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PS4 Review

With the PlayStation 5 now out in the wild, is the current-gen games console still worth a purchase?

Verdict

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The base PS4 is a fantastic games console with one of the best game libraries ever assembled. Its first-party lineup is far better than what the Xbox One S offers, with the likes of Uncharted 4, God of War and Marvels Spider-Man are all considered essential experiences. However, the impending PS5 ensures future support will not last long, so the PS4 should only be considered if you are determined to have a budget-friendly console right now

Pros

  • Unrivalled game library
  • Super affordable
  • Comfortable wireless controller
  • Support for all of the best video streaming apps

Cons

  • Lacks 4K support
  • Aproaching end of life cycle
  • PlayStation Now poor value compared to Xbox Games Pass

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £249.99
  • Full HD support
  • Includes DualShock 4 controller
  • 40% slimmer than original PS4
  • Available in 500GB and 1TB models

The PS4 has been a resounding success since its launch back in 2013, becoming one of the best-selling consoles of all time. But with the PS5 and Xbox Series X just around the corner, is it still worth your money? 

It certainly feels like an outdated system now, limited to a Full HD resolution while the likes of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have moved onto gorgeous 4K visuals. In addition, its use of a hard disk drive for storage also results in sluggish loading times compared to the lightning-quick SSDs found in modern gaming PCs. 

However, with a staggeringly good games library, over-achieving performance and an attractive price point, there’s still plenty of life left in this 7-year-old console. 

PS4 design – Slimmed-down box

  • The PS4 is Sony’s last generation console which first launched in 2013
  • This is the slim model, which replaced the original a number of years ago 
  • Is a stylish, accomplished machine with plenty of excellent games

The PS4 design has been refreshed since launch. The default Slim model was released back in 2016, and it’s fair to say that its stripped-back aesthetic certainly makes it appear like it’s from that era. There aren’t any overbearing fan vents on the machine, and the only bit of lighting appears on the small power button. It isn’t an especially flashy-looking bit of tech.

Unlike the original model (which can no longer be bought at retailers), the Slim has a blank expanse on its top side. There are no lights running across the body; only the old logo at its centre.

On the flip side of the Slim, there are the four PlayStation symbols used as “feet” for the device – which is a nice touch, but you won’t see that design feature unless you’re stacking the console vertically.

ps4 slim

There are two USB 3.0 ports spaced out across the front of the console. These are handy for additional storage, since that base 500GB will get used up pretty quickly. On the rear you’ll find the usual setup of aux, HDMI and power input ports.

From here you can also gain easy access to the console’s hard disk, if you want to switch it out for something that offers larger storage capacity. Just apply a little pressure to the left-back corner, push it out, undo the top screw, and pull out the drive using the little brown handle.

Overall, it’s a compact little machine that looks both dinky and modest next to consoles such as the Xbox One.

(Words by Ruth Gaukrodger)

PS4 controller – Great pad with poor battery life 

  • The DualShock 4 is an excellent controller that set a new benchmark 
  • While its battery life is poor, this device is excellent across all genres
  • Lightbar allows usage with PSVR and is also context sensitive 

The PS4’s DualShock 4 controller is one of the smallest pads found today, contrasting greatly with the Xbox’s chunky alternative. It’s comfortable to hold no matter your hand size, and can easily be used for multiple hours without issue. 

Every button offers pleasingly good travel, particularly the back triggers, which are great for pulling down to unleash a stream of bullets in your favourite shooters. The PlayStation Home button, meanwhile, allows for quick access to the homescreen without having to close down a game. 

The dual analogue sticks are reliably responsive, while the rubberised texture ensures comfort when resting your thumbs atop them. However, the durability of this rubber coating isn’t the best – I’ve torn through it after long-term use, exposing the hard plastic beneath. 

Dualshock 4

The controller also has an on-board speaker that’s been used for good effect in certain games; for emitting the beeps of Alien Isolation’s scanner for a more terrifyingly immersive experience. Other quirky features such as the touchpad, motion sensors and light bar haven’t been used as effectively, though. 

