on January 8, 2015
Let me preface this review by saying that I am only a casual gamer. As a pure gaming console, this is truly excellent. Impressive graphics, speed etc. Countless reviews will tell you that, and they are not wrong. I haven't seen a lot of reviews for people, such as myself, who wish to use the console not only for playing games, but as a multipurpose media device, as a true replacement for the PS 3 and all of it's functionality. This is where the PS4 falls puzzlingly short, and people should be advised.
I consider the PS 3 to be, perhaps, the most perfect entertainment device ever conceived. Sony's ad campaign from a couple of years ago was "It Only Does Everything" and that was pretty much truth in advertising. I used the PS3 as a multimedia hub for my household. A fully functional and updateable Blu-Ray player, with excellent DVD upscaling, and an unrivaled streaming device for Netflix, Amazon Video, Vudu, Hulu, PlayOn and others. A CD player as well, for rare occasions when a playing a physical disc was required. With the addition of a $20 bluetooth remote, this device was the seamless center of my home entertainment system. I expected the vaunted next generation console to possess the same functionality. Strangely this did not happen. While technically, the PS 4 can still do most of those things, it does so quite unspectacularly and with an interface so clunky that I have been forced to leave my PS3 connected.
The central problem is that, more than a year after launch, there is still no replacement for the Bluetooth remote control. All media functions must be run using the game controller, which already has poor battery life and provides less than intuitive playback controls. The only remotes available are third party and basically do not work at all. While I can live with this, users with a a less extensive tech familiarity will easily find themselves at sea. Sony does not appear to be developing a remote control and, instead, is emphasizing that the PS4 works with HDMI control, through your television remote. I tried this and it did not work, even though I have a Sony TV. A little research uncovered the fact that it only works with an HDMI control standard rolled out in 2009 and since my, perfectly functional, television was purchased in 2008, I'm out of luck unless I want to invest in a TV I don't need. That's a big price tag to replace the $20 remote that works with my PS3.
Leaving the control issues aside, media playback is not impressive. I played a number of Blu-Rays on the system and found that they don't look very good. I have no idea why this should be, but there is a noticeable difference in quality between this and the PS 3 for playing the same media. Ditto for streaming.
Another quirk of this new system, (and this is directly gaming related,) is that you can no longer use bluetooth headsets. You can only use wired headsets plugged into the controller. And you can't use any smartphone headset, if you want a functional mic. You have to use playstation approved gear, or it will not work. I simply don't understand why this decision was made. It doesn't seem to be just a transparent money grab, it seems like a generally poorly thought out design. Perhaps this will be changed, but it has been a year and there has not been a whisper of a change yet.
When the PS3 arrived on the market, the chief things that differentiated it from XBox were as follows: Built in Blu-Ray, when that technology was brand new and online play that was free. That was why it was a no brainer for me to go with PS3. With this new release, they have hobbled the Blu-Ray and multimedia capabilities and, in addition, now require a PlayStation plus subscription for PS4 players to play online. The PS4 is a fine gaming system, there is no doubt about that but, for a certain type of user, this will not serve as a replacement for your PS3. I think people should be aware of that before they invest $400.
on September 3, 2014
Next Gen is here, and it's beautiful.
Like most of you who might be reading this review, considering this purchase or perhaps even wondering whether the next gen is worth the investment at all; I wondered if the Xbox One or the PS4 was a better choice. Aside from the price of games and peripherals, to get both is a $900 investment. That's $900 better spent on just one console, accessories, and a healthy load of games. So, I decided I needed to go with just one. But which one?
The reality is, both are so very similar in a lot of ways; so the PS4's aggressive $100 price undercut makes it very appealing. But there are a few other things that make the PS4 stand out. For one, the controller is fantastic. And this is coming from an Xbox Fanboy! While, like any good gamer, I was glued to the PS1 and it's incredibly new controllers, disc based games and incredible, epic RPG's. And then the PS2 after that. But then, after some time, came along the XBox. With a controller that just made so much more sense. Offset sticks meant that almost every game was better with the XBox controller. So, trust me when I say, it's hard for me to own up and say that the PlayStation has a better controller. It's just great. Ergonomic, features that make sense, great weight and feel; and even decent battery life (though it could be better). Pricing for the controllers is very steep; but it is for the XBox One as well; so that's moot.
