PlayStation 4 Review: The path to greatness

Editor Review Scores

Kyle Prahl: 8.5

Sony’s PlayStation 4 is a marvel of communication and connectivity. With a user interface and computer hardware that will undoubtedly power hundreds of riveting interactive experiences in the years to come, there are only a few hangups in the PS4 experience. Among them are a pervasive lack of customization and a couple features that don’t quite meet the lofty standard of convenience set by Sony’s platform convergence and PS4’s general usability. But the future of the brand is bright. A marriage of technology, forward-thinking innovation, and an unrelenting focus on games and their culture; PlayStation 4 is one of the most exciting things to happen to the industry since the turn of the century.

Tim Nunes: 8.5

The enhancements to the PlayStation experience that Sony has put into PlayStation 4 far outweigh the underlying issues that the console itself has. The general ease of access, from applications to games, feels empowering, creating an expectation of nothing less from here on. Luckily, the biggest issues are ones that don’t feel permanent, such as the lack of organization on the main menu and the inability to customize certain options and layouts, alongside some buttons having awkward positioning. Though the latter cannot be changed, gamers don’t have to wait for greatness, and the PS4’s potential has only begun its marathon.

Ernest Lin: 8.0

Personally, I am not fond of reviewing consoles at launch because they often aren’t complete and contain an abundance of untapped potential. They are better defined by features that will arrive with later updates and, more importantly, their games. Nevertheless, I can’t help but give PlayStation 4 the benefit of the doubt. Sony’s latest is already a compelling beauty at its debut. PS4 is a sleek-looking console that’s agile and straightforward to use. There are only a few areas where PS4 stumbles slightly, like the user interface and certain button placements. The level of accommodation and connectedness available on the platform is unprecedented, with social features that tease your appetite to play. This is where you should experience the next evolution of gaming.

Average score: 8.33


8.5 out of 10


Kyle Prahl, Tim Nunes, Ernest Lin

The Hardware

The Console

What’s striking about the PlayStation 4 design is how difficult it is to draw comparisons between Sony’s angular box and any other electronics device on the market. Are there similar creations out there, somewhere? Probably, but in the moment, PS4 is occupying a space of visual uniqueness on retail shelves and in my entertainment center. The console, a three-dimensional parallelogram (or, parallelepiped) that measures about 11 inches wide, 12 inches long, and 2 inches tall when lying horizontally, looks cool, futuristic, and sensibly designed. When sitting next to a slim PS3 on the same shelf, it’s impressive how close the PS4 size and form factor is to its predecessor, weight notwithstanding. The front (or, top) face is adorned with a silver, subtle PlayStation logo atop a glossy finish that covers one-third of the face. The other two-thirds are matte black. The contrast between these two materials might not please everyone–all matte would have been aesthetically safe, while all-gloss would turn the console into even more of a fingerprint magnet. But I like the duality because it also represents the console’s construction, as the differently textured faces are separate pieces that can be removed for the replacement of a hard drive or deconstruction of the console.

You can choose to set your console vertically with a stand (sold separately), and I prefer showing off my PS4 in this fashion. Your box is safe, either way. Three rubber feet on the console’s bottom face mean no danger of scratches when sliding PS4 around horizontally, and the vertical stand securely attaches via three hooks, with intake vents for cooling, to boot. Even when running games, I’ve found my PS4 to be a quiet, cool machine. It heats at a noticeably slower rate than my PS3 Slim, and only releases audible noise during start-up loading off a game disc or after a few hours of consecutive play.

Meanwhile, setting the disc loading slot and USB ports inside a thin recess that runs around PS4’s perimeter smartly hides its obviousness as a game console. As box tech design becomes increasingly streamlined and minimal, Sony keeps with the trend and applies it to an electronics category not known for its subtlety. The disc drive and ports are still easy to access, but it might take bending down for closer inspection to insert games and cables smoothly. The inputs on the console’s backside are inset in a similar way, recessed in a grill-like plastic outcropping. It’s easy to access all of these inputs, from HDMI and Ethernet to optical, auxiliary, and A/C.

