PlayStation 4 review: A media centre fit for the gaming purist

by Gaetano 'Xbot' Prestia 22 Comments 17 Likes 7,595 Views 28/11/2013 Back to PS4 articles PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 represents the sophisticated rebirth of the PlayStation name.

Ditching the all-powerful mantra that defined — and condemned — its predecessor in the PS3, the PS4 is now focused on the importance of developer accessibility in an effort to once again put PlayStation back on top.

In its early days it paints a picture of stability and sleekness, with a distinctive focus on games first and everything else second. But has this "for the players" philosophy translated to a must-have piece of technology?

At first glance it's hard to not have faith in the PS4: it's a gorgeous piece of machinery, embracing a futuristic yet familiar design that makes the PS3's backyard BBQ look especially uninspiring in comparison.

Sony's certainly no pushover in the design stakes. It's nailed the look of the PSP and PS Vita in recent years, and the PS3 redesigns in the years after its initial 2006 release have slimmed the console down to something a little more befitting of the minimalistic living room design of the contemporary gamer.

The PS4 continues Sony's hotstreak.

It is a gorgeous piece of technology. Next to Microsoft's monstrosity of a VHS player, the PS4 is the clear standout. Its slightly angled design gives it a distinctive personality unlike any console we've seen before.

It's also clean: its HDMI/optimal ports — yes, the console's digital only — are tucked neatly away in the console's back, while the power, eject and USB ports camouflage into the console's neat black finish.

Surprisingly, the compact design — well, comparatively to Xbox One and even the launch PS3 — packs an internal power brick, which helps keep the TV area clean and neat without a massive power brick lying about. That's a huge plus for me. You can also use your PS3 power cord.

Its matte-gloss finish looks great, complimented by the console's attractive compact design. It looks great either lying down or on its side on a stand.

Quiet, refined and unique, the PlayStation 4 is Sony's finest design yet.

The DualShock 4 is a real treat to hold. I won't go as far to say that I'm a full convert from the Xbox One controller to the PS4's, but it's easily Sony's best controller yet.

Everything I hated about the PS3's controller has been rectified with the DualShock 4. The thumbstick groves are clean and comfortable, while the back triggers feel more responsive.

The front-facing light is essentially an aesthetic touch, signifying the player number registered with the console. You can assign colours to different virtual ports, which should make it easier to differentiate between friends during local gaming sessions.

The new Share and Options buttons are a nice touch, but their placement is one of the controller's biggest missteps. When I found myself wanting to share a clip, picture or broadcast, I often clicked the touch-pad because my thumb couldn't reach over to the share button without looking or feeling for it. It's in stark contrast to the habit of knowing where the "start" and "select" buttons were on older controllers.

When you do find these buttons, though, they work well. The share button functions perfectly in all games tested — first and third-party — and the setup with the controller is easy and fast.

The touchpad is also a nice touch, but its functionality is hit and miss. It works really well in Killzone: Shadow Fall, although some third-party games seem to struggle with latency and accuracy in incorporating it into their games. It always seems to be the first-party that nails features like these — Nintendo and motion-control, for example — and so far only Sony games appear to use the great feature as well as it can be used.

Overall, the DualShock 4 is a massive improvement on its predecessor, subtly introducing "next gen" features like media sharing and intuitive touchpad controls.

Does any one game justify paying the price of admission for a PS4 at launch? No. But that's a given with any launch console, right?

Killzone: Shadow Fall looks really, really nice, but its campaign is a mess, confused by its social commentary and poor level design that unfortuantely can't be saved by its standard, but still fun, multiplayer.

Knack is a surprisingly difficult but shallow platformer, and this reviewer recommends it for young and old alike, just don't expect anything particularly award-winning. It has potential but it never lives up to it.

Resogun, free for PlayStation Plus members, is undoubtedly the best first-party game in the lineup. It's a brutal and satisfying arcade shooter, blending refined side-scrolling gameplay with stunning visuals and a banging soundtrack.

Third-party games like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 all look better on PS4 then they do their previous-gen counterparts, but don't expect anything new.

NBA 2K14 is probably one of the best third-party experiences, but people not into basketball may not find much to enjoy about it beyond its outstanding presentation.

All in all it's not a terrible lineup by any means, but games like Killzone and Knack say far too little, leaving the third-party games — which many of us have already played — to take the reigns as the must-have PS4 launch games.

One last point: the Trophy system — which for the most part works exactly as it did on PS3 — has a "rarity" trophy now, too, which is really cool.

The PlayStation 4's user interface shares plenty in common with the PS3's xcrossmediabar (XMB) UI. It's an evolution of a nice but far from perfect system that never truly evolved into the operating system it so often teases it wants to be.

It's nice, though, and it works well. With the PS4 we get a far more image-based UI, one that expands on what the PS3's OS was able to achieve with added flexibility, a smoother presentation, and what appears to be a faster navigation speed.

