Joey Chiu, 24, center, is the first to purchase the new Sony PlayStation 4 game console at the midnight launch event Thursday in New York. He poses with Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, left, and Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, at the Standard High Line. (Peter Foley / EPA)Link
Joey Chiu, 24, center, purchases the first Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in New York. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)Link
Jordan Smith and Kayla Brittingham, share a kiss after purchasing the Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in San Francisco on Thursday. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Tony Bartel, president of GameStop Corp., left, and Tim Bender, senior vice president of sales at Sony Computer Entertainment pose with the first Sony PlayStation 4 console to be sold during its midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Brenden Hartnet, left, and Sydnee Mencuri celebrate after purchasing a PlayStation 4 during Sony's midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Wade Smith pumps his fist after purchasing the Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Fans pose with an actor dressed as a character from the video game "Secret Ponchos" as they wait in line to attend Sony's PlayStation 4 midnight launch event in New York. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)Link
Actors dressed as characters from the video games "Kill Zone" and "Assassin's Creed" pose as fans line up to attend Sony's PlayStation 4 midnight launch event in New York. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)Link
An actor dressed as a character from the video game "Knack" poses as fans wait in line to attend Sony's PlayStation 4 midnight launch event in New York. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)Link
An actor dressed as a character from the video game franchise "Assassin's Creed" poses as fans wait in line to attend Sony's PlayStation 4 midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Nick Torka, 22, plays "Battlefield 4" on the PlayStation 4 console during Sony's midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Fans wait in line outside a Game Stop store to attend the Sony PlayStation 4 midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Nicholas Swe, right, celebrates after purchasing the Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Meredith Molinari, PlayStation Network presenter, shows off a wristband bearing the logo of the Sony PlayStation 4 console during the midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
Fans test out the Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
The character Sackboy from the video game "LittleBigPlanet" greets fans attending the Sony PlayStation 4 console's midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)Link
People line up to purchase the Sony PlayStation 4 console in New York. (Peter Foley / EPA)Link
Customers wait in line at a Best Buy store in Richfield, Minn. to be the first to buy the PlayStation 4 at 12:01 a.m. Friday. (Associated Press)Link
Andy Varadez, left, purchases a Sony PlayStation 4 from Best Buy sales manager Michael Centeno at a store in Chicago on Friday. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)Link
Sony PlayStation 4 in hand, a man heads out of a Best Buy store in Chicago on Friday. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)Link
After thousands of gamers waited in line for the midnight release of PlayStation 4, Sony’s next-generation video game console is finally out. Reviews for the highly anticipated machine are pouring in and for the most part, they’re positive.
Game critics tout the PS4’s sleek console design, intuitive controller and improved user interface while lamenting the relatively slim lineup of original launch games to show off the powerful new hardware.
The Times’ own Todd Martens notes that the new console is evidence of Sony’s laser-focus on its hard-core gamer audience.
“The highly sociable PS4 sidesteps attempts by competitors to capture a more casual player and subsume all home media options with a machine that offers no-nonsense gaming professionalism,” Martens writes. “If it the PS4 weren’t $400, it could be seen as a love letter to Sony’s core audience.”
The design of the console itself has been widely praised as slim, sleek and attractive.
Polygon’s review noted the system’s half-gloss, half-matte finish: “It’s a grown-up machine, designed more like a stylish DVD player than a gaudy video game console. It’s a small, attractive system, and one that also happens to pack more powerful hardware in its diminutive frame than any other console.”
“Make no mistake,” writes Engadget’s Ben Gilbert. “The PS4 is not a toy. It’s a digital entertainment hub that, unlike the Xbox One, isn’t meant to be an innocuous set-top box. Sony’s crafted this console with consumer gadget-lust in mind. In a sense, it’s the opposite of wallflower hardware: The PS4 will compete for visual attention next to your television, audio system and whatever other home media devices you have hooked up.”
Joystiq’s Richard Mitchell expressed some doubt about its durability, however, saying: “The only troubling physical quality of the PS4 is that the plastic casing has a good amount of flex to it. Squeeze or prod the console and you’ll be able to see and feel the plastic bending under your fingers. The outer layer of plastic feels very thin, and honestly I think a sharp object could probably pierce it (though I’m not about to test that theory). It won’t be a concern for many users, but those who travel with their PS4 will want to be extra careful.”
And several critics complained that the console’s 500-gigabyte hard drive was insufficient, considering most major games require close to 40 GBs apiece.
“Factor in the operating system, and you’re looking at a device that can hold maybe 10 or 12 mainstream games,” Martens wrote. “In a couple of years, those players who opt not to go through the trouble of replacing a hard drive may find themselves deleting and reinstalling games to manage space because the PS4 does not support external hard drives for game storage.”
DualShock 4 controller
Most critics praised the system’s new DualShock 4 controller, which in addition to a more ergonomic design than the previous iteration, adds a headphone jack, a clickable touchpad, new Share/Options buttons, a speaker and a color-changing light bar. The new controller can also be charged via the console using a USB cable.
Polygon raved, “We can say this unequivocally: The DualShock 4 is the best controller Sony has ever made.”
Joystiq’s Mitchell noted that the light bar adds interesting, if not necessary, touches to games, such as pulsing to the music in “Sound Shapes” or changing from green to red based on character health.
Gilbert (at Engadget) said the gamepad’s speaker “doesn’t produce great sound” and “adds little gameplay,” and complained that the light bar can’t be turned off without turning off the controller. But he praised the controller’s new touchpad as its “finest new addition.”
“It’s intuitive, responsive and the gameplay potential is huge,” he writes. “In a world of touchpads, the DualShock 4’s is a welcome addition in both use and feel. It works the first time, every time, and that’s all that really matters when it comes to game input.”
