Join us over the next few days as we look at all of the leading games consoles and platforms out right now and try to convince you why you should spend your hard-earned cash. Today we're looking at the PS4, with Mark Walton telling you why it's the next-gen console of choice.
You've got three options when it comes to buying a next-generation (current generation?) console, but the PlayStation 4 is great one. It's sleek, powerful, and--most importantly--all about the games. It's even got an online service offers more than just access to online multiplayer, with Instant Game Collection giving you access to a host of great games as part of PlayStation Plus. And with sales already reaching 4.2 million units worldwide, you'll find plenty of friends to play online with too.
Having only been around a few months, the PS4's line-up of games might be a little sparse, but there's still plenty to keep you entertained. On the exclusive side there's Killzone: Shadow Fall, which--for all its faults--is an impressive showcase of the PS4's power, and offers up some mighty fine multiplayer gaming to boot. Then there's Knack... actually, the less said about that little doozie the better.
More fun are the PS4's many indie titles, the best of which is Resogun, an old-school shoot-em-up dressed up in some very pretty voxels. It's got that "just one more go" arcade vibe about it that makes the hours fly by, and I've lost count of the time I've ploughed into it trying to land a perfect run and top the high scores on my friends list. Also worth checking out are the excellent Flower and Sound Shapes. They might be available on PS3 and Vita as well, but they're still wonderfully unique games that you can't get outside of a Sony platform.
There's all the usual cross-platform stuff to dig into too, with the likes of Assassin's Creed IV, FIFA 14, and Call Of Duty: Ghosts featuring noticeable graphical improvements over their last-generation versions. And let's not forget that the PS4 has been topping the Xbox One's visuals, most famously of all with COD: Ghosts, a game that runs natively at 1080p on Sony's machine and at an upscaled 720p on Microsoft's.
Let's face it though, if you fancied any of the launch games you'd have jumped on the next-gen bandwagon already. It's what's coming up that makes the PS4 a worthy buy, and there are some great-looking exclusives on the way. Sucker Punch's inFamous: Second Son is looking particularly tasty, with the series' trademark super powers and open-world action getting a crisp visual overhaul and some neat new power sets. Then there's the likes of Driveclub, Shadow Of The Beast, and The Order: 1886 on the way, not to mention whatever Naughty Dog has in store for Uncharted 4.
Sony's active courting of indie developers has landed it some great-looking timed exclusives too, with the stunning-looking adventure Rime and the wonderfully cheesy Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number both making their console debut on PS4. I'm particularly excited for The Witness, a Myst-like take on the puzzle game created by Jonathan Blow, the man behind the brilliant Braid.
We don't yet know for certain if cross-platform games like Watch Dogs, Tom Clancy's The Division, Mad Max, and Destiny are going to look their best on PS4, although the furore over the likes of COD: Ghosts and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition certainly suggest that's going to be the case. Plus, there's a six-month timed exclusive on Watch Dogs DLC to look forward to too.
The PS4 has a sleek monolithic vibe about it that just screams cool. It's small and quiet, even with its handy integrated power supply, and its unassuming exterior makes it look right at home in an AV rack. As far as cost goes, it might not be as cheap as a Wii U, but the PS4 is certainly cheaper than an Xbox One, even when you factor a game into the cost.
Even if you weren't a fan of Sony's Dual Shock 3 controller, it's worth checking out the Dual Shock 4: it's a wonderful thing. The improvements to its grips, analogue sticks, and size make it a far better to use than its predecessor, and there's the potential to do great things with the DS4's touch pad too, even if they haven't quite materialised in the current crop of games.
If you're holding out for a price drop or a hardware revision, don't expect to see either in 2014. With its already small size, it'll be a while before the chips can be scaled down enough to make a smaller box, and with sales going so well at the moment, a price drop is unlikely. Basically, if you jump on board now, an immanent price drop won't be burning you in the near future.
Want to access services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer? PS4 gives you access to their respective apps for free without having to subscribe to PlayStation Plus on top your existing media subscriptions. You still need to pay for PS Plus to play online, but it's great value thanks to free games that Sony puts up every month as part of Instant Game Collection. The likes of Resogun, Contrast, and Outlast (in the UK) are already part of the deal on PS4, and if you own a PS3 or Vita, you can use the same subscription there to net you even more games. They're big games too, with the likes of Bioshock Infinite and Borderlands 2 up for grabs.
Vita owners can also make use of Remote Play, which lets you play PS4 games on your Vita provided both devices are on the same network. Unlike with the PS3, Remote Play is being built into almost every game on the PS4 (the exception being those that use the PS4 camera), so you can continue playing, even if the living room TV is suddenly needed for a Breaking Bad marathon.
When it comes to day to day use, the PS4 is a great experience. The user interface is swift and clear, with everything just where you'd expect it to be. Then there's the excellent home screen that instantly gives you updates on what your friends are up to, letting you jump onto their online sessions, or see their latest high scores at a glance. Plus, you can stream straight to Twitch and UStream on PS4 with just the push of a button.
The PS4 is well-built machine, with a thoughtful UI and a lineup of great games. But it's what's coming up that makes it so enticing, with everything from exciting big budget blockbusters to unique indie experiences hitting the console soon. If you've been sitting on the fence waiting for something more than the launch lineup, 2014 is the time to make the jump to PS4.