It's been seven long years since gamers have seen a new iteration of the PlayStation video game console. In the tech world, two years is a long time. Seven is more like a lifetime. At long last, Sony's PlayStation 4 has arrived, ushering in a new generation of gaming.
The PS4 improves on nearly all of PS3's shortcomings, and that list of shortcomings grew over its long lifespan. For starters, PS4 is a compact and quiet package that will fit nicely in any entertainment system. Its asymmetrical design feels solid yet light, and it is smaller than any model of PS3. Sony's minimalist design is pleasing to the eye.
The controller, the Dualshock 4, fixes many of the common complaints that surrounded its predecessor, Dualshock 3. Dualshock 4 sports firmer analog sticks, concave triggers, longer handles and a new touchpad. The result is one of the best feeling controllers in the business, although it suffers from a short battery life of about eight hours.
The inner workings make a console what it is, and PS4 doesn't disappoint. Sony gave its new console a completely new user interface. This new menu system is more responsive than the guides on the Xbox 360 and PS3. The guide can be accessed at any time by pressing the PlayStation button, even while in the middle of a game. The user can check other applications, a friends list or system settings, and return to the game at any time. The guide's simplicity is hampered by its rigidity. The game library cannot be customized, and it keeps the user's games housed in a single cluttered horizontal line.
After looking at graphics generated by hardware that is nearly a decade old, PS4's graphic production is a welcome sight. The first-party exclusive "Killzone Shadow Fall" shows what PS4 is capable of by displaying sprawling vistas and richly detailed textures.
Unfortunately, the game feels more like a tech demo than an inspired first-person shooter. This is the problem with much of PS4's launch lineup. It lacks quality titles. In its out-of-the-gate library of roughly 30 games, only three are exclusively available for PS4. Every other game can be found on other gaming platforms, including PS3. Granted, those versions won't look as sharp as the PS4 versions, but a console with just a few next-gen games makes for a hard sell.
PS4 is packed with other nice perks like its live streaming ability. Users can broadcast their gaming sessions live for the world to see via Web browser or mobile device. Game streaming has become a big business for video games, and PS4 is prepared for it on Day 1. Game quality isn't affected by game streaming, but a fast upload speed is necessary to produce a clear stream.
Sony's handheld, the PlayStation Vita, has been given new life thanks to PS4. Vita now acts as an optional companion to the console. Its new feature called Remote Play replicates the TV image on the Vita, giving it similar functionality to the Wii U's GamePad. This is handled through a local Wi-Fi network, which means no wires are needed. The feature works with virtually no delay, but some of the picture quality is lost in the transition.
But is PlayStation 4 worth the $400 asking price? It's currently a powerful gaming device with an obvious lack of games. Of course, this will change over the next year, but the sparse library is an obvious hole for a console that is supposed to play video games. Owners have various multimedia apps and cross-platform titles to enjoy. That will be enough for some, but PS4 is still waiting for its killer app.
Max Parker covers video games as The Game Guy at communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GameGuyPGH.