PlayStation Camera

Auxiliary is specifically designated for the PlayStation Camera, which is the most significant new peripheral for longtime PlayStation gamers. We’ve seen halfhearted attempts at a meaningful camera experience before, and the PlayStation Camera takes safe strides, not brave leaps, to revolutionizing the PlayStation user experience. In fact, the best reason to own a PS Camera–the reason I’m glad I do–is its Twitch functionality. Though features and customization are slim, you can insert video of yourself in the top-right corner of your gameplay broadcasts and use the camera’s microphone in lieu of a headset for game chat and commentary. It’s a great way to spur conversations with viewers, and the sound quality isn’t bad, either–Twitch viewers reported that my voice sounded about the same (a bit tinny, but perfectly audible) whether I was using the camera’s microphone or the wired mic that also comes packaged with PS4. There’s no automatic movement or angling of the camera, either, so you’ll have to get up and adjust it by hand if the zoomed image of your face isn’t to your liking.

Otherwise, you and other users can register your faces with the PS Camera for somewhat-automatic user login (the camera will detect your face and ask you to hold the DualShock 4 in a certain position), but it’s no faster than selecting the user profile with the DualShock D-pad. I can see the camera’s voice navigation being useful down the road, when dozens upon dozens of game and app tiles fill the Dynamic Menu’s horizontal stream, but right now, the commands are too limited and methodical to beat simply using the controller. Rather than saying "PlayStation, Start Killzone," it’s a three-part sequence: "PlayStation." "Killzone." "Start," with two or three-second pauses between each command as the console deduces what you’re saying.

DualShock 4

Unlike the PlayStation Camera, which, in its current functionality, will only hold much value for frequent streamers, the DualShock 4 is a wonderful device that has made an adoring fan out of me and, anecdotally, everyone who touches it. PlayStation veterans will notice the changes, almost all for the better, right away. The analog stick surfaces are now recessed; a ridge runs around the perimeter to prevent slipping, but the recessed surface is still convex like the rest of the DualShock line. The feeling of using the sticks is both comfortably familiar and refreshing, as other small touches, like smoother gliding and less "give" in pressing L3 and R3, improve on PlayStation’s traditional tactile experience. All four triggers have also received updates, with dramatic improvements given to L2 and R2. Out with the outward, in with the inward: L2 and R2 are concave, like gun triggers. From shooters to racing games, pressing L2 and R2 is so much more comfortable without the extra effort applied to keep your fingers from sliding off, a la DualShock 3.

Elsewhere on the controller, almost every change is for the better. The handles are slightly thicker and longer. Even though I have large hands, the change wasn’t immediately comfortable, as I had to slightly adjust the way I’ve been holding smaller PlayStation controllers for 15 years. But I immediately fell in love with better grip and reduced sweating, both coming from a lightly textured rubber surface that covers the bottom of the controller. Like the controller’s lightbar, the grip material is mostly hidden from the player’s view, so the attractive soft plastic of the controller’s face is preserved. The lightbar, however, serves little practical function of interest. The PS Camera can identify the light to determine who’s holding the controller, and different colors can indicate game states like player number, low health, and team, but I almost never look down at my controller when I’m playing, and the lightbar points away from the player anyway. There aren’t many, or any, interesting applications for the lightbar at launch, and I’m left wondering if the light contributes significantly to the DualShock 4’s reduced battery life: only eight or nine hours, versus the DualShock 3’s 30.

Thankfully, you can now charge controllers while the system is in a mostly-off "Standby Mode," which we’ll discuss later this week in our "Features" portion of the PlayStation 4 review.

The Start and Select buttons are gone, with Options and the touchpad often serving the same respective purposes. Options is a bit harder to instinctively reach than the Start button was, but it’s even more detrimental that it sits very close to the controller face and isn’t as easy to press as other buttons. The touchpad is almost the opposite: it’s an easy, impulsive reach for my right thumb, and its large size makes pressing anywhere in its area highly accessible. L1 and R1 are the same way. A bit "clickier" than before, the two triggers (now, more like bumpers) have increased surface area and a rounded shape, serving attractive design and usability in equal measure.

