The State Of The PlayStation 4 In 2015

The State Of The PlayStation 4 In 2015

The PlayStation 4 is an unexciting video game console, all things considered. It's a box that you put under your TV, and it plays video games. Slowly but surely, it's getting better at doing that. The games it plays are also getting better and more numerous. Slowly, but surely.

This is part of our 2015 "State of" series, a look at how the five major consoles (and PC) are doing this year.

The PlayStation 4 of 2015 isn't all that different from the PlayStation 4 Sony launched in 2013. It's gotten a minor hardware update, but the box and controller look the same. Its operating system is largely unchanged, aside from a few small but welcome new OS features. It's gotten some great new games — enough that we now feel the console is worth buying — though it still lacks the handful of killer exclusives that we were hoping it'd have by now.

From its launch until today, the PS4 has maintained a pace of steady improvement to both its functionality and its game library. Taken individually, those improvements may have arrived too slowly for some fans. But when viewed over a long enough timeframe, the PS4's upward trajectory is easier to see and more reassuring.

Sony's console has also maintained a number of small advantages over its current-gen competitors. For example, despite the odd exception, it's now taken as a given that the PS4 version of a multiplatform game will run at a higher resolution and with more consistent performance than on the less-powerful Xbox One. However, when placed on the full spectrum of modern gaming — one that includes the PC — the PS4 becomes much less of a confident competitor.

The Hardware

The PS4 has gotten a minor hardware revision: a new console purchased this summer will feature more efficient power management and clickier power/eject buttons than the original 2013 model. Sony has also launched a 1TB model — recommended, given how quickly the initial 500GB hard drive can fill up — though it remains as easy as ever to simply install your own larger hard drive.

The DualShock 4 controller has seen some minor tweaks, but nothing to address users' two primary complaints: The lacklustre battery life and the thumbsticks, which are a bit too squishy and prone to decay after heavy use. (Thank god for custom thumbstick caps.)

Of course, both the physical console and its controller were already pretty good. If it ain't broke, etc.

The Software

The PS4's operating system remains largely unchanged from two years ago. It's still clean and no-frills, and it remains occasionally difficult to navigate. The share button still works very well, and the Capture Gallery is a solid software addition that makes managing captured screenshots and videos much easier. The settings menu is still confusingly organised, and adjusting a given setting can still require a lot of hunting around.

The State Of The PlayStation 4 In 2015

The better-late-than-never suspend mode, which lets you put a game to sleep along with your console, is certainly nice for offline games. PlayStation Now, Sony's streaming games initiative, could one day become a reasonable subscription service but remains a poor substitute for true backward compatibility. The console's media playing abilities have been notably expanded, with Sony finally adding DLNA support this year, along with some solid music streaming applications.

The Network

Sony's PlayStation Network works better than it has at some points in the past but still leaves significant room for improvement. The service goes down just often enough to be considered problematic, and party chat has any of a number of annoying problems, including hiccuping chat quality and NAT issues that break lines of communication between specific party members.

After two years of heavy online PS4 use, it's clear that Sony's online infrastructure just isn't where it could be. Also, they really need to let us change our freakin' PSN names already.

The Games

Games make the console, and the PS4 has plenty of good games, though the majority of the best games on the system are also available on other platforms. Just three of the games on our list of the 12 best PS4 games are PS4 exclusives, and one of those — The Last of Us: Remastered is an HD remaster of a PS3 game.

In terms of PS4-only games, the spring of 2015 was a disappointment. This time of the year is usually when console owners get a big exclusive or two to sink their teeth into, but PS4 owners got only Until Dawn and Everybody's Gone To The Rapture way back in August, and in October, Disgaea 5 and Bloodborne's The Old Hunters DLC.

The State Of The PlayStation 4 In 2015

Last spring's lineup was disappointing as well: Driveclub blew a gasket at the starting line and The Order: 1886 was delayed to 2015, where it would land with a disappointing thud. Bloodborne's arrival in mid-2015 underlined just how much the PS4 needs meaty, acclaimed exclusives to make it feel like a competitive alternative to a gaming PC.

Despite all of that, it's still possible to look at the PS4 and come away with the impression that it's a strong console with a lot of good games. Part of that is due to Sony's two-pronged strategy of aggressively pursuing partnerships with independent game developers while also closely associating their console with a number of big-budget multiplatform franchises like Destiny, Assassin's Creed, and Call of Duty. The latter goal has mostly been achieved thanks to the questionable practice of securing timed-exclusive DLC, but it's hard to argue that Destiny, for example, isn't more closely associated with the PS4 as a result of Sony's deals with publisher Activision.

