The camera: turn your lounge into The Playroom
It now looks as though Sony's decision not to bundle the PS4 with a camera was a very wise one, but there has always been one available – the ingeniously named PlayStation Camera. The wee unit, which looks as though it’s been constructed out of cubes, costs S$88 and has two lenses on the front so it can gauge depth.
Once connected the camera can scan your features to enable facial recognition for automatic login, which is very quick and reliable. You can also use it for voice control. It’s far more limited than Kinect’s functionality, but the voice recogition is reliable and allows quick navigation between games, as well as hands-free screenshots.
However the best way to show off the PlayStation Camera is to open The Playroom, which is pre-installed on all PS4s. Once it’s talked you through correctly setting up your camera (I’m afraid you’re going to have to move that coffee table) The Playroom gives you access to three activities. AR Hockey is the only real game, as it pitches two players against each other in a game of - you guessed it - Air Hockey that involves using the DualShock 4’s motion control to bend and twist the table to your advantage.
The other two involve messing around with a floating robot called Asobi and a bunch of delightful little people called AR Bots. The most fun is to be had with the latter, who inhabit your controller until you flick them into your lounge using the touchpad. You can then kick them, make them dance, or throw them objects that you create using a connected tablet. The thrill is relatively short-lived, but as a way to show off the capabilities of your new console The Playroom is absolutely superb.
Really though, eight months on from launch we'd have expected to have seen more software that takes advantage of the PlayStation Camera. As it is, other than login we've not really used it, making that S$88 outlay look like a real waste. The advice now is to save your money - you can always add the camera if a killer app or game for it comes along in the future.
Remote play: PS4 + Vita is a match made in gaming heaven
Talking of killer, it's time to dig out that old Vita you’ve left gathering dust. Connect Sony’s handheld to your PS4 and you’ve suddenly got the ability to play next-gen games anywhere. The closer to your PS4 you are, the better it works, but Remote Play does actually work across the internet - we've even had it working from a cafe a couple of times.
You lose a little graphical fidelity, of course, but PS4 games still look quite astoundingly awesome on the Vita’s 5in screen, and while there’s a touch of input lag (particularly when playing over the web) that will make it a poor choice for competitive deathmatches, for single-player gaming it’s barely noticeable. Extra buttons are cleverly mapped to the touchscreen and rear touchpad, too, and as everything you see is a mirror of what the PS4 is doing, you can simply use the Vita as a fancy extra control pad for the main console if you so wish.
READ MORE: Sony PlayStation Vita Slim review
More after the break...
PS4 versus Xbox One: the gap is amazingly close
At launch it was easy to see the PS4's advantage over the Xbox One. It was cheaper, cross-platform games looked and performed better on the Sony console, and many of the Xbox's headline features were half-baked at best.
But now Kinect has been taken out of the equation and both the price and performance gaps have been obliterated. The PS4 is still the prettier device, but do you choose a console based on that? We certainly hope not.
Choosing which one to get should come down to two factors: the exclusive games that you're most excited about and which one your friends have got. There's now no wrong decision.
READ MORE: Xbox One review
Its big advantages over the Xbox One may be gone, but the PS4 is still an absolutely cracking console, and one that keeps getting better with every new game, app and firmware update.
For many, the only real priority is beautiful 1080p gaming, and the PS4 has done that since day 1. But with Remote Play, Share Play, PS Now and PS Plus it has a bunch of true next-gen features that add real value and wow factor. And it's all delivered with a degree of snappiness that the previous generation couldn’t get close to.
Of course we want more. We want to see some really clever stuff done with the PlayStation Camera and the DualShock 4's funky features. We want loads more games. We want more free games through PS Plus and we want digital downloads of games to be cheaper than the discs.
But that's because we're greedy. The PS4 was brilliant when it launched in November 2013 and it's undeniably even better now. We can't wait to see what comes next.
Words: Tom Parsons
Long-term test: Sony PS4
Slick, powerful and packed with stand-out features, the PS4 delivers on the next-gen console promise