When I look at and hold DualShock 4, I’m left with the same impression of the console itself: thoughtful usability, sleek presentation, and sturdy construction. All of the PlayStation 4’s hardware components, regardless of how often they’re useful or needed, are aesthetically unified, well-designed, and serve the system’s greatest end: providing the best gaming experience. It’s an excellent package.

Timothy Nunes – Response

The PlayStation 4 has a shape that invokes a literal shift in tradition with its appealing and angular presentation. I can’t help but look at it and still enjoy what it visually does on the shelf beneath my TV. My glass TV stand might be to blame, but whenever my PS4 loads a game, the console vibrates with the intensity of a cell phone on a table; my roommate has his PS4 on a wooden shelf, and it doesn’t cause the same sound. Outside of that hypothetical issue, the only significant negative is how incredulously small the power and eject buttons are, which lay in the miniscule gaps that each layer of Sony’s technological cake has.

Which leads to the DualShock 4. I once believed that the DualShock 3 was comfortable, but the DualShock 4 extends the length of the controller by angling the handles outward ever so slightly, making hand positioning on the controller much less crinkled than on the DualShock 3. The joysticks themselves aren’t necessarily more responsive than those of their predecessor, but the ring that encompasses each convex joystick head allows for accuracy that the former PlayStation controller cannot match. Button clicks have more significance, too, but the actual pressing of the buttons takes no more effort than what PlayStation fans have grown to know. The Option and Share buttons are oddly placed at the top-front next to the touchpad, but the touchpad itself, with its easy access, makes for easier use than those clumsy buttons. So, their inconvenience only matters when a game needs pausing or a clip needs sharing. All in all, apart from the two odd button placements, the DualShock 4 is a gleam of success which shows that changing what works can have a significant, excellent impact.

Ernest Lin – Response

If PlayStation 4 is trying to restore Sony to the console glory that thePlayStation 2 brought, its physical design reflects the push with borrowed design elements from PS2s of the past. The matte finish was present both on the fat and slim models of the PS2, while the PS2 Slim featured a glossy strip as well. The sharp, angular shape of the PS4 is striking with its vertical display being reminiscent of the monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Meanwhile, the Jet Black color gives the console an element of mystery while blending in with the darkness to avoid distracting your eyes from where you should be looking at: the screen. Personally, I find the PS4 design majestic, though I share the same complaint as Tim regarding the system’s buttons. The power and eject buttons are slivers are often missed by my fingers when I reach out to them.

The DualShock 4 is the best controller Sony has ever made and the first one I sincerely like. The DualShock 3 always felt small in my hands, occasionally leading to uncomfortable aches or cramps. Let’s be honest; the DualShock controllers’ form factor really never changed before the fourth iteration. It’s finally received a size upgrade and the grip underwent a serious makeover that makes the DualShock 4 slip nicely into your hands. The semi-concave design of the thumbsticks and their new placement add to the improved usability, as well.

To finally have real triggers on a PlayStation controller is a revelation, and in the future, I look forward to the unique ways developers will use the touchpad. What’s there not to like? The Options and Share button share the somewhat problematic small size of the system’s power and eject buttons. Hopefully, Sony will allow the option to turn off the lightbar, as I’m sure it’s a drain on the battery and can cause glare on more reflective television screens.


The User Interface

As video game consoles have become more complex devices, taking upon a greater variety of options and non-gaming entertainment, they need a user interface that allows us to smoothly navigate through everything. No longer is it sufficient enough to let people pop in a game and power on to play. We come to expect a way to choose whether to start a game, message our friends, or play music or movies. To some, the design of the user interface is just as important as the physical appearance of a piece of technology. That’s why now, more than ever before, it’s important for the PlayStation 4 to have a usable and intuitive user interface. Has Sony created the perfect one? I wouldn’t say so, but it’s a solid start with visible room to grow.