2016 looks promising, with a bunch of exciting multiplatform games coming to the PS4 along with a smattering of promising exclusives like Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last Guardian. The PS4 library seems on track to continue its steady growth, expanded regularly with multiplatform games and, less frequently, with a new must-have exclusive. (No pressure, Uncharted 4.)

The Future

Sony has demonstrated a continuing willingness to experiment with new ideas, though few of those ideas have markedly improved the PS4 experience. SharePlay, for example, is an innovative feature that allows players to trade off control of their games with friends online. It's a neat concept, but far from essential, and doesn't work well enough on most internet connections to be all that practical.

The State Of The PlayStation 4 In 2015

Going by last weekend's PlayStation Experience press event, it appears as though Sony's next big push for PS4 will be their PlayStation VR headset, which will launch at some point in 2016. It's easy to be sceptical of PSVR: No matter how excited Sony's spokespeople are about it, is a dedicated (and likely expensive) VR headset and suite of accompanying games really what the PlayStation 4 needs? It's possible, but unlikely.

In the spring of 2015, the PlayStation 4 is as sturdy a gaming device as it ever was. The console has yet to have a single, transformative moment where everything kicks into overdrive, and it's seeming increasingly unlikely that it will anytime soon. Sony's strategy has been less about software overhauls and bold new directions, and more about steadily building on the foundation they laid in 2013. It's working well enough so far.

Illustration by Sam Woolley


Comments

    The new consoles as a whole aren't really that exciting yet, an unfortunate side effect of this generation being a marginal upgrade when contrasted with the jump from Xbox/PS2 to Xbox 360/PS3. They function generally well and are trying very hard to sell us things. As more media goes streaming or digital download, items like consoles are beginning to compete in a different space.

    I'm interested to see what Sony does with their VR project but as someone who's pretty unenthusiastic about VR in general, I don't consider it an important/game-changing element.

    Maybe next gen we'll see something special. I already feel like this will be a relatively short cycle.

      I would agree with the comparison jump from xbox to 360 and ps2 to ps3. That was a much better 'next gen' jump.

      But im actually really disappointed with sony. The console itself is good and has a lot of potential but there is a serious lack of good games. As the article says, MOST of the must have games are on another console. Bloodbourne is by far its best exclusive and i absolutely hate the dark souls kind of games. Fun to watch, not fun to play (just a personal opinion)

        While I don't agree with you about souls games ;) I do agree that Sony's lineup has mostly been delayed until 2016 by the look of things. I've personally been feeling that a lot of this gens games have come out short/ unfinished/ half baked.

        I'm hoping that the Sony games have been delayed this far back to insure that they are all, well, more complete. Given that there have been many multi platform games driving sales, I'd like to think that Sony grabbed the opportunity to spit shine their games because they aren't relying as heavily on exclusives to sell the console like they had to last gen. If that's the case, then I'll be ecstatic. I mean, all their studios are working on games, we just have to wait. But I have to admit to being cynical.

        I mean, I'm tired of looking at games like Call Of Duty and saying that they have a surprising amount of content/ few bugs compared to other games. IMO, this gen needs longer development cycles because of the graphical fidelity etc, but games keep getting shorter cycles instead.

          I like your optimism. I'm scared that they are not pushing for more/better games because they killing it with sales anyway. Time will tell i guess.

          Honestly, i'dd just love all 3 consoles to absolutely kill it! then i would buy all 3 and have the a huge amount of fun ;)

    Sony knocking back EA Access with the reasoning of:

    "We don't think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer"

    That's a bold strategy Cotton, lets see if it pays off.

      Doesn't seem to have made much of a dent in PS4 sales so far...

        That's not really the point though: EA wanted to experiment in how they would deliver their games, and Sony said "no". Would it really have been that big a problem if EA had been allowed to try out their idea (and possibly fail)?

        PS4 sales might still be strong, but it is a reminder that on consoles you'll only see the innovation that the company controlling the platform approves of. So there's no EA Access on the PS4, and no cross platform multiplayer on the XBox One.

          The thing I can't figure out is - why haven't they brought EA Access to Origin?

