Sony's PlayStation 4 gaming console.
After years of success as the relative king of the video game world thanks to the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, Sony stumbled out of the gates when it released the PlayStation 3 in 2006. Initially lagging far behind the Xbox 360 and Wii in popularity, the it took the majority of the seven years since then to recover. With the release of the PlayStation 4, however, it seems Sony's right back on track with an instant blockbuster piece of gaming hardware.
Out of the box, the PS4 is surprisingly straightforward. The console comes with a wireless DualShock 4 controller (more on that later) with charge cable, an HDMI cable, a (flimsy) earpiece with in-line microphone for in-game chatting, and a power cable. Also included is a free month of the premium PlayStation Plus service, 30 days of Sony's Music Unlimited service, and $10 worth of PlayStation Network credit. Optionally, there is also the PlayStation Camera. It costs an extra 60 bucks and adds the camera has face recognition, allows for voice commands, and adds motion controls to the console.
Installation and setup of the console is easy. Simply plug the console into the wall for power, connect it via HDMI to a television, and press power. From there the console gives users a couple simple prompts (language, time zone, internet settings) before finally being up and running. Those who get the camera simply plug it into the USB port on the rear of the machine. All-in-all, the console ready for gameplay in less than two minutes.
Once set up, users should find the PS4's clean user interface pleasing both on the eye and in its usability. It's easy to navigate, quick to respond, and blows the PS3/PSP UI out of the water. Furthermore, it's easy to tell that gaming is this device's number one priority as titles take front and center to be played.
As far as the new DualShock 4 controller is concerned, it's a large step in the correct direction for Sony after staying fairly true to form since the original PlayStation. While shaped similar to the PS3's DualShock 3 gamepad, the DualShock 4 is much more contoured and feels extremely comfortable in one's hands. The L1/R1/L2/R2 shoulder buttons have been redesigned to stick out more somewhat like triggers to make them easier to use. Furthermore, the concave/beveled analog sticks are an improvement over the convex ones of the DualShock 3.
One thing that gamers will probably find they miss when it comes to the new controller, however, are the industry-standard 'Start' and 'Select' buttons. A mainstay since the NES days, the two iconic input toggles have been replaced by the 'Share' and 'Options' buttons. The former allows users to instantly edit and upload a clip of recently-played gameplay to the web for others to view, take instant screenshots, or broadcast gameplay live via Twitch and Ustream. Gameplay videos and screenshots can be shared via Facebook and Twitter for those who are into such a thing. The latter button, 'Options', is just that. It brings up whatever related options are available to the task at hand. While the replacement of the 'Start' and 'Select' buttons is initially noticeable, whether or not they'll ultimately be missed has yet to be determined.
Other key features with the new gamepad include a built-in speaker and the touchpad that takes up the bulk of the middle of the controller's face. It's touch sensitive for applications that take advantage of it and also acts as one huge button. It's curious to ponder exactly how developers plan on implementing the touchpad in their games - if much at all.
In terms of the actual console itself, it's much more angular than its predecessor. Where the PS3 had curves, the PS4 looks like a rectangle that's been pushed 45° towards its rear. The end result is a piece of hardware that look much sleeker than just a simple box. As far as what's inside this angular box, users will find that it features a robust 500GB internal hard drive, 8GB of DDR5 RAM, and an 8-core CPU made by AMD. In short, it's quite the little powerhouse.
Sony also incorporates its PlayStation Vita portable gaming console as an optional second screen, taking a page out of Nintendo's Wii U playbook. Using the $199 Vita, gamers can enjoy additional in-game visual information and remote play between the two units. Once paired with the PS4, users can even control the console with the Vita alone. Of course, users will need to download Sony's day-one PS4 system update to take advantage of this feature (among a few others).
Come launch day (Friday, November 15) there will be some 20-odd titles available for the PS4. This includes first-party games such as Killzone: Shadow Fall and third-party multiplats like Madden NFL 25. While the console's initial library may be considered modest by some, it offers a good range of titles for gamers of all ages across most genres although it would have been nice for there to be more than just six first-party titles available on day one.
Priced at a comfortable $399 (only $50 more than Nintendo's Wii U Deluxe this time last year), the PlayStation 4 looks to be the console to beat in this eighth generation of video game consoles. That said, Microsoft has yet to release their next piece of hardware. It's Xbox One is scheduled to release Friday of next week.