Console gaming has never been more complicated. Multiple consoles with the same branding, multiple companies, and multiple optional accessories; how does somebody not versed in the arcane arts of the gaming world know which one to choose? Have no worry, as we’re here to help.
We’re not going in-depth with technical analysis and whatnot; instead this is just a quick write up from our perspective and our opinions.
In our first installment, we’re taking a look at the current leader in console gaming; Sony’s Playstation 4. Is it the console for you? Read on and find out.
It uses Blu-Ray discs, can function as a Blu-Ray player, a multimedia server and also has tons of online streaming apps like Netflix available for it. PS4 units also now support HDR, though you’ll need a 4K and HDR supported TV to appreciate it.
The PS4 also allows you to swap the internal HDD to a hybrid HDD or an SDD. Changing HDDs is an increadibly easy step which just involves removing the cover and screws. It's all plug and play. This makes a significant difference as both SSDs and hybrid HDDs have been proven to provide faster loading times, even over the default HDD the PS4 comes with. Of course, you can also slot in a higher capacity drive if you prefer and just leave it at that. You can also attach external drives but with only 2 USB 2.0 ports, it's just better to up the internal capacity instead.
As the PS4 is an online capable console, Sony also offers an online multiplayer network called the PSN. It’s this network that the PS4 automatically connects to when you get online. The PSN is the hub of all the online activities for the PS4. From buying new games, getting patches and even playing with multiplayer games online, you’ll need the PSN.
This comes at a price though, while the service used to be free on the PS3, it’s now $69.90 for an annual subscription. PSN does have its perks; Sony regularly holds sales that provide deep discounts to games for PSN subscribers (called PS Plus members) and also provide selected free games monthly. These can be cheap indie titles to Triple A blockbusters. They’re not all good games but since they come free with the subscription, it’s acceptable.
Then there’s Sony’s PS NOW streaming service, which allows you to play PS3 and other legacy titles via streaming. That comes with its own subscription but we Singaporeans are out of luck since the capability isn’t available for us, due to the servers being too far away for effective low latency gaming.
The PS4 is also capable of Remote Play, which allows you to stream your own PS4's output to another device like a phone or PC. You’ll need a stable and fast connection but when it works, it’s brilliant. PS Plus owners also have access to a special feature called Share Play, which allows a friend to not only view your PS4 screen, but also let them play the games you own OR join in as a virtual second player for local split-screen gaming. There are exceptions, but most games support both Share Play modes, which is great if you know somebody with games you want to try before you buy.
If you’re looking for a jack of all trades console gaming experience, look no further. This bad boy does it all plus it’s also the console with the most optimized third party games. Third party titles are games from publishers like Ubisoft or Activision, which have no ties to the console manufacturers.
Their titles are usually available for multiple platforms, though there are exceptions. Anyways third party games are notoriously better performing on the PS4 when compared to the Xbox One. This usually comes in the form of a better framerate or higher base resolution, which means the game is usually smoother or looks sharper on a PS4 than an Xbox One.
Then there are also the exclusives. These not only come from Sony’s internal studios, they also include certain third parties like Koei Tecmo (makers of Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden) and Namco Bandai (creators of Tekken and Ridge Racer). Horizon Zero Dawn, World of Final Fantasy, Bloodborne, Ratchet and Clank, Uncharted 4, Street Fighter V…all these are PS4 exclusives and killer games in their respective genres. The only areas where Sony’s lacking are driving games and FPS, where the Xbox’s Forza and Halo series dominate.
Out of all the consoles, only the PS4/PS4 Pro can currently do VR with the PS VR headset. It’s an optional $699 purchase (though you can find it cheaper online) but it allows you to access the PS4’s stable of VR games. Even some normal games support VR, though these are somewhat rare. PS VR may have a high entry fee, but the results are worth it, especially if you’re interested in VR and don’t have a high end PC.
Games like Arkham VR (a VR only sequel to the Arkham series) and Resident Evil 7’s VR mode deliver a completely unique gameplay style that isn’t available without PS VR. While there's a noticeable lack of big budget VR titles, there are undoubted solid titles available like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Arkham VR that more than make up for it. Of course, the PS VR's library is nowhere near as big as the HTC Vive's or the Oculus Rift's on the PC, but as the lone console VR option, it's not a bad one either.
The bottom line:
If you just want to play games, the PS4 is undeniably the console for you. There are a ton of them on Sony’s console, and the exclusives are some of the best in the industry. The PS VR adds in a new element to gaming that’s still not replicated on other consoles, though the need to pay extra might turn off a lot of people.
Its multitude of features means you’ll get a lot of use out of it, even if you’re not gaming. While the PS4 Pro is better in every way, the base PS4 still manages to hold its own, especially if you’re on a budget. However, if you do have money, you might want to take a look at the PS4 Pro, which we’ll look at in the next instalment of the series.
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