Opinion PlayStation

PlayStation 4 five years later - The best and worst of Sony's home console

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Believe it or not but in December this year, the PlayStation 4 turns five years old. I, for one, cannot believe that the years have gone by so fast but it has been a great console cycle so far. This month marks the official 5 year anniversary of the announcement of the console where Sony took to the stage to reveal the power and some of the games that we would play in the years ahead. I remember is quite clearly as Mark Cerny stood on stage and gracefully discussed some highlights of the architecture, pulled out the DualShock 4 for the first time and chatted to the world about Sony's vision for the console. Fast forward 5 years and the PS4 is standard home console now but has it all been as fantastic as we were promised? 

2013 -  A rocky start

The PlayStation 4 released in SA on 13 December 2013. It was a pricey purchase coming in at R6,299 for a standard 500GB model and going up in price depending on the bundle you bought. According to some insider information, it was tough getting the PS4 in SA in time and there were quite a lot of people fighting Sony International to make sure we in SA got to play on our PS4 by the end of 2013. So much so that we almost never received our consoles in time. 

The PS4 had a lacklustre launch lineup. With Watch Dogs delayed, new PS4 owners were subject to a handful of new games like Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall and a bunch of ports like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Call of Duty: Ghosts. While the games were lacking, to say the least, PlayStation Plus kicked off the PS4 with a bang. November's offerings included ResoGun, and December brought Outlast with it which were both fantastic games to play on the console. Little did gamers know that it would not be a few months until PS4 would really shine. 

The good

  • PS4's power over competitor
  • PS+ launch months

The Bad

  • Launch lineup lacking
  • No external HDD support
  • PS4 OS needs work and features

2014 - PS4 gains momentum

The start of 2014 was slow for PS4. With very few exclusives to play and few very next-gen titles to experience, I remember going back to my PS3 for a few weeks to finish off games I was playing there. Killzone: Shadow Fall was cleared and there was no real reason to force me to boot up my PS4. In March 2014 Sony's first exclusive since launch released, Infamous: Second Son and it was a true showcase of the power of the PS4. Detailed particle effects and some stunning lighting was a welcomed addition to the console. However, the truth was quite clear that the industry was still transitioning to the new generation. 

It was not until the end of 2014 that the PS4 library exploded. Destiny released with its exclusive PS4 content, LittleBigPlanet 3 made its return, Far Cry 4, The Evil Within, Alien: Isolation, Assassin's Creed: Unity, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Shadow of Mordor and dozens more were added to the current console's library of games. While many of them were cross-platform releases with PS3 versions out too, the best place to play them was on PS4. Xbox One was suffering from some nasty resolution issues at the time with many games running at 900p and 720p compared to 1080p on the PS4. Sony had the upper hand with huge publishers on board as well as the extra power to pull of crispier resolutions. 2014 was great but gamers had no idea that 2015 would be one of the greatest years in gaming. 

The Good

  • PS4 chosen platform for Destiny 
  • PS4 continues to show resolution advantages

The Bad

  • PS4 exclusives lacking
  • Sony experimenting with gimmicky OS features like Share Play
  • Still no external HDD support

2015 - One of the greatest years of gaming

With the PS4 library looking excellent, 2015 could only get better and it did. Sony started to focus a lot of attention on exclusives and it began to pay off. With Bloodborne's success, it was clear that From Software had a home on PS4. Until Dawn delivered a fantastic interactive cinematic experience, and the Uncharted collection geared us up for the final game in the series. While Sony had some great exclusives it was the third-party games that stole the year.

Batman: Arkham Knight, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, Mortal Kombat X, Battlefield Hardline, Dying Light and much more. 2015 was one of the best years for gaming we had in a while and it was the superb third-party games that made it possible, even if PC gamers were unable to play Batman.

The Good

  • Bloodborne
  • PS4 multi-platform games still run better than Xbox One
  • Sony launched 1TB PS4 models
  • Sony steals Call of Duty away from Microsoft
  • Media player support + DLNA added
  • Suspend mode added 
  • Sony launches PS Now

The Bad

  • Still no external HDD support
  • PS Now a sad substitute for backwards compatibility

2016 - The year of 4K, VR and the Slim PS4

2016 was a strange year for Sony as the company focused quite a lot of resources on hardware. With the PS VR announcement at the end of 2015, gamers knew that it would be something Sony would push quite heavily in 2016 and they did. Little did we know that we would have the option to splurge on a few new additional hardware options in 2016 with PS VR and the PS4 Pro releasing in the same quarter. The PS4 releasing just a month apart, the PS4 Pro marked a new beginning for Sony's platform as they ushered in 4K gaming with HDR support for both the standard PS4 and PS4 Pro.

