The PS4 is a win for hardcore gamers, but is lacking the multimedia capabilities and innovation of its arch-rival.
The fight for console supremacy is in full swing.
There are now three current-gen consoles vying for your hard earned cash and each seems to be slightly skewed to different users.
While Microsoft has gone all out when it comes to making the Xbox One an end-all solution for all of your media needs and Nintendo has made innovations in the realm of double displays, Sony’s black box is aimed squarely at the gamer who wants performance.
What you’ll get with the PS4 is only a few shades away from a PC. It runs an AMD Central Processing Unit (CPU) with an embedded Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), just like the Xbox One does.
The CPU is actually two quad-core CPUs based on AMD’s Jaguar architecture, which makes for eight cores and the GPU is similar to the Radeon 7870 found in PCs and some laptops.
It’s got 1152 shaders and is clocked to 800Mhz and it’s larger than the GPU Microsoft have opted for. On paper it’s said to be 50% more powerful than the Xbox One (source: ExtremeTech) and the use of 8GB of GDDR5 RAM means that it has plenty of ultra-fast memory to go hand-in-hand with this.
The PS4’s internals (image credit: ExtremeTech)
To complete the checklist of features, the PS4 comes with 500GB of storage space via a mechanical hard drive. Sony even went on the record to state that not only is it removable, meaning larger hard drives and SSDs can be installed, but in doing so won’t void the warranty.
In reality, our experience of launch-title Knack, quandaries about the gameplay and story aside, was visually fluid, crisp and smooth.
As game developers get more experience and let their hair down with the system, this should mean even better visuals.
And it seems Sony’s latest black box is all about visuals and the user experience when it comes to playing the most popular games. Unlike the Wii U and Xbox One, which both include cameras of some description out of the box, the PS4 doesn’t come standard with the Playstation Camera.
Instead, Sony seems to have invested more into the DualShock 4 controller and the experience it offers.
The PS4 got most of the details in this department right by designing the most attractive piece of plastic. It doesn’t take many major stylistic chances like the Xbox One, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the Japanese console maker.
It’s angular and split in half and much smaller than the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and the PS3.
It has the gloss-black, matte-black mixture of tones and textures, without the ugly bulkiness and vents of the Xbox One. It also hides the power brick internally, which is a welcomed move.
It’s also quieter, so it looks set to become a great addition to any bedroom or living room.
Meet the DualShock 4
It’s a positive leap away from anything they’ve made before. The controller is slightly larger, has a great weight to it and includes some features which will benefit many gamers. There’s now a headphone jack, touch screen which can be used like a trackpad and triggers on the controller shoulders rather than stubs found on the DualShock 3. There are redesigned analog sticks, which now have an edge around each stick for better grip and improved Sixaxis gyroscopes and accelerometers.
There’s also a mono speaker built into the controller and an LED light which identifies different players. The other notable feature is the Share button, which as you can imagine allows you to share videos, screenshots and live streams with your friends.
The last generation of consoles saw PS3 gamers able to grin when Xbox 360 owners complained of having to pay to play online.
PS4 owners can’t claim the same—Sony has made the Playstation Plus subscription service mandatory if you want to play online.
It does come with some benefits and is cheaper than the Xbox Live Gold service. If you’re a subscriber you’ll get access to free games each month as part of the ‘Instant Game Collection’.
When we looked at the time of writing the entertaining Resogun was on offer and in the PS3 stables the superb XCOM: Enemy Unknown and GRID 2 were some of the titles on offer, so we have high hopes for the PS4 part of the service as more titles are released.
You’ll also get discounts on games and some DLCs, cloud storage and early access to some demos and betas.
User interface and media capabilities
Somewhat similar to the Xbox One, the PS4 allows you to instantly drop into the system menu while you’re in a game, meaning the days of quitting a game to tweak a setting is gone. You can also switch between games and apps instantly using the Playstation button on your controller.
Games and apps are presented in a horizontal line, which isn’t as easy to navigate as the Windows 8 tiles used by Xbox One.