    Thumbsticks were re-designed and now have harder rubber grips as opposed to the very soft ones the DS4 had originally. I've had both types and haven't had any problems.

      Yeah I suffered from the original ones and actually got them replaced for free due to being under warranty. Haven't had a problem with the new ones at all.

        Mine is starting to wear badly too. How long after purchase does a warranty last for a controller?

          The guideline is 'reasonable' so under Australian Consumer Law it must be fit for purpose. If you argue that a controller should last at least 12 months or more then you should have a go. I'd say if it is over 2 years you'd be stretching it. Bottom line is that there is no hard and fast limit.

          Mine were within 12 months, pretty sure the DS4 has a one year warranty. If you're outside of that you can go the replace the thumbstick route.

          Guide here : http://www.polygon.com/features/2015/5/22/8640577/how-to-replace-playstation-4-thumbsticks-xbox-one

            Just checked and I bought mine in August 2014, which is probably pushing it.

            I've already taken apart a controller to fix sticky buttons, so I know how to do it. Biggest problem is navigating the minefield of ebay and "100% Orginlal thumbsticks" to work out a) which, if any are authentic and b) whether they're the new type discussed above.

              The guide above I linked uses the Xbone sticks and apparently they work perfectly. Think they're a lot easier to order too so might be an easier way of getting sticks. That is if you like the xbone sticks.

      Was going to say the same, was at a friend's the other day and noticed one of their controllers had harder rubber on the sticks. Good stuff, seen tonnes of squishy ones with broken rubber.

    The PS4's streaming/media player is rubbish!
    No FLAC and no .MKV

      Along with piss poor subtitle support, NO support for multiple audio channels..

        While you're probably right for direct play of videos, using the Universal Media Server (which was based on the old PS3 Media Server) as a DLNA server allows play of any file I've thrown at it so far. That includes many MKVs; not sure about FLAC.

        Mind you, I haven't had much luck getting it to cooperate with any OTHER media server. But UMS works just dandy, and renders subtitles as part of the stream it hands off to the PS4.

          The only computer I have at home currently is a potato. I can't even watch a good quality 1080p, they fuck up don't work :(

      Agreed. I've still got my PS3 hooked up to the TV, mostly just because it's still a better media player than the PS4.

      admittedly I haven't tried (as I have a dedicated media player) but the PS4 media player lists h264 MKV files as being compatible, are you trying to play h265 encoded stuff maybe?

    Remember the halcyon days of abundant console exclusives? I miss that.

      I like it this way, now you just choose the hardware that suits & watch the games roll in.

      I'd love it if it were like DVD & everything played on everything.

      There's a fair amount of PS4 exclusives, it's just that a large amount are either JRPGs (which I personally don't care for) or rubbish (Knack, The Order 1886, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Godzilla).

      Before you accuse me of being an Xbox fanboy, I will say that Microsoft aren't in any position to judge. In fact none of the current-gen systems are particularly good yet.

        No-one will call you a fanboy, but they will question your comment about "rubbish" exclusives. Knack is quite fun, and so is The Order if you play it for what it actually is and not what you want it to be. I havent played Rapture but its got great feedback from people.

    Is there really a point in comparing PCs and consoles anymore? I mean in terms of hardware of course the PC is going to win handsdown.

    I don't even own a PC and I known it can do much much more, and better, than any PC.

      I don't even own a PC and I known it can do much much more, and better, than any PC.

      I'm going to lay awake at night for weeks trying to figure out this sentence in my head :P

      What the fuck did i just read?

        Yeah sorry guys good point. I usually suck at writting sentences on my phone.

        What I was trying to say was despite owning only a console, I'm fully aware that the PC is far superior in almost every way.

          You are right it is superior but it also comes with a lot of baggage that some gamers don't want to deal with. Setting things up and troubleshooting windows when a new driver messes everything up are two things that some people don't have time for.

          I have a gaming pc and a PS4 and even though my pc is far better and gets way more use. sometimes it's nice to turn the ps4 on and just play.

          That being said I think pc is the stand out platform of 2015. Games generally play better and the price of pc parts is quite reasonable where you can put together an awesome gaming pc for just over a grand.

          Sometime you just need a great console experience. You just don't get that same experience on PC. It's theoretically entirely possible, but practically almost never the case.

          let's say a game crashes, which can happen on any platform. On PC you will first have to make sure your end is OK (specially if you are using your PC for other work as well) and then go on to see if it's a developer issue.

