PlayStation 4: A Gamer’s Paradise

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Editor’s Note: More than a year out for each of the newest batch of game consoles, I wanted staffers to give their honest pitches for each of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft’s 8th generation platforms. Each piece will speak to the writer’s personality. Today, we are starting off with the PS4. Later this week, we will cover the Xbox One and the Wii U.

The PlayStation 4, from herein referred to as the PS4, is designed to attract attention and deliver huge amounts of highly rendered imagery to your TV screen. Are you wondering if you should update your PS3 or Xbox 360? Are you looking to get into “console” gaming? I have a couple of really good reasons why the PS4 should at least be a consideration.

Simplistic Design

The PlayStation 4 launched with a really simple interface and thus far it has not gotten much more complex. Simplicity in devices is something we all crave. More than customization, unless you are suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, simplicity is the lifeblood of good products. The PS4 is really simple. It starts up with your sign in screen and if you have a PlayStation Plus account it automatically begins on the primary account on the PS4.

Next up, you see Sony’s Orbis OS which combines the fluidity of the XMB from the PS3 days with the new kinds of updates one would see on a modern social media feed. The Orbis OS’ biggest fault is the degree of customization is still rather limited, but Sony has allowed for more customization in Update 2.0 which features themes similar to PS3 and the ability to sort your library in different ways. It is easy to overlook such a fault, however, as the rest of the system works so well.

When browsing your entertainment bar, the items sort in the order of last played for the last 15 titles. The entertainment bar includes movies, games, apps, and the media folder. With all those things sorted in this manner it makes it really easy to get back to what you were doing last or starting a movie back where you left off. You can also switch between application tasks for up to two different applications. You can pause a game then browse the internet, watch a movie, create a party chat, or send a message and go back to where you were in the game.

If you need to check out non-entertainment aspects of the system such as the PlayStation Store or your friends list, you can look above your entertainment bar to a modified XMB similar to that found in the PS3. You can go to the store, check what your friends are doing, invite your friends into a private chat, check your settings, see your progress on trophies, and turn off your PlayStation through the menu.

With your PS4 controller, you can also use voice commands and pipe all sound through any wired headphones. Unfortunately, Bluetooth is still not available across all Bluetooth devices as of yet, but there are also wireless options available. Sony includes a single headphone for you in the box with the PlayStation 4. It makes it really easy to be able to speak to people online and to watch movies or play your games without disturbing others. If you are so inclined, there are voice commands available to make navigating menus a bit easier for those who may not be feeling up to searching through them. For instance, any game in your library can be started from the main menu with voice commands. If I do not feel like going to the library I can just say the proper voice commands and make the game start without having to scroll through my games or sort them to start the games.

PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Network, and Online Multiplayer

Due to better hardware in the PS4 and an upgraded network system, PS4 is able to do a lot more things online at once. Previously, PS3 was sluggish to download pretty much anything in even the best environments, however, the PS4 is significantly faster to download games either solo or multiple games at once. It is also faster when downloading in the background. Often, I would have to force myself to let the PS3 download be the foreground action just to ensure it completed a task quickly, with the PS4 there are many updates that I do not even know are happening until they say they are finished.

PlayStation Plus, a subscription plan for premium Sony members, offers an instant game collection across PlayStation devices (PS4, PS3, and PS Vita), discounts in the PlayStation store across various media, access to some PS4 capabilities, and the ability to participate in online multiplayer.

It is important to note a major difference between PS3 and PS4 here. PS3 can play online multiplayer games for free and the PS4 can play online multiplayer games if you have a PlayStation Plus subscription. This does not mean the PS4 is incapable of playing games online solo, for instance Destiny can be played solo and it is always connected, but in order to use a game’s matchmaking features or to join others in playing online, you will need a PlayStation Plus subscription.

Outside of the online multiplayer, the big deal with PlayStation Plus is the games offered in the instant game collection. You receive two games a month for each PlayStation device with access to those games tied to your PlayStation Plus subscription. As long as you have PlayStation Plus those games are available to play. Many times, I have received a lot of games I was hardly considering in the first place, but upon playing them I really enjoyed playing. One of the crown jewels of the early PS4 experience was having Resogun available if you had a PlayStation Plus subscription. It is one of the most unique titles I have played in the past year and it was a really fun game made even more fun when it received expansions that added a ship editor and other leaderboard games to partake in through free or relatively inexpensive downloadable content.

Saving and Sharing Content

While in game, it is really easy to save and share photos and videos of what you’ve been doing. The system constantly records the last 15 minutes of video and wherever you hit the share button pauses the game and creates a shareable snapshot or last 15 minutes of video. You can also use shortcuts on the controller by double tapping the share button in order to record or by holding down the share button to take an instantaneous snapshot. There is a bit of lag, however, so you have to time it properly to get the right screenshot you want. A quick tap and bringing up of the entire share menu also allows or you to save a screenshot.

In addition, Sony has included a free Media editor from the PlayStation Store to edit videos and photos together to upload and share with friends, YouTube, or Facebook. You can also take those videos and put them on a USB stick and transfer them to a computer to keep with the rest of your personal files.

In their latest update, Sony has touted a new sharing feature called Share Play which allows for players to share experiences with friends whom may want to try a game out in multiplayer. In order to do so, both players must have a PlayStation Plus subscription. You can also allow friends to watch a game you’re playing directly without making use of the broadcast services through a feature called Share Screen. This feature does not require a PlayStation Plus subscription. Lastly, Share Play allows for you to hand over your controller to your friend’s remote location to try the game. The host player will need a PlayStation Plus subscription for this feature to work. Each session of these last for an hour and if you are the host, none of your friends would have to download or own the game to use these features. It is simply a way for PS4 owners to share experiences with each other. It is really cool and actually works pretty well.

Next: PS4 As A Games & Multimedia Device