PS4’s UI attempts simplicity as a priority, unlike the XrossMediaBar (XMB) used on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. The XMB was a maze to figure out at times, with the possibility of having an overwhelming number of objects and branching menu paths. On the PS4, the main place for your entertainment options, the Content area, is prominently displayed with large square icons on a horizontal line arranged by the most recently used. The exception is “What’s New,” which is always the first one on the line, allowing you to see a few recent activities of your PlayStation Network friends when selected. Press Down and you can scroll through this gamer newsfeed in an alternating, brick-like formation reminiscent of social media site Pinterest. Many other main objects will display additional information when having the cursor selected on them. A game may have news updates or advertisements for its downloadable content. TV & Video shows the miscellaneous streaming apps like Netflix or Crunchyroll below.

Moving down the Content area, whatever games you have played receives a tile along with a number of mandatory items: Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited, TV & Video, The Playroom, Live from PlayStation, Internet Browser, and Library. Therein lies a problem with the configuration–it limits customization that would otherwise allow you to cater the area to your taste. There will be many who never use Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited. The icon to select a video application you use more often, say Netflix, is stuck under the TV & Video icon. Will the main line of icons grow to an unwieldy number as you play more and more games? A place to put applications and games you no longer use to avoid clutter should be offered in the future.

Above Content icons is the Function area where you’ll find the PlayStation Store, Notifications, Friends, Messages, Party, Profile, Trophies, Settings, and Power. Like the Content area, when an item is hovered over but not fully clicked on, a brief preview or content will be displayed, except above the icon line instead of below. The PlayStation Store carries over the existing block style of the PS3’s store. Notifications is where you’ll find alerts, downloads, uploads, friend requests, and other invitations. Selecting Profile brings up your profile page as how your friends see it and allows you to edit it. The rest of the Function area is self-explanatory and should take even a casual gamer very little time to become accustomed to it.

Regardless of how pretty or intuitive a UI is, how it feels can make or break people’s initial opinion. Snappy is the word that immediately comes to mind when I try to describe the feeling of the PS4 UI. Animations and transitions waste no time getting your screen to whatever you selected. I never found myself waiting for an icon to load for display. The crispy, quick responsiveness really covers the shortcomings of the UI. While not revolutionary in design, it feels new and fast compared to the PS3.

All in all, the PlayStation 4 UI is usable and responsive, yet lacks a wow factor in intuition or visual design departments. While you’ll find everything you want to play in the Content area, there is plenty on display you may never ever touch. Content icon customization and options on how to sort them would give players a way to mold the display to better suit their needs. Lightning speed can only carry the PS4 UI so far, so I hope Sony keeps its improvement a goal moving forward.

Kyle Prahl – Response

The PS4 Dynamic Menu is a streamlined wonder in some areas and a bit messy in others. With chronological ordering of most recently used games and apps, the interface’s most important horizontal row–Content–is catered to your interests, but it can be difficult to know exactly where to land when looking for things you haven’t used in a little while. In just about everything else, placement is consistent. This familiarity is especially evident in the Function area–with Trophies, Friends, Party, and the like–above the large tiles. It’s reminiscent of the XMB, which eased my transition to the new setup. Some confusion results from the Options button, which is usable on a variety of menu items and tiles. The settings within are context-sensitive, so it will take some time to reach maximum efficiency with console navigation.

But, in general, the user interface is well-organized and mercifully fast. The new PlayStation Store is a perfect example. What’s "new" isn’t the GUI, which still follows the sensible design and frequently updated categories of its PS3 incarnation, but how fast you can now move between selections with minimal input lag. I’m disappointed that PS Camera voice commands for menu navigation aren’t more extensive (check out my Hardware review for more thoughts on the camera), but D-pad selection works just as well. All told, I’m impressed with the PS4 user interface, and I look forward to increased customization and usability to come in firmware updates as the PlayStation nation’s feedback comes forth. For now, it’s fast, attractive, and functional–a hearty point in favor of the console.