          I can only imagine how easy this makes development for game developers when they are targeting a console.

    EDIT: Should have been reply to above

    Last edited 09/12/15 1:25 pm

    My PS4 is rad. I don't know what anyone would complain about.

      Coloured face plates could be $10 instead of $30

      Aye. I love my PS4. More than I did the PS3 when it launched, and almost as much as the PS2 which I regard as one of the better console releases and lifetimes.

      In particular I like rest mode, built in game recording and the controller is awesome.

      I use a dedicated media player/streaming box which plays all formats with its own sizeable internal storage. PS4 is built for gaming.

      The thing I really notice about my PS4, which has not been true of any other console with a significant UI, is how little time I spend waiting while it does something.

      On the PS3 It takes at least 30 seconds to go into the PS store. On Xbox One getting to the XBox Store is quite quick, but otherwise I see that spinning wait cursor on a blank screen far, far too often. On the PS4, except when I'm browsing a HUGE list of movies or games, I can page through and not worry about any delays at all.

      Of course, updates still take ages, that that's true of the XBox One as well.

        My PS4 loves me. it never makes me wait to update a game etc. It claims to be 'resting', but I know whilst I sleep it is working really hard to be ready for when I want it next.

        I love you too PS4!!!!

          That's great in principle and I have my PS4 set to do the same thing.

          That didn't stop it from telling me that Drive Club needed to download a 6GB patch before it would enable network functions the last time I tried to play it. Fortunately I only WANTED single player, but if I had wanted to play multiplayer I would have been seriously ticked off.

          Not the only game this has happened with. The automated updates just don't always seem to work.

          I play Drive Club occasionally to remind me why the world is lucky that I don't have a licence. After several tries I managed one lap without running into anything; I was 40 seconds behind the next back marker, but at least my car was OK.

    Remote Play.

    A quick game during my morning bog is always a great way to start my day!

      Seriously, I've finished 90% of my PS4 games because of the convenience of RP, I've still got games going back as far as PS2 that I keep meaning to go back to.

      Porting an old game to ps4 gives it a new life for me.

      That is what mobile phones are for.

        You are a sick, sick man, ash.

    Does anyone know what the model numbers are for the revision in Australia? Has the 1TB version been upgraded to the new model?

    Thanks.

    Am I the only one who has noticed how eerily similar the whole PS4 vs. Xbox One war is to the SNES vs. Mega Drive one? Seriously, think about it:
    -One system has better graphics (PS4/SNES), the other has a better processor (Mega Drive/Xbox One)
    -One system caters to fans of the brand, the other tries catering to a mainstream audience
    -One relies on returning franchises, the other has a few familiar faces but tries a lot of new stuff as well
    -The PS4/SNES sells better in Asia, the Xbox One/Mega Drive sells better in PAL regions and the both come extremely close in the US of A.
    -There is an intense fan war over which is better
    -And while all this is happening, an older company (Atari/Nintendo) slowly fades away into the background with their outdated hardware

      It's all just a little bit of history repeatin'

      I was surprised to find you're right on the first point - I'd always thought the CPUs in the two systems were basically identical, but the XBox One CPU is actually a bit faster. Unfortunately, the effective edge here is reduced because the XBox One reserves more CPU for background functions. At one point I think this was 4:4 cores, but that ratio was changed substantially later (in favour of games). I'm not sure what it is now.

      I'm not sure which console is which in your second and third points. I figure it could be argued either way.

      The PS4 is outselling the XBox One by a large margin in Europe; globally, it's almost 2 for one. They are about even in the USA, but the PS4 has the edge everywhere else.

      While there is a fan war, I'm not sure that it's all that intense. There are a LOT more cross-console titles now than there were in the SNES/Megadrive days. Frankly, the differences between the two platforms aren't really large enough to justify much of a fan war.

      Atari faded away, but their hardware was actually pretty decent. The Jaguar was a nice, powerful system, but with a lack of killer app games they didn't get the market share they needed to stay viable. When your best-known title (Tempest 2000) is (a) based on a decade-old game and (b) written by an external contractor, your console has problems with its software base.

