PS4 Review Update: One Year Later

PS4 Review Update: One Year Later

Stop waiting. If you can afford it, it’s time to get a new-gen console, and the PS4 is a worthwhile one to get.

A year removed from the system’s launch, Sony’s fourth home console finally has enough must-play games to make any gamer’s leap to the new console generation damn near mandatory. It’s time. You have choices, of course, between two similarly-powered consoles, the PS4 and the Xbox One. We’ll address that choice in a separate post, but if for some reason you’ve been wondering specifically about upgrading your gaming to a PS4, do it. (By the way, we’re already on record urging you to finally grab a Wii U, but, no, we don’t think you’re made out of money.)

A year ago, I praised the PS4 for its horsepower and its sleek physical design. The machine seems powerful but is actually relatively small and unobtrusive. It runs quietly, and it has been designed to smoothly and automatically update itself and the games you have on it to keep your console gaming life fairly simple. It’s a better device when connected to the Internet, same as many of the electronics you have.

The PS4 is a great upgrade over the PS3. It supports cross-game party chat and recharges your controllers while it is in its rest mode. It lets you start playing games while you are downloading them. It even lets you easily capture and share screenshots and videos to Twitter, YouTube or to a USB stick. It runs a range of now-standard apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and the WWE Network (that’s standard in my house!), and maybe someday, Lord of Light willing, it will get HBO Go. One of its few downgrades from the PS3, its requirement of a $US50 PlayStation Plus subscription for multiplayer, is balanced by that Plus service providing system owners a free new game every month. (One lingering omission that will be a big dealbreaker for some: the PS4’s lack of home media streaming, though Sony has said it will eventually address it.)

Much of what I recommend about the PS4 now is what I praised it for a year ago, but I advised people to hold off then. I did so because there are few good reasons to splurge on a box that doesn’t have any must-play games on it. I predicted that that would inevitably change, and, by a year in, it has. But while there are more good games on the PS4 than ever, my awe of the console has actually diminished.

The Honeymoon Is Over

Perhaps paradoxically, while I would now urge you to get a PS4, I’d also caution you more about its future than I would have a year ago. That’s because, concurrent with the release of some very good games for PS4, the console’s caretaker, Sony, has stumbled in its management of the PS4 itself. Its answer to the console’s lack of universal backwards compatibility was the summer launch of PlayStation Now, a streaming service that grants players access to some older PS3 games but at a surprisingly high price.

The PS3 games I’ve tried work well enough through the Now service, and that’s with me running less than the world’s best Internet speeds. At least the single-player modes; I’ve not had any luck with the few multiplayer modes I’ve tried. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that my old save files, stored in the cloud from my PS3, work fine with the versions of those games streamed through PlayStation Now.

It’s just a pity that Now is so expensive, and it’s absurd that Sony hasn’t found a way to let me play the games I already own for my PS3 without paying extra. Surely I could at least put the PS3 disc copy I have of the game in my PS4 drive to prove I own a copy? That’s how the PS4 authenticated that I was an Assassin’s Creed IV owner last year.

More troubling: the company bungled the launch of its most recent major software update, rapidly needing to offer system updates 2.01 and 2.02 in the span of two weeks after update 2.00 rendered the system’s rest mode — formerly “sleep” mode — inoperable. Sony’s PSN service Sony’s PS3 suffered the occasional bad firmware update or online service outage, and it’s worrisome to see a problem like that return, even if it was fixed relatively quickly.

The biggest caution of all, however, is Sony’s first-party game management, which saw the apologised, offered free downloadable content and held back a PlayStation Plus version of the game. Sony has largely failed to support the PS4 with great games of its own this fall, relying on the skimpy offering of the aforementioned Driveclub and LittleBigPlanet 3 — and we thought Sony’s launch line-up was lacking.

The good news is that Sony typically fixes its firmware problems swiftly and there is no sign that any of the PS4’s challenges are innate to the hardware and unfixable. The company also has promising exclusive games on the horizon for 2015, including Bloodborne (from the makers of Dark Souls) and possibly Uncharted 4 (from the team that made The Last of Us).

