast or buckling swashes etc.

The Playstation app, available on Apple devices and Android, is a handy little tool which allows for the use of second screens and even the use of mobile devices to enter text into text fields, saving you from the arduous task of typing with the Dualshock4. Although unable to be tested by yours truly, rumour has it that the PS Vita and Sony devices including the Xperia tab are able to be used as a second screen for PS4 games, albeit at a lower resolution. 

Fact of the matter is that this is a next gen machine and it kicks all sorts of arses. The omission of certain multimedia elements is a little bit of a let down but fact of the matter is that this is a gaming machine, the best on the market at that. As long as you can set aside your expectations for an all-in-one entertainment machine, you’re all but guaranteed a fantastic gaming experience with the PS4. The gameplay is smooth, fluid and downright sexy. If games on launch look this good, imagine 2,3 or even four years down the track! One thing is certain, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be a PS #Player. On paper the Xbox One has more features but less power, like a Toyota Camry, however the PS4 is a Bugatti Veyron, light on features but an absolute ball tearing beast. 

- Ryan


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