Finally, the games. Both have their share of First-Person shooters that I'll never own. I'm a PC gamer. In fact, my LAST console that I owned was that original XBox. I skipped the PS3/Xbox 360 generation entirely. With Steam, lower priced games, better graphics; and I can STILL use those exact same controllers; well- why not go with PC? Well, two reason finally drug me to the Console land once again. First, is convenience. Hey, I'm not afraid to admit I do pine for the ability to plop down on the couch, push a button, and fire up a game. Sure beats sitting in an office chair (or dragging my PC into the living room), waiting for the machine to boot up (even with SSD's), and so on. But that's only a minor inconvenience. The real problem; is the fact that with a PC I can't borrow and try out my friends games; Demos are a thing of the past and there are so many console games I've been drooling over that just never seem to make it to PC. So I bit the bullet and got the PS4.
Why the PS4 then? Well, as someone who doesn't like FPS's on a controller (I'm just useless with a controller. Blame the years of PC gaming, or my unwillingness to learn. But the fact is, I'm about as useful as a screen door on a submarine in a first-person shooter with a controller), I want the console that gives me the epic RPG's, top tier racing games (though the XBox does have Forza!), killer platformers and even the occasional time-wasting cute casual game. While the XBox One checks all of those boxes; with the exception of racing games (Again, Forza); the PS4 takes the (albeit slight) lead when it comes to available titles. So, for me, as a PC gamer; the PS4 is the perfect compliment.
So enough about the differences between the two. How about we talk about the console itself?
Well, it's epic. My gaming PC has an AMD Radeon 7870 graphics card. This PS4 has graphics performance similar to the slower 7770 graphics card, and it's noticeable. Since DC Universe Online is a free downloadable game, I decided to download it to my PS4 and my PC. Graphics on the PS4 were noticeably poorer but not significantly. Unlike previous generations; the gap between PC graphics and console graphics is much smaller. It will widen as time goes by and we upgrade our PC's and the consoles remain the same; but even so, for right now; the PS4 has some serious pep.
On top of that, it has 500GB of storage (without the overhead of a large operating system or bloaty applications like Microsoft Office). Which is great; especially great is the PS4's ability to purchase games from a huge library. As I said, the ability to borrow, swap, and buy used games is great. But coupling it with the ability to buy games from a digital download marketplace, have them quickly and then not need to insert a disc to play it is also great. Couple that with Sony's ambitious promise to make 100% of titles available as digital downloads is nothing short of spectacular. Any PS4 game, from the moment it launches; is available digitally. You can even pre-order a game, and it will begin downloading on launch day (provided the system is properly configured), and will be ready for you when you get home. That sure beats long lines only to find out they are out of copies of anticipating new releases! The PS4 also allows you to access your games on friends consoles; with a caveat. For one, most games are huge. Some approaching 50GB! (Wow!), so chances are this 'friend' is going to be a close friend you see a lot. It's not like you're going to come over for an hour and start playing your games. Unless your friend happens to be one of the lucky souls on Google Fiber (in which case; can they be my friend too?); chances are it's going to take hours to days or even weeks for your games to be available. That's not Sony's fault; but it's a reality of adopting digital downloads when internet speeds haven't QUITE caught up with that. Secondly; you have to be logged into that console. You can't trade, share, or sell games. Which is a real shame. With the DRM the way it is; there really seems to be no reason why I can't transfer games. Or what about a swappable marketplace? How amazing would it be if I could go into the PlayStation Store, and list some of my games that I no longer play as 'for trade', and find other people online who are willing to trade those games for titles I'd like to play? The technology is there; but Sony knows that would likely drive down sales, so it's not likely a feature we'll see. But it sure would be nice to at least be able to transfer games from one account to another; rendering them inoperable on the original account and available on the new account. No different than trading/sharing/selling Games. Even Steam is demoing a new program where you can actually SHARE your games. Only one person can play the game at a time; but you can share your library with friends! How cool is that!
Now, if you've been paying attention; I know what you're thinking. Okay so Digital downloads are cool; but are they really nearing 50GB each? Yep, they are. And is the console really equipped with a minuscule 500GB hard drive? Yes, it sure is. As a matter of fact, it's the exact same drive equipped on the PS3 slim. But guess what! In an unprecedented move; Sony has said 'go ahead, open it up'! Remember how cool that original XBox was when it came equipped with a built in 10GB Hard Drive? Remember how un-cool it got when a little bit of time went by and you realized how quickly you could fill that up; and how the console would only accept that factory hard drive without modification? Well, not today, and not with Sony. You can install any SATA hard drive that will fit, right into the console. Want a 2TB drive? Go for it. Wanna toss in an SSD and shave boot times and loading times (P.S., according to benchmarks and reviews; disc-based games don't get much of a performance improvement. And downloaded games improve only so much. So generally a bigger drive is a better buy)? Go for it, you have Sony's blessing. The only beef is that they are using a laptop hard drive. The console seems big enough to support a full 3.5" desktop class drive; which opens up a world of much better options. Including 3 and 4TB drive, and cheaper drives in general. But, even so, it's hard to complain when Sony says 'go for it', and you may, warranty in-tact, swap out the Hard drive with a bigger one. (Tip: If you're thinking about a bigger hard drive it's probably because you're thinking about downloading several games, right? Well; do yourself a favor and buy the drive now; before you have to re-download all of those games.)