      The Wii U suffers from a number of problems, the hardware being one and the name being another. Differences in the hardware (in the name of having an innovative platform) have also made it harder to create cross-platform titles; not just the previous-generation CPU speeds, but the new tablet remote which must either be ignored or require added code. Their own attempt to place interface innovation over raw specifications has done them in. The name is a separate problem (which they inexplicably repeated with the NEW 3DS) - the name makes it insufficiently clear that it's a new platform.

    Sonys year has been far from stellar but they still lead console sales. I really think they are still benefiting heavily from the bad PR Microsoft generated at launch as well as the die hard fanboys who would buy the console regardless of what it offered. Next year looks a lot more promising with Uncharted and SF V as well as their VR. I might even take the plunge if enough decent exclusives come out!

    The problem with the current generation of consoles is the lack of exclusive games. I used to buy all the main consoles up until this generation where i went for the ps4 as it seemed better when it launched.

    However maybe I would have been better off with a XBox One which seems to have a better l, albeit still not that amazing, line up of exclusives.

    For the amount the PS4 costs it's been a poor return on investment when it comes to gerneration defining experiences. Say what you want about the Wii U, it's certainly full of experiences you can't get any where else.

    I own a moderately powerful PC which can easily outperform the PS4 and the games are cheaper. Which makes the PlayStation a nice to have. In the past it would have been an essential part of my gaming hardware.

    Two years into the life cycle and still none of the big PlayStation exclusives like Unchatered or God of War or Gran Turismo. Maybe this says something about how long games take to make these days.

    It feels like consoles are now nothing more than stripped down PCs without a keyboard. They still offer enough to justify buying one of them but to own both seems like an expensive luxury and would argue you could play 90 percent of the top rated games with just a PC and a Wii U.

    This is all fine but I think in the long term gaming and dedicated consoles will suffer if they can't justify their continued excistance.

      I agree with most of what you said but still enjoy playing all my games on a console.

      THE exclusives issue is sonys biggest problem at the moment. Honestly, 1 or 2 great exclusives in 2 years. Pretty darn poor. Especially since that goes against their main marketing push. Arr well, sales are high, why would they care....

        Yeah agree. Overall don't begrudge owning PlayStation 4. Just wonder whether people will be as willing when PlayStation 5 comes around.
        Console has loads of potential but by end of year two we should have more to get excited about. Still overall it's a great time to be into video games

    This far into the life on both consoles I'm still amazed at just how few games there are... Even less that are actually good. I realise games are more expensive to produce than ever before but still.. Give us some variety FFS.

    Sony need to allow PSN users to download their PS3 purchases on PS4.
    It is absolutely ridiculous that you can't.

    It's honestly not worth investing in any of the current gen consoles and instead just keep on playing 'old gen' At least there's a shit load of games.

    But hey I guess rebuying the same rehashed shit exclusive to PS4 should be enough to tide us over right?

    Last edited 09/12/15 9:41 pm

    Also, they really need to let us change our freakin’ PSN names already.

    I ostensibly have a life goal to make sure I comment and support this change every time it's mentioned.

    Let. Us. Change. Our. NAMES!!

    If we are going to have VR then at some stage people are going to have to buy some kind of stupid headgear. In order to break the critical mass needed, starting with an already established hardware platform like ps4 might help. Peripherals generally fail because they are overhyped and under supported. If Sony's VR solution is the one and can generate enough sales to justify further development, then it would kickstart a new generation.

    Yeah, its a huge punt.

    Last edited 10/12/15 12:01 am

      I watched the VR presentation the other day and all I saw was Kinect 3.0

    Yeah I still use the old PS3 Media Server for streaming to my TV. It transcodes whatever you're playing into a format that the receiving device can play. PS3 originally had the same issue not playing FLAC (cant say for MKV) but when I played my FLAC collection through PS3MS it played flawlessly without any perceivable drop in quality.

    Wow what a miserable article! They way the author writes about VR is as if its a bad thing. I am looking forward to VR having messed around with it on my phone and PC, and look forward to having an affordable platform where I can play VR games. Suspend and resume is awesome! Shareplay and PSNow are very innovative, its just a shame the internet is too crap at the moment to support it. When the NBN gets into full swing and we have good upload speeds as well as download we can SharePlay and RemotePlay (outside our houses) like troopers. Playstation has been leading innovation in many ways. Yeah PS4 sucks as a media device (except for Plex) but with Roku, Android TV, Chrome Cast, PS3 etc is it worth there time?

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