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- Outstanding in appearance and texture
- In-built audio system
- Superior motion detectors
- Distant buttons for sharing and selecting options
- Feelings of occasional lightness
- There were flaws in the track pad.
Sony’s DualShock 4 addresses all of these issues. The tips of your thumbs are held in semi-concave pits in the center of its more widely spaced sticks. The concave triggers on the shoulders pull like those on an Xbox 360 controller.
The controller has grown slightly in size and weight. Holding it for extended periods of time is much less tiring. The DualShock 4 is the most noticeable improvement of the PlayStation 4. It has converted even the most ardent of the Polygon staff’s DualShock 3 haters.
Sony’s DualShock 4 is the pinnacle of game controller design.
Like the console itself, these extras add to the overall feeling of high-quality hardware. The primary player’s DualShock 4 has a blue front-facing light, while the other players’ controllers cycle through a spectrum of colors depending on their connection status. The amber glow the DualShock 4 emits while charging is the most useful, though games can take control of the light and change its color.
The DualShock 4 also introduces improved gyroscopic and accelerometer-based motion control, but Sony doesn’t seem to be promoting or publicizing this feature. Compared to the Sixaxis and DualShock 3, it’s a huge step forward.
The DualShock 4 has a few minor flaws, such as the fact that the new options and share buttons are too flush with the controller’s face and require excessive force to activate. The PlayStation button’s new location between the analog sticks made pausing games for short breaks much more convenient.
However, the controller’s battery life is our main gripe, despite the fact that it is considered by some Polygon staff members to be the best they have ever used.
Selecting weapon modes in Killzone: Shadow Fall is a good example of a task that works well with the new touchpad. However, it was not a suitable replacement for a mouse when used on the map screen of Assassin’s Creed 4. Before we can tell if this is a hardware or software issue, we need more time playing it across a wider variety of games.
But the biggest problem we’ve encountered with a controller that some at Polygon consider the best they’ve ever used is that even after 100 hours of use, the DualShock 4’s battery life only seems to be around 7-8 hours, compared to the DualShock 3’s 30-hour battery life. Due to the short length of the included micro USB cable (1.5 – 2m), marathon sessions may be held on the floor next to the PS4. Although the battery in the DualShock 4 isn’t designed to be swapped out, enterprising gamers may be able to do so in the future thanks to the Internet.
The new controller’s striking appearance is one of its most notable features. It was a shock to everyone because Sony hadn’t made many cosmetic changes to the PlayStation controller since the PSOne.
The DualShock 4’s new, rounded, and sleeker frame can be seen in the comparison image above. In addition, it has a touchpad and a speaker, which makes it feel very futuristic. In addition to the standard black, white, silver, gold, red, blue, and green camo, it is also available in transparent “crystal” white, blue, and red.
The controller is significantly larger and more ergonomic than before. The DualShock 3 was panned for being too cramped and uncomfortable to use, particularly by those with larger hands.
The Analog Sticks
The analog sticks on the DualShock 4 are noticeably smaller than on its predecessor, the DualShock 3, allowing for a narrower range of motion but also greater precision. The rings that stick out from the thumbsticks show that they were also redesigned to be more comfortable to use.
It’s worth noting that the original DualShock 4’s thumbsticks frayed after very light use, but that problem was fixed in the updated model, which is now the de facto standard controller for the PS4 Slim.
The Face Buttons
Because games rarely made good use of the DualShock 3’s pressure-sensitive face buttons, Sony decided to remove them from the DualShock 4. As a result, pressing one of the new face buttons now results in a satisfying click.
Since the D-pad was already nearly perfect in the DualShock 3, few changes were made to it. The new D-pad is larger than the old one and has a much better feel to it.
The Shoulder Buttons and Triggers
The DualShock 4’s shoulder buttons now have a semi-elliptical shape to match the controller’s updated aesthetic. Pressure sensitivity was discarded along with the face buttons.
Compared to the DualShock 3, whose triggers were notoriously painful to press for extended periods of time, these new ones were a huge improvement. The new triggers are narrower and more gently curved to prevent them from slipping, but they still don’t hold up well. The triggers are the only buttons that are still sensitive to finger pressure.
