That year fairly flew in didn’t it? It seems like only a couple of months ago I was waiting anxiously outside Gamestop in Bray at the midnight launch of Sony’s long-awaited PlayStation 4 console. Both the Xbox One and PS4 hit the shelves within a fortnight of each other and heralded in the ‘next gen’ of gaming. But that was a year ago and with that it’s time to look back and see just how much of its promise did the PS4 fulfill. Where has it fallen short? Why has it completely obliterated the Xbox One in sales? What were the best games? And is there enough about the console to justify spending north of €400 when you probably already own a PS3 or Xbox 360?
What the PS4 has done right
The best thing about the PlayStation 4 is that it simply works well. Compared to the cluttered navigation of the Xbox One and the broken and slow PS3, the PS4 is incredibly intuitive and easy to use and navigate. It’s so simplified and just puts the focus completely on your games and apps. Your homepage is just a queue of your most recently used apps, meaning you’re one click away from returning to your last game. It’s intuitive, it’s simple, it works.
Probably the best part about owning a PS4 is that if you’re a subscriber to PlayStation Plus (€50 a year) then you’re given at least two free indie games a month to download and play to your heart’s content. Considering how steep a ‘next gen’ game costs (around €69) then this is a great deal. And it’s not just indie games now too, next month will be the first time PS4 gamers get a full ‘AAA’ title for free, with last year’s launch title Injustice: Gods Among Us up for grabs. The only problem lies in finding space on the relatively small 500GB HDD.
Sharing is Caring
Just scored an absolute worldie in FIFA 15 and want your Facebook and Twitter friends to see? Just press the ‘share’ button and select the clip and upload. Just got a super rare Exotic auto rifle in Destiny want to show it off to your friends? Again, just press ‘share’, and upload the screenshot straight away to your social media platform of choice. Better again, you even live stream your gaming session to an audience on either Twitch.tv or YouTube. And a new addition allows gamers to actually remotely join your gaming session without having to even own the game. This is called ‘Share Play’ and it is a game changer.
Some of the Games Are Great
The first year of any video games console is always a breaking in period where it’s hard to justify forking out so much dough for a machine that has barely any stand-out games to play. This was the case last November for the PS4, where many of us ended up paying €70 for games we wouldn’t normally buy but did just because we needed something to play on our shiny new consoles. A year on though, and the PS4’s library has improved quite a bit, but not MASSIVELY. Here’s a run-down of some of the PS4’s best games (bare in mind I haven’t played EVERY PS4 game).
- inFAMOUS: Second Son – The first, real, “true” next-gen title on the PlayStation 4, Sucker Punch’s open world superhero-ish action game saw you take control of ‘Conduit’ Delsin Rowe as he sought to cleanse his beloved Seattle of the evil forces that occupy it. The best part of this game though? You could either be a hero to the masses or be and evil bastard and kill who you want. Every major decision had a consequence which ensured there was every reason to replay the game again and having ten times more fun playing as a bastard looking for evil karma. 9/10
- Destiny – The most expensive video game of all time (cost around $500 million to make), Destiny’s launch was one of the most celebrated in gaming history and most expected it to be revolutionary. Reviews were not so kind though, as the game lacked a decent story, lacked the “proper” open world-ness it promised and locked away the best content in the game (The Vault of Glass 6-player raid) for people beyond level 26 which takes a long time to achieve. Still though, I can’t put the game down and have invested over six days of game time thus far, and expect to invest days more once the new DLC ‘The Dark Below’ arrives next month with a new raid, new strikes, new rare weapons and gear and new story content. 9/10
- Resogun – One of those brilliant free PlayStation Plus game, Resogun was a launch game and is easily one of the most fun, best looking and best playing arcade space shooters I’ve ever played. Exceedingly difficult, the game’s crux is to beat your own and your friends’ high scores. It remains the highest rated PS4 to date on many websites such as IGN.com. 9.5/10
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – This might seem a controversial choice, but it shouldn’t be. Short it might be, but this prologue to next year’s highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a wonderful sandbox stealth game that pushes the PS4’s graphical capabilities further than any other game on the console thus far (well, along with inFAMOUS: Second Son). It’s very hard, and takes a lot of getting used to, but that’s the whole point of this game, it gives you a great taste of what’s to come next year. 8/10