The most common complaint about the controller, however, was its limited battery life. Some critics estimated seven to eight hours of play before needing to recharge, while others claimed closer to 10 hours. In contrast, the previous generation DualShock 3 controller boasted 30 hours of battery life.
“If there’s a fly in the ointment, it’s that you’ll need to keep it charged,” write Sean Hollister, Ross Miller and David Pierce on The Verge. “The DualShock was immediately back in the action once I connected a Micro USB cable, but the included cable didn’t reach all the way to my couch. Even with cell phone chargers, it’s still harder to keep the DualShock 4 ready for action than to swap a couple of AA batteries into an Xbox controller when you inevitably run out of juice.”
The PlayStation 4’s user interface was widely considered an improvement over the PlayStation 3’s XMB (cross-media bar), with some key defects, including limited media options and a lack of user control of content organization.
The Verge writes, “At first, it seems to make sense. Just like on the PlayStation 3, you scroll left and right, up and down to accomplish things. But I had to do an inordinate amount of scrolling and clicking to do most anything. Since the main list of apps and games automatically sorts itself by recency, you can’t count on anything ever being in the same place… and as the list gets longer, that just becomes more difficult. There’s no way to sort or filter the list.”
Polygon also complained about content management, saying, “Games are listed in an endless horizontal line with no organizational options whatsoever. Every single PS4 disc that you insert into the drive automatically installs and slots itself into that list, surely an impediment to finding what you’re looking for quickly.”
However, Polygon also praised the system’s ability to temporarily suspend a game to change display or audio settings without having to quit the game.
And Engadget complained about the system’s limited local media playback options, including sluggish performances from Hulu Plus and Netflix and limited music options.
“Music Unlimited is, unbelievably, the only option for playing music on the PlayStation 4. You can’t set up a media server, or play MP3s or audio CDs,” Gilbert writes. “Why can’t we play our own music on this super-powerful PC-esque game console? Sony says more options are coming, but at launch this is your only option.”
The PS4 offers a wide range of social and sharing options. Simply by pressing the “Share” button on the controller, gamers can upload screenshots to social networks, upload up to 15 minutes of gameplay footage and even live-stream gameplay. Additionally, the system boasts a channel featuring live-streaming gameplay, uncensored and unfiltered, from gamers around the world.
For some critics, these features were a major selling point. For others, they amounted to a shrug.
“Live-broadcasting games may be the PlayStation 4’s most powerful feature,” Engadget’s Gilbert raves. “Being able to instantly share the game you’re playing with the internet is exciting — it’s like hosting your own TV channel, but filled with video games! — and shockingly simple to use. … The Share button is Sony’s biggest promise delivered, and it’s this type of functionality that will shape the next 10 years with the PlayStation 4.”
Joystiq was more tongue-in-cheek in its assessment.
“If you really want to annoy your friends, you can have Facebook automatically publish stories every time your earn a Trophy or start playing a PS4 game,” Mitchell wrote.
The Times’ Martens acknowledged that “to many of the video gaming faithful, the easy recording and sharing capabilities of the PS4 will be everything, as the idea of a video game as a spectator sport is more common than many realize,” but admitted that the appeal isn’t universal.
“As someone who views video gaming as a solo activity, and generally finds the competitive nature of online multiplayer to be off-putting — I like to explore and fail free from the commentary and eyes of others — such recording and sharing abilities mean zilch,” he wrote.
Across the board, critics expressed disappointment with the new console’s game options at launch, while expressing confidence that the lineup will improve in time.
“The two dozen or so launch titles for the console are unlikely to satisfy the exact gamer Sony’s trying so desperately to court — and that may be disappointed with what’s available for the console they pre-ordered,” writes The Verge. “Nothing we saw really took our breath away, and nothing looked better than what you get with a good gaming PC.”
“The PS4 has failed to muster a software library that sells that hardware. … Downloadable shooter ‘Resogun’ is a beautiful bright spot in the PlayStation 4’s lineup, and even better, it’s free for PlayStation Plus subscribers. But Sony’s major AAA launch exclusives are impossible to recommend. ‘Killzone: Shadow Fall’ is gorgeous but poorly designed and boring for the duration of its campaign. Sony Japan’s ‘Knack’ is a surprisingly difficult grind, which drags on for too long with too little to say or do.”
In the end, most critics seemed to agree that the console, while impressive, offered more in the way of potential than in initial wow factor. Martens, who pointed out that the PS3’s best games weren’t among the initial wave, suggested “a wait-and-see approach.”
“One of the reasons I’m not yet recommending you run out and get a PS4 is that, as cool as a lot of the system is, there’s no game on it that you just have to play and can’t play anywhere else,” writes Kotaku’s Steohen Totilo.
The Verge also suggested delaying purchase: “For right now, though, there’s little incentive to spend $399 on a PlayStation 4. Not only are there few games worth the price of admission, the vast library of PS3 games is more compelling than anything the PS4 currently offers. If you’re desperate for a new console, rest assured that eventually the PS4 will be one; it has plenty of power, a great controller, and a lot of good ideas about how we can play games better and how we can play them together. But for right now, they’re mostly still just ideas.”
Polygon offered a similar assessment.
“The PlayStation 4’s focus on gaming — and only gaming — is undermined by a distinct lack of compelling software. That failing is sure to improve — better games and more of them will appear on the PlayStation 4 — but right now, this is a game console without a game to recommend it. Early adopters of the PS4 this fall are buying potential energy. We’re just waiting for a place to spend it.”
Are you going to buy a PlayStation 4? Let us know in the comments.
RECENT AND RELATED