PlayStation 4 review: Updated for 2018

Posted: 7 March 2018 3:37 pm News

Over the course of nearly a quarter-of-a-century, Sony has become an important figure in the landscape of gaming, but is it the right machine for you?

Over the course of nearly a quarter-of-a-century, Sony has become an important figure in the landscape of gaming. Heck, since the late Nineties the phrase “playing PlayStation” has become an interchangeable term that mums and mainstream-media-types will use to describe the act of consuming what they know to be the odd video games hobby.

Though Sony entered the industry relatively late in the piece – during gaming's fifth generation (we're now into the eighth) – the popularity of the PlayStation brand has been steadily built into a major market cornerstone. Today, Sony is synonymous with quality and innovation. Also, “the best place to play”, if you're to believe their current slogan.

Is it really though? The answer depends upon the needs of you, the individual. At present, the PlayStation 4 is Sony's main offering. It's a sleek, powerful piece of hardware which, while being outgunned by the sheer horsepower of a tricked-out gaming PC, can still deliver impressive gaming experiences at an affordable price. For consumers who were burned the last generation, it's worth noting that the PS4 has avoided the failings of its predecessor, the PS3. That particular console was an exorbitantly expensive and troubled beast, hamstrung by unorthodox innards which made it difficult to develop for. The flow on from that: inferior versions of early multi-platform titles, a loss of once-exclusive game franchises, and a market lead handed over to Microsoft's Xbox 360. For diehard Sony fans, these were dark times.

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PlayStation 4 sales comparison

There is an upside to the cautionary tale that was the PS3 console: some very hard lessons were learned. Essentially, Sony's hardware boffins went back to the drawing board, soliciting advice from a wide range of game-making software partners and players – basically, the company stopped telling its customers what they wanted and started listening. As fate would have it, this “For The Players” design philosophy (and marketing slogan) was deployed at the best time possible

When the not-yet-unreleased Xbox One and PS4 weighed in at E3 2013, Microsoft put out a sales pitch that was poison to its fanbase, and for a variety of reasons. The XO would be $100 more expensive than the PS4. There was an undue focus on the system's media playing capabilities. Having the console check-in to the Internet once every 24 hours was a requirement. And, worst of all, users would not be allowed to share /loan/trade-in their game discs, thanks to a confusing DRM policy. With the PS4, Sony simply avoided all of the above, came in cheaper and is now outselling its competitor by a 2:1 ratio

The PlayStation 4 has a commanding lead at the time of writing, but the battlefield has changed. Though the console has since been enhanced with the release of the PS4 Pro model – a SKU that offers better performance, larger storage and the ability to deliver 4K gaming with HDR technology – Microsoft has gone to extreme lengths to return fire.

In an industry first, a 'half-generation' has now begun with the Xbox One X, a console that offers significant hardware and performance improvements over the Xbox One system that was released in 2013. At the time of writing its true capabilities are still being discovered, though a rough visual parity exists. That said, while the PS4 Pro achieves its highest-grade visuals via some impressive mathematical checker-boarding trickery, the XOX offers true 4K. The graphical differences are apt to be more pronounced as time goes on.

The PS4's next closest competitor is the handheld/TV-using hybrid that is the Nintendo Switch. It arrived late on the scene in March 2017 but experienced phenomenal first-year sales. Part of this success can be attributed to a series of incredibly strong AAA first-party releases, and a dedicated, borderline cultish fanbase. Also, being a handheld with no serious rival (Sony's PS Vita is all but dead and buried) means the Switch has the dedicated on-the-go-console niche all to itself. It's not a serious threat right now...but this snowball is rapidly gaining pace.

PlayStation 4 upsides

Why should you hitch your wagon to Sony and buy a PlayStation 4? The reasons are many, friend. Whether you're after HD or Ultra HD gaming, you have affordable options here in the form of the PS4/PS4Slim and the PS4 Pro respectively. Sure, there's a decent leap in price between those offerings, but if you have the requisite 4K television to leverage the full PS4 Pro experience the jump in resolution is something to behold.

