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PlayStation 4 Review

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At launch, the PlayStation 3 was flush with technological bells and whistles: a multi-format memory card reader, user-upgradeable 2.5" serial ATA hard drive, and support for high-capacity Blu-ray discs. It had a powerful CPU, the Cell processor, whose simple name masked its notoriously complex architecture. Like the Emotion Engine in the PlayStation 2, the Cell called for a new approach to processor optimization and would go underutilized for years. Developers had to work harder to harness its potential, and it was expensive to manufacture, ultimately raising the barrier to entry on all fronts. In hindsight, it was perhaps too complex at the start for anyone's good.

Seven years later, the PlayStation 4 proves that Sony has learned its lesson. It was designed around semi-custom PC parts from AMD, a factor that lowers manufacturing costs and simplifies game development. It's less of a jack-of-all-trades than its predecessor, but it hits the necessary extra-curricular touchstones. Even the oft-criticized DualShock, a seemingly sacred PlayStation staple, was reinvented for the better. The PlayStation 4 is refined, both inside and out, and though there are minor imperfections to cope with, they hardly seem to matter in light of the system's numerous achievements.

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At a glance, the PlayStation 4's compact, rhomboid chassis is immediately impressive. Its matte-black and glossy panels are divided by a thin light-bar on the hood and a squared groove that circuits the perimeter, sheltering the slot-loading Blu-ray drive, USB ports, and air-vents. Given that it's arguably the most powerful next-gen console, and the only one with an internal power supply, it’s a credit to the engineering and design teams at Sony that the PlayStation 4 is so small and sleek while succinctly incorporating ventilation that not only works, but remains mostly out of sight.

Stood upright, the PlayStation 4 takes on a monolithic silhouette, though it needs a proper stand to secure its precarious position. Laying the system flat keeps it practically secure, but curiously, Sony designed it to sit on three offset feet. As a result, the system wobbles when downward pressure is applied on the left-hand side. For all the intelligence of the PlayStation 4’s design and its sturdy appearance, this is a ridiculous, though still minor flaw.

Sony veered away from its favorite form factor for the DualShock 4, elongating the handles and spreading everything slightly apart for a far more comfortable fit. It went to town with the extra space in the middle, incorporating a 2” x 1” touchpad that also doubles as a large, physical button. Beneath the touchpad sits a mono-audio speaker, the PlayStation home button, and a pair of ports: one for stereo headphones, and an EXT port with a yet unrealized purpose. Gone are the start and select buttons. In their place, straddling the top of the touchpad, lay the new share and options buttons. Perhaps in a move to avoid accidental button presses, these two buttons are unusually flush with the controller. As such, they're hard to press without checking the controller first.

The share button is the more interesting of the two, acting as the gateway to Sony's game capture and video streaming initiative, which we'll get to a bit later.

On the top of the DualShock 4, nestled between the improved, concave triggers, there’s a micro-USB port for charging the non-removable lithium-ion battery, and a multicolor light bar that can interact with the PlayStation Camera accessory. Its ability to change color and brightness allows developers to communicate with players in potentially interesting ways, such as in Sound Shapes where the light pulses on and off with the beat. Lastly, and perhaps least obviously, Sony upgraded the DualShock’s vibration and motion-sensing capabilities to offer greater sensitivity and range for developers to tinker with.

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Smartly, Sony chose PC-like x86-64 components for the PlayStation 4, and worked with AMD to develop a hybrid CPU capable of reaching clock speeds up to 2.75 GHz (rumored to run at 1.6 GHz), comprised of two quad-core Jaguar modules. This is paired with a semi-custom 800 MHz Radeon GPU, theoretically capable of 1.84 teraFLOPS, roughly in line with a GeForce GTX 660 or Radeon 7850.

Processors aside, the system’s biggest boon is the 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, an expensive variety of RAM typically reserved for graphics cards. It utilizes a 256-bit interface, clocked at 5,500 MHz, with a bandwidth potential of 176 GB/s. This is likely one of the more expensive components in the entire build, but the bandwidth and speed it lends to the system should prove invaluable to developers, and ultimately, result in better-looking games for players.

The included Blu-ray drive is faster than the one found in the PlayStation 3, but you'll need to wait before playing any games now that Sony requires all games to be installed to the system's internal hard drive first. Blu-ray discs are capable of storing up to 50 GB of data, and with a 500 GB hard drive, it's not unreasonable to worry about space. Granted, most games are well under 50 GB, but if you eventually find that you're running out of room on your hard drive, you have two options: delete game data, or install a new hard drive.

