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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.

It's also worth noting that the dual local ID/PSN ID system that plagued the PlayStation 3 is gone. You log into your PS4 with your PSN ID, and that's the only account you'll use across all aspects of the system.

Classic XMB interface needs an overhaul, not a facelift
Unfortunately, Sony failed to overhaul the PS3's venerable Xross Media Bar (XMB) interface. The new interface, which Sony calls the PlayStation Dynamic Menu, is still built on clunky rows of icons stacked atop one another.

Minor changes abound: The Trophy system, for example, has been updated retroactively across all PlayStation consoles so that each achievement sports a little icon indicating how rare it is based on how many other players have earned it. I would have preferred that Sony update its firmware so that we didn't still have to manually sync our trophy data with Sony servers, but no dice. You can also initiate Real Name transfers with people on your friends list: When one of you asks and the other agrees, both players can see each other's real names (or whatever you have tied to your PSN ID).

The interface feels snappy and fast to navigate, due in part to the PS4's capacity to keep an app and a game running in suspended mode simultaneously. In practice, that means you can quickly flip back and forth between a game of Resogun and an episode of Breaking Bad streaming on Netflix. You can spend as much time as you like browsing the PDM or even putting the console into suspend mode without having to worry about losing your game or your place in the episode.

Bottom line
The PlayStation 4 is going to change the gaming market with an eclectic library of downloadable indie and free-to-play games running on a revamped operating system that can support things like game streaming, social sharing, and remote play. It won't change it with whiz-bang graphical upgrades or exclusive software—though those would be greatly appreciated.

It's easy to see the potential here. What if one day I could wake up, use my Vita to boot up the PS4 in the other room and launch Planetside 2, then invite my friends into a squad via PSN, Facebook, and Twitter before leaping into a massive firefight and streaming the action? Gosh, that sounds like a pretty good Saturday.

But right now, it's just potential—the PS4 doesn't do much except play and stream games, and it currently lacks a game library worth paying $400 for. And that's troubling, especially when Microsoft is fielding a competing black box in an effort to gobble up the lion's share of the console market before Sony has time to find its stride.


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