The console featured a significantly improved hardware archetype that allowed for faster processing and improved CPU speed which in a nutshell meant improves resolutions in games and sometimes higher frame rates. At a steep price tag of R6,999, the PS4 Pro was a tough sell for those who did not own a 4K TV but there was a market for it and those gamers demanded the best quality for their gaming. It was a new era where resolution mattered, HDR was a must for new games, and gamers actually started to appreciate the technical side of gaming architecture. 

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PS VR also released in 2016 and it marked the most affordable and the most accessible VR experience on the market. Although it is the weakest, Sony developed it with a budget in mind and the fact that all you would need is your PS4 with no additional processing requirements. It worked and it had a few select games that were great. Batman VR, Robinsons: The Journey, Job Simulator and more. Sony successfully cemented themselves down as the go-to VR platform for gamers on a budget thanks to the price tag of R5,499 compared to HTC Vive at R13,999. 

With 4K HDR gaming Sony made sure to support it with some great updates to older games as well as including support for the console in new games. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was a fitting end to the Nathan Drake story, The Last Guardian was a stunning experience and who can forget No Man's Sky's disaster launch that ruined pre-orders for all time? Third party games like Titanfall 2, DOOM, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs 2, Overwatch and of course Final Fantasy XV all made gaming great in 2016 and most of them supported PS4 Pro enhancements that made the purchase worthwhile. Sony had good things going for it by the end of 2016. Multiple purchase options for PS4 consoles, the most powerful console on the market, the most affordable VR on the market and a stunning exclusive lineup of games for those joining the PS4 family. 

The Good

  • PS4 Pro launches
  • PS VR Launches
  • Uncharted 4 is a hit
  • PS4 OS finally gets a quick menu
  • PS4 OS gets folder support

The Bad

  • The Last Guardian does not do well
  • Still no external HDD support
  • No PSN ID name change
  • No Man's Sky - Nuff said

2017 - Sony brings its exclusives

With the PS4 Pro being knocked out of the "most powerful console in the world" position thanks to the Xbox One X, Sony still had an upper hand, its exclusive lineup. While the Xbox One X only launched in November last year, the PS4 and PS4 Pro had more than enough months to build an even better library of games for itself. Within the first six months of 2017, Sony had at least one exclusive a month that you could not play on anything but PS4. Nioh, Gravity Rush 2, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8, Yakuza 0, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and more. These titles stood out among third-party games and it was Sony's strongest hand they had to fight off the rising popularity of the Xbox One X. 

While Sony was killing it with their exclusives they were also doing the same with third party games thanks to the PS4 Pro. Sony made sure to push as much as they could before the Xbox One X's release in November and they did. Many games ran really well on the Pro and it became a must-have for 4K TV owners. Sony also finally added external hard drive support to the consoles which were a must given the size of games these days. 

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As for VR, Sony continued to support the hardware which was great as many feared they would abandon it as they did the PS Vita and PS Move. VR games released weekly throughout 2017 with many of them being great. Farpoint was a fantastic shooter, especially when bundled with the PS VR Aim Controller.

The Good

  • Horizon Zero Dawn elevates the PS4 brand
  • External HDD support
  • Sony supports PS VR

The Bad

  • Xbox One X at a power advantage over PS4 Pro
  • PlayStation Plus goes up - fails to deliver value

In 2017 Sony was quite clear that the best place to play games was on the PS4 as they aggressively approach publishers and developers to create exclusive content for the platform. This gave them the upper hand over other devices on the market. There is no doubt that 2018 is already looking great with Sony's big-name exclusives in development for the months ahead. God of War, The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man, WiLD, and much more are coming. Five years later and the PS4 had managed to pull through the tough times and the future is looking bright. 

What are your fondest memories of the PS4? Let us know in the comments below. 

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