Up Close With PlayStation 4
We’ve pored over the press pictures. We stared at it for hours at E3 and gamescom. And now, we’ve finally got our hands on one. We’ve never been closer to the PlayStation 4, and we’ve never wanted one more. In the interest of spreading the love, we called in a photographer friend with a ludicrously expensive camera to snap every last angle of the new hardware. The sleek, slanted edges. The refined controller. Every ridge, intake, port and recess. This is the most powerful console in the world as you’ve never seen it before. Enjoy.
The sharp lines and cool angles of the PlayStation 4 are worlds away from Microsoft’s Xbox One design, which seems to be intentionally boring in order to blend in under the TV. The two-tone matt/gloss finish is slick as all hell, broken up by the fancy light bar. It’s also remarkably slight, especially compared to the behemoth that is Xbox One – MS is clearly terrified following the overheating problems that caused the Red Ring Of Death on pretty much every other original 360, the size, huge fan and external PSU all signs of over-compensation. Like the PS3 Slim, the PS4 will likely run pretty warm but, despite how hot it may get, the Slim is among the modern consoles least prone to malfunctions caused by overheating – we’re more confident than ever in a day-one purchase, put it that way.
When does it launch?
PlayStation 4 goes on sale on 29 November across Europe and two weeks earlier in the US, on 15 November.
How much is it?
The RRP for the 500Gb PS4 is £349.99 in the UK, €399 across Europe and $399 in the US. Bundles will also be available with select launch titles to save a little extra cash.
Can I still pre-order?
Many outlets have now stopped taking pre-orders after receiving reservations for their entire allocation, but most supermarkets and major online retailers are still taking new pre-orders. Not all will be guaranteed for day one fulfilment, so be sure to check before you put down a deposit.
What comes in the box?
Aside from that gorgeous new console smell, peeling back the packaging will reveal a PlayStation 4 console (obviously), one DualShock 4 controller, a mono headset, an HDMI cable, an AC power cord and a USB cable for charging the controller.
Sadly not, although Sony has a potential solution. A trial of the Gaikai streaming service rolls out early next year in the US, allowing users streaming access to select PS3 games. If successful, this could potentially be expanded to offer gamers worldwide instant online access to three whole generations of PlayStation content. Exciting times.
Does my PS Plus subscription carry over to PS4?
It most certainly will. Just as both PS3 and Vita games are given away as part of the service’s Instant Game Collection, PS4 titles and content will join the other two formats to ensure that there are plenty of bargains and freebies for every PlayStation gamer.
And my Trophies?
Yeah, they’ll all carry across with your profile too. Fingers crossed we’ll finally be able to change our PSN IDs this time, though – loads of us are stuck with handles we’d love to ditch!
Will my old PS3 peripherals work?
Third-party USB peripherals such as arcade sticks, keyboards and non-Sony wired controllers /should/ still work on PlayStation 4 apparently, while PlayStation Move has been confirmed to be supported. Wireless DualShock 3 controllers, however, will not work with PS4.
While we reckon it looks best horizontal, PlayStation 4 will also work stood up vertically just like the PS2. There’s quite a lot of the PlayStation 2’s design influencing this, it seems. It’s nowhere near as boxy or odd-looking and the little PS logo doesn’t twist, more’s the pity. But it’s still a return to great design successfully fused with functionality, something that can’t really be said about the dirty great original George Foreman Grill PS3 or even the more recent PS3 Super Slim, which just looks a bit cheap if we’re honest. We can’t wait to see what devs can do with the light strip along the top/side, assuming they’re able to manipulate it, of course.
The rear panel isn’t exactly the most interesting part of the console, but /every/ part of the PS4 is exciting right now. HDMI output is now your only option, so SD output will be as good as dead (unless you’re using a non-HD digital TV with HDMI input). The optical output is there for your surround sound setup, while a LAN port returns just in case you’re not comfortable with/equipped for going wireless – like the PS3, it’s wireless out of the box. So what’s the AUX connection for? It’s used for hooking up the PlayStation Eye, the bespoke connection presumably allowing data to be sent faster than via USB. It’s also worth noting that, unlike Xbox One, there’s no HDMI input. Not that you should really worry about that – it’s pretty much entirely pointless anyway.
Where’s the disc drive?
Don’t worry, Sony hasn’t made the leap to digital-only just yet. The slot drive on the left hand side of the console is like that of the PS3, which we’re glad to see – there are less moving mechanical parts that can go wrong than with a PS2-style sliding drive and they’ve proven themselves to be more reliable.
And the buttons?
The only two buttons – Power and Eject – are subtly worked into the front of the machine. They’re surprisingly recessed and look like they should be hard to reach but, handily, they seem to be touch-sensitive like the buttons on the front of the PS3 Slim.