Tim Nunes – Response

The Function menu for settings, trophies, notifications, and the like is in reach with the touch of the Up button on the D-Pad, so gone are the days of the XMB, where searching took more time than actually doing what needed to be done. The PlayStation 4 user interface is clean, but it’s not minimal. Having more than six games installed on the PS4 fills the content area, and the side scrolling of them all makes the television screen look more like a game shelf instead of a digital game collection. Every game has a convenient drop down menu that includes more information and quick access to add-ons and extra content for that game, which makes finding new map and content packs a breeze. Recently played games take precedence right next to "What’s New" in Content, and everything else slides to the right to make room, but there’s no changing the PS4’s schemes.

Still, hopping between Functions and the Content area overcompensates for the sporadic display that Content ebbs. Like "What’s New," the "TV & Video" area works as a folder for programs like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, which raises the point that having the ability to organize the main page seems like a great addition in the next software update.

A lot of negatives have been said regarding the UI, but having one screen show everything at once does have its conveniences. Across the very top, much like a pulldown bar on mobile devices, notifications are shown, like how many friends are online, if you’re in a chat, your trophy rank, and the time. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at and interacting with the main menu, and I cannot help but see what would make this sleek, responsive experience more organized and personalized. The best part about these issues is that they aren’t necessarily permanent. I expect improvements to the system’s busy-ness and Content area organization soon.


The Features

When considering the capabilities of PlayStation 4, I cannot help but wonder how I managed to live so long with the limitations of PS3. Don’t think of this as a negative statement on PS3, but rather, consider it an accreditation of what Sony has created in its new tech.

Immediately after inserting a game, the PS4 automatically finds and downloads any new game update, and while that update is loading, the game can still be played. Online portions of the game are out of reach until the update installs and the game is restarted, however. While on the subject, background downloading is a breeze. Right after buying a download from the PlayStation Store, the transaction pop-up disappears and the download begins, with the installation to follow–the installation takes place in the background, as well. Unfortunately, the only way to make sure that the download has indeed started is to press the PlayStation Button and hop up to Notifications. True, there has been no point where a purchase that I’ve made hasn’t automatically begun downloading, but having a little statement about the download’s initiation would be a healthy addition.

Standby Mode is a halfway-off state in which the PS4 always wants to be. When going through the normal shutdown procedures, the first available option is always Standby Mode. After all my years with inferior PC operating systems, I’ve always been wary of anything akin to a reduced power state, but the PS4 handles it very well. Controllers can be charged, game updates download and install automatically, and these two features can be turned on or off in Power Save settings. However, the coolest part about Standby Mode is the ability to access the PS4 away from home. Games and extra content can be purchased on the mobile PlayStation Store and the request is instantly sent to your PS4, where the content’s download and install begin automatically. To fully utilize all these features, leave the PS4 in Standby Mode, because buying a 25+ gigabyte game while commuting to work is much better than coming home after work and waiting for the download when you turn on your console.

In addition, your PlayStation Vita can access PS4 via Remote Play while in Standby Mode; Remote Play cannot take place if the PS4 is completely shut down, because the Remote Play function cannot turn on the PS4 to establish the connection. The performance of Remote Play is relative to the internet connection on both ends, but with perfect internet connectivity, Remote Play should work as well as it does when directly connecting the PS Vita to the PS4 at home: seamlessly. Having to press the rear touchpad in order to use the trigger and joystick buttons takes some acclimating, but a little practice makes perfect, much like how typing on a touchscreen phone doesn’t require much visual input after a while.

The ability to suspend applications is intriguing. It works much like what the PSP Go introduced, and allows games or applications to be held in a paused state while the rest of the console is accessible–this even allows Netflix to run while a game is suspended. The big difference is that this works with minimal effort, other than pressing OK to suspend something when prompted; jumping back into the game merely requires navigating back to the game in the Dynamic Menu, or double-tapping the PS Button to jump between apps.

