PS4 review roundup: Critics love the console, lament the games

Nov. 16, 2013 | 6:00 a.m.
epa usa playstation 4 launch3 PS4 review roundup: Critics love the console, lament the games

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)

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Joey Chiu, 24, center, purchases the first Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in New York. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)

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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)

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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)

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Brenden Hartnet, left, and Sydnee Mencuri celebrate after purchasing a PlayStation 4 during Sony's midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

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Wade Smith pumps his fist after purchasing the Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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Nick Torka, 22, plays "Battlefield 4" on the PlayStation 4 console during Sony's midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

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Fans wait in line outside a Game Stop store to attend the Sony PlayStation 4 midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

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Nicholas Swe, right, celebrates after purchasing the Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

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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)

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Fans test out the Sony PlayStation 4 console during its midnight launch event in San Francisco. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

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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)

apphoto best buy ps4 launch PS4 review roundup: Critics love the console, lament the games

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)

apphoto us games new consoles PS4 review roundup: Critics love the console, lament the games

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)

apphoto aptopix us games new consoles PS4 review roundup: Critics love the console, lament the games

Sony PlayStation 4 in hand, a man heads out of a Best Buy store in Chicago on Friday. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

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.”

Console design

The Sony PlayStation 4 console and controller. (Simon Dawson / Bloomberg)

The Sony PlayStation 4 console and controller. (Simon Dawson / Bloomberg)

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.”

The PlayStation 4's DualShock gamepad. (Sony)

The PlayStation 4’s DualShock gamepad. (Sony)

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.”

User interface

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 PlayStation 4 offers social sharing options. (Sony)

The PlayStation 4 offers social sharing options. (Sony)

Sharing

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.

A scene from "Resogun," a game for the PS4. (Sony)

A scene from “Resogun,” a game for the PS4. (Sony)

Launch games

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.”

Polygon agreed.

“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.”

Brenden Hartnet, left, and Sydnee Mencuri celebrate after purchasing a PlayStation 4 during Sony's midnight launch event in San Francisco on Nov. 14, 2013. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

Brenden Hartnet, left, and Sydnee Mencuri celebrate after purchasing a PlayStation 4 during Sony’s midnight launch event in San Francisco on Thursday. (Erin Lubin / Bloomberg)

To buy?

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.”

Kotaku agreed.

“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.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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Comments


51 Responses to PS4 review roundup: Critics love the console, lament the games

  1. mariano965 says:

    Does it play blue-ray movies?

  2. Friend of the World says:

    Dear Santa…………. I know you are extra busy this year and of course am aware of all the troubles in the world….. I do try to help a little when I can but will not brag on the good stuff I do. There is only one real big thing I would so much like to have for Christmas and that would be the new PS4. I promise to take real good care of it and let any of my friends play with it. I spend a lot of time at home so this would be such a real good perfect present for me. Be careful out there making your deliveries this year….especially here in Los Angeles….. most of the drivers are very crazy very rude and very stupid….. maybe they just need a few nice toys to keep them off the road.
    Merry Christmas Santa and a Ho Ho Ho to YOU…………. Eddie…
    . oh I have moved I now live on Bunker Hill but am sure you already know that.

  3. MrDon says:

    The Red Line Of Death. With MASS products like this we should see things go wrong it's just the law of averages but the numbers are growing fast.

    • jerry says:

      dude its a warning light that its overheating. you would be hot as well if you were cramped up in an unventilated plastic box all day. point = invalid

  4. vinnyvortex says:

    Yes I am.

  5. Remy says:

    i havent had any issues with my ps4 played call of duty ghosts for 5 hours the morning of release day

  6. bob says:

    My PS4 is broken. There are a lot of them broken. 15-25% atleast.

  7. Wingnut4life says:

    I already bought 2 of them for my house. Had them both online for almost 11 hours yesterday and not one issue so far. Love the new UI as its very quick and a lot cleaner then the PS3 UI. Dont let the reports of failures scare you. I know 12 people that bought PS4 not including myself and they have had zero issues till now but we are only 1 day in. Hope all of you that pick one up are enjoying it as much as I am.

  8. The company and fanboys talked so much trash about microsoft as it focuses on entertainment, and not gaming first, saying the PS4 is "all about gaming". Yet they dont release anything worth actually playing on the console. The xbox on the other hand has more than a few titles worth playing day 1, and apps to entertain, which they promoted in the previous months.