Sony has taken a few steps forward and a few back when it comes to the non-gaming aspects of their system. The PS4, unlike the PS3, can’t act as a DLNA media server, meaning you can no longer stream movies and music from your PC onto your PS4. It also can’t play a humble CD, nor can it play MP3s (although Sony has stated that an update will address this) or even MPEGs.
In greener pastures overseas, the PS4 is released with Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, NBA Game Time and NHL GameCenter Live to name a few. Even the Xbox One gives Australian users Quickflix, Machinima, SBS On Demand and few more.
The PS4 has a tiny selection of apps, including the IGN app and Sony’s Vidzone, Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited apps. Quickflix will make an appearance shortly, but apart from that it’s all tumbleweeds and wind.
Sony hasn’t marketed their camera accessory as being integral to the overall gaming experience and this is reflected in the fact that it doesn’t ship out with every console as the Kinect 2.0 does.
Sadly it feels like an afterthought when compared to the strides Xbox has made with the Kinect.
It’ll login using your face, but can only detect you in situations which are well lit, which is unlike the Kinect and it’s all-seeing sensors.
Voice commands can be used on it—as they can be through the included headset—but there aren’t any truly useful or engaging uses for it yet.
Hopefully new games and applications remedy this, but we’re not holding our breath.
The PS4 is marketed more at those who enjoy playing a game rather than using their system for different kinds of media (although you can watch DVDs or Blu-rays), so it’s disappointing to see the exclusives lineup at launch.
So far we’ve seen Resogun, Killzone: ShadowFall and Knack.
Knack is a platformer which uses size as a gameplay mechanic. Unfortunately this mechanic isn’t explored to its full potential and the combat is dull and repetitive. The graphics on the other hand are amazing.
Both Gamespot and IGN levelled these criticisms and more at the game, giving it a 4/10 and 5.9/10 respectively.
The next installment of first person shooter Killzone follows the Helghans after their home planet is destroyed by the Vektans. It takes place on Vekta, where a wall has been constructed to keep the Vektans and the remaining Helghans, who have been relocated there, apart from each other.
Reviews praise the game’s visuals, story and multiplayer, but put the AI and some single player gaming aspects as its drawbacks.
IGN said the game was good with a score of 8/10, while Gamespot gave it a 7/10.
The Xbox One has a slightly stronger line-up, with the great Forza 5 giving early adopters a great racing game to get to know their system with.
The greater times will be had with cross platform games and the exclusives slated for next year and beyond.
In the latter category gamers will have Infamous: Second Son, The Order 1886, Shadow of the Beast and the delayed DriveClub.
Infamous: Second Son
If you look at any of the preview videos for Infamous: Second Son, you’ll see how beautiful it is. This is probably the best example of what this system can do so far. It also has a range of new gameplay additions and has an interesting story set seven years after the story of Infamous 2.
Sony’s exclusive racing title was delayed out of the gates, but will offer social racing, amazing visuals and an impressive car list.
The real fun is going to be had on the multi-platform titles, like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty Ghosts, NBA 2K14, Metal Gear Solid V and The Elder Scrolls: Online.
In comparison to the Xbox One, the PS4 has a slight edge over it in terms of price. We say a slight edge because the difference in Australia is $50 and if you’re going to buy the Playstation Camera you’ll need to add another $90 to it anyway, bringing the total cost to somewhere around the $610 vicinity.
If you don’t want a camera (we don’t recommend it as a necessity), then you’ll get away with a system which is cheaper than the Xbox One.
If you’re going to be playing online then you’ll need a Playstation Plus subscription, which comes with an annual price tag of $69.95, which is $10 cheaper than the Xbox Live Gold service.
If you’re going to buy a gaming system predominantly to play traditional games—you know with controllers, not cameras—you’ll find minimal faults with the PS4. It has the beefiest internals of any out of the current crop and we think it’ll be the console of choice for the more intensive multi-platform games being released.
In saying that, the games currently available aren’t worth any mad rush to go out and buy, so unless you have to, we recommend waiting until 2014 is upon us.