USER INTERFACE & EXPERIENCE
Users of Sony’s 2006-era televisions may be surprised to learn that the PS4’s user interface is remarkably similar to neither the PlayStation 3’s “XrossMediaBar” nor the Xbox 360’s. The PS4’s interface, however, is reminiscent of Sony’s current TVs, and with time and practice, the XMB clearly evolves. It is just as fast as its forerunner, but with additional customization options that were unavailable under the old XMB hierarchy.
Notice the details. If you want to adjust your display or audio settings, for example, without having to completely exit a game, you can press the PlayStation button at any time. One of the more welcome aspects of the PS4’s next-gen console experience is how fast and lag-free it is when compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3.
The elimination of the PS3’s cumbersome User/PSN ID split is one welcome improvement. Your PS3 user ID and PSN ID are no longer required for profile download onto your PS4. You can temporarily download a PSN profile onto a friend’s PS4 and then delete it when you log out using the PS4’s guest feature. Other subtle features, such as double-tapping the PlayStation button to switch between open apps and games, are also welcome additions.
The PS4 continues the legacy of the Playstation 3 operating system with its complex system of menus, submenus, and hidden features. The console’s Notifications menu, for instance, is split into multiple individual inboxes for various types of information. Both Friend Requests and Name Requests can be accessed from the Notifications tab or the Friends menu. With continued use of the system, perhaps the value of these individual sections will become more apparent.
In comparison to the Xbox 360 and PS3, which have been on the market for seven or eight years, the PS4’s user interface and menus are a welcome change.
The PS4 does not support playing local media, a major feature of its predecessor. Digital library management features are also missing from the PS4. There is no way to filter or sort the games, as they are all displayed in a continuous horizontal list. Every PS4 disc you put in the drive will immediately begin installing and finding its place in that list, which will undoubtedly slow you down.
Other promised PS4 features didn’t even make it into the system’s launch day update. The console doesn’t have a sleep mode, so it always has to be completely rebooted after being turned off or when a game session is ended. We also expect Sony to make improvements to the PS4’s built-in video recording and uploading capabilities. It’s a neat concept, and it’s implemented competently, but the footage we’ve seen is extremely compressed and difficult to make out. It takes away from the spectacle of games on the system.
It’s also worth noting that the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita interfaces, while each being well-suited to a television and a touch-controlled portable, respectively, provide an interesting contrast for two current products bearing the PlayStation brand name.
The PS4 has some significant enhancements to the fundamentals of network functionality. You can now select players from your friend list to invite to games. The PS4 additionally introduces game-independent party chat for as many as eight players, which is a godsend for multiplayer gamers who wish to avoid listening to distracting public lobby audio.
The PS4’s “What’s New” feed, accessible from the home screen, is a promising feature with a lot of room for growth. It displays when your friends begin playing games, when they begin livestreaming, and… possibly too much information. When viewed in its entirety, the What’s New feed can appear to be an intimidating wall of text. This is typical of the PS4’s PSN features, all of which suffer from an abundance of information and choices. Other additions may appear helpful at first, but may cause issues due to odd omissions. It’s great that the maximum number of PSN friends can now be 2,000, but there’s still no way to manage them. Even though Facebook is integrated into the PS4 as a whole and sharing options include Facebook groups, restricting your friend list or joining a larger group is currently not possible. The PlayStation 4 also allows players to use their real names when adding friends, which could save their lives but requires mutual approval from both players.
PSN is littered with little signs of a system in dire need of cleaning up and reorganization. Basic features that were missing from PSN on PS3 are now included, so it’s clear that Sony isn’t going to get left behind or leapfrogged this time around in the online realm.
Since the PS4 encrypts its entire HDMI signal in HDCP, it doesn’t work with most capture devices out of the box, so the day one inclusion of Twitch integration is a good thing. While the Twitch streaming may be sufficient for the majority of users, we are concerned about the overall video quality when using the system’s internal hardware.
We hope that everyone in the world quickly steals the new trophy rarity system, which works similarly to the way trophies did on the PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation Store, meanwhile, is very similar to the current PS3 store, which has made tremendous strides over the last few years; however, it also shares the PS3 store’s discoverability and organization issues. Since these problems affect every online marketplace to some extent, it would be unfair to single out Sony for criticism. However, we are still holding out hope that someone will solve these issues.
