Does Sony’s new box have what it takes to win the next phase of the console wars? Here’s our verdict. So I picked up a PlayStation 4 review on release date (you know if you write about this stuff for a living you can take it off your taxes, right?) and spent the last few days putting the system through its paces to give you an honest, unbiased take on what it does right and what it does wrong. Let’s get right to it.
The form factor. This is a strong, classy console that does away with a bunch of vestigal features that aren’t needed anymore (analog A/V outputs) and external power supplies. It’s a slim, self-contained unit that will fit perfectly in your home entertainment center without drawing undue attention to itself.
The controller. The single biggest improvement in user experience from the PS3 to the PS4 is the new DualShock 4 controller. This is by far the best input mechanism Sony has ever made, full stop. The thumbsticks feel better, the shoulder triggers have great responsiveness, and even the onboard motion controls are more precise. The built-in touchscreen isn’t terrifically responsive, but as developers learn its quirks I’m sure it’ll be more and more useful.
The price. The biggest factor working against the PS3 at launch was its obscenely high sticker price. Sony learned from that and decided to go the other way this time around, with the PS4 hitting shelves at $399. Considering that the console is reported to cost $381 to build, they’re obviously willing to take a bath on hardware to ensure a wider user base.
The games. I know, it’s idiotic to expect a strong lineup of titles at a system’s launch, but the PS4 has probably the least exciting roster of launch titles ever. The new Killzone: Shadow Fall is perfectly competent, but in many ways it’s just more of the same. Knack is a dull platformer that, minus its cool particle effects, could have been done just fine on the PS3 – or, hell, even the PSP! Almost everything else is last-generation ports, which aren’t how you want to sell a system. The one bright spot is downloadable title Resogun, which is definitely worth a play.
The menus. User interface for consoles is a tricky task, but Sony really flubs it with the launch operating system. Settings and preferences are hidden in nested submenus, games you’ve downloaded are put in a single long horizontal line with no way to sort or search them, and the “What’s New” feed when you sign into PSN is literally impossible to make heads or tails of.
The sharing. One of the most hyped features of the PS4 was the ability to natively capture and share video from your games in real time. Well, it works, but that’s about the best thing I can say about it. The resolution is kind of lousy and it’s just not that much fun to use.
Should you buy a PS4? If you do, you’re buying on potential, not what’s there now. There’s not much on the system you won’t get on a last-generation console or a really good gaming PC. When the Xbox One releases, we’ll see if it has what it takes to compete.