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PlayStation 4 review: Sony's best console yet is off to a shaky start

Alex Wawro | Nov. 21, 2013
Sony's latest console is poised to perform well over the coming years, but right now it's mostly a black box of potential.

You get a cheap headset, and you get a cheap headset, and you get a cheap headset!
Sony also packs a cheap mono headset into every PS4 box, and you can jack it into the stereo headset jack below the PlayStation button to participate in voice chat or voice control. This headset is perhaps the chintziest piece of technology I've ever used, with a single earbud, a mutable mic and an impractical plastic clip connected by a single audio cable.

It looks cheap, and it is cheap—it's essentially a free pack-in, after all. But there's a silver lining: While the earbud's output is muffled at best, the built-in microphone performs remarkably well. Friends in party chat and those watching me stream games complemented the audio quality of the voice chat, but more importantly, they didn't complain about the mic rubbing against my shirt or picking up extraneous room noise.

Most gaming headsets that connect via USB, optical audio, or 3.5mm audio jack will work with the PS4, though you may need to download a system update first. I tested both the Plantronics Rig and the Astro A50 headsets, and both worked perfectly.

Remote Play works, but it's not worth buying a Vita for
If you happen to own a PlayStation Vita, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how well the PS4's Remote Play feature functions—when both devices are on the same wireless network and in close proximity to one another. I streamed both Killzone: Shadow Fall and Resogun to my Vita via Remote Play while I was sitting about 12 feet from the console, and both games looked fantastic on the Vita's 5-inch OLED screen. I noticed no appreciable input lag or graphical distortion while playing either game—as long as I stayed within 15 feet and didn't let any major masonry get between me and my PlayStation 4.

As soon as I took the Vita into the bedroom or the bathroom of my cramped one-bedroom apartment, both games started dropping frames and suffering noticeable graphical distortion. They weren't unplayable, per se, but they weren't terribly enjoyable under those conditions. Your mileage may vary based on your own network setup, but if you don't already own a Vita I wouldn't recommend picking one up just to play your PS4 games remotely—there's very little leeway for an ideal experience.

You can also use the Vita (or a smartphone or tablet running the PlayStation App) to do some second-screen stuff with PS4 games, though none of the games available at the time of this writing take compelling advantage of that feature. You can set waypoints in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, for example, or check stats and modify your loadouts in Call of Duty: Ghosts. Again, it's a neat touch, but nothing worth paying for.

 

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