The next generation of gaming is finally upon us as the PlayStation 4 has officially launched with the Xbox One not too far behind (November 22nd). The hype started back in February when Sony first revealed what the PS4 would look like along with talking about some of its capabilities and showing of a few launch games. XXL was fortunate enough to come across one of the coveted consoles at Sony’s PlayStation Review event this past Tuesday and has the 411.
Let’s get the technical stuff out the way first and talk about the PS4’s horsepower. The PS4 system is capable of 10x the processing power of the PS3 system. The system features an optimized design featuring a unified 8GB of high-speed GDDR5 RAM, an eight core X86 CPU, and a souped up graphics processor. Generally speaking, the PS4 system will enable game developers to build larger, more detailed worlds than they could with the PS3 system. More realistic lighting models, more complex physics and particle effects, more varied and realistic character animations, sharper environment and object textures, higher screen resolutions (up to 1080p), higher frame rates (up to 60 frames per second), larger multiplayer matches and more will be possible thanks to the PS4 system’s next-generation hardware. The PS4 system’s graphics processing unit (GPU) contains a unified array of 18 Compute Units, which collectively generate 1.84 teraflops of processing power that can freely be applied to graphics, simulation tasks, or a mixture of the two. You got all of that? Just in case you didn’t to put it layman terms, Sony cooked up one powerful console. Sony’s machine measures approximately 275 mm (width) × 53 mm (height) × 305 mm (length), excluding the largest projection. Its weight is approximately 6.1 pounds. The PS4 has DMI OUT, DIGITAL OUT (OPTICAL AUDIO), Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, and an auxiliary connector reserved for the PlayStation Camera. The PS4 system also features integrated 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi for wireless internet connectivity and Bluetooth 2.1 for DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller connectivity. The design of the console is sleek and bold, and the pulsing blue light that indicates it’s powered on is a nice touch. It’s slim, sleek and jet black, roughly the size of a second generation PlayStation 3. It comes in a surprisingly small box and is lighter, thinner and quieter than the original 2006 PS3.
There is much to like about the console’s new, improved controller due to its upgraded SIXAXIS motion sensor making it noticeably more responsive compared to DUALSHOCK 3 wireless controller in supported titles. For developers that choose to support it, DS4 features a glowing lightbar on the front of the controller making it an immersive and versatile addition. To give you an example of its potential in games such as Killzone Shadow Fall, the light bar can help communicate status information to the player, changing colors when health runs low. In other games, the light bar’s color can reflect the game’s narrative, and much more. Also, when used in connection with the PlayStation Camera, the game can detect and track the position of the controller. Another dope touch is DS4’s capacitive touch pad supports drag and drop, flicking, and multi-touch input. The touch pad is also clickable. Developers will choose how these features are used, if at all. In the example of Killzone, the touchpad is used to assign different commands to the player’s OWL drone in the single-player campaign. Sony didn’t stop there and added an integrated speaker to the DS4 that inventive game developers would be wise to utilize to add to the immersion for players more fully in the game world. About the only gripe I had with the DS4’s design was the face buttons for the “share” and “options” were too flush to the controller. I found myself taking my attention away from what I was playing to look down at the controller to find where to press these buttons. Small gripe aside, Sony gets props for designing a sexy controller that fits in the hand perfectly. A word to the wise, treat your controllers like gold because additional ones will cost you $60 bucks a pop.
UI (USER INTERFACE)
The PS4′s system’s GUI is called PlayStation Dynamic Menu. Sony developed the new GUI based on key development ideas so that the system integrates all your internet socializing giving you immediate access to what everybody’s doing in your virtual universe. The interface basically consists of two horizontal rows, the top filled with icons for various functionalities like friends, trophies, and settings, and a thumbnail lower row that is populated by recent activities like the last game you’ve played, shared game DVR clips, downloaded titles, web access, other media, and more. If you find all this accessibility a bit too intrusive for your liking, there are options available in the settings to turn off whatever sharing you won’t want to do. The sharing functions are very exciting but at the time of this review it was impossible to determine if the sharing crumbles under heavy bandwidth usage and if the social feeds will become too cluttered. It will take some time before we see how well this system holds up with thousands online. Signing up on the PSN for the first time will require a 323MB day 1 download that will unlock most of the console’s connected features. You don’t need to update in order to play games, but it’s highly recommended for everything else the PS4 can do.
The PS4’s camera is a peripheral that isn’t included with your console purchase. While still not on the level of the Xbox’s Kinect, Sony has made some small strides to make the camera credible. It has been newly developed for the PS4 and incorporates two highly sensitive cameras that can recognize the depth of space. In addition, users will be able to login to their PS4 system with face recognition and are capable of using their own body movements or voices to enjoy enabled games more intuitively. The camera is also capable of sensing the color of the controller’s light bar to judge the positions of multiple players sitting in the same room. PlayStation Camera is also compatible with the PlayStation Move motion controller, reflecting player’s in-game movements more accurately than ever in PS4 titles that support it. Time will tell if it’s worth the extra $60 dollars to spring for it.
PlayStation Plus, is the premium membership for PlayStation home and handheld consoles, delivering unlimited access to a regularly refreshed collection of full games, discounts, exclusive beta access, online storage for game saves, and anything else Sony can think to thrown in to make it attractive. One big change Sony made: The Plus membership is now needed for PS4 online multiplayer gaming making it hard to avoid not buying it if you have plans for online gaming against friends. If you already purchased Playstation Plus on your PS3 system, it carries over to the PS4.
THE XXL ENDGAME
So do all of the bells and whistles justify a day one cop? It basically depends on preference but there are some caution flags you’d be wise to pay attention to. First Triple-A titles are lacking making the selection of titles available at launch very sparse. This means the PS4 won’t come close to matching its predecessor’s gaming library for years. Also PS3 games aren’t compatible so you will want to hold on to your older system. Sony has hinted that its Gaikai game-streaming service will open the door to retro gaming in 2014 but if and when that happens you’ll most likely be switching back and forth between consoles if you buy a PS4 anytime soon. With the PlayStation 4, Sony is giving us a very clear indication of where the company wants to take gaming, with its focus on streaming, social networking, and sharing. There’s no denying it seems like it’ll be a hell of a console and I have enjoyed my time with it so far, but it’s mostly potential offering a bunch of new tools in need of developers to take advantage of them. The verdict is out on if greatness awaits as Sony claims.—written by DJRhude (@DJRhude)
XXL rating: XL
This review was based on a PlayStation review unit provided by SCEA