This is especially true if you're feeding your PS4 Pro with Sony's exclusive line-up of incredible, first-party-produced titles. Over the course of three generations, Sony's World Studios has managed to find and secure some of the most talented directors and design houses in all of gaming. Guerrilla Games, Media Molecule, Santa Monica Studios, Polyphony Digital and Sucker Punch Productions are all jewels in the crown. However, Sony's ace in the hole is undoubtedly Naughty Dog, creators of the Crash Bandicoot mascot and also purveyors of mature-themed perfection. Their only equal, in terms of quality and consistency, would be GTA custodians Rockstar North.

You should also seek out PlayStation 4 if you're after cutting-edge technology. All versions of PS4 are a gateway to virtual reality, thanks to the PlayStation VR peripheral. Sony took a speculative chance on this new medium in October of 2016, and punters have embraced it enthusiastically – by the start of 2018, 2 million units had been sold. Having reasonably-priced, easy-to-setup hardware are pluses over the PC-based VR competitors, but what about the games? PSVR already has 100+ games available for it – some of which are the best VR games going – and at the start of 2018 Sony touted 130 more on the way.

Other PS4 positives include a seamless shopping experience with the intuitive and constantly updated PlayStation Store. It's brimming with thousands of full-priced AAA games, discounted older titles, moderately-priced indie diversions, and all of the aforementioned can pop up as monthly “freebies”, providing you're using the paid PlayStation Plus subscription service (which is required for online multiplayer). Better yet, there's an app section in the store that'll turn your PS4 into quite the streaming media centre thanks to the inclusion of Netflix, YouTube, Stan, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Go, Crackle, Crunchyroll and many, many more.

PlayStation 4 downsides

PlayStation 4 is a formidable beast, but it's not all sunshines and rainbows in the Sony camp. For starters, backwards compatibility is lacking compared to previous generations. The PS2 and PS3 (in more a limited capacity) allowed collectors and bargain hunters alike to retain and play their older game discs on the system. While this is a major feature of the Xbox One, Sony has taken a more tight-fisted approach by only allowing PS4 discs and Blu-ray moves to be run through the PS4's drive. Anybody after a nostalgia hit from the PS2 era will need to pay and download for the privilege. Said price of admission is quite divorced from Ebay reality and the 50 title range on offer is anorexic (the PS2 had a library of 1,850 games).

Enthusiasm must also be curbed when looking at the PS4's VR capabilities. Yes, PSVR is consumer-grade VR tech that's low-cost and user-friendly and, but these things come at a price. To get the absolute best out of the medium you'll need to buy a number of extras including the PlayStation Camera and either two PlayStation Move controllers, or the Aim Controller peripheral, both of which offer 1:1 control that's well beyond your bundled-in DualShock 4 controller. It should also be mentioned that there's a noticeable degree of blur-factor that haunts PSVR's visuals. Don't let any multi-platform screenshots of a VR game fool you – the resolution and field-of-view of PSVR is inferior to that of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Speaking of disappointing resolutions, the PS4 Pro model doesn't deliver bonafide 4K Ultra HD. First of all, the disc drive doesn't support the 4K Blu-ray format. Second of all, the unit achieves its 4K visuals via a bit of impressive trickery. Technically the consumer 4K standard is 2160p, a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, however, more often than not a game on PS4 Pro will render at the lower 1440p (2,560 x 1,440) resolution and then a checker-boarding technique will upscale it (read: stretch) to 4K. Honestly, you'd need a pretty sharp eye to spot the difference. But it's a difference worth noting for the truly anal retentive.

PlayStation 4 exclusive games

Having a firm lead in the market comes with benefits – third-party publishers are more likely to offer you a degree of exclusivity that's not seen on competing consoles. PlayStation 4 does quite well in this regard. For example: some of the largest AAA shooter franchises currently offer timed content that will release on their PS4 version many months before any other platform. Historically, we've seen this occur in franchises like Star Wars Battlefront. Call of Duty and the Destiny series. More often than not, if you want to have day-one access to the latest maps, guns and downloadable content packs, PS4 is the place to be.