Thankfully, you don't have to void your warranty to accomplish the latter. Simply slide off the glossy panel using your hands and a bit of pressure, unscrew five screws, replace the hard drive, and reverse the process. Lastly, copy the system restore firmware from Sony's support website to a USB stick, and format your new hard drive via the PlayStation 4's operating system.

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Though you will only see a minimal performance gain if you upgrade to a faster 7200 RPM hard drive, it's an easy way to increase the amount of available storage space. If, however, speed is critical, you can also install a solid state drive, which will halve loading times in some cases, but these flash-based drives are expensive and storage space comes at a premium. Sadly, external drives may only be used to upgrade the system's firmware. That means no extra storage for game installs, and no support for media playback. Given that the PS4 uses high-speed USB 3.0 ports, this rather limited support seems like a missed opportunity.

Major components aside, PlayStation 4 features a reasonable assemblage of ports and connectivity options. It’s got a gigabit ethernet port, in addition to support for 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, though somewhat disappointingly, wireless support is limited to the oversaturated 2.4 GHz frequency band. Technically, 802.11n devices can support the less-saturated 5 GHz band, but this sadly isn't the case in the PlayStation 4.

This certainly isn't going to hold back the PlayStation 4 from doing what it normally would, but with the near-ubiquitous support for Remote Play and second-screen gaming on the Vita, a more advanced wireless radio could have gone along way to reaffirm the value of connecting the two devices together.

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Pairing a Vita to a PlayStation 4 is easy, only requiring that both devices are connected to the same network. The results are typically adequate for gaming, and certainly much better than the PlayStation 3's version of Remote Play, but it's still far from perfect. Depending on your range, and the saturation of the 2.4 GHz frequencies in your gaming environment, a slight delay between the Vita and PlayStation 4 can seriously impact your in-game performance. At the moment, it's a feature that's too inconsistent for everyday use, but has potential that's too attractive to ignore.

Apart from the DualShock 4, the Bluetooth radio is rather underutilized at launch. There's no support for wireless headsets, for example, though as a consolation, you can plug chat-enabled headsets into the controller’s 3.5 mm audio port for chat and/or in-game audio.

Otherwise, audio and video are limited to the HDMI and optical ports on the back of the system, with no support for analog connectivity. Users can take advantage of the system's breadth of audio support, including PCM, Dolby, and DTS audio formats. It's also worth noting that the PlayStation 4 is the first device that supports the brand new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 format, providing near-lossless 7.1 surround sound for internet video.

While there are no games rendered at the lofty 4K resolution on the PlayStation 4, Sony has confirmed that photos and video will work. 3D support, on the other hand, which was once a priority for Sony, has been put on the back burner. It even neglected support for 3D Blu-rays, a format it pioneered just a few short years ago.

Online gaming hasn't changed a lot since the PlayStation 3, except for one major shift: the PlayStation 4 requires a PlayStation Plus subscription. This service carries a $50 annual fee, but with free games, cloud-save support, and exclusive discounts, it amounts to a fair trade in the end for the majority of customers.

Multiplayer gaming is and will continue to be a mainstay of the online experience, but Sony, like Microsoft, is laser-focused on video streaming and sharing. Though it will continue to evolve over time, the PlayStation 4 can currently log 15 minutes of video in the background, and with the simple press of the share button, you can initiate the video editing and sharing process. Disappointingly, gameplay footage can only be uploaded to Facebook at launch, though screenshots are sharable on both Facebook and Twitter.

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Sharing is valuable, but streaming gameplay to Twitch and Ustream proves to be a much more useful and intriguing feature. Again, the process is simple: press the share button, and choose the "broadcast gameplay" menu item, and choose from Twitch or Ustream to start sharing. Once you've logged into your account, you get to choose from a few options such as picture-in-picture broadcasting with the PlayStation Camera, microphone support, and on-screen comments. It's a simple process that works as intended with virtually no compromises, giving Sony an instant leg up in one of the most important aspects of next-gen console gaming.

The optional $60 PlayStation Camera plays a small part in streaming, allowing you to integrate your face and voice into video streams, but it also allows you to control parts of the PlayStation 4 operating system using voice commands. It's not as elaborate as Microsoft's plans for the Xbox One, but it's beneficial when it works as intended. At the moment, you can go to the home screen, start games, take screenshots, and power down the system. The added convenience of voice commands is tangible, but the real selling point of the camera is its integration with streaming video.