Unfortunately, Sony dropped the ball with external storage. If you are looking at the specs; you might be salivating at it's USB 3.0 capability. That means data transfer speeds nearly as fast as SATA 3 are available via external ports. Woah! Well, that's all fine and good for media (Videos, mainly); but Sony doesn't allow your games to be downloaded to external storage. Bummer! Another missed opportunity. Since they already support playing digitally downloaded games on other consoles with a login; it seems like a natural thing to allow you to download them to an external drive; and take that external drive to a friends house; login, and play your games. Surely their DRM would allow for that And surely they aren't concerned about piracy (since the internal hard drive is easily accessible; and the only way you could play pirated games is with a hacked console, which so far hasn't been accomplished. And if the console was hacked; accessing an external drive would be an even easier feat than cracking the DRM anyway).
Next up, is PS Vita integration. Now this is way cool, because it works well. PS Vita supports both second screen (though that's rarely utilized); AND remote play. Remote play works beautifully on a good, strong wi-fi network. It means you can turn the TV off, change the channel, or go in the other room and continue playing your PS4 games right on your handheld. And with the drop in the PS Vita price; it's just too good to pass up. Heck, just the other evening I was leaning back in my chair in the living room, playing Diablo III for PS4 on my Vita; while my wife watched her favorite TV show on the living room TV. The Vita will even remotely turn on the PS4. In theory, this would also work over the internet allowing you to play your PS4 games anywhere in the world. But as upload speeds aren't so great here in the US of A, it's not likely many of us will be able to take advantage of that. (No matter how fast the internet connection your Vita has is; if your upload speed at home isn't quick enough for the PS4 to adequately stream, then it just won't work well.)
EDIT: Since writing this review; Sony has added ANOTHER great way to play via Remote Play. PlayStation TV; which is a small box that will sell for $99, supports remote play. This small set top box will play Netflix and other streaming content. But more importantly for the PS4 owner; is the aforementioned remote play feature. This means you can hook a Playstation TV box up to another TV in your home, and continue playing PS4 games on another screen! How awesome is that? It also supports the DualShock 4 controller. So it's like having the PS4 in another room without moving it! I've pre-ordered one.
It's a bit of a bummer that the PS4 doesn't support 5GHz wi-fi; meaning no full-speed Wireless N and no Wireless AC. But in reality; that's probably not a big deal. Unless you've got Google fiber; your internet won't saturate 2.4GHz Wireless N. And it's not likely you'll be transferring huge amounts of data from your PS4 to other devices on your network on a regular basis.
Now; here's another bummer: backwards compatibility. Through emulators that Sony has already worked on in the past; the PlayStation had an opportunity to be a record-breaking, awe-inspiring console with total backwards-compatibility spanning all the way back to the PlayStation One. But, alas, there is none. There IS a streaming service; called PS Now; that actually works quite well. But the pricing is wonky. You'll pay a chunk of change to rent a game for a couple of months; at times it'll get choppy, and part of the allure of backwards compatibility is the ability for us to play the games we already own or buy inexpensive games out of the bargain bin and have something different to play. Sony; we realize that older games will have poorer graphics. But we'd still love you to have backwards compatibility. If I can fire up an old DOS game (or; heck, an old PS1 or PS2 game) on my PC; then why can't you incorporate some decent backwards compatibility? Because the architecture is different it would require an emulator; but the folks at Sony are surely smart enough for that.
Another great leap forward in the last two generations of console (and especially this generation); is a move away from requiring proprietary accessories. We in the PC world have enjoyed a wide array of gaming accessories. And those of us who played both always lamented the fact that we had to use lame wheels, headsets, joysticks, etc., from a small group of developers because they had to be designed for the console. With bluetooth and USB; and real integration of both; there's a great variety of accessory options for the PS4. I can use the same headset I use with my PC on my PS4. Oh; and speaking of headsets, how cool is the feature that the wireless controller allows you to plugin headphones or a headset? I can send ALL of the game audio through headphones in the controller, or just communication audio. Sweet!