So there’s the usual foursome of a figure-eight power input, HDMI output, optical output (for audio) and LAN socket, plus an Auxiliary connection for hooking up the PS Eye. Notable omissions are additional USB ports (so it just has the two in the front) and an alternative video out option, meaning composite, component and VGA output will not be possible without using specific HDMI adapters or cables.
What’s the strip on top?
That’s a light bar, capable of fully illuminating, flashing or strobing and seemingly in a variety of colours. It’s unclear whether this will be a hardware-level feature (as in something that will be tied to Trophies or account alerts) or one that devs can control for additional ambience or feedback. Or maybe both. All we really know about it right now is that it looks cool. And maybe that’s enough.
Does it come with the stand?
Nope. Despite all of the official photography of the upright console featuring the stand, it’ll be sold separately. Still, it’s not expensive, and if you’re planning on having the machine upright, making it less likely to fall over can only be a good thing.
DualShock And Awe
It’s testament to Sony’s design talent that its PlayStation controller has changed so little in almost two decades. Sure, we’ve had analog sticks and rumble added to the mix since the original, with motion control joining this generation. But the DualShock 4 is probably the most radical change yet, adding a touch strip to the middle and doing away with the staple Start and Select buttons to make room for more modern versions. Oh, and just about every other aspect has been refined as well, the end result being that this is the most ergonomic and comfortable DualShock yet. We didn’t want to put it down…
One of the chief complaints about DualShock controllers over the ages has been that the sticks are too loose and the deadzones the wrong size to be properly accurate with them. That’s been taken into account here, both sticks offering lipped edges on the front and more resistance to make fine aiming easier. Sony has actively said that many of the refinements have been to make it the perfect controller for first-person shooters – a sensible move in an era where COD is king – and having put it to use, we’d struggle to disagree with that statement.
While Move was almost universally panned as shameless pandering to the Wii generation, that’s not to say that the tech wasn’t impressive or that it didn’t showcase some neat ideas. Less-than-stellar uptake of the accessory has pushed Sony to be a bit bolder with putting it out there this time around, so the controller itself now has Move-based tech built into it. This light bar can be tracked by the PS Eye just as the bulbous tip of the Move wand is, allowing for improved Sixaxis functionality and interesting gameplay gimmicks, as showcased by pre-installed software The PlayRoom.
For us, it’s all about this one little button. PlayStation 4 will record approximately the last 15 minutes of gameplay, allowing you to pick and choose any gameplay highlight and, with a touch of this new button, send them out into the world to be bitched about, trolled and one-upped. It’ll also allow for screen sharing and live-streaming, plus saved footage can be edited before you upload so that you only put your best side online. Which, given the ever-growing troll population of the internet, is probably a good idea.
So what’s new?
A bunch of things. The central touchpad can be used for touch/swipe commands and clicks in as an extra button; Start and Select buttons are replaced with Share and Options; triggers and analog sticks are now lipped; rumble has been improved. Oh, and there’s the light bar on top for Move-style motion tracking with the PS Eye and additional gameplay feedback.
Simple – either hold it down to instantly capture a screenshot of whatever is going on at the time or tap it to be taken to a more in-depth Share menu, where you can choose to takes screens, footage from recent gameplay (the last 15 minutes or so will be stored) or even stream live to the world.
Are the sticks better?
Much. As well as offering more resistance than the decidedly loose sticks on the DualShock 3, the lipped concave nubs are far more comfortable and reliable than the rounded tips of its predecessor.
What does the light bar actually do?
In conjunction with a PlayStation Eye camera, it allows the controller to be placed in 3D space just like PlayStation Move. It can also be used as an extra alert or indication for players, glowing red for low health or flashing brightly to tell you a friend has logged on or shared something cool, for instance. Interestingly, the light apparently cannot be disabled.
Is that a speaker?
It sure is. Like the Wii remote, the DualShock 4 is capable of outputting additional mono sounds to better immerse you in your gaming experiences. There’s also a built-in headset jack, meaning you can use the bundled mono headset rather than having to pick up an expensive Bluetooth one separately.
Thankfully not. Unlike the PS3’s Sixaxis controller, the DualShock 4 rumbles like a beast. It still has all the same Sixaxis motion control tech inside too. Improved rumble motors and the slightly larger size also lend it a far more comfortable weight than the DualShock 3, which many find a little on the light side.
How much is it?
You get one in the box with the console, with additional controllers and replacements likely to cost around £50 each. Not cheap, we know, but that thing is filled to bursting with incredible tech. They’ll also be available in red and blue at launch, if you’re after something a little more colourful.