Original (2013) PS4 review

The 'fat' PS4

Image credit: Sony

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The PS4 has come a long way since launch day. Small changes, along with a few huge additions like firmware 2.5, PlayStation Now, PlayStation Music and Share Play, added up to make the system a better value within 12 months of its launch. 

The PlayStation 4 isn't perfect, though. While it's made several improvements to its interface, the PlayStation 4 is still lacking in the one area that counts: games. Out of everything else, though, this may be the hardest to fix. There's hope on the horizon that games like Uncharted 4 will give gamers a reason to call the system "the best Sony system ever" but, until we get more quality first-party games in our hands, there will still be a distinct lack of content there to win us over.

So, you ask yourself, is it worth jumping in now at $399 or wait just another six months to see if I can get a cheaper bundle down the road? Let's break it down.

PS4: we liked

The system is cleanly designed, functional and a downright joy to putter around its interface. Everything is speedy and responsive right from minute one, and the interface is full of clever design choices that speed things up. Games begin to install the second you pop in the disc, and firmware updates download while the system is on standby.

Games themselves look loads better here than they did at the peak of the PlayStation 3. The graphics aren't mind-blowing if you're used to high-end gaming rigs but, when compared to the Xbox One, there's a small, but notable improvement on Sony's system.

Even the controller is better than last generation's. The DualShock 4 controller is a significant upgrade over the DualShock 3. The most bothersome aspects of the DS3 have been addressed, resulting in a comfortable controller that's more functional for games of all genres.

PS Plus (and the PlayStation Network in general) are more enjoyable now than they've ever been and, while it's a bit disheartening to see online multiplayer go behind a $50/£40 paywall, Sony has tossed in a lot of stuff to sweeten the deal. You get improved standby functionality, discounts on games in the digital store and freebie downloadables that are actually quite good.

The PlayStation 4 did all this without losing any shred of its Sony DNA. It's hands-down the best media-streaming system on the market, capable of playing lag-free blu-rays and creating a minimalistic interface for Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video.

It's also very apparent that Sony is concerned about growing the console and its feature-set for the long-term. It's refusing to let its console grow stagnant by providing monthly patches and forecasting interesting features down the road.

PS4: we disliked

Sony has made it clear that it's branch out or die. To add a new feature every six months or pack it up and call it quits. This amiable drive to create something from nothing every six months has given gamers a reason to pick the PS4 over the Xbox One.

The downside, however, is that Sony often forgets to improve what features the PS4 already has. Remote Play has been given PS4 owners four-player functionality but little reason to actually go out and buy a PS Vita - there are few games built with cross-over play in mind and even fewer that make for a compelling case to drop an extra $200.

And the list of innovative-but-forgotten features continues with everything from the touchpad on the controller to the unwieldy "What's New" section of the home screen. The speed at which new features come out seems like it has outpaced Sony's ability to refine and hone them. The potential for real change is buried inside the hardware of the system but, as it stands, the PlayStation 4 feels more like a PlayStation 3.5 than a real evolution of the platform.


PS4: our verdict

We'll say it again: the PlayStation 4 is a great piece of hardware. It's fast, nicely built and has a streamlined philosophy that puts games front and center. And let's not forget the price tag. It was the first console to be priced at $399 and continues to offer great value for the money.

What's more impressive was that it had a fantastic first year jam-packed with new features and firmware updates that improved the stability and speed of the system. These may end up hurting if Sony doesn't take some time to really work and refine the feature-set it's already put out. But, for the time-being, seeing monthly updates has only reinforced gamers' decisions to buy Sony.

You've had a good first year, Sony, but don't let up now.

First reviewed November 2013

2022 update: Since the PS4's launch in 2013, it's proven a huge success for Sony, selling over a hundred millions of units and becoming beloved by players around the world. Its initial problem of garnering exclusives has vanished and it's become the home of some of the most generation-defining exclusives around, between The Last of Us Part 2, Spider-Man, Ghost of Tsushima, Horizon Zero Dawn. 

With the PS5 generation now underway, Sony will no doubt hope to continue to go from strength to strength with the PlayStation brand.

Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.

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