Finally, as I wrap up this long winded glowing review; I need to leave you with one warning. Even though the console is nearly a year old; purchasing it today still means, in a lot of ways, being an early adopter. Games seem to keep being delayed and with no backwards compatibility; the catalog of available games isn't that expansive on the PS4. Features that were touted at launch, like PS Now, are still in infantile beta stages and some features (like themes and customization of the home menu) are promised for future updates but not quite here. While only in a small way, there's a feeling of an 'unfinished console' when it comes to the PS4. It in no way should discourage you from buying; unless you are the type that demands a large library of games and can't stand beta software. Admittedly, that was a reservation I had. But then I realized; how many games am I really going to BUY each month? Probably just a couple. I mean it's not like I'm going to drop hundreds of dollars a month on several games each month. And the reality is, there are several fantastic games already available. And the pipeline is full of ambitious, exciting titles to keep me busy and my wallet empty in the months to come. In reality; this is probably the best time to buy the PS4 console. Although you will have to stomach higher pricing for games. Especially if you buy from the PS Store. Dear Sony, many of us have become accustomed to the digital experience we have through services like Steam. We demand sales, discounts, and other opportunities to buy games at a better price! As it stands now, most of the games in the PlayStation store remain effectively at launch price; even if they can be had for as little as half that price in physical form, even brand new. In fact, I just purchased a new copy of a game for my PS Vita for $24.99 on Amazon, that was available for $49.99 from the PS Store. The high pricing is consistent across both devices. That's not an issue if you're buying titles at launch ($60 is $60 right?), but as games get a little older and the prices drop; it would be nice to see the same be true of the digital store.
All in all, a slam dunk for Sony. There may be a few reasons to wait a while before adopting the current generation of consoles. There may even be a few reasons to go with the XBox One over the PS4. But for me and many others; we couldn't be happier with this fantastic piece of equipment. Sony, you haven't converted this die-hard PC gamer; but you sure have reminded him what he loved about console gaming as a kid. And he's quite happy to buy games on your platform that he could've bought on his PC!
on March 14, 2014
PS4 vs. Xbox One: A review from a die hard gamer.
So when the new systems came out I listened to all sides. We already had an Xbox 360, a PS3, and a WII. We really had no favorites except we used the PS3 more because of it's blu-ray capabilities as the home entertainment system (Netflix / Amazon).
So we decided when upgrading we were going to try and cut down on the number of systems we used. We started with a PS4 but quickly added a Wii-U for the Mario games, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and other Nintendo only games.
Some of the Xbox One exclusive titles looked good but nothing earth shattering until Titanfall. Being a huge FPS shooter fan and a huge MechWarrior fan (by the way Titanfall is a huge MechWarrior rip off) I had to get it.
For my PS4 I have purchased the system, the camera, the rubberized grip for the controllers, and some Kontrol Freaks. Making my total purchase outside of games to just under $500 dollars.
To play Titanfall I needed the Xbox One, then because I hate changing batteries I had to buy the rechargeable pack for the controller. I also use Astro A50 gaming headsets, but to use this with the Xbox One I have to use the headset adapter which is another $25-$30 dollars. So now my out of pocket expenses for this system is around $600 dollars.
Here are some of the differences that annoyed me on both.
PS4: The controllers are stock out of the box rechargeable which is great. You can turn off the rumble effects the small built in speaker, but you can't turn off that darn super light in the front. Why would I want to turn that off? Well to use less battery and although I know that is not huge it still annoys the crap out of me. The HDMI is encrypted I know some of you might not understand what that means but it means I can't use an outside capture device to record videos (although Sony still says they will fix this in an update.) This sucks to entire new levels as I don't like streaming to Twitch through the system I would rather use my PC for that function. (For streaming I like to use the Elgato capture devices, which can be found here on Amazon.) Not enough USB ports. The system has two on front and that is it. So I have to get a USB hub of some sort to have multiple controllers because I have one slot already used for my headset amplifier.
XboxOne: The controller not being rechargeable by default is a pain in the butt, batteries suck. Also the controller is small and very light plastic feel. I am concerned I might break it. The xbox 360 controllers, at least the ones I have, do not seem to feel this way. The Kinect although cool is seriously huge! I mean it is basically a 1 foot 2x4 sitting on your tv stand. Couldn't they have reduced the size somehow? USB ports not enough and none on the front. All the USB ports are located in the rear. Again they only give you a couple, which just doesn't seem like enough. Biggest complaint by far is the external always on power supply. Not only is this thing huge the dang thing has a fan that just keeps going so you hear it all the time, very annoying.
Now I won't talk about the games but I will say this startup into game, at least visually, appears to be faster on the PS4 then the xbox one.