The Share feature, while still very, very intuitive, could still use some work. When compared to the actual game, video quality suffers somewhat. Considering that PS4 constantly records the last 15 minutes of gameplay at all times, having lower streaming quality might be a necessary concession. The Share button itself has a few different ways to use it, such as a single press, long press, and double press, and each of these press schemes are your tickets to screenshots, recording, and broadcasting. The latter connects directly to uStream or Twitch, and each attempt to broadcast prompts a window asking which service to use. Normally, there isn’t a real need for multiple Twitch accounts, but having to switch between accounts from the same service is like changing internet connections on the PS3: the old information must be replaced manually. Again, this extra step to maintain two Twitch accounts, for example, is something that only a few crazy people, comme moi, have to deal with, so poor account management is only a small negative.

Face recognition, which requires the PlayStation Camera, is scrupulous. Make sure to login while looking the exact same every time. For instance, if you wore glasses while setting up the face recognition, continue to wear glasses, or the PS4 will not recognize you. I haven’t tried haircuts or clean shaves, but be cautious when using face recognition: if you plan on having a complete hairstyle change, buying new glasses (or getting glasses), or shaving off a Santa beard, make sure to disable face recognition from the PS4 first, or at least register new facial data.

Voice Chat is convenient; not superb, but convenient. The wired mono headphone that comes with the PS4 hooks right into the controller, and the audio quality is initially grievous, but getting used to it takes no time at all. Still, the headphone itself becomes very uncomfortable after a few hours, and it constantly gets pulled out by pets, gravity, and frustration. Still, its pack-in presence (and the DualShock 4’s headphone jack itself) is a useful standard for PS4 owners, and utilization is simple: go straight to the Party section in the Function area or press the PS Button when the invitation arrives. What makes Party Chat even better is that it works with the PS Vita, and quality remains the same. I’m concerned that maximum voice quality might be an average of the two tech’s capabilities, but the brand-new ability to communicate between two entirely different gaming devices feels invigorating.

All told, the features of PS4 expand upon PS3’s offerings in a meaningful way, with convenience and connectivity at the forefront. Having all this power at your fingertips is tantalizing, making going back to older hardware a very significant hurdle.

Ernest Lin – Response

Standby Mode is a definite plus when I think of PlayStation 4’s fantastic new features. In addition, being able to access and command the console from a distance with Remote Play makes the whole experience feel like spy gadgetry. Background downloading and installation of games and updates has and will continue to save me hours of waiting. There’s something to be said about Sony’s mission to avoid getting between you and gaming. Still, Remote Play isn’t flawless, and suffers from remapped controls and connection latency. For some games, like Need for Speed, I found Remote Play to be sufficient, while Call of Duty: Ghosts saw my kill-death ratio plummet.

The Share aspect adds a big weapon to the PS4’s social media arsenal. Throw away any plans to buy an HD PVR because capturing video and screenshots from games is now easier than it has ever been. The dedicated Share button makes these functions quick and painless. Want to show your Facebook friends the slick drifting you did in Need for Speed? PS4’s Share feature has your back.

A feature I will sincerely miss from my PlayStation 3, which is sadly absent from the PS4, is the ability to store and play local media like music and video files. The PS3 became an entertainment hub for me and many others. I enjoyed storing my movies on the PS3 hard drive or playing them off of a USB storage device rather than messing around with discs. I don’t believe the omission of the feature will drive people to purchase Video Unlimited or Music Unlimited. Maybe once Sony sees that, they will add this functionality back in with future firmware updates.