  9. I completely agree, once I got wind of watch dogs delayed until June 30th and Drive club getting delayed as well which is a free game on release day with my PS Plus account I had to make a choice. Do I buy this system and play Battlefield 4 and spend 500 dollars on the BF4 and PS Plus Bundle. Or should I just wait because to be honest Sonys line up sucks. That's all I can honestly say about Sony's PS4 is that so far from the reviews and what I've come to realize is that Ive never purchased a console on release day. I never had a game captivate me and make me want to spend the ticket of admission to get myself that brand new shiny console for a specific game on release day. It's aways been at least a year later when good games are out. I've only purchased a console based on their games. If I see a game at a kiosk or at a buddies house and it's so dynamic and futuristic to me and it's everything I've ever wanted in a game, that's when I spend the ticket to buy myself a console and this year, Just like this time and in 2005 and 2006 there wasn't anything that I can remember that made swipe my credit card and impulse buy. So it looks like I'm going to wait until Division is released and impulse buy.

    • jacob says:

      you just wrote that you didn't buy it, yet you know all about it. I live on east coast so I had my ps4 a few hours before the west coast (pacific time) did. Had no problems, I spent a couple of the first few hours exploring and downloading games and syncing my ps3 account to my ps4. It worked perfectly I didn't turn it off for 12hrs straight. These people who talk bad about these new consoles have never played them. They just pretend like children lmao!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh! the graphics on killzone are ridiculous whoever say different must be playing on a picture tube t.v. cause the games opening starts after your father dies in front of you (spoiler alert) lol and it looks like movie CGI!!! NO B.S.

  10. shane says:

    Not impressed at all. Madden25 is not much better than the PS3. And NBA2K14 is a pain in the ass to get downloaded and then setup an account at therw website to play online. To much to go thru to play games. I don’t really care for all the other extras like Netflix etc. I’m a gamer. And if I want to watch a movie. I’ll go to redbox or buy it.

  11. Boopie says:

    Already bought mine. I agree with the comments about launch day lineup. I'll be playing AC Black Flag while I'm waiting on the release of Dark Souls 2

  12. Brad Dayton says:

    This article is all over the place, LA Times I expect more from you guys, I voted you guys best newspaper in the world last year and I'm from Ny. Ok Gilbert from endgadget.com "It’s a digital entertainment hub that, unlike the Xbox One, isn’t meant to be an innocuous set-top box." then a few paragraphs down hes quoted saying "“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.”. Ok Gilbert besides being a playstation fanboy(easy to detect by your lack of properly knowing your shit while saying its better then its rival,lol) your a complete idiot. Here's what you need to know, the ps4 is no media device, it plays almost absolutely nothing besides games, but it will play blu rays after a software update that was suppose to be ready on launch(not sure if it was?) on the other hand xbox one is a media hub device and plays almost everything but it does NOT play blu rays. xbox1 plays games on blu ray discs but doesn't play blu ray movies(thats M$ summed up isnt it,lol) My final thought,, don't buy either, why bother, upgrade your gpu on your pc and have fun lagging and waiting weeks if not mnths for modern new release games to work properly. Ill bet you a thousand bucks any day I'm right. I have two ps4's in my closet and i have two xbox ones(NSA recording devices) coming,, im selling them all for profit, i have a nvidia 690 why would i need these inferior products. The video game industry this year is out of whack, and has been for the last couple(thats not an opinion its a fact if you been gaming since the 80's). I dont know when its getting better but I'm guessing towards the end of next year, but prob the end of 2015.

  13. happyps4owner says:

    of course it does

  14. @TheRooshman says:

    "New" means removing the best of the old. No MP3 or CD? No external HDD back up? DUMB!

    • megadebt says:

      yeah.. i believe the external HDD had a ‘not at launch’ attached to it, and sony is reviewing it’s CD/MP3 stance. but, yeah, the system will evolve over time, much like the ps3..

  15. bill dixon says:

    most of you people just like to complain. I think the ps4 is really well made, ive got mine it works fine. The games play fine. With any new hardware release there is a delay till the real next-gen games start releasing. So you all can keep whinning and be fooled by xbox and Bill Gates's money machine. Its like the Invasion of the body snatchers.

  16. andrew bean says:

    The most damning statements about PS4 are not the paltry line up of games or the rumors of failure rates but the fact that it is not a game changer enough to really justify swapping out the PS3 just yet.

  17. David says:

    Geeez man !!!! What did we all do when there was no internet or magazines to tell us what's good or what's bad…. In the the good old days of snes,nes,master system etc you bought one played it and loved it and didn't care what anyone else thought. I've had a 360 for years , but now changing to a ps4 for the simple reason I'm not interested in the kinect at all !!!! Just buy what appeals to you , don't follow like sheep.