Unlike with the PlayStation 3, Sony got almost everything right immediately out of the gate with the PlayStation 4. It's powerful, good looking, and the support for streaming gameplay gives Sony a unique advantage as Microsoft races to catch up. Sony cut a few corners, though really, not having the latest Wi-Fi radio isn't damning, and there are other features that can be patched in through software updates in the future.

The focus on gaming is also readily apparent, especially when compared to Microsoft's overt entertainment-centric efforts. It shows in the hardware, especially with its GDDR5 RAM and beefy GPU, both of which offer significant performance advantages to Microsoft's console. The operating system is light on its feet as well, dedicating its resources to gaming and social features first and foremost. It's a powerful console with understated and forward-thinking designs applied throughout, and though it won't win awards for innovation, it's an impressive next-gen gaming console, and a big step forward for the PlayStation brand.

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.

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abentwookie

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Well, I am mainly a member of the PC Master Race but I do play consoles as well. :P I played XBOX 360 for a few years but XBOX Live was always annoying due to the amount of idiots on there and I was never a big fan of the XBOX controller. Its just way too large and awkward. It seems to be designed for people with giant hands. But what was the last straw for me was the way Microsoft (especially its former CEO) reacted to people's anger about things like the always-online nonsense, the lack of ability to trade games, etc.... Basically just telling people to deal with it or go buy an XBOX 360. They permanently lost me as a customer at that point.

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ch7226

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<< LINK REMOVED >>Master Race of what? Considering steam's catalog is 90% arcade titles, a PC is nothing more then a overpriced Wii. Even with the few high profile titles like Elder Scrolls Online, and Battlefield 4, an average PC with quad core, 8GB ram, 3GB vid, can play every 2013 title, and all upcoming titles on medium at the worse. Not to mention every, high profile title on PC will be on both consoles, plus the exclusives...Halo and Killzone is going to be insane. Master race AAAAHAHAHA more like arcade gamers, with their starbound and minecraft lol...master race? Now *that*...is a joke.

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calducce

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<< LINK REMOVED >>
Anyone who identifies themselves with "master race" is immediately invalidated. Ridiculous nob.

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skidmarkmike11

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<< LINK REMOVED >> You must be a midget if that controller was too large and awkward for you.

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Imperiusmax

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Isn't that just a beautiful looking machine!

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wildamnesia

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The dust has settled on the Black Friday madness and my pockets are empty. So I won't be going next gen for a while yet but I have to say, as a long time Xbox player, I'm switching to PlayStation for my future gaming needs. The PS4 is a just a formidable machine.

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Imperiusmax

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<< LINK REMOVED >> You have made the right choice.

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mjswooosh

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I have both systems and have spent a significant amount of time gaming on both system's launch exclusives as well as a couple of multiplats for both systems (NBA 2K14 & Battlefield 4). I like the Xbone's menu system a little better, but in some ways I think the PS4's is more functional and lets you "just game baby"...so in that sense is refreshing. I was not a fan of Kinect 1.0 and so far Kinect 2.0 is even more useless/superfluous. The voice commands are hit or miss big time. Gesture control adds nothing and will have you reaching for your controller quick.

The PS4 hardware is definitely more powerful as we can see differences in launch titles. BF4, ACIV, COD Ghosts in particular have better IQ and frame-rates on PS4. Although it seems most people prefer the exclusive launch games for the Xbone, I actually prefer the PS4's lineup slightly. I've had a lot of fun with Dead Rising 3, but Resogun and Killzone 4 are definitely my favorite exclusives overall. I've never been a big fan of racers or fighters, so Forza 5 and Killer Instinct hold zero interest for me. Knack isn't nearly as bad as the pro reviews indicate. It's great couch co-op fun with my girlfriend (tho it's definitely not worth $60...so am glad I got it highly discounted! Wait until it's free on PS+). Ryse is fun for 10 minutes and wears off quick. I finished it but am glad I didn't pay for it or I'd have been pissed off. It's very shallow and the combat just isn't very satisfying...not to mention it has a 5 hr campaign. The multiplayer adds some replay value, but overall wait until it hits the bargain bin in 3-6 months.