Kyle Prahl – Response

Compared to the sleek user interface, which gets most of the way toward thoughtful, comprehensive design, there’s almost no missing aspect of the PS4 feature set. Part of my feeling of total satisfaction probably comes from the console’s newness and my own awe at the novelty of a socially connected, convergent experience, but there’s definitely something to be said for the way Sony thought of everything we need, right now, at the end of 2013. Putting the Share button through its paces early on, I was impressed by video quality and ease of use–though the former is largely dependent on the individual streamers’ internet connection. Likewise, sharing gameplay clips and screenshots to Facebook and Twitter is perfect for archiving those gaming moments of skill or visual splendor that were so fleeting and ephemeral until now. The way PS4 streamlines communication–between gamer friends, social network friends, and the spectating world–extends to Party Chat, voice messaging, the PlayStation App on mobile devices, and user interface elements like game tiles and ‘What’s New,’ both of which tell you what friends are playing, what they’re accomplishing, and how you can best them.

Remote Play is worthy of its own discussion, because Sony’s much-touted second-screen functionality works (almost) exactly as advertised. Streaming PS4 gameplay to your small screen in the same room is generally lag-free; just about every game genre is enjoyable, whether via direct connection to the system or transference through an in-room router. Away from this core space, the experience starts to falter. It’s difficult for me to hold a lag-free connection for more than a couple minutes one room over. I can’t speak to Remote Play abroad, as I’ve yet to be in a situation where Wi-Fi protocols or speed aren’t obstacles. But the most important aspect of Remote Play is that it works well in situations where another person needs the TV, or when multi-tasking between PS4 gameplay and movie or TV watching is called for. I’m surprised by how often these moments occur now that I have a device for them–I didn’t know Remote Play was a feature I needed until it came along.


The Experience

“Next-gen experience” is a phrase tossed around frequently these days. But what does it mean? Some might cite sharper, more beautiful visuals. Others would say a new console era is defined by the benefits from extra horsepower for smarter artificial intelligence, larger worlds, and more meaningful interactivity. Yet what makes a console like PlayStation 4 feel like technology from the future? Its hardware, features, and design needs to come together to give the gamer a fresh and pleasant experience.

At its core, the PS4 falls into the category of “traditional gaming,” with a console you hook up to a television and a controller with physical inputs. But my time with the console reveals much more: a piece of hardware designed to enable my interaction in new and exciting ways. Sony has successfully done so, with a connected PlayStation experience across multiple platforms. My desire to play has never been higher. While I was waiting around the other day, I popped open the PlayStation App, peeked at what my friends were doing online, and browsed through the PlayStation Store for games I could remotely download on my PS4 back home. Another example involves a gameplay video by Kyle Prahl, PSU’s editor-in-chief, showing up on my Facebook news feed. Kyle had captured footage of a thrilling race around Need for Speed: Rivals’ Redview County. As I watched him zip around, I noticed he beat some of my top record speeds caught by speed cameras, and I immediately wanted to get back home to play. The PS4 is all about maximizing your investment, even when life takes you elsewhere, beyond the couch limits of its predecessors.

At the same time, I’ve found the PS4 to be the most convenient console to date. No more waiting around for firmware updates and patches to slowly download and install like they did on PlayStation 3. All of that happens while the system is in Standby Mode, so everything is ready by the time I get home. But what if I forgot to download a game beforehand? In some cases, I can play as it downloads. Even the physical size of the PS4 makes finding a place for it in my packed entertainment center easy. Its connections include HDMI, optical audio, and the same common power cable as the slim PS3 models. Plus, the USB cable for charging the controller is identical to those used with nearly all Android smartphones. A replacement set of PS4 cables will never cost me more than $15–several are already lying around my house.

Above all else, using Sony’s latest gaming machine is fun and enjoyable. Whether it’s getting my game on or kicking back to watch Netflix, I have never had any annoyance with getting to my entertainment destination. The DualShock 4 is the first truly comfortable PlayStation controller for me, and unique mechanisms like the touchpad and lightbar invite future potential. The visuals the PS4 can produce with many of its games still leave me smiling at how stunning and detailed they are.

