Sony PlayStation 4 review roundup: A killer console, without the killer games (yet)

Sony's PlayStation 4 launches in the US on Friday, a week ahead of its primary competitor, the Microsoft Xbox One. 

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    A screenshot from Killzone: Shadow Fall, one of the launch titles for the Sony PlayStation 4, which goes on sale Friday.
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Officially, the first eighth-generation console to hit shelves was the underwhelming Nintendo Wii U. But for many gamers, the whole thing won't get underway until later this week, when Sony releases the PlayStation 4 (followed a few days later by the Microsoft Xbox One). The PS4 will sell for $399, a hundred bucks less than the Xbox One. But how does the new machine handle? Well, the reviews are starting to trickle in. Let's take a look. 

The rave 

"[Y]ou’re looking at a meticulously alloyed platform that’s the sum of many pieces, a kind of Grand Theft Auto V of video game consoles," writes Matt Peckham of Time. "If the latter represents everything Rockstar’s learned about open-world design – an accumulation of design knowledge implemented with knowing, fastidious precision – the PlayStation 4 is everything Sony’s learned about platform design, honed and polished to something just shy of perfection." 

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The counterpoint

"Think of the PlayStation 4 as a device with great potential, just one that developers haven't tapped into much yet – at least, based on my limited time with it," writes JP Mangalindan of Fortune. "There isn't any one feature or game I've played that screams "next generation." Games I've played with run buttery-smooth and sport some great eye candy, but haven't exactly 'wowed' me, and new features like the controller touchpad have yet to be used in an innovative way." 

The design

"The PlayStation 4 is a sleek, beautifully designed machine," writes Chelsea Stark of Mashable. "Online photos really don't do its angles justice. The device's backward slope masks its optical drive, making it visually appealing when sitting either horizontally or vertically. The entire box has clean lines, bisected on the top by a glowing LED strip that indicates when it's on. All the ventilation is hidden in the back, preserving the neat aesthetics, while still preventing the console from overheating." 

The innards

"The console itself is built around computer processing and graphics processing units custom-built by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.," writes Lou Kesten of the Associated Press. " Sony says the PlayStation 4 has 10 times the processing power of the PS3. That should translate into higher screen resolution (up to 1080p) and faster frame rates (up to 60 frames per second), meaning more detailed environments, more realistic lighting, smoother animation and huge online multiplayer matches." 

The controller

"It's shaped similarly to the PS3 controller, but with additions that include a speaker and touchpad that can also be pressed like a large button," writes Brett Molina of USA Today. "Surprisingly, the PS3 controller feels bulky compared to the thinner, comfier option for PS4. The top back buttons, L2 and R2, stick out a bit more to resemble triggers, making them easier to use. Battery life lasts roughly 4-6 hours before recharge."

The user interface

"The PS4 UI, called the PlayStation Dynamic Menu, is similar to the Cross Media Bar (XMB) on the PlayStation 3," writes Richard Mitchell of Joystiq, "though it's presented in a much cleaner manner with large, friendly tiles. The main horizontal row houses What's New, your games, Video and Music Unlimited, the web browser, TV & Video and a section called Library. The Library seems to display your downloaded content specifically, as mine shows only Netflix and Resogun, while my disc-based games like Battlefield 4 and Killzone: Shadow Fall remain on the main menu." 

Speaking of Shadow Fall...

"Killzone: Shadow Fall succeeds as an example of how amazing a PS4 game can look but feels mysteriously devoid of the secret ingredient that takes games from great-looking to great-feeling," writes Evan Narcisse of Kotaku in a review of one of the most highly-touted PS4 launch titles. 

Knack

"[Knack] has everything expected from a modern kid's game: DreamWorks-esque cartoon visuals, a goofy script, and just a drop of drama to keep the plot moving," writes Philip Kollar of Polygon in a review of another PS4 launch game. "But it doesn't play as happy-go-lucky as it looks. Knack's occasional bouts of creativity are overshadowed by a simplistic, overused combat system and an unforgiving approach to death and checkpoints. It may be an introduction to Sony's next-generation console, but it's stuck in a decidedly old-school rut." 

Some final thoughts

"The hardware lives up to its billing in delivering beautiful, immersive worlds," writes Greg Tito of The Escapist. "The smoke effects in Infamous: Second Son, the moving parts of Knack, the rolling thunder in Thief, all seem incredibly lifelike. Even the multiplayer of Killzone Shadow Fall felt rich with detail and the movement in the environment was something that you just couldn't achieve on older tech. So far the PS4 exclusives we've been able to play are beautiful games that draw out the best in the gaming hardware packed into the little parallelogram."

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