  18. mike says:

    no games worth playing are you nuts bf4 EPIC the textures alone are worth the price of admission resogun awsome free to plays good for a distraction i have had a few problems myself most seem
    software based sound stuttering dolby digital on fiber optic battle log lockup with the touchpad but
    i no they will fix it

  19. Metal says:

    it is an invation allright, jus wait for it after the 22nd :)

  20. Walter Gates III says:

    LOL @ Bill Dixon

  21. tobin says:

    Microsoft pays for reviews and they pay stores to advertise the Xbrick more than PlayStation. These critics got their heads up their butts. You can’t compare pc’s to consoles. If Microsoft was capable of making something enjoyable and not robbing you at the same time I would consider thinking about the possibility of maybe considering one to be worth getting, but until that day its a waste of money.

  22. tobin says:

    Also Xbrick has no good games… Halo is only fun for a short amount of time. Left for dead gets real boring. Fable sucks, its a child’s RPG. Kinect is almost as bad as Wii, and looks like crap. Critics are dumb. PlayStation will always be top dog in hardware, design, and innovation. The system just came out and it was rushed. All the minor features will come in updates. That’s no big deal and they know this.

  23. tobin says:

    Annnnddddd… No games have 40 gb of install files! @%!*&! Lay of the crack pipe. 500 gb is plenty. If u download all your games, you can spend very little money on a bigger drive. Beats buying small overpriced old formatted Xbox drives.

  24. Herb says:

    The PS4 is a next generation console? We own 2 PS3's and my son has the xbox.The PS3 is the hub of my home entertainment system. It plays games,mp3s,videos,3D movies,movies,pics,dvds, bluray, cds and streams from my computer because it it dlna compliant.The PS4 can play GAMES! WOW, what a breakthrough! Really.People want MORE and BETTER from NEXT GEN not LESS.The games did not look much better on ps4 than last gen consoles.I know it is about the potential because of the increase in hardware specs.I favored the PS3 because Microsoft did not have what Sony did at launch(Entertainment hub).Now the tables have turned.I know gamers scoff at consoles that give you MORE than gaming.Why?I want gaming plus from Sony.Now I will have to go with the xbox.

  25. Michael Byers says:

    What this article failed to mention is that if you buy the Eye, you can use voice control to launch the games. Granted, not many will purchase the Eye, but I did and I love it!

  26. Brad says:

    If gta5 was on ps4, I would have one already. I just can not understand why rock star didn’t include gta5 as a ps4 launch title. I think it would have defined the ps4 as the dominant console. As it stands now, I’ll buy whichever console brings gta5 to next gen hardware.

  27. today says:

    Launch lineup is atrocious. Pass!

  28. Chris says:

    I own a Xbox 360. I’ve enjoyed it for the past 5 years never a problem. I’ve been able to do many things with it other than play games. Watching movies and tv shows. Watching live events on espn app. Also watched halo tournament, BO2 tournament. BF4 tournament all on Xbox. Personally the better system for home entertainment is the Xbox. It’s functionally easier to use. Besides playing games. For example. Would you buy a phone that just makes phone calls or one that can surf the Internet, be a radio, and play games on it. PS4 to me failed when they limit the use of all that technology. Where as the new Xbox one can do more than the ps4 can do.

    • Random says:

      While you pay an added $64.99 to do anything internet wise. Plus since Microsoft has gone with currency so you now have to pay tax for DLC and season passes.

      Now before my comment is blown up for anything. I own all systems (but the vita atm) and now the PS4 (have had no issues so far) and "one" day the Xone.

  29. Randy says:

    Love the ps4!Knack is like ice cream to my 8 yr old can’t get enough.Only thing I’m upset with is.Im a sports fan.Where are the UFC And Boxing games.Looks like I have to wait until 10/31/14.Feels like Sony said.You play what we think you should play.

  30. Jonny says:

    Chris I completely agree with you. The society we live in does not want expensive piece of technology that can only do one thing. We all want something that does everything in one. When it comes to home entertainment the Xbox One wins hands down. As for the gaming side specifically, the differences between the two are marginal, both will bring extreme amounts of fun to anyone who plays them. Xbox users are happy with the graphics, gameplay, multiplayer, and the UI. Just as the PS peeps are happy with theirs. The fact people want to try and justify why their own preference is better is just sad and pointless. They won't be swaying people from one console or the other with their irrational comments. Everyone will justify their purchase with their own wants.

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