Long-term test: Sony PS4 review

5 stars

Gaming performance: the next-gen promise fulfilled

We demand more than great games from a modern games consoles, but gaming performance still comes first, and once you’ve overcome the disappointment that 4K games are still the exclusive domain of the high-end PC the PS4 is hard to fault in the performance stakes.

But while at launch the PS4 had a graphical advantage over the Xbox One, with many key cross-platform games such as Call Of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 hitting 1080p on the former but falling short on the latter, Microsoft's decision to drop the Kinect requirement has freed up enough processing power for the gap to be largely bridged.

Now we've essentially got parity in the technical quality of games across the two platforms, it becomes even more about the content itself. Eight months in, how's the PS4's line-up looking?

The games of right now

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The roster of 25 games at launch has risen to a very healthy 96 at the last count - a number that's made all the more impressive when compared to the Xbox One's 59.

There's plenty in there that's not really worth your time, of course, and loads of big hitters that are available on both consoles - Call Of Duty: GhostsBattlefield 4Assassin's Creed: Black FlagFIFA 14Watch DogsNeed For Speed Rivals and Wolfenstein: The New Order to name but a few.

Then there are a few big exclusives: InFamous: Second SonKillzone: Shadow Fall and its excellent standalone expansion Intercept, and The Last Of Us Remastered. That last one might be a remake of a PS3 game, but it's a remake that every Xbox One owner wishes they could play.

PS4 is also marginally winning the indie game war, with crackers such as FezSteamWorld DigFlowerThe SwapperTransistor and Resogun all unavailable on the Xbox One.

There are obviously Xbox One games that PS4 users can't play, with Titanfall and Forza Motorsport 5 being particularly lust-worthy, but you can't help but feel that eight months in you're more likely to find a gaming experience that's up your street on the PS4 at the moment.

READ MORE: The Best PlayStation 4 Games So Far

More after the break...

The games of the future

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The games that are out now are really just scratching the surface of what the PS4 is capable of, and there's a heck of a lot to be excited about in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

Call Of Duty: Advanced WarfareBattlefield Hardline and Assassin's Creed Unity all look like proper revolutions for their respective franchises, while FIFA 15 is prettier and smoother than ever and next-gen GTA 5 will give everyone an excuse to revisit Los Santos.

Then there are the completely new titles - Middle Earth: Shadow Of MordorAlien IsolationThe Evil WithinEvolveThe Crew and Project Cars.

All of those games will be available on both PS4 and Xbox One, of course, but the game at the top of many a gamer's 2014 list, Destiny, has enough bonus content on PS4 to make the green side of the console divide even greener with envy.

There are also full exclusives on the way in the form of cutesy platformer LittleBigPlanet 3Forza-alternative DriveClub, and Dark Souls semi-sequel Bloodborne.

Whether they can make up for Forza Horizon 2 and Sunset Overdrive, both which are exclusive to Xbox One, will only become clear once we've played them all. It's also worth mentioning that The Rise Of The Tomb Raider will, controversially, be available on Xbox first, with a PS4 release only coming at an unspecified later date.

What is clear now is that the summertime lull is nearly over and the rest of 2014 contains a bonafide bonanza of brilliant games, regardless of which console you've plumped for.

READ MORE: The 20 most exciting games still to come in 2014

READ MORE: Your one-stop shop for all of Sony's Gamescom 2014 Trailers

Online gaming: living the digital distribution dream?

These days a console lives or dies on its online offering, and the PS4 is a very well connected console.

PS download prices

As well as all of the indie games previously mentioned (and a great deal more that weren't) every disc release is also available as a digital download, and many can now be pre-ordered and pre-downloaded so that you're ready to play the moment the official launch day begins - no more midnight excursions to the shops for those massive releases that you just can't wait for.

There are good points, too. PS Plus is now mandatory if you want to play games online, but it also includes free games as it did on PS3. Admittedly your subscription only entitles you to one free PS4 game per month (plus two PS3 games and two Vita games), and so far the games that have been offered haven't really been top-tier releases, but we fully expect that to change once Sony has a bigger back catalogue to draw from.

And then there's PS Now, which reintroduces backwards compatibility through streaming of PS3 (and Vita) games on a rental basis. At the moment it's still in beta, and only officially available in the US, but we've already done some testing with it and even though we were streaming to London from servers in the States the performance was very impressive. This will be a very exciting feature when the UK beta launches in early 2015.

There are other big online features on the way, too, such as Share Play. Described by Sony as a "virtual couch", it allows you to take it in turns playing a single-player game with a friend, even if that friend is halfway across the world and doesn't even own the game. Local co-op will be playable this way, too - perhaps it's time we came up with another name for that.

When it comes to traditional online gaming with friends, Sony now has a service to rival Xbox Live, which is just as well seeing as you now have to pay for it. It's very robust, chat is clear, and setting up parties is pretty quick and easy. The fact that you're not alerted when friends come online seems a weird gap, and hopefully one that Sony isn't going to take too much longer to fill.

And if showing off is your kind of thing, there are plenty of ways to share your gaming exploits, thanks to the dedicated Share button. Simply pressing the button opens a menu in which you can choose to either save your screenshot or the last 15 minutes of gameplay, which the PS4 has automatically been recording in the background. If it's not an opportune moment to be taken out of the game - fear of a fragging, for example - holding the button for a couple of seconds saves a screenshot for you to share later, while a double-tap starts recording a specific section of video.

You can upload screens and videos straight to Facebook or Twitter, or can now transfer to USB. One word of warning, though - for some reason the PS4 compresses screenshots as you upload or transfer them. The only way to get full, 1080p shots is to send them in a message to a friend across PSN, then open the Messages area of the PlayStation comapnion app and save the picture to your phone. Fiddly.

We’re also sorry to say that connecting to Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited isn’t currently possible in  Malaysia.



Long-term test: Sony PS4

Slick, powerful and packed with stand-out features, the PS4 delivers on the next-gen console promise

PlayStation 4
5 stars
Stunning 1080p gaming for the win
Remote Play is brilliant
Super-slick and fast operation
No DLNA - yet
4K games still out of reach
Some features look a little underbaked right now
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