PS4 reviews – the early verdict

The PlayStation 4 is about to go on sale around the world, starting its rollout in North America on 15 November.

The early reviews are out from reputable publications, and it is worth noting at this stage that most will be based on the console’s performance before the day-one patch is applied. Reviewers will be updating their reviews accordingly as they spend more time with the console.

The 300MB day-one patch (version 1.5) will add a number of features, chief among them: remote play on PS Vita; second screen device support; uploading video via the “Share” button; live-streaming using Twitch and Ustream; PS4 Eye voice commands and facial recognition; enables the “Play as you download” function; and multi-user login (up to 4).

So what have the international press got to say about Sony’s next-gen console? Below is a summary.

The PlayStation 4 design

While you can glean a lot about the design of the console from the press shots, Joystiq had a few hands-on observations. The glossy plastic segment of the console is a fingerprint magnet. The plastic housing appeared flimsy and exhibited a fair bit of flex under pressure. Joystiq also noted that the console’s retail box fits perfectly into a standard airline carry-on bag.

The Verge described it as “pretty attractive in a rakish, angular sort of way”.

Engadget noted that the various crevices of the angular design were gathering dust at a rapid pace, and they even struggled to keep it dust free for their review photographs.

PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4

Play while you install

Engadget was impressed by the ability to pop in a disc and begin playing the game while it installs in the background. Knack was their case-in-point, which booted immediately, and background install was not noticeable. Ejecting the game and popping in Killzone Shadow Fall mid-install didn’t cause any problems.

Joystiq noted some timeframes of install before they were able to play the game:

  • Need for Speed: Rivals – 51 seconds
    Knack – 1:43
    Battlefield 4 – 1:45

Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry was pleased to be rid of mandatory patches that you can only watch slowly download and install. These can now be done in the background.

Digital Foundry observed 6,288MB of Battlefield 4 was required to download before they could fire up the single-player campaign. Multiplayer would require the full game to be downloaded. While playing Ghosts from a disc and having the game installed in the background, no performance degradation was perceived.

Storage space

As we’ve been anticipating, a 500GB hard drive just really isn’t that big in this day and age of large game installs, digital store purchases, and other media downloads. For example, installing Killzone Shadow Fall from the disc requires 39GB, Battlefield 4 consumes 35GB, and Assassin’s Creed 4 uses 21GB.

However, you don’t even get to use the full 500GB – only around 408GB is available according to the system storage menu. It remains to be seen how quickly this space disappears once gameplay video captures, screenshots, patches, and other media are saved to the system.

This sounds like users will either want to consider an immediate upgrade to a larger drive, or resign themselves to some regular storage space housekeeping.

PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4

Visuals and performance

Engadget remarked on the great visuals from Assassin’s Creed 4 and Killzone Shadow Fall, experiencing no slow-downs or frame-tearing. The console proved quiet during their review, and aside from disc spin noise, there were no loud blower fan noises to report.

Engadget described moving between the game and OS as “speedy”, as was returning to the game from standby mode, resuming exactly where you left off.

Polygon had similar praise for the visuals, marking Killzone Shadow Fall as a prime example of what the PS4 can achieve. although they experienced framerate issues with Need for Speed Rivals.

Power consumption, heat, and noise

Digital Foundry whipped out the diagnostics tools and discovered that the PS4 draws about 110-120W of power during games. This ramped up to 140W when operating the UI on top of the game.

Close measurements showed heat output of 44-45 degrees Celsius, and a fan noise noise level of 51-53dB when gaming. These measurements were made with an ambient temperature of 23 degrees Celsius.

Digital Foundry reported a barely audible console when gaming from 3 metres away.

Killzone Shadow Fall screenshot

Killzone Shadow Fall screenshot

Standby and power-save features

Engadget points out that the two front USB ports can be set to provide a charge when the console is on power-saving standby mode – great for charging remotes overnight, and other USB devices.

The PS4 can also be set to maintain an Internet connection during standby, and PS Store purchases made through the PlayStation App can wake the console to begin downloading.

Remote Play

The Verge tested out the remote play features, which allow you to stream games from the PS4 to a PS Vita. This is done via Wi-Fi or Internet. The further from the PS4 you go, the greater the latency became, although not unplayable. Doing this over the Internet will obviously bring much more latency into the mix.

Since the Vita lacks some of the buttons found on the DS4, these are mapped to the corners of the rear touch pad. The Verge noted this proved troublesome for various games, either difficult to activate when needed, or easily activated by accident.

While most games streamed perfectly well to the Vita, it was noted that they were not intended to be played on the device, and therefore some text and visuals were hard to pick out on the 5-inch screen.

The bottom line was that this feature does what it says on the tin, freeing up your living room TV while allowing you to continue your next-gen gaming elsewhere. Of course, a Vita isn’t a cheap peripheral.

DualShock 4 controller

DualShock 4 controller

DualShock 4 (DS4) remotes

Joystiq had high praise for the DS4 and its updated ergonomics. The larger handles and their textured grip, concave triggers and sticks reducing slippage, tightend D-pad layout, and larger shoulder buttons were all plus points.

The new touchpad has been getting good mention from reviewers, and it seems to integrate easily into the gameplay of various titles.

Although lauding its comfortable redesign, Engadget wasn’t greatly impressed by the new DS4 remote’s battery life, ekeing out barely a day of play time. The controller can be set to automatically shut off at interval of 10, 30, or 60 minutes.

The always-on lightbar on the DS4 is apparently so bright that it casts a light on the TV, according to Engadget. The lightbar is used by the PlayStation 4 Eye and if developers include the functionality, such as indicating health status in a shooter.

The built-in speaker has been reported by Engadget as sounding tinny and low-quality.

PS4 Eye

Engadget was so impressed by the PlayStation 4 Eye and its voice commands that they recommend their readers just save up the extra money for the peripheral because they will want it at launch.

Joystiq pointed out that Sony really wants you to buy one too. The only pre-loaded “game” is The Playroom – a suite of four tech demos which show off the capabilities of the DS4 touchpad and the Eye. If you don’t have the Eye, on boot you are forced to watch a demo detailing the features.

Digital Foundry enjoyed the voice control functionality, and says it’s something they might actually use.

PlayStation 4 Eye

PlayStation 4 Eye

User Interface

The User Interface was bare-bones at the time of review, waiting for the version 1.50 patch to enable many features. First impressions were fairly neutral, with the UI appearing functional but not without minor niggles.

Joystiq described the PS4 UI as similar to the XMB from PS3, but presented in a cleaner, more navigable manner with a nice large presentation. A few bugs were present however, and the UI proved a bit jerky and unresponsive in some instances. Joystiq reported that exiting to the UI from a game wasn’t always as smooth as it should be.

Digital Foundry described the UI as “neat”, noting that the PlayStation Store was a bit slow and unresponsive, although a marked improvement over the PS3 version. Digital Foundry was not impressed with the web browser, describing it as sluggish, unresponsive, and clumsy to navigate using DS4.

Sources: Engadget 1, 2; Joystiq; The Verge; Digital Foundry

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PS4 reviews – the early verdict

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