If online play isn’t your thing, you can still access all of the PS4’s media apps without paying for PS .
Sony finally decided to charge for online multiplayer on the PlayStation 4 after seven years. Players will need a PlayStation Plus subscription, which thankfully grants them access to unrestricted online play as well as regular discounts on digital releases and a steady stable of free games. It’s a fantastic deal for the right player. If online play isn’t your thing, you can still access all of the PS4’s media apps without paying for PS . Netflix is the most well-known service that can be watched on a PS4 with nothing more than a Netflix subscription.
Sony’s inclusion of a headphone jack on the controller and a headset with every PlayStation 4 may be a sign of how seriously the company is taking online multiplayer. When combined with the new party chat system, this update brings PlayStation 4 up to feature parity with the competition and positions the platform for future innovation in the realm of online gaming.
FEATURES & CAPABILITIES
The PlayStation Camera is still available for purchase despite Sony’s decision to scrap plans to bundle it with every PS4 unit. Sony has promoted the PS4’s ability to respond to voice commands, but our brief testing of this feature had mixed results. The responses to the limited and poorly explained commands were inconsistent.
The earliest iteration of Kinect for the Xbox 360 is the closest point of reference. The PlayStation Camera is a higher-definition device and is probably more advanced than the one included with the PlayStation 3, but it has a distinct “first attempt” feel that seems at odds with the PlayStation 4’s efforts at broader platform streamlining and refinement. However, Sony’s offering pales in comparison to the capabilities and features of the Kinect accessory for the Xbox One.
Sony has not yet revealed their plans for the PlayStation Camera or how it will fit into the larger PlayStation 4 ecosystem.
Due to the lack of an infrared (IR) component, users are required to keep the lighting at a bare minimum. The PlayStation Camera enables biometric data to be added to the PS4 account system, with a brief setup for each user. As long as enough light is present, the camera can recognize familiar faces at the login screen. To sign in, the player must align a box on the screen with the controller’s height. The catch is that if you’re using a controller, it’s simpler to accomplish the same goal while holding the controller.
Sony’s plans for the PlayStation Camera and its overall role in the PlayStation 4 ecosystem are currently unknown. A few features of the new console were developed with the camera in mind (the DualShock 4’s indicator light, for example), but other than that, it’s hard to find any indications of the system’s potential future.
It’s at least modest in appearance. It’s a compact device that, whether attached to its stand or not, won’t take up as much room as the original Kinect or its bulkier successor. However, that is also part of the issue. Sony’s third attempt at a camera accessory for a PlayStation console.
Unlike previous attempts, the PlayStation Camera hasn’t received significant software support beyond the barebones but adorable Playroom app that comes with every PS4. Even more damning is the fact that every previous camera was quickly abandoned, receiving either no official recognition or very little in the way of software support.
SETUP & PERFORMANCE
PATCHES & INSTALLS
The PS4’s initial setup was simple and straightforward for us. We had to grab an initial patch to get it hooked up to PSN after the first boot.
This review was written before the patch was released, but at the time of its release, it was approximately 300 MB in size and required less than 15 minutes to download and install.
Once everything is up to date, signing in with an existing PlayStation Network ID takes only a few minutes. All PS3 and Vita data, including friend and trophy lists, are imported.
The control panel will also inquire as to whether you wish to reveal your true identity to certain acquaintances. Despite essentially requiring both parties to accept, the Real Name functionality is a welcome addition and doesn’t feel too onerous.
When everything on the PlayStation Network is running smoothly, game downloads are lightning fast.
A “guest” account is available for use when visiting a friend’s home. This way, you can access your personal PSN account without worrying about compromising any sensitive information. Especially helpful for those living in close quarters in a college dorm.
Our initial game installations went smoothly, whether we used physical discs or downloaded content from the PlayStation Network. However, we did experience some connectivity issues that prevented us from playing PSN-downloaded games until we reconnected the console to the internet. When the PlayStation Network is healthy and functioning normally, however, downloading games is quick and easy. It just isn’t user-friendly, and it’ll take some time to get used to the nebulous iconography.
PS VITA & REMOTE PLAY
One of the most talked-about features of the PS4 is its ability to stream games wirelessly to the PlayStation Vita.