The light bar is used more extensively, often turning red to signal low health and also proving handy to distinguish pads during local multiplayer –but the light is so bright that it can be distracting when playing in the dark. 

A stereo headset jack allows you to plug in wired gaming headsets into the controller, which means you can sit further away from the television without having cables draped across your room. The PS4’s Bluetooth support also means you can use select wireless headsets.

Since the DualShock 4 is a wireless controller, it requires charging via the micro-USB port on the back. While this is now an outdated charging port, this shouldn’t be an issue since the required cables come bundled in the box. The battery life of the controller is a big disappointment, though: it typically lasts only around four hours before an on-screen alert notifies that a recharge is needed. 

PS4 Slim

PS4 performance – Outdated, but fine for Full HD

  • PS4 is only capable of 1080p performance, unlike the PS4 Pro 
  • The user interface is smooth and responsive for the most part 
  • Loading times remain very long in some games, due to HDD 

It’s fair to say that the default PS4 specs are outdated these days, mainly since it’s limited to a Full HD resolution rather than the new 4K standard, which results in a marked difference in image sharpness between your basic PS4 and the PS4 Pro.

This isn’t to say that you can’t get some beautiful in-game environments on the base PS4, though; developers have worked hard to ensure games such as Marvel’s Spider-Man shine on every console. However, there’s a level of detail available on the Pro model that’s unmatched by the basic machine.

In new releases especially, the sharpness of distant objects, natural environments and explosive effects are magnified. This difference isn’t significant enough to detract from your overall gaming experience, though – and unless you’re running a side-by-side comparison with a 4K television, you probably won’t miss that extra detail.

The base PS4 isn’t the most powerful console these days, but I still haven’t come across any significant issues with frame rate drops. You might have the odd stumble here and there with fast-paced action epics such as God of War, but not enough to derail your overall experience.

Load times on the machine aren’t lightning-fast, but nor are they painfully long. For an average game, you’d expect to see  three to four tips appear on the screen before you’re plunged into the main campaign. But you’re looking at a fairly lengthy wait through loading sequences on heavy-lifting games such as Final Fantasy 7 Remake. This is one area the PS4 is noticeably lagging behind gaming PCs, which can host SSDs that slash waiting times drastically.

We’re still pretty impressed by the low-level of fan noise, which is super-quiet so long as you keep your machine dust-free. But, a bit of overheating is noticeable towards the rear of the console, especially when you run more demanding games such as Media Molecule’s recently released Dreams.

(Words by Ruth Gaukrodger)

PS4 games – PlayStation’s exclusives are epic masterpieces

  • PS4 has countless masterful exclusives for newcomers to experience
  • God of War, Bloodborne and Marvel’s Spider-Man are just some of them 
  • PSVR also has a selection of games you can’t play anywhere else 

The main attraction of any console is the library of games it supports, and the PS4 has one of the best any system has ever seen. 

PlayStation has excelled at providing top-class first-party exclusives this generation, with the likes of God of War, Uncharted 4, Marvel’s Spider-Man and Bloodborne all being received fantastically by both critics and gamers alike. The PS4 supports the PSVR headset, too, opening up the sprawling game catalogue further still. 

God of War

There’s also been a big focus on remaking PlayStation classics for the PS4, with Final Fantasy 7, Crash Bandicoot and Shadow of the Colossus in receipt of gorgeous makeovers. 

PlayStation has maintained strong third-party support, too, with popular franchises such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed still going strong. There have been countless gems from The Witcher 3 to Doom Eternal, expanding across multiple genres for insanely wide appeal. 

While the PS3 didn’t have a wealth of indie titles, the PS4 has gone from strength to strength in that regard: Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight, Rocket League, Celeste and Undertale are just a small selection from a continuously swelling library on the online PSN store. 

