Sony PS4: One year on, has the PlayStation 4 lived up to the hype?

The Sony PS4 is one year old

PS4

Today sees the PlayStation 4 turn one year old and it's had quite the debut.

With Nintendo and its floundering Wii U console barely a speck in the rapidly-shrinking distance, PS4 has battled Microsoft's much-maligned Xbox One console at every turn and come up smelling of roses time after time.

Records have been broken, exclusivity deals have been made and fan allegiances won and lost – so as Sony blows out the candles this November, was it greatness that awaited that sleek black box?

A strong start

Sony has now sold a mind-melting 13.5 million PS4 units worldwide

PS4's first month couldn't have started any better; Microsoft's garbled handling of Xbox One's defining 'always online' and DRM features in the months leading up to its November 2013 launch had left its fanbase – both casual and hardcore – looking for a new port to call home.

With an aggressive PR campaign and some social media-minded executives in the form of Jack Tretton, Adam Boyes and Shuhei Yoshida, PS4 hit the ground running.

In the US alone PS4 sold 1 million units within 24 hours of its launch (a staggering figure when you think it took Nintendo a whole year to sell 1.5m Wii U's) with global sales reaching 2.1m by the beginning of December.

PS4 went into the Christmas period as a must-have item, thanks in no small part to Sony's aggressive pricing. At £399 in the UK it was a whole £30 cheaper than Microsoft's rival platform and with requests for PS4 going through the roof, Sony must have been wringing its hands with glee as it struggled to meet global demand.

crash bandicoot

A Knack for games

All these sales are a little surprising considering the relative lack of solid software available for new adopters, though.

Two of PS4s biggest launch titles – the socially-minded racer Driveclub and the uber-hyped open-world hacker sim Watch Dogs – were delayed well into 2014, leaving Sony's new hardware a little threadbare in the software department.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag proved to be one of the series' most popular (and commercially successful) instalments, but its availability on old-gen consoles took much of its PS4 sheen away.

It was much the same for cross-gen titles such as Need For Speed Rivals, FIFA 14, Madden 25, etc, while Battlefield 4 blew its own foot clean off with servers as unstable as its much advertised falling skyscrapers (although this issue affected every single platform DICE's shooter was released on, so its effect on PS4's overall sales seems marginal at best).

Only cutesy platformer Knack, download-only shoot-'em-up Resogun and sci-fi shooter Killzone: Shadow Fall could offer the mystique of a proper 'new-gen only' experience.

The new Killzone looked great, but its much-lauded open-ended level design was sadly resigned to a small percentage of the game, while Knack was… well, a knackered attempt at a platformer.

Only Housemarque's Resogun ticked every box, offering addictive score-hunting gameplay and visuals so good you'd want to lick the screen. In fact, it would take ten whole months for PS4 to get its first piece of unit-shifting software. You might have heard of it? It's called Destiny…

Destiny was, and is, a big deal for PlayStation. Yes, the phenomenon that made $350m for publisher Activision in just five days is technically available on both Xbox platforms as well, but a heavily-PlayStation branded advertising campaign helped drive PS4 hardware sales into the stratosphere.

Strangely it would be on Xbox One that Destiny would sell the most copies, but a ninth straight month as the number one selling console was more than enough for Sony.

In and around Destiny there were a few standout releases (inFamous: Second Son, The Last Of Us Remastered and Driveclub being the most notable) but its clear that 2015 will be the real proving ground for Sony's promise of gaming greatness.

PS4 XMB
Sony recently added the ability to change the background of the PS4's XMB

Delivering on its promises

It's been almost 20 months since Sony unveiled PS4 back in February 2013 and since then Sony has sold a mind-melting 13.5 million units worldwide.

That's quite a few people that have either upgraded from PS3, switched over from a rival platform or purchased PS4 as a first console, with many of them likely charmed by Sony's refreshingly no-nonsense promises.

Question is, how many of those promises actually made it into reality 12 months on?

Well, Cerny's promise of a, "supercharged PC," has proven a solid investment thanks to its powerful 8GB of GDDR5 and the developer-friendly X86 architecture – in fact, news of new-gen games hitting 1080p and 60fps on PS4 (while failing to hit that on Xbox One) have become so common its barely newsworthy anymore.

little big planet

Many of the unique features that sets PS4 from its rivals are now a reality, but its taken the best part of a year for them to get here.

Remote Play (which enables you to stream any PS4 game through your PS Vita handheld console or Xperia smartphone) remains a remarkably reliable service while the newly-added Share Play feature (where one player with a full copy of a game can invite one of his friends to join him, even if they don't own a copy themselves) looks set to be a huge hit among its ever increasing user base.

Sadly, the Suspend & Resume feature, which enables you to turn on your PS4 and jump back into a game in an instant, has proven a little too ambitious to realise quite yet.

So while Microsoft's console feels castrated without the features it was forced to tear out last summer, PS4 feels like a untapped wilderness of potential.

Even something as simple as the Share button has breathed new life into not so much the industry of making games but the industry of celebrating them.

So has it been a memorable year for PS4? Well, while it's sold extremely well it's only in the last few months that we've really seen a glimpse of what it's capable of.

With regular, tangible firmware updates and a genuine belief in the importance of supporting independent developers, it's the coming few years that will hold the most exciting developments for PS4.

Read: PlayStation 4 review

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