Everything you need to know about PlayStation 4

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Sony’s PlayStation 4 is currently the most popular console of this generation, but is it the right machine for you?

What is the PlayStation 4?

As its name suggests, the PlayStation 4 is the fourth video game console released by Sony, although it is the sixth Playstation format in total if you also consider the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita handheld devices.

The PlayStation 4 released on November 29, 2013, and superseded the PlayStation 3 (2006), PlayStation 2 (2000) and PlayStation (1994). The PS4 is part of the eighth generation of game consoles, directly competing against Microsoft’s Xbox One and Nintendo’s Wii U.

In September 2016, Sony announced at its PlayStation Meeting the new PlayStation 4 (unofficially dubbed PS4 Slim) and PlayStation 4 Pro.

Latest PlayStation headlines

Unlike the PlayStation 3, the PS4 is built using a system architecture that has more in common with the PC and rival console the Xbox One. With the PS3, Sony relied on heavily modified hardware driven by the powerful, but unwieldy Cell Processor that developers found challenging to work with. As a result, multiformat games on PS3 began getting a reputation as being inferior to the versions appearing on the Xbox 360. With the PlayStation 4 this is no longer the case and while it is a relatively small difference, the console remains the most powerful on the market.

The PlayStation 4 does not require an internet connection to be used, but it does provide a robust online service called the PlayStation Network, and an online marketplace called the PlayStation Store, which is updated multiple times a week with new games to buy.

Music, TV, movies, internet services and more can be used on the PlayStation 4, and it can also play Blu-rays and DVDs. The PlayStation 4 has more games in total, and significantly more indies and exclusives, than any other console. In 2016, the introduction of PlayStation VR is set to expand the catalogue of game experiences that are available significantly.

Who Are the PlayStation 4’s Competitors?

The PlayStation 4 is directly competing against the Xbox One and Nintendo Wii U for a place in gamers’ lounge-rooms, and to a lesser extent the PC.

Sony’s console sits neatly between its two rivals, thanks to its diverse line-up of games. It offers the mature adult content that is also available on the Xbox One, but also provides a significant number of family-friendly experiences that could appeal to those who would naturally gravitate towards the Nintendo Wii U. While many of the games on the PS4 do ultimately appear on the PC as well, the "office" nature of a desktop and a delayed release schedule, often by months sees them not really battling for the same market share.

It should be noted that Sony is a Japanese company, unlike the American’s based Microsoft, and there are some interesting cultural quirks between the systems. Most notably, if you are new to the console space having previously used Windows-based PCs, the customisable dashboard – the name for the menu state you exist in when not consuming media – won’t be instantly familiar. While getting comfortable with the Japanese approach can take a little while, the console itself benefits greatly from Japanese precision design. Smaller, lighter, sleeker and with no annoying power brick dangling off the back, the PS4 purrs like a happy cat under your TV screen.

What Types of Games Are on the PlayStation 4?

Unlike Microsoft and Nintendo, Sony has a large stable of first-party developers working on a host of new and established game series. These offer the full spectrum of experiences, from fantastic family affairs (LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet & Clank, SingStar, Tearaway), to kids-only gems (WonderBook, Invizimals), mature blockbusters (Uncharted, Killzone, God of War, Infamous), racing titles (Gran Turismo, DriveClub, MotorStorm) and niche experiments (Until Dawn, Beyond: Two Souls, The Last Guardian).

Sony has also secured strong support for the PlayStation 4 from the indie scene, with significantly more developers opting to bring their downloadable titles to the console over rival formats. They also release their own games into this space. In 2016, the arrival of virtual reality in the form of PlayStation VR will add another dimension to the games library, and the company also recently announced a rollout for Backwards Compatibility, starting with PS2-era games.

In the USA and the UK, you can also stream some PS3 video games to the PS4 using the PlayStation Now service. Unfortunately, this has yet to roll out in Australia.

Finally, there is the impact of its Japanese heritage. With such large traction in its native country, where the Xbox traditionally struggles to sell, the PlayStation 4 has become the console of choice for a number of developers working on niche genres such as anime-inspired role-playing games. As a result, the console picks up more third-party exclusives than its counterparts.