The better news is that the PS4 is no longer just a machine about the future. The games available now for the system are very good. Since my six-month-later PS4 update, in which I still advised people to wait, the console has received some great games.

The Most Important News: Great Games Are Here

Consider the superb port of the one-to-four-player monster-killing, loot-collecting Diablo III, complete with the PC version’s first expansion and some PlayStation-exclusive extra gear.

Or consider Destiny, the story-light but entertaining co-op first-person shooter from the people who made Halo. Sony even got Destiny‘s creators to hold some of the game’s content for PlayStation owners for a year, keeping it from Xbox players (lame, but advantage: Sony). Destiny also runs surprisingly well on the PlayStation Vita, for those who own Sony’s portable and have a good enough internet connection to use it with the PS4-Vita’s Remote Play hook-up. If nothing else, it’s eminently playable on Vita through a same-room direct-to-console wireless connection, which is handy when someone else in your house wants to use the TV for non-PS4 purposes.

The PS4 can run the vast, incredible brand-new BioWare role-playing gameDragon Age Inquisition and a revampedGrand Theft Auto V that includes a paradigm-shifting first-person mode. The year’s best surprise, the innovativeLord of the Rings game Shadow of Mordor, looks great on PS4. There’s a pristine PS4 port of the PS3 system-capping The Last of Us, too.

The console also has a growing line-up of fun indies, including the sci-fi sidescrolling/space-ship shooting hybrid Velocity 2X, the liquid-physics showpiece PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate and a new version of the cult-classic roguelike adventure The Binding of Isaac.

Sharing Is… Really Cool

If you buy, install and/or download even half of the aforementioned games (or any of the other greats on the system), you’ll have a wonderful time. Bear in mind that many of those games are also on PC or Xbox One, so what’s special to the PS4? Well, how about this? As of a couple of weeks ago, you can try most major PS4 games that your friends have without even owning them yet. You do it through a new feature called Share Play that is somewhat limited by the quality of your Internet connection but is otherwise one of the coolest things a game console has ever done.

Here’s how it works. You can connect to someone in an online party and then invite them to share a game. Or, in the case of the shot below, you’ll see that Kotaku‘s Kirk Hamilton decided to share his copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition with me. He’s in Oregon. I’m in New York. Once we were connected, I was able to watch him play, live, while we chatted:

Better yet, he was able to give me control…

Suddenly, I was controlling his game from the other side of the United States. Really cool, right?

There can be some lag. The graphics aren’t as good on the recipient’s end because they’re being streamed. And even though you can play a “local” co-op game through Share Play (we did with a Lego game), the lag can be too bad for coordinated play or masterful quick-reflex problem-solving by the remote player.

I can’t complain too much, though, because even the initial implementation of Shareplay is very exciting and could be transformative to how we communicate about games. It also begins to catch Sony up on some key undelivered promises that they made when they revealed the console in 2013.

More importantly and more positively, Share Play helps compensate for some of my recent doubts about Sony’s management of their platform and shows that even if updates like these come bundled in firmware that needs to rapidly be patched (Share Play was part of the 2.0 update), Sony’s trying to be innovative with their platform. That ambition isn’t just exciting. It is necessary for making this console generation feel like more than a graphical upgrade of the one before it.

So… I’m saying it. We’re saying it.

Is the PS4 finally a must-have game console for those who have yet to make the leap to the new generation of hardware and have been eyeing Sony’s machine?

Is this a qualified recommendation? Of course. How could it not be? A year later, my enthusiasm for the PlayStation 4 may be a little tempered. Sony was bound to hit a snag here or there in the management of the console, and they have.

I am nevertheless more pleased than ever about the thing most of us get a PlayStation 4 for in the first place: games. The PS4 runs them well, with a comfortable controller and a proper array of services to keep games patched and running as smoothly as can be. The PS4 now has a very good gaming line-up, one worth your time and money.