Bottom line: both are good systems. The Xbone holds a slight edge in user interface and online social experience as we'd expect due to the momentum from last gen to this one. But in every other way I prefer the PS4. The case design/engineering/hardware/controller redesign/launch lineup of the PS4 puts it ahead. I am looking forward to Titanfall big time on the Xbone...but I'm looking forward to Second Son and The Order even more. So, if you are only going to get one system I think the PS4 is the way to go this gen. You can eventually pick up an Xbone for the exclusives after MS redesigns it and hopefully makes it MUCH smaller/sleeker, drops the price, and sells it without Kinect. Until then you're not going to miss it much if you have PS4.

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honeycomb06

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> PS4 FTW bro but no disrespect to all the XBOX 1 fans I hope y'all are enjoying y'all system as well as I am

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6orange9

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> thanks for the review, nice to have some balance on here. Now we just need to get the PC master race to love their PC's instead of trolling console web pages.

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horizonwriter

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> lol Well played.

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godhand1942

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Oh but we love the PC's so much that we troll console web pages ON OUR PC's 8D

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strandny

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>

I think you are in a wrong place. You are TOOOO rational and level headed to be posting comments here.

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Relvar

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How come no mention of it's abysmal failure rate? When the same thing happened to the 360 back in the day (with much lower rates than the PS-Fail is experiencing now mind you) GameSpot went after them like attack dogs. This feels like the MSNBC/CNN VS Fox News fight all over again. Give us some honest reporting PLEASE!!!!!

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ck10304

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<< LINK REMOVED >> hahahahahahah. Woop Woop! Fanboy alert!

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calducce

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<< LINK REMOVED >>
Get back under your bridge troll.

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mjswooosh

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@Relvar Quit spreading lies. The 360 failure rate was upwards of 18% at launch and stayed that high for several years after launch. The best real world figure so far detailing the rate of PS4s experiencing some kind of hardware problem is less than 1%. Sony's own numbers for outright "failure" are .4%. You have no idea what you're talking about. Not exactly shocking, but still...just stop embarrassing yourself.

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mattress805

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The 360's failure rate is 10 times that of ps4. Lol. Do your research. I know from personal experience too; I'm on fourth 360. I switched to the ps4 this gen. So glad i did. Ps4 is all class. No ads on the UI is heavenly. I'm so used to to xbox live being LITTERED with ads. That always pissed me off; well, that and gimmicky motion controls.

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honeycomb06

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<< LINK REMOVED >> exactly, smh man I got 3 broken 360's sitting on my shelf right now that been collecting dust for sum years now.....but Idon't even care anymore because I have a PS3, PS4 and a Wii U so I'm good....imma just wait till the Xbox 1 fix all their launch problems 1st before I go out and buy 1

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CrimsonCorp

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<< LINK REMOVED >> PS2 DRE says hi. Love how selective a fanboy's memory can be. Oh and before you even say "But I never had DRE!", I also never suffered from RROD. That doesn't mean I deny it ever happened.

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6orange9

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<< LINK REMOVED >> this....."No ads on the UI " sold me. PS4 for me this time. Sorry MS but after 4 replacement 360s, and a UI that just went down the greed toilet, I am switching sides.

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CrimsonCorp

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I lost 7 xbox 360s in a span of 6 months....

Am I doing it right? =D

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callofduty405

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<< LINK REMOVED >> "PS-Fail"...really? how lame.

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CaveManCobb

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Abysmal? .4% failure rate is abysmal? You realize that when a console sells millions on launch day there are going to be defective units. The xbox one has around the same failure rate.

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mjf249

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I am enjoying my PS4 so far

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scgarfield

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My PS4 died on the first day.... not at all impressed. No compensation from sony.

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mjswooosh

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Compensation for what? Send it to them for replacement or take it back to the retailer for replacement. You don't deserve "compensation" beyond that. The sense of entitlement some people have is beyond ridiculous.

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scgarfield

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Well considering M$ is giving out a free game and posting replacement consoles first is more like what I would expect from sony. The shops don't have replacement stock, its bullshit really.

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downloadthefile

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> that could just be what he's referring to....I doubt anybody would leave a broken playstation in the living room and then be annoyed that sony didn't just know to send them another one.

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scgarfield

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Do you think 2 weeks is acceptable when ive got $600 + worth of brand new games and a spare controller with nothing to play them on. Its a huge let down to say the least.