Several third-party releases have gone above and beyond basic support, including full Vita control in games like Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed 4. Remote Play via wireless LAN works well in supported titles. The feature is also compatible with some of Sony’s first-party games, such as Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack.
Unfortunately, PS Vita owners’ hopes of remote access to PS4 content will have to wait, as Remote Play still has the same problems Wii U owners have even when used locally. If players venture too far from their routers, they risk losing connection to the PS4 and having the game become unplayable.
As the Vita has struggled to establish a sustainable install base outside of Japan after almost two years of availability, we are somewhat perplexed by Sony’s aggressive pairing of the fortunes of the Vita and PS4 with the emphasis on Remote Play. However, Remote Play has the potential to set the PS4 apart from its rivals in a significant way.
Sony could have stopped with the release of the PlayStation App this week, but they were smart to expand beyond their own handheld by releasing it for the Vita as well. The app’s main purpose appears to be providing enhanced app experiences for PlayStation 4 software, as messaging and friend list management options are merely icing on the cake. Playroom, Sony’s current app showcase, allows users to draw shapes and flick them out to entertain their silly robot minions.
However, whether or not developers will consistently take advantage of the PlayStation App is still up in the air. Studios that are receptive to PS4’s second-screen features are still using Android and iOS apps designed specifically for their needs. Sony may not have the same level of control as the Wii U or the new SmartGlass on the Xbox One, but they do have multiple options for catching up. Second-screen support being so widely available can only be a good thing for the gaming industry as a whole.
After spending about four weeks with the PS4 at review events and with review hardware, Sony’s primary goal for the system is crystal clear.
The method is not without its drawbacks. This focus on games should result in a robust ecosystem of PS4 exclusives and cross-platform releases. The PlayStation 4 can run games like Battlefield 4 at a higher resolution than the Xbox One thanks to the console’s focus on high-powered hardware dedicated to gaming software.
There is no denying the PS4’s superior performance compared to its rivals.
The PlayStation 4, however, has struggled to produce a library of launch-day software capable of selling the hardware.
Resogun is a stunning shooting game that can be downloaded for free by PlayStation Plus members, making it a standout in the PlayStation 4’s library. Unfortunately, Sony’s AAA launch exclusives are unplayable. Killzone: Shadow Fall’s visuals are stunning, but the game’s campaign is poorly designed and tedious. Knack, developed and published by Sony Japan, is a surprisingly challenging grind with far too much time spent on far too little content.
Unfortunately for Sony, the differences between next-gen and current-gen releases this fall have not gone beyond cosmetic tweaks. Games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag look better on PlayStation 4, but that’s not reason enough to upgrade.
This is a huge obstacle for the PlayStation 4. It’s survival as a gaming platform depends on that aspect alone. Also problematic is the lack of platform-exclusive titles announced for the PS4 outside of Infamous: Second Son for the first half of 2014. The year following a console’s release is notoriously difficult, as evidenced by the software failures of the PlayStation Vita and the Wii U, and we don’t know what bridges Sony intends to build between launch and holiday 2014.
Besides the disastrous Contrast, which is included for free with PlayStation Plus, Sony’s repeated emphasis on indie titles has yielded little fruit for launch. Some of the games Sony showed off at E3 and Gamescom this year will likely appear in 2014, but their absence has us wondering what went wrong and why they won’t be ready in time for release.
We are not implying that the PlayStation 4 will be devoid of good, interesting software. That, in our opinion, is a given. However, it is unknown at this time what this software will entail or when it will be made available.
There are many other avenues to explore with the PS4. The potential for PS Vita local network play is huge. Developers may be able to expand the PlayStation 4’s audience beyond the hardcore gamers Sony is currently targeting thanks to the PlayStation App and the Playstation Camera. Sony’s new console was designed to develop over time, unlike the PS3.
However, the PlayStation 4’s exclusive dedication to gaming is hampered by a dearth of engaging titles. That shortcoming will undoubtedly be remedied as better and more games are released for the PlayStation 4, but as it stands, this is a gaming console that lacks a selling point: a game. Those who pre-order a PlayStation 4 this fall are investing in future potential. We’re just looking for a good place to go and have fun.