Sony PS4 review
The Sony PS4 games console is here to wage war with Xbox One for next-gen supremacy. Is this the future of gaming?
Launched in New York back in February, the PS4 hits the US on 15 November 2013, with the UK having to wait till 29 November to get its game on. But T3’s been following it all year, demoing its games for months and have had a retail unit for a few days, with access to the US networks, so we’ve been putting it through its paces…
Sony PS4: Size and build
Looking like a suitably futuristic if unassuming black monoltih, with all vents and most ports hidden round back, the matte/gloss aesthetic is divided by a glowing power line that glows blue at boot up before giving way to a more living room-friendly white.
The connections at the back are now all digital, with an aux port for the optional PlayStation Camera, Ethernet for wired online connections, an HDMI port to hook up to the telly and Optical Audio out, too.
Up front there are two discrete USB 3.0 ports to charge the wireless controllers, beneath the on/off and eject buttons that sit either side of the disc port (6 x Blu-ray, 8 x DVD). It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the latter syncing the controllers.
Despite the more power-packed eight-core Jaguar x86-64 processor and 1.84 TFLOPS AMD Radeon GPU, the console’s innards are noticeably much quieter than the current-gen machines. While we’re still not talking silent running, a very light hum when games boot up and get overly busy is about as active as it gets.
Sony PS4: Controller
The button configuration is, at first, as you’d expect – two analogue control sticks, a bumper and trigger button on each side, and four shape-marked action buttons on the front. The dual sticks mfeel stiffer compared to the PS3’s, which we’ve found can help accuracy, though it takes some acclimatising.
The triggers are now very trigger-like indeed, more flush than before, and their close placement to the shoulder buttons is a good design move that aids quick changes. The improved motor rumble andm added speaker, which throws out in-game orders if required, also give you more immersive, contextual feedback.
However, where there was once Select and Start, there are a raft of new options there place. The first, called, well, Options, is a surrogate pause button that also brings up contextual info when in the main interface and lets you delete items in the menu.
Share, on the other side of the pad, is the one-stop media shop that lets you put image stills or video of your game on to social networks, or even stream direct once you’ve set up an account.
A quick click of the button automatically takes a screenshot and saves the last 15 minutes of your gameplay to your hard drive (the PS4 has already been recording you, see?), and takes you to a sharing menu; a longer held click just takes an on-the-fly screen grab.
On Call of Duty Ghosts, an image was 250KB and a video 792MB locally, which you can then share out to Facebook or Twitter if you wish. Video sharing requires a Facebook log-in to function, for some reason, with no inbuilt YouTube sync as yet and no ability to port any of your footage out on to an external drive either. There’s also no editing suite at present, unlike the Xbox One’s excellent Upload Studio.
If you want to broadcast your efforts of gaming prowess on to the internet, you can choose either Twitch and Ustream, but you’ll need an account with them directly before you can activate and the PS4 just sends you off to their websites.
Neither of the new buttons is particularly elegantly placed or of a large enough size for quick, mid-game use – there’s still that unfamiliar fumble each time, leading to the odd eyes-off-screen death – but we suspect we’ll get used to them. Their multi-functionality makes them a real boon.
In the middle is the Touch Panel, a tactile interface based around the PS Vita’s rear input. It’s not textured at all, smooth to the fingertip, but is fairly responsive when navigating menus and can also act as surrogate buttons, with two click points like a mouse.
The ‘slide for weapon’ functionality has been tried in Killzone Shadow Fall, but it will be interesting to see how indies embrace touch and whether the trackpad-esque qualities will suit PC-centric strategy/adventure fare.
Below this and the speaker is the PS button, which acts like an iPad‘s Home button (as well as logging users on multiple controllers in and out) and the headset port (although the provided one-bud earpiece is a bit cheap and smartphoney).
Sixaxis remains inside, with you able to use the combined gyrometer and accelerometer to navigate on-screen keyboards more swiftly, while the light bar on the reverse acts like a mini PlayStation Move if you’re Camera’d up. This also signifies players by colour and flashes in some games when you’re hit – though since you can’t see it yourself, this is presumably only helpful to others.
Sony PS4: Features
Once into the new PS4 interface, you notice how quick and smooth the whole experience is, the most palpable effect of owning a new piece of gaming hardware after a six-year wait (and a not-yet-taxed 8GB of GDDR5 RAM). Going back to current gen after a few hours in its company is like trading broadband in for dial-up. Check out our PS4 UI run-through video.