As for retailers having them in stock..... is that a joke or something?

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mjswooosh

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you implying Sony is brushing off warranty replacement claims and not helping people get replacement units? That's very far from reality. So far Sony has done just about everything right with the PS4 (aside from removing MP3/MP4 functionality which is retarded...but I digress...;))...including warranty claims. They've been very proactive at making sure people get replacement units. Aside from this, in many cases it's easier just to get a replacement through the retailer if they have them in stock. If not, Sony has about a 2 week turnaround time to get you a replacement.

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masterchief80

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A gamer-centric console with no must play launch games... WOW. Impressive. Honestly, I'm on the fence on which next-gen console to buy, and this is supposed to be the hard core gamer's console. Yet, Microsoft, so far, has a slightly better launch lineup, and some pretty cool features that I would definitely think of as more "next-gen" than anything Sony has to offer. Looks like I'll be getting an XBOne once Titanfall hits.

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mjswooosh

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@masterchief80 The quality of the launch lineups is largely subjective. I don't like racers, so Forza holds zero interest for me. Likewise, I'm not into fighters so I couldn't care less about Killer Instinct. Ryse is repetitive, shallow hot garbage with about as much depth as a mud puddle and a 5 hr campaign. No thanks. I played it at Gamescom and realized immediately it would be a $10 bargain bin game within 6 months of launch. Dead Rising is cool...but it looks like a 360 game (which is actually was until they shifted development to the One late in the cycle). While the PS4 lineup isn't stellar either, Killzone is more fun than COD Ghosts...and is easily the best looking game on either platform at launch (altho Ryse does give it a run for the money). It also has a unique feeling MP mode that is a breathe of fresh air. Resogun is easily the most "fun" I've had with any launch title. Knack is good fun but not worth the $60 launch price. It'll be free on PS+ by summer anyway. I also downloaded Blacklight and Warframe and Contrast, all of which are great free to play or free with PS+ games. Aside from these I've spent the most time with NBA 2K14 and Battlefield 4, both of which are great on either console, but I prefer the DS4 controller for all game types now (including FPS). Additionally, BF4 looks noticeably better on PS4 and plays with a smoother framerate. Overall, I like the menu system on the Xbone better, but I've had more FUN with the PS4...due to the launch lineup being more up my alley. The one game I really bought the Xbone for isn't out yet: Titanfall. But, honestly, I'm looking forward to Second Son and The Order more.

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strandny

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<< LINK REMOVED >>

I don't think you were on the fence. You sound like you have alredy made up your mind and came here just to express your decision which no one cares.

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northArrow

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I don't think someone named Masterchief can be on the fence

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AmbiguousAlias

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I want you so hard, PS4.

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Relvar

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Don't worry - your not the only one salivating at the chance of getting boned by Sony.....

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Quarkzquarkz

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Why no video review huh!? EXPLAIN YOURSELVES!! =(

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wolfyrabbit

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sounds like ps4 is better than xboxone

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Relvar

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<< LINK REMOVED >> It would help if the PS-Fail didn't fail for like 30% (ok....maybe exaggerating a little ;-) )of owners or if it had any good exclusives.....

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CaveManCobb

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> It has a .4% failure rate. So yes you are exaggerating.

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I corrected him because most of the people on this website won't do any research and would take his "30% failure rate" as fact.

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Llainethequiet

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F off until you get your facts right? Why bother saying something if you already knew it was incorrect?
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btreynolds

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Terrible launch lineup though. Killzone:SF and a bunch of ports

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Uncle_Rell

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Launch title don't mean shit. Every console line up are not the best it's the years after that defines a console. You sir are not a real gamer stick to your Wii son.

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djezhel619

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Speaking of REAL gamers, WTF does a Wii got to do with being a real gamer or not??? A real gamer finds joy in REAL games like the ones Nintendo dishes out, also games like Little Big Planet, FEZ, and so on other consoles bring out. GAMES THAT ARE CREATIVE, not the same ol crap that CoD is or Madden, so STFU about calling someone not a REAL gamer when you yourself set yourself up for being a fake

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MooncalfReviews

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Great. I'm excited about the hardware ... but now they actually need to bring some good games to it before I'll consider turning off Steam long enough to care.

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mrhappy702

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If Sony is going to cater to the players, then it should allow the use of cheat devices while offline and of course disallow trophy collection and any online play with them. The users should have the flexibility to use such devices.

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