Top critical review
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Generally fun, but there's no need to rush out and get one.
on 28 January 2014
After owning the console for a couple of months my impressions are generally positive, but it's yet to 'blow' me away with what I would consider a 'next gen' experience. The bottom line is that I'm sure great things are to come, but they're still a little while off.
My advice would be to hold out on buying this console, at least until some better games are released or the price has dropped - as at the moment you're really not missing out on much!
Compared to the juggernaut Xbox 360 (which I previously owned and loved), the PS4 is small, discrete and most pleasingly quiet! As seems to be the standard with modern consoles, it can be positioned horizontally or vertically. The only niggle about the design is the angled front and back of the machine, which may make it awkward for positioning in tight spaces.
Moving from the Xbox 360 gamepad to the PS4's was a bit of a challenge and took about a week or so to get accustomed to. I still think the Xbox 360 gamepad is superior, but the redesigned PS4 gamepad is a great step up from its previous iteration. What I love the most about the PS4 gamepad is the inclusion of the headphone port. It's just one of those small design details that makes a big difference. I often prefer playing games on headphones and therefore having to continually plug headphones in and out of a TV is a bit of a nuisance. There doesn't seem to be any degradation in the sound quality either when streaming from the gamepad.
However it's let down slightly by the battery life, you'll probably get around 6-8 hours on a standard charge (via standard mini usb cable). The touchpad is an interesting addition but is under utilised in applications and current games. To be honest I don't have much desire to use the 'Share' button, but I'm sure offers will enjoy this. The 'options' button is a bit awkwardly positioned, making it difficult to press quickly or accurately.
The operating system and homescreen are slick and fast, presented with a soothing blue wash of colour and ambient music (I like this, but it'll probably annoy people). However the organisation of the homescreen could do with some improvements, settings and options are often hidden away in less than intuitive places. The ability to seamlessly jump in and out of games via the Playstation button on the gamepad is convenient, but I'd prefer the ability to quickly jump from one game into another - this isn't possible as applications must be closed before starting another.
Having to install games, even after purchasing it on a disc is frustrating and something I believe the console experience should eliminate. Those who prefer to purchase their games on a disc seem to be at a disadvantage, as you must still insert the disc when playing a game, whereas those who download can simply browse titles and launch through the homescreen. No doubt this is to encourage a shift to digital distribution.
Playing DVD's and Blu Rays is hassle free as would be expected. At launch the console supports, Netflix, Love Film and iPlayer (amongst others). However it's still missing apps for 4oD and iTVPlayer.
In regards to the social features, you can can watch live video streams broadcast from other people's cameras (sold sep) or watch others play games live - not something I'm particularly interested to be honest.
The initial setup was a little frustrating, requiring a number of registration steps (pretty irritating inputting details on a gamepad) followed by gigabytes of system and game updates. Don't be fooled into thinking you'll be up and playing right away, it'll take you the best part of an hour (that's with a fast internet connection) to get things up and running. *Unlike the PS3, you'll have to subscribe to Playstation Plus in order to access the multiplayer elements of your games - a year's subscription will set you back around £40! I don't appreciate having to pay additional fees to play games I've already paid for - but the Playstation Plus does offer some nice discounts and 'free' access to games (which have been pretty good so far) - so this does soften the blow.*
Overall I was pretty underwhelmed by the offering of games at launch and this is why I've rated the console with three stars. Some people may disagree with this, but as an early adopter this has significantly tainted my experience of the console. I remember when I first got my PS2 or my Xbox 360 - there were those classic 'wow' moments where I first experience what the console could offer. However I've not really experienced that with the PS4.
I purchased the system with Battlefield 4 and later purchased COD: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed 4 and Killzone: Shadow Fall.
Overall the launch offering of games is nothing short but dire. BF4 and COD do not provide the graphical jump in performance that I was expecting from a next generation console, looking at best like slightly tarted up versions of the previous gen iterations. The single player on both of these games is very poor, predictable and offers nothing new to the stagnating FPS genre. COD has become nothing more than a shooting gallery and BF4 has some of the worst writing I've ever experienced in a single player game.
Multiplayer is slightly more fun, but doesn't live up to the hype generated, particularly by BF4 and the mammoth PR machine it deployed. They'll keep you amused, but those who've played these sorts of games for years will probably tire quickly, overall these games feel like uninspired franchise rehashes rushed out to meet the release of the consoles (no doubt the reasons behind the countless BF4 glitches and COD framerate issues).
Initially Killzone does provide some hope, it looks absolutely beautiful and if you want something to show off the capability of the console then have a look at this game. It comes close to achieving that 'wow' factor but just falls short. It has a strong opening but unfortunately is unable to maintain this throughout the game. I'd say the single player is slightly more interesting than the previously mentioned games, but the multiplayer offers nothing new.
Assassin's Creed 4 is perhaps the only game (out of the 4 mentioned) that has any depth to it. I'm still playing the single player and getting lots of fun out of it. This was my first AC experience, so I can't comment on what it's like compared to previous versions, but it has a lot to offer in terms of side missions and challenges. At times the game looks stunning, but overall I wouldn't say I was blown away by what I was seeing on screen. Some of the dialogue and audio can sound a bit dodgy as well.
The surprise performer here is actually a game called Resogun (free download on PSN) - it's a very addictive, but simple side scrolling shooter with some crazy and stunning particle effects. It is a LOT of fun and well worth checking out.
Yes, the PS4 holds lots of promise, recent announcements such as Playstation Now (allowing you to stream a back catalogue of classic games) suggest great things are to come - they're just not here yet! if you're sitting on the fence about whether to take the plunge, I'd say that there's no harm in waiting. The price is only going to fall and as of yet there are no games that really justify the move to this console. Don't be pulled in by the hype, although the PS4 is a lovely console, it just hasn't done anything interesting yet!
Compact, pleasing design and quiet
Controller - especially the provision of a headphone port
Being able to instantly jump in and out of games
What is coming in the future
Poor range of games at launch
Not convinced it offers a 'next gen' experience yet
Installing updates and games is a pain
Homescreen and settings could be better organised.
*EDIT* -10/02/14 - I confused PSN with Playstation Plus - this has been corrected.