What Are the Unique Features of the PlayStation 4?

In an effort to maximise the revenue streams of third-party developers by lowing the cost barrier of making a game, the differences between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One aren’t that dramatic. However, there are some notable ways in which they deviate that could help you decide between the two.

  • The redeveloped DualShock 4 controller features a new play option that helps separate it from other game playing devices. There is a touchpad between the sticks, which can be used almost like a mouse controller on a laptop to help you navigate in games, or use items in more realistic ways.
  • The DualShock 4 controller has an accelerometer and gyroscope built-in, allowing it to be used for motion-controlled gaming, as well as updated rumble support.
  •  A light bar on the front of the DualShock 4 not only plays a role in motion tracking when used in front of the PlayStation Camera, but can also change colours to represent moments during the gameplay. For example, it may turn red when you are low on health.
  • The PlayStation 4 connects to the PlayStation Vita in two interesting ways.-  Cross-Buy allows you to purchase a game on one device, and play it on both. Cross-Play can allow you to join in and compete in multiplayer games against players that are playing the same title on a PlayStation Vita.
  • Remote Play allows you to stream a game experience from a PS4 to a PlayStation Vita or select Sony Mobile smartphones so that you can continue playing when the TV is off. While not unique to the PS4, it’s worth noting that an official app is currently in production that will allow PlayStation 4 games to be streamed to the PC. There is already an unofficial app that allows you to do this. The DualShock 4 controller can already connect to and be used on a PC.
  • Share Play is an incredibly interesting feature that allows you to connect with other gamers online, watch them as they play on their machine and then – if offered the opportunity – actually take control remotely and play. You don’t need to own the game either, so you could potentially play an entire game through someone else’s PS4 without ever leaving your home.
  • Sony also makes TVs and audio equipment such as home theatre devices and sound bars. While it’s not a huge benefit, we’ve definitely noticed an improvement in the playing experience when pairing the PlayStation with Sony-based hardware.
  • The arrival of PlayStation VR in 2016 will be a game changer for the console and a feature not provided by its competitors at this stage. We’ve used PlayStation VR, and it’s quite brilliant.
  • There are a number of communities you can join on the PlayStation Network, allowing you to easily find other likeminded players.
  • The PlayStation 4 Pro boasts native 4K support and "super-sampling and advanced anti-aliasing", which creates better reflections and brighter colours and smooth jagged edges on older televisions.

What Are the Best PlayStation 4 Exclusive Game Series?

Here are some of the biggest brands to appear only on PlayStation;

PS4 Exclusives
Buzz!The GetawayTwisted Metal
God of WarRatchet & ClankWarhawk
Gran TurismoUnchartedWonderbook
Heavy RainThe Last of UsInvizimals
Sly CooperJak & DaxterEverybody’s Golf
Time CrisisMotorStormKnack
ModNation RacersInfamousDriveClub
ResistanceThe Last GuardianGravity Rush
Horizon: Zero DawnShadow of the ColossusDreams

What is the ideal gaming set-up for a PlayStation 4?

The PlayStation is a high-end game playing machine and developers do all they can to maximise its technology. This means that if you don’t have a Full HD or 4K TV, and full 7.1 surround sound support (be it through a headset or home theatre system) then you are not getting the full experience. In fact, the PlayStation 4 does not even have an output option for older analogue cables that are used on older TVs. However, if you're opting for the latest PlayStation 4 Pro, which sports native 4K output, you may want to consider investing in a 4K television to make the most of the new console.

While there is no specific benefit to using Sony branded televisions or home theatre set-ups, we have noticed a performance increase when pairing the PlayStation with Sony products, especially as firmware updates are generally better aligned.

Online gaming is also a large part of the PlayStation gaming experience and it requires a low ping to work effectively and depending on how you plan to use the PlayStation Network, a fast speed. For example, if you plan to do lots of Twitch streaming and buy a lot of large games, you definitely want a fast connection. A good sized data cap is also recommended as most downloads nowadays come in the multiple gigabytes, with full-sized games, should you purchase them through the PlayStation Store weighing in at upwards of 40GB.

