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Review: Sony’s PlayStation 4

December 17, 2013 • Reviews

With the news that Sony’s latest console, the PlayStation 4, sold out in 24 hours in South Africa last week, it is easy to understand why the release has gamers chasing down new units. Sony took a bold step and completely redesigned almost every aspect of the PlayStation, and IT News Africa was fortunate enough to play around on it and put it through its paces.

Sony’s latest console, the PlayStation 4 (image: Sony)

Sony’s latest console, the PlayStation 4 (Image source: Sony)

What we like about it

The part of the console that gamers will no doubt spend most of their time with is the controller. Here, Sony opted to make it a little heavier than its predecessor – which is fantastic. Xbox players have always fuelled rivalry and ridiculed the PlayStation controller, saying it feels cheap. Well, not any more.

There is a great balance to the controller. Not only did the Company redesign the way it feels and how it fits a player’s hands, they also rearranged some of the buttons to create a more ergonomic experience.

However, the biggest feature of the controller is the touch pad that sits at the top, which is used for touch controls during certain titles. The controller also makes use of a standard 3.5mm jack to connect the headset to the controller, used for chatting to friends online.

The PlayStation 4's newly-designed controller (image: Sony)

The PlayStation 4′s newly-designed controller (Image source: Sony)

Switching the console on by traditional means could prove somewhat challenges as the power and disc eject buttons are not as prominent anymore. Beyond that, however, players will notice a reworked dashboard.

Sony went for a cleaner look and feel, and all the essential settings and options are neatly packed away in their respective rows, with soft menu music playing in the background. While there is no functionality just yet to change the wallpaper, the light blue default wallpaper is rather pleasing to the eye.

The dashboard update comes with a complete multi-processor chip upgrade housed within the unit. Going through the options and menus, players can jump between a game and the menu by simply pressing the PS button. On the previous console, pressing the PS button would have paused the game and brought up a limited amount of options.

When the PS button is engaged during a title, players are sent back to the dash and afforded an opportunity to complete any number of functions - to check on a download, reply to a message or launch the video service. Press the button again and it will throw the user straight back into the game at precisely the same point they were in when they left.   It is an amazing feature that will streamline the entire playing experience.

PlayStation gamers do not have to wait too long to experience titles. PS3 users had to install the full game before it could be played, but with the PS4 only the file needs to be installed to get the game running. Remaining files can be stored in the background, while the player tackles the first stages of any title.

What we do not ike about it

Although there are rumours that a patch is on its way, users of the PS4 currently have no means of listening to music from an external drive or audio CD, and they will not be able to watch videos from a drive as well. The functionality to do that has simply not been built into the system – and more is the pity. Most PS users use their system as a home entertainment unit as well, but the limitations on external media really hampers the flow of the unit.

As we have mentioned before, the power and disc eject buttons are not as prominent anymore, with many users scratching their heads on how to switch it on once unboxed. But once the buttons have been located, it is as simple as just lightly pressing them for the familiar beep to notify users of activity. Making reference to both the PS4 and Xbox One, game developer Clifford Bleszinski poked fun at this aspect and recently tweeted “My favourite thing about the new consoles is the lack of a power button. You have to molest both to activate them.”

In all honesty, that is about as bad as the PlayStation 4 gets. If there are only two aspects that can focus on as being slightly annoying, then the system is pretty good – excellent in fact.

Conclusion

By making use of a lot more computing power than the previous PlayStation version, the graphics have been significantly improved. While it might not be completely visible in ported titles such as Call of Duty Ghost and Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, the launch title Killzone effectively demonstrates what lies ahead for enthusiasts.

With the horsepower given a steady upgrade and the controller making for a better handling experience, the updated dashboard completes the package. If consumers are- or have been in two minds over whether or not to acquire this console, we can confirm its quality and do recommend forking out the necessary R6200 for a new device.

It is still early days, but if this release is indicative of the future of console gaming, we cannot wait to see what will emerge in the next couple of years – particularly as game developers begin to take full advantage of the multiple processors.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor



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