PlayStation 4 is here, and already it’s reinvigorating console gaming at the beginning of its lifecycle. Nearly three weeks into owning the machine, I can’t fully imagine all the different ways developers will use its hardware and features to create true next-gen experiences. Some of us have a busy lifestyle, but PS4 can keep us engaged while away from the TV. The console’s argument is clear: making gaming social and accessible doesn’t have to require watering down the games. Greatness awaits for PS4, which has an abundance of potential ready to be discovered on top of a rock-solid foundation. And I can hardly wait to see what it has in store for all of us.

Timothy Nunes – Response 

Multitasking ability should be societal standard used to rate modern technology, because no one wants to be bound to just one thing at a time anymore. PlayStation 4, with the press of the PlayStation button, allows seamless movement between Music Unlimited, games, Party Chat, PlayStation Store, and all available social connections, and now that I have this kind of power in my hand, I can no longer validate anything less. Sure, the games need to be bigger, better, and prettier, but the console itself needs to have that extra something that keeps modern minds enthused. PS4 understands this and executes in spades.

Even if notifications are a bit wonky–as I stated in the Features section of our review–they help bind the social experience together, with a press of the PS button directing the PS4 to wherever that notification came from: Party Chat, game invitations, etc. Really, having one place to manage all incoming content is great, cutting down on having to sift through scattered, disjointed communication. Minimizing games takes no time, either, and there’s no more looking at a transparent home screen that takes a long time to load when pressing the PS button.

Notifications have one major negative, however, that revolves around the Friends list. As of now (since we don’t know if Sony plans on changing this), no notification pops up when Friends come online. In retrospect, the ability to have 2000 friends would be incredibly obtrusive if PS4 kept you alerted to the comings and goings of all. However, we all have a group of friends that we want to play with the most–and PS4 even allows us to send name requests, which allow the recipient and the sender to see each other’s real name. With this in mind, being able to file friends into "Notification worthy" status would be great. Additionally, knowing on which system each friend is would be wonderful.

The constantly scrolling Content section of the main menu really feels disorganized. I include the Friends list when I say that I wish the PS4 allowed us more options for organization, such as the PS3’s folder system. Luckily, the negatives that I’ve mentioned here are fixable with future updates, but reviews don’t cover the future; we still have to deal with it, even if dealing with it is a small price for the excitement of the PS4 experience as a whole.

Kyle Prahl – Response

For me, the console "experience" used to begin and end with the startup noise and shutdown beep. With PlayStation 4, I’m not sure when and where that experience begins and ends–or if it ever does. I can send friend requests and voice messages from my phone while setting up automatic downloads at my home console on the road. I can instantly jump between Assassin’s Creed IV and Netflix as my entertainment whims demand. I can start a conversation with co-op friends on PS4 and continue our chat (and gaming!) with my PS Vita in another room. Others can spectate my gameplay whenever I dare, and I could wile away an afternoon viewing the action of others. My PS4 is never truly off, which means patches are installing, games are downloading, and a full suite of games and entertainment is always at my fingertips: on the best controller I’ve ever held.


The only thing about PS4’s launch lineup of games that feels next-gen is the visuals, but framed by the connected context that defines PS4, playing these games feels like basking in a creative, cohesive vision for the industry’s future. As if overnight, the PlayStation universe has changed. Enthusiasm drips from every surprising convenience. Every moment spent multitasking applications or accessing your profile, games, and PlayStation identity from unexpected places is a breath of refreshing innovation that feels like it will matter and change the way our lifestyle functions. But the most endearing and impressive part of all? Every one of these new conveniences, these new ways of sharing our pastime, these new ways of communicating the importance of our medium, is welcome and well-executed. Very little about the PlayStation 4 experience attains true perfection, but its undoubtedly closer than a Sony game console has ever come.

Thank you for reading our review of PlayStation 4, and for being a part of the PlayStation Universe. Join the conversation in the comments below, or in our official forums, to give us your take on Sony’s new console and the next generation of PlayStation.




The Final Word

Sony's PlayStation 4 is an enthusiastic return to form disguised as a powerful, accessible game console. Equal parts forward-thinking and traditional, PS4 makes few missteps on a path to greatness.