Get a PS4… unless you’re deciding between it and an Xbox One (UPDATE: or if you have a great gaming PC and are content!). If you are deciding between an PS4 and an Xbox One, you should check out our comparison post about the two since the choice between them is somewhat complicated. We’ll be running that comparison — as well as a one-year-later update to our Xbox One review, later this week.


  • Suddenly, I was controlling his game from the other side of the United States. Really cool, right?

    Hmmm, there’s something about this article that suggests it might be a US article, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

  • Hmmm, yeh nah. It all comes down to the games for me. Yet to see any exclusive that makes me need to go out and buy one. SharePlay, Party Chat, Now… all nice gimmicks but nothing I personally care for enough to go out and buy the console.

    • Butthurt because you bought an XB One?! Or just cant afford?!

      LMAO – You want one you know you do – thats why you read this article… hahahaaaa!

      • Uhhhh no. Like I said, there hasn’t been a single exclusive game yet that makes me think that I need a PS4, or XB One for that matter. Not a hard concept to grasp. Nothing to do with being able to afford it or the petty X-Box vs PS fan-boy battles.

    • I agree. Article really failed to convince me to get a PS4 right now as there is a real distinct lack of exclusives. LBP3 and Driveclub have been pretty disastrous and others have not been console-buying worthy. Sure there exclusives coming up that will be great but they arenโ€™t here and wasnโ€™t that kind of the point of the article?
      Iโ€™ll be fine with my PC + WiiU for now. I know Iโ€™ll eventually get either a XB1 or a PS4 later on, but there is no way I would do it right now. By the time there are some exclusives to get excited about there will probably be a price drop (or convincing bundle at least).

  • This is the first time I’ve been told by anyone (except fanboys) to get a ps4. The verdict has overwhelmingly been “wait”. The console has massive potential and some really cool new tricks but there is a serious lack of great exclusive titles. All exclusives so far have been quite average. No one has told me they regret the purchase but few have suggested it’s been a good first year and I agree.

      • Yeah, I took my Bone back after the Halo mess, and I was so looking forward to it. It has put me off this generationfor a while.
        I console game for convenience, for the put the disc in and play functionality, the XBone was not giving me that at all.

        • halo has been out for 1 week. I am annoyed as well as the game is totally broken and that’s not good enough. My question to you is…. have you no patience at all? You paid $500 – $600 for a new console plus the game and it took you one week to take it back because the game is broken? That’s a little weird man

          • You are questioning one guy’s impatience when you should be questioning a corporation’s impatience by rushing out a broken product.

            If that is the best they have to offer, surely he is right to return the broken product.

            Furthermore, the longer somebody waits to return it, the less likely they are to get a refund or decent fraction of the original cost.

          • When you are getting the content of 4 games for only $60 I think you can take a hit and be patient for a week.

          • It’s been one week… I mean the patch to fix the game comes out tomorrow. It’s just weird and impulsive

    • I have a PS4, X1 and a PC and by far and away the console i have turned on the least is the PS4. Now this was the same case last generation with my PS3 but at least the amount of exclusives that came out was generally of a somewhat high standard and were much more frequent. The exclusives so far have not wowed me (Infamous SS was closest but had no variety, weak story and was short with little replayability).

      Sony’s also lack of interest in speedily making any UI updates/features available and the constant crashing of PSN also sours my perception on the PS4.

      I must admit that while i don’t regret my purchase… I wish i didn’t pick it up at launch and waited for it to drop in price.

      • Yep I got xbone at launch and ps4 around August, got a platinum in infamous and I bought TLoU started the prequel then never went back, haven’t turned the ps4 on in months, I hope The Order is worth it.

      • Agree. Have only turned PS4 on to play Infamous and still need to get around to finishing Last of Us on it.

        Now that the Xbox One has media player app I am also using my Xbox One for watch tv and movies as well. Now to finish all the releases that recently came out ๐Ÿ™‚

        • I’m in the same boat.
          I’m using the media player and I last week I ordered on of those TV Ariel thingys for xbox from the UK. So I should be able to run TV through it too.

