As someone who adopted the PS4 on release day, it is now coming up to two months since it was launched in Europe. I have therefore had more than enough time to explore SONY’s next generation offering in full and pass judgement on its successes and failures. Certainly, the launch of the console has been a commercial success: on 7th January Sony released figures showing that 4.2 million PS4 consoles had been sold worldwide up to 28th December 2013. This certainly seems to have beaten the sales figures of the XBOX One, which considering the mixed press surrounding it leading up to its launch, should still be considered a success for Microsoft.
With Sony’s long and successful history in attractive consumer electronics, it should be to nobody’s surprise that the PS4 is sleek looking, with an angular style and matte black plastic contrasting well with a slightly shinier plastic. The look is simple but modern and the number of buttons is minimal, with only small power and disc eject buttons found along the front face. There are two USB ports found on the front which are also well hidden and useful for charging controllers.
The controller of the PS4 has also been given a revamp over the DualShock 3 of the PS3. The imaginatively named DualShock 4 has taken some of the successes of the XBOX 360 controller, in particular the grips and the placing of the triggers and has been given a SONY touch. This is a much more comfortable controller than the DS3 and is certainly a huge improvement. The controller does not only sport newly designed triggers and analogue sticks; it also makes use of a touch-pad. This could be considered a gimmick but at present it is hard to tell how it is going to be integrated into games, given the current limited selection. However, ‘Assassin’s Creed IV’ makes good use of it for navigating the map, and ‘Killzone Shadow Fall’ also uses it for controlling the OWL in the game. The controller has a lightbar on the back, which is only really useful if you own the PS4 camera. The DualShock 4 also has a useful inbuilt speaker and microphone jack, as well as a share button for uploading screenshots and videos of gameplay to Facebook and other services. However, all of these new features have the unfortunate impact of a decreased battery life; charges tend to last only about 3-4 hours at most which is slightly annoying if you are in the middle of a long gaming session.
The User Interface of the PS4 is a striking contrast to that of the PS3. Accessibility has clearly been the main focus with the square tile style adopted by Windows 8 being used primarily to make it easier to navigate games and maps. This makes the home screen of the PS4 much more aesthetically pleasing than the PS3 and more like a central hub rather than the XMB which felt quite boring in its predecessor. The XMB does sort of make a return but this is just a side-show on the PS4 and is primarily used for navigating settings and lesser used home-screen items.
Whilst it would be a lie to say that the launch line-up of the PS4 was extensive, there is still plenty there to satisfy most gamers. Killzone Shadow Fall is probably the most popular console exclusive and certainly is the most beautiful game available. Other games I have played include Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and FIFA 14. These are all good ports of last gen games but I suspect they do not stretch the limits of the console as much as Killzone and the like. For those that are subscribed to Playstation Plus (now essential for online gaming), free games given out so far in the Instant Game Collection include the outstanding arcade-style game Resogun, as well as Contrast and Don’t Starve. With the horror game Outlast coming in February to subscribers, it is clear that SONY are focussed on giving away a varied and wide selection of games. Over the next year, expect the games available for the console to increase exponentially, with Infamous: Second Son, Thief and Driveclub all likely releasing in the next few months. SONY has also built remote play into the architecture of the system; anyone with a Playstation Vita is able to play PS4 games through the handheld console. This works well most of the time with a stable internet connection and is definitely a welcome addition to the PS4’s inventory.
Currently, the selection of apps available for the PS4 in Europe is somewhat limited. BBC iPlayer is a welcome addition, as are Netflix and LoveFilm. 4oD is not yet available, nor is NOW TV or ITV Player. Like with the game selection however, the number of apps is also likely to increase over the next year. For now there is more than enough present to keep most people occupied.
With the launch of the PS4, SONY has achieved an extremely smooth transition to next-gen. Whilst it is unlikely that this console cycle will be anywhere near the 6-8 years seen with the XBOX 360 and the PS3, for now the PS4, and its competitor the XBOX One, is here to stay.