The PlayStation 4 does feature a number of offline multiplayer experiences, so you may wish to consider getting one (or more) extra controllers so friends and family can play at the same time. This is especially true if you are into sports or fighting games. The internal hard drive size of the base PlayStation 4 is only 500GB, too, and most gamers find that they run out of space within a year. It can be replaced with a standard 2.5” laptop hard-drive, but the most recent model now offers 1TB of space and if given the choice, is well worth considering.

The PlayStation Camera (previously called PlayStation Eye) does work with the PlayStation 4, but isn’t as embedded into the moment-to-moment operation as Microsoft Kinect. We advise only picking it up if it adds meaningfully to a game through voice commands or motion-based play that you really want to purchase. Or because the idea of logging on to the console using face recognition excites you.

It goes without saying that a comfortable couch will pay for itself in no time during long gaming sessions.

PlayStation 4 Buyer’s Guide

There are now 3 versions of the PlayStation 4. Here's how to know which version you should buy.

Classic PlayStation 4

The PS4 comes in two main flavours; the original 500GB model, and the newer 1TB model. Outside of storage space, there’s not too much else to split the two versions. Technically the 1TB model is slightly lighter and uses slightly less energy, and the finish is matte. Both versions also now come in black and white models, although there are a host of sponsored models that take on colour-schemes relating to specific games such as Call of Duty, Destiny and Skylanders.

As always, when buying a video game console, look not to the official stores and outlets as your only source of buying a machine. Retailers actively compete against each other to offer the best bundles, where they will throw in extra games, online subscriptions, controllers and even upgraded hard-drive space to try and lure your business. Take a look through the options in the side menu to find the deal that suits you.

While there's still stock on shelves, the classic PS4 will be selling notably cheaper that its Slim replacement.

Its worth noting that the classic PlayStation 4 will eventually be completely replaces by the PS4 Slim.

PlayStation 4 Slim

The PlayStation 4 Slim is set to replace the classic console on store shelves. While the PlayStation 4 Slim is 25% lighter than the classic console, not much else has changed in terms of specs. There are a few cosmetic changes, like distancing the two USB ports, the removal of an optical audio port and a new matte finish, as well as a new DualShock 4 controller bundles and a simplified way to remove your hard drive. Other than that, the internal hardware is no different from what the classic offers.

The PlayStation 4 Slim is priced at $439.00 for 500GB and $509.00 for 1TB.

A limited edition PlayStation 4 Slim with a Final Fantasy XV skin has also been announced.

Read our full breakdown of the PlayStation 4 Slim's specs for more information.

PlayStation 4 Pro

Those looking for a serious hardware upgrade may want to opt for the PlayStation 4 Pro. As well as native 4K support, the PS4 Pro features an upgraded x86-64 "Jaguar" AMD CPU and a 4.2 teraflop GPU, and "super-sampling and advanced anti-aliasing", which Sony claims help the PS4 Pro create better reflections and brighter colours and smooth jagged edges even at 1080p.

The PlayStation 4 Pro comes with 1TB of internal memory standard at retails at $559.00 in Australia.

Read our full breakdown of the PlayStation 4 Pro's specs for more information.


Is the PlayStation 4 suitable for kids?

We’d be happy to recommend the PlayStation 4 to parents looking to get a good console for the family, especially if your children are just approaching their teenage years. While younger children may be best serviced by the Nintendo Wii U, the large range of titles on offer on the PS4 and the multitude of demographics that are catered for make it a great fit for the growing family. The PlayStation 4 is future-proof in that respect, as your child will still find enjoyable experiences to play in a number of years from now when they have matured.

It also doesn’t hurt that there is a massive amount of downloadable indie games on offer, which cost far less than traditional boxed games from brick and mortar retailers.

Apps on PlayStation 4

Foxtel PlayYesYes
Qello ConcertsYesYes
SBS On DemandYesYes
WWE NetworkYesYes
Yahoo Plus7YesYes
PlayStation VideoYesNo
PlayStation MusicYesNo
ABC iViewYesYes
SpotifyYes (via PlayStation Music)Yes

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