- Velocity 2X – Here’s one a lot you won’t have played but let me tell you, you’re missing out. Like Resogun before it, Velocity 2x is a brilliant arcade space-based shooter that is relentless in its pace and chock-full of upgradeable greatness whether you’re blasting through hordes of enemies in your ship or speeding through the brilliant side-scrolling levels on foot. Again, this one was free for all PS Plus subscribers. 8/10
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Like Velocity 2X, many won’t have played this, but for simple reason that this game is a subscription-based MMORPG in the ilk of World of Warcraft. At a steep €12 a month for multiple characters, the game is a financial burden but it is an absolute joy to play, with an endless amount of quests to undertake and all taking place within the legendary lore of the Final Fantasy universe. It’s primal bosses, raids and scope and beauty, plus intuitiveness on a PS4 controller when it has no right to work so well, make it well worth a look. Just make sure you have that overdraft activated. 9/10
- Killzone: Shadow Fall – Another launch title, many bought this game just because they had little other real choice. But like many others, I was pleasantly surprised at how much better this Killzone game was compared to its predecessors. The story campaign was beautiful without being revolutionary, but the game’s competitive multiplayer was outstanding, and this is coming from someone who rarely ventures into the mean world of PvP gaming. 8/10
- Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Like a few of the games on this list, ‘Black Flag’ was also available on the PS3 but it was unrivalled on the PS4 in terms of graphics, scope and gameplay. Taking the usual Assassin’s Creed formula and throwing it in the bin, ‘Black Flag’ saw you sail the seven seas as a feckin’ pirate with a fully upgradeable pirate ship and crew with sea battles and sea shanties. It was an outstanding game and all the more annoying to see that Assassin’s Creed Unity is reviewing so poorly with so many technical flaws. ‘Black Flag’ was the best in the series behind Assassin’s Creed II. 9/10
What the PS4 hasn’t done right
It hasn’t got nearly as many extras as PS3 did
The PS4 so far doesn’t allow for USB connectivity in terms of video playback, and only recently added MP4 music playback for custom playlists. The PlayStation 3, while flawed, at least allowed you to watch and store all of your downloaded movie and TV shows on your console allowing you to watch everything easily on your big screen. PS4 doesn’t allow this, yet. While it’s refreshing that Sony are pushing the console as a true gamer’s console as opposed to Xbox’s all-in-one entertainment system strategy, you don’t have to neglect the multimedia aspect completely. Here’s hoping we see this functionality return in 2015.
Not enough apps
This only applies to Europe, but the PS4 currently only has a handful of apps, most of which are completely unused. Netflix is fantastic, but other than that all we Europeans get is the IGN app, VidZone, and lest we forget, the YouTube app that was only added earlier this month. Here’s hoping we get the excellent WWE Network, UFC Fight Pass, RTÉ Player, 4OD apps next year.
As I mentioned earlier, the controller feels great, plays great and just works better than it’s predecessor. But man, a four hour batter life? Really? The DualShock 3 on a full charge lasted over 20 hours. There’s no excuse for the DualShock 4’s battery being so awful. It’s not so bad for people like me who got two controllers with the console, but for most others, it’s very annoying to see your controller cut out in the middle of an online multiplayer game. Aside from that, the thumbsticks on the controller don’t last very long and simply aren’t durable enough to last the distance for any binge gamers out there. I’ve had one controller’s left stick’s axis messed up and another’s rubber grip completely peel off from friction. Once again, PlayStation’s controllers just don’t match up to Xbox’s masterpieces.
Looking at the Year Ahead
It’s been a massive first year for PlayStation 4 in terms of sales at least. It’s approaching Nintendo Wii levels of sales which is outrageous in the context. For most of the year the console flattered to deceive but the arrival of YouTube integration, Share Play, customisable dashboard and USB connectivity means that Sony is on the right track. Add to that the amount of incredible games (and particularly exclusive titles) coming next year such as The Order 1888, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and then multi-platform titles such as Batman: Arkham Knight and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and 2015 may truly be the PlayStation 4’s coming out year. Grab one in the January sales and be ready for 2015.