Profile navigation has been improved with an easier and cleaner login system, which ties in nicely with app and game navigation, as well as a subtle game-to-dashboard feature which, like the Xbox One, keeps games active while you look around the console's other features. It's nice to be able to keep a game active in the background on hiatus while you do something else.

It's not perfect, though. Sometimes it can be a real mess. The Notifications and Friends menus aren't as front-and-centre as one might expect them to be, and they lack coherence in their muddled bundling of friend requests, private messages and download queues. It's no deal breaker, but it seems the PS3's same fallacies of long menu lists and sub-options have been carried over to the PS4.

With the PS4 we still have a nice UI, though, and no operating system is perfect. But the biggest problem in this case is that the social element of its gaming focus seems to take a backseat to ... well, whatever else is front-and-center on the dashboard. Alternatively, it's just been unknowingly relegated to the bowels of hidden menus and sub-menus, a design flaw that also plagued the PS3. It lacks the friend and party focus the Xbox 360 and Xbox One excel at, despite its obvious addition of social media functionality, with Facebook, Twitch and Ustream implementation.

How do these work? Quite well, actually, so long as you can keep on top of where they all are within the menu. Perhaps I've been spoiled for too long with the Xbox 360. But moving in and out of streaming options, log-in menus and other user features is smooth and intuitive, so at least everything we could possibly need is there.

PlayStation Network

Finally, Sony has introduced party chat for up to eight players. No longer will we be burdened with "your momma" jokes in the Call of Duty lobby. It's just one of a few improvements to the PSN that help give the PS4 the edge over its predecessor.

There's a distinctive focus on the console's friend-heavy multiplayer push. The "What's New" feature on the main home dashboard fills you in on your friends' activity, but it could certainly do with a bit of a cleanup. It has the same messy design as other parts of the UI, but this doesn't blind us from the potential: the PS4 wants you stay up to date with what your friends are doing, and more time with the feature is certainly something I'll benefit from.

The PS4's sharing options are fantastic: from system-wide Facebook integration — something Microsoft certainly missed the boat on — to Ustream and Twitch, the social butterfly is certainly covered in this regard. With a 2000-friend limit, the ability to share to specific Facebook groups, and fast, accessible sharing options, Sony has done a wonderful job to help expand the PlayStation — and gamer — brand to other networks away from the console.

The PlayStation Store still offers unrivalled digital offerings with decent pricing — although AU$100 for third-party games is a travesty — but it still struggles from the same design problems that have plagued the PS3 PS Store since its inception. It has a far more image-based design but it still has major discoverable problems, and sometimes it feels like a real chore shifting through the stuff.

Still, the store is fantastic for what it offers, and whether you're after a new game, TV show, movie or music, it has everything you could need.

The PlayStation 4's subtle evolution of the PSN, as with other parts of the console, demonstrate Sony's commitment to an extensive digital offering for gamers. They may need to work out a few design kinks, but there's enough here to justify the price of admission on its own accord.

Remote Play

The PlayStation Vita, for all its retail struggles, is a great piece of hardware. It's just a shame that it will probably never really live up to its potential.

Sony's wise to expand its second-screen offerings to mobiles and tablets, because obviously the install base just isn't there for Vita.

But if you are one of the few people that own one, Remote Play is a cool feature, and while it's not perfect, here's hoping it's improved and supported down the line.

This reviewer tried Remote Play with Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack from the first-party lineup, and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag from Ubisoft. It's a neat feature that works really well at times, although I frequently lost connection with my router simply for going into the next room. If developers can perfect the control limitations, Remote Play has potential. However, at launch, it's not something I think many people will be rushing to.

I'm confused by Sony's intentions with Vita, however. The OS, while nice, is significantly different to what we see on the PS4. If they're supposed to work so closely together, having two distinctively opposing OS' seems strange, but Sony may look to address this in future. I imagine it would make the experience easier.

All in all I hope Remote Play is something that is experimented with further, and with PS4-Vita bundles planned for the near future, that may very well be Sony's intention.

The PlayStation 4 is more than a gaming console. Sony can hit home its gaming focus as much as it wants, but the reality is that with as limited a launch lineup as it has, selling it purely on the quality of its games now is a far stretch. If you look at the whole package, the PS4 is hard to skip: its stunning design, improved functionality, fantastic controller and extensive digital offering make it a media centre fit for the gaming purist.

Vote for this article Log in with Facebook

PlayStation 4 review: A media centre fit for the gaming purist Comments

  • Huddo 29691 XP 28/11/2013
    when will game reviews start?
  • Tano 336303 XP 28/11/2013

    @Huddo said: when will game reviews start?



    Killzone and Knack hopefully by the end of today :)
  • Leave your comment Log in with Facebook
  • Huddo 29691 XP 28/11/2013

    @Tano said:

    @Huddo said: when will game reviews start?