This publisher favouritism frequently extends to whole games being PS4-specific, too, or you'll see a sort of “console exclusivity” where a title will only appear on PS4 plus there'll be a PC version for desktop players. In addition to this, Sony has also cultivated a number of first-party studios who have the full support of the platform-holder and direct access to the boffins who created the hardware in the first place. Needless to say, the games produced by these developers tend to be the most impressive. You can see here that they more or less dominate our best of lists.

PlayStation 4 games on the horizon

The short history of the PlayStation 4 has been filled with successes, but the best is yet to come. We maintain a number of lists which track every single upcoming ps4 game that's been announced, plus we review the latest and greatest as they appear on store shelves. Looking forward (from the start of 2018 onwards) the PlayStation 4 looks like it will continue to evolve in terms of hardware, and the forecast says we're in for some killer games as well.

Hardware-wise, some interesting patents have surfaced which suggest that a major overhaul of PlayStation VR is in the works. Or, at the very least, the means to control oneself in VR is being substantially upgraded from the modest Move controller apparatus (which, technically, is a hold-over device from 2010 and the PS3 era). Removing that old tech weaknesses from the package to deliver true 1:1 control in a 3D space will take PS VR to the next level. Here's hoping these updated controllers will be sensibly priced.

In terms of software, we're gazing lustily at a number of not-too-distant games.Providing it can steer clear of the glitches that plagued its predecessor, Red Dead Redemption 2 has the potential to be mind-blowing. We've also got high hopes for the co-op-centric A Way Out, the Destiny-esque Anthem, Dreams, Detroit: Become Human, God of War and many, many more.

PSVR Review

PlayStation 4 hidden gems on

Though there are plenty of amazing games out there fighting for the spotlight, the PS4 is also home to a number of unique experiences that don't fall under the banner of AAA. For starters, there are a number of standalone expansion titles – companion pieces to AAA games – that seem to fly under most people's radar. Infamous First Light is a moderately-priced couple of hours of superhero fun worth tracking down. Other memorable standalone spin-offs include Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, The Last of Us: Left Behind and Killzone: Shadowfall Intercept.

The PlayStation Store is also host to a number of quality freemium games that are well worth your time (and a few bucks to get ahead that little bit quicker). World of Tanks and Warframe offer exceptionally fun multiplayer battles, and the former is adding single-player content into the mix via updates. Fortnite is also a solid choice if you want to sample some Battle Royale fights in the style pf Player Unknown's Battlegrounds.

Anybody looking to be surprised should never underestimate indie games, either. Nowadays your average AAA game developer will stick rigidly to what they know will work and sell to the masses best – smaller developers are where some of the wildest and weirdest game mechanics tend to sprout, plus you tend to see more personal stories as well. I'd recommend you start your indie journey with Night In The Woods, What Remains of Edith Finch and Pyre. They are acquired tastes, to be sure, but well worth a shot.

PlayStation 4 evolution since launch

Since its launch in November of 2013, the PS4 has been steadily evolving. In late 2016 we saw the PlayStation 4 Slim launch – a variation that offered 40% smaller form factor (though it did also remove the optical audio port). In the same year we also saw consumer-grade virtual reality come to the system in the for of PlayStation VR. This peripheral was at its best when plugged into the PlayStation 4 Pro, a 2016 hardware revamp that boasted an upgraded GPU and HDR/4K support for players who own the requisite high-end television.

The state of PlayStation Network

When compared to Xbox Live on the 360, Sony had a slow start in the last generation. Services were slow to load and the shopping experience was clunky and unintuitive. Lessons were learned and the PlayStation Store environment on PS4 is much better integrated into the system. In addition to an impressive array of downloadable TV, music and movie options, PSN is jam-packed with AAA titles, moderately-priced indie oddities, and remastered titles from yesteryear.

The shop can be browsed freely but online player-versus-player gaming will require the purchase of a PlayStation Plus account. 14-day free trials are available, or you can lock into one, three or twelve month subscriptions. There are definite benefits to signing up for longer, too – PS+ members receive monthly discounts on certain titles, are provided with two free games a month (Sony picks them), and you get access to cloud save storage.