Marvel's Spider-Man

Arguably, the PS4 has the best variety of any gaming platform right now. The Xbox One also offers strong third-party support, but its exclusives have been lacking. And while the Nintendo Switch has an incredible first-party lineup and is continuously improving on its third-party support, it’s still missing some major titles such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Apex Legends

The base PS4 shares the same game library as the PS4 Pro, so you won’t be missing out on any titles by snubbing the 4K upgrade. That won’t be the case with the PS5, though, which will likely see exclusive titles while also supporting the majority of the PS4 library. With that in mind, it’s worth considering whether you’re better off waiting for the PS5, despite the inevitability it will be significantly more expensive.

Features – The perfect entertainment system 

  • Netflix, Crunchyroll, YouTube, Prime Video and Disney Plus are all supported
  • Films and shows can also be purchased directly from the PlayStation Store

Games consoles no longer exclusively play video games, now functioning as all-round media streaming devices that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Apple TV, Nvidia Shield and the Amazon Fire TV Cube. 

Not only does the PS4 have a Blu-ray disk drive, but it also hosts a slew of streaming services such as Disney Plus, Netflix, Prime Video, Now TV and BBC iPlayer. My personal PlayStation handles all my streaming, and I rarely ever need to switch over to my laptop or satellite TV. 

There’s access to the likes of Twitch and YouTube, too, so can enjoy content from other gamers directly through your PS4.

PS4 UI

Unfortunately, navigation through the UI remains pretty sluggish, especially when hopping over to the PlayStation Store.

I am a fan of the PS4’s UI, though. It’s a simple setup, with your most recently played games displayed along the bottom row and various applications and shortcuts (such as your Friends list, Trophies and system settings) shown above. It’s a far more digestible setup than what the Xbox One offers. 

It’s a bit of a pain digging out games that you may have downloaded months before, requiring a trawl through your game library. However, these rarely takes more than a minute to locate. There are also a lot of needless shortcuts clogging up the menus; for example, Communities and Events are probably used by only a handful of gamers. 

PS4 UI

For online multiplayer you’ll need to sign up to PS Plus, which costs £19.99 for a three-month subscription or £49.99 for 12 months. That may sound expensive on paper, but when it gifts you games every month (with Uncharted 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered being recent examples), it works out at decent value. 

The one area where the PS4 is lagging behind Xbox is in its Netflix-style subscription service. By paying £8.99 per month for PlayStation Now, you’ll get access to over 800 titles from the PS4, PS3 and PS2. While a generous offering, Xbox Game Pass does surpass the PS4’s service by including all of its newly released first-party games for a cheaper subscription cost. 

You should buy the PS4 if…

You aren’t worried about being next-gen: The PS5 is already on the market, so new owners of the PS4 may be worried they’re missing out on the latest games. If this aura of FOMO isn’t something you’re bothered about, the PS4 is a console which is absolutely worth owning.

You want to play some fantastic games: In terms of exclusives, the PS4 is one of the best consoles ever made. Bloodborne, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man and Gravity Rush 2 are all masterpieces, and even then I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this platform has to offer. If you’ve missed out on a generation, the PS4 will undoubtedly spoil you rotten.

You don’t want to break the bank: Given it will be having its eighth birthday this year, the PS4 is relatively cheap nowadays. You can pick up a console bundle with a selection of excellent games for a fraction of their original price. Physical games and accessories are also cheaper these days.

You should not buy the PS4 if…

You want something modern and powerful: While it isn’t a slouch in the power department, the PS4 lags behind the PS5, Xbox Series X and modern gaming rigs in a major way. You will inevitably hit a bottleneck in the coming years where modern games simply aren’t built for the platform anymore. 4K and 60fps are also out of the question.

Its exclusives aren’t your cup of tea: I’d be very, very shocked if nothing in the PS4 exclusive library tickles your fancy. However, if that ends up being the case, you might be best opting for the Xbox One or Nintendo Switch.

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