    Killzone and Knack hopefully by the end of today


    cool they are the ones im interested in
  • mish_kebab 2 XP 28/11/2013
    I'm sorry; but which part of this review clarified its media centre offerings?
  • Foetoid 14505 XP 28/11/2013
    I'll likely do with the Ps4 what i did with the Ps3, get it when the next Playstation is nearly out. That way its a huge bargain with a spectacular and cheap back-catalog.
  • PlayStation 52116 XP 28/11/2013 +1
    Best home console ever produced?
    I think so! *_*
  • Harry 77517 XP 28/11/2013

    @PlayStation said: Best home console ever produced?
    I think so!


    SNES says hello.
  • Gryllis 340354 XP 28/11/2013

    @PlayStation said: Best home console ever produced?
    I think so!



    Premature call by about 7 years :P

    I really like the direction of the PS4 compared to the PS3 during its early days - I want a gaming console above all else. My other needs are already sorted.
  • Tano 336303 XP 28/11/2013

    @PlayStation said: Best home console ever produced?
    I think so!



    At this stage probably :P
  • 1wiierdguy 8226 XP 28/11/2013

    @Tano said:

    @PlayStation said: Best home console ever produced?
    I think so!


    At this stage probably


    Nope, a console can only be judged by its games. At this stage the PS4 couldn't even be considered a decent console.
  • Tano 336303 XP 29/11/2013

    @1wiierdguy said:

    @PlayStation said: Best home console ever produced?
    I think so!


    At this stage probably


    Nope, a console can only be judged by its games. At this stage the PS4 couldn't even be considered a decent console.



    Well if we're talking about the hardware, I think you could say it's up there.

    The value of a console depends on the quality of its games, but as the PS4 stands on its own it's a very impressive piece of hardware. I am certainly not saying it's the best console ever: just that it's one of the finest ever built.

  • SlappyWag 3719 XP 29/11/2013
    I'm glad I bought an Xbox One now because of the PS4 launch games. I have always had playstations and took a chance with the new Xbox. Will definitely pick up a PS4 down the track when they come down in price and have some decent games out.
  • Tano 336303 XP 29/11/2013

    @SlappyWag said: I'm glad I bought an Xbox One now because of the PS4 launch games. I have always had playstations and took a chance with the new Xbox. Will definitely pick up a PS4 down the track when they come down in price and have some decent games out.



    I think both will be worth the price of admission further down the line :)
  • djrussell 9052 XP 29/11/2013
    Ive been playing mine today. Love the console and its features... so far pretty disappointed with Killzone: Shadow Fall to be honest. At this stage its a 6/10.
  • PlayStation 52116 XP 29/11/2013 +1
    2 weeks in and I still give it 10 outta 10.
  • zurczner 7938 XP 29/11/2013
    Which console is the better one at launch then :D
  • Gryllis 340354 XP 02/12/2013
    I really like the UI after a few days - preferred over the Xbox One.

    Although there's definitely some cooling issues as a trade off for the internal power supply/smaller case.

    Fan was having a massive crisis in the, albeit not well ventilated, entertainment unit space that the PS3/360 have both been in. I cut out a massive hole behind it, essentially making the cord hole way bigger, and it helped a bit and now has pretty decent airflow, but the fans are still louder than the PS3/360 and the One is basically silent on the shelf beneath it.

    It's usable now though. The sound of the game overpowers it - before it was almost unplayably loud.
  • chucky110 35978 XP 03/12/2013

    <a class="userauto" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" href="http://mmgn.com/users/PlayStation ">@PlayStation </a> said: Best home console ever produced?
    I think so!


    Um no, I also disagree about the control. Xbox one is preferred here
  • roadrunner 411 XP 03/12/2013
    Cant wait to get my hands on both the next gen consoles, got to wait a year or two. Need to save up the money and wait for the companies to work out all the launch bugs and problems new systems always have. ANYONE ELSE DOING THE SAME?
  • djrussell 9052 XP 10/12/2013

    @Gryllis said: I really like the UI after a few days - preferred over the Xbox One.
    Although there's definitely some cooling issues as a trade off for the internal power supply/smaller case.
    Fan was having a massive crisis in the, albeit not well ventilated, entertainment unit space that the PS3/360 have both been in. I cut out a massive hole behind it, essentially making the cord hole way bigger, and it helped a bit and now has pretty decent airflow, but the fans are still louder than the PS3/360 and the One is basically silent on the shelf beneath it.
    It's usable now though. The sound of the game overpowers it - before it was almost unplayably loud.


    Yeah but thats not really the consoles fault; that's your fault.

    Mine has plenty of room around it for airflow and even after a 6 hour session the other day of AC4 it was still pretty quiet.
  • PlayStation 52116 XP 15/12/2013
    No cooling issues with mine either.
  • Razorgirl 3 XP 23/03/2014

    @mish_kebab said: I'm sorry; but which part of this review clarified its media centre offerings?



    None of it, because a PS4 doesn't have Media Centre functionality. I can't even play a CD that I own on it, and DVDs look HORRID when played through the PS4. :(
Leave your comment Log in with Facebook