Regular PSN users may find that the pricing of AAA games are a little on the high side. Even though you're not getting the tangible benefits of a physical copy, Sony sticks pretty close to the RRP you'd pay in a brick and mortar store. Honestly, nine times out of ten you'd be better off going the latter route.

It should also be noted that Sony isn't above hiking up the PlayStation subscription prices with little explanation as to why. In August of 2017 the monthly sub went from $9.95AUD to $10.95AUD. Quarterly went from $27.95AUD to $33.95AUD and annually went from $69.95UAD to $79.95AUD. Not huge increments, but they were felt by fans.

Additional costs would have been acceptable had the service been improved significantly. As it stands right now, the internet is peppered with all kinds of anecdotal complaints and observations of the PlayStation 4's inconsistent download behavior.

PlayStation 4 2018 verdict

As it stands, PlayStation 4 could not have a stronger foothold in the eighth generation of console gaming. It's competitively priced, is a forward-thinking machine that's delving into exciting new frontiers, and Sony as a platform-holder has a large and loyal fanbase, not to mention strong ties with third-party publishers.

That's not to say that the race is won. Console generations typically last longer than a decade, and Microsoft has changed the rules considerably with its do-over Xbox One X. Thanks to this “half-generation” release, Sony has been put in an interesting position – how long can the comparatively minor hardware upgrades of PS4 Pro keep a parity with the X? Only time will tell.

Likewise the increasing threat of the Nintendo Switch cannot be ignored. Though underpowered, third-party publishers (Bethesda in particular) have been delivering some impressive ports of Xbox One and PS4 titles. Nintendo is also quite adept of running their own race, with unique concepts and peripherals giving their systems the edge over raw graphical power. PSVR is a great start but PlayStation 4 will need to continue to innovate.

There's also the potential for Sony to lose out on nostalgia sales. PS4 doesn't embrace backwards compatibility; Xbox One bends over backwards to let its user get access to the best of the sixth and seventh generation libraries of games (which number in the thousands). There are so many PS2 and PS3 classics waiting to be played. Most of them were multi-platform, though, which means Microsoft is in a position to capitalise first.

PlayStation 4 price in 2018

Get a discounted 1TB PS4

Get a discounted 1TB PS4 from Amazon AU

This new look PlayStation 4 comes with 1TB of storage and free delivery.

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— PS4 standalone deals —

PS4 bundle deals

Retailer Package Shipping Shipping Estimate Price (in-store) Total Price (delivered)
Amazon 500GB PS4 Slim + Uncharted 4: A Thief's End $39.03 9-12 business days Online-only $373.41
Amazon 500GB PS4 Slim + Call of Duty Legacy Bundle $39.63 9-12 business days Online-only $405.99
Target 1TB PS4 Slim + Uncharted 4: A Thief's End $0.00 3-10 business days $459.00 $459.00
EB Games 1TB PS4 Slim + Watch Dogs 1 & 2 $8.70 6 business days $469.00 $477.70
JB Hi-Fi 1TB PS4 Slim + Horizon: Zero Dawn + Universal Media Remote $14.59 5 business days $469.00 $483.59
The Gamesmen 1TB PS4 Slim + Watch Dogs 1 & 2 $15.02 4 business days $469.00 $484.02
EB Games 1TB PS4 Slim + Call of Duty Legacy Bundle $8.70 6 business days $479.00 $487.70
EB Games 1TB PS4 Slim + Horizon: Zero Dawn $8.70 6 business days $499.00 $507.70
JB Hi-Fi 1TB PS4 Pro + Prey + Horizon: Zero Dawn + Fallout 4 + Universal Media Remote $17.97 5 business days $539.00 $556.97
The Gamesmen 1TB PS4 Pro + Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare $16.49 4 business days $559.95 $576.44
$559.95 Go 4K with PlayStation 4 Pro

$559.95 Go 4K with PlayStation 4 Pro from Sony

PlayStation 4 Pro comes with 1TB of storage and a wireless controller.

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$509.95: PlayStation 4 Slim

$509.95: PlayStation 4 Slim from Sony

The same PS4 you know and love, but smaller. Comes with 1TB of storage and a Dualshock 4 Wireless controller.

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