          Given how much use it’s seeing as a media machine I’m wondering if the were half correct with their initial reveal (TV. TV. TV.)

  • My PS4 died last night due to a massive storm in Brisbane… luckily Sony had me send it in today… here’s hoping to a quick turnaround ๐Ÿ™

    Just when I went on ****ing holidays and bought Farcry 4 and GTA V as well ๐Ÿ™

    This ****ing blows. Really ****ing blows.

    Did I mention it ****ing blows?


          • That’s what I can’t figure out, we had one on! ๐Ÿ™ The tv is fine, the Wii U is fine, the… EVERYTHING is fine except the PS4. The board doesn’t work now due to the sudden outage (which can happen) and the ps4 is the only thing not working now out of all the things plugged in ๐Ÿ™

            Gratefully though, Sony has come to the rescue and said to send it in etc. Free express shipping, free everything, so I’m really happy about that, quality service on all fronts. EB were champions, letting me swap Farcry 4 (yeh I know 7 day return but still) for Dragon Age on pc to tide me over but I wanted to play GTA lmao.

  • I don’t know if its just me but I really wish Sony put a better Wifi card into the PS4 – The capabilities it can do when plugged in vs Wifi just seems to hold everything back for me.

    Sure I can plug it in but my desktop already uses my ethernet cable and I have a sick wireless router that doesn’t get any of its best features used because the PS4 is too slow.

    Remote play gets heavy artifacts and looks like a digital TV when you have about 50% reception.
    When all cabled up it works fine but removes the whole “remote” in remote play.

  • I was going to get a PS4 on release day, but when I heard DriveClub had been delayed (and some other game, I don’t even remember what it was) I canceled my pre order because the thing just had no other games I was interested in. Now that DriveClub is out and it looks to be pretty mediocre and the slow trickle of games is still somewhat meh, I’m not regretting my decision at all.

  • When FFXV comes out we’ll talk. But at this rate it looks like FFXV might see a Steam release, so even then…

  • Recently grabbed the PS4 GTAV bundle from JB. The main reason for my purchase was to enjoy better graphics for Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age : Inquistion. and chose the PS4 over the XBone for their exclusives (well mainly interested in Uncharted 4) and the sleekness of the console itself.

    • Good choice you made – I have both and the XB is a dust gatherer…. Forza 2 is awesome but thats all i use it for. Up until then it had no use apart from a fantastic skype machine in the living room!!!

      PS4 is getting a smashing everyday! Both controllers my thumbsticks are split so watch out for that but theyll replace them under warranty just have to get in touch. So if you’re like me and smash every day youll split the rubber on your sticks in 3 to 6 months max

      • Good choice? The only reason you use your ps4 more is personal preference, not because it has better games or anything. Any games you have been playing on your ps4 at the moment would almost certainly be on the xbox.

      • Thanx for the heads up about the thumbsticks. I’m actually coming from an Xbox360 and was a bit concerned about the Sony controllers at first, but I adapted to it pretty quickly. I love in GTAV how the phone conversations come thru on the controllers speaker

  • Would be nice if you accompanied this with some current (and LOCAL) deals after that shitty tease earlier this week with a $399 PS4 / GTA V / TLOU:R Bundle from Gamestop.
    *Still bitter*

    • JB has the GTAV PS4 bundle with Far Cry 4 and COD: Ghosts for $549 ๐Ÿ™‚ EB will give you the same deal except missing COD: Ghosts if you’re lazy and can’t be bothered trading in the old COD like me.

      • Yeah saw that.. Thanks. (No interest in COD, and will get FC4 on PC)
        Would prefer a super cheap console sans games.
        (Didn’t want to have to wait for Xmas sales, but may have too…)

  • It’s all about Bloodborne for me. And the promise of a million JRPGs. Bring back a new golden era of JRPGs Sony.

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