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TMCNet:  Top-notch [Virginian - Pilot]

[December 02, 2013]

Top-notch [Virginian - Pilot]

(Virginian - Pilot Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) By Jeff Cork Game Informer Magazine The NEW PlayStation 4 looks great, performs well and has the potential to be a top-notch gaming system - and more. The controller remains excellent, the camera is much improved and social-media features offer new options. Here's a look at how different parts of the system rate: THE FORM The PlayStation 4 is a beautifully designed piece of hardware, with sleek angles and a contrasting shiny-and-matte black finish.

What we like It's gorgeous. It's flexible, supporting both horizontal and vertical orientation. It's quiet, and it doesn't seem like it'll melt through your entertainment console; after five or so hours of heavy use, it was warm rather than hot to the touch. We also appreciate the absence of a power brick.

What we wonder Until people have played marathon games on it, spent weekends using it to watch Blu-rays and run it ragged, we won't know how well-built and well-engineered the machine truly is.

COMPANION APP Owners can download a companion app on their supported Android and iOS devices when the system launches. The free app will allow users to check messages and respond to them by voice or text while away from the console.

What we like It's cool that players can fire up their smartphones and download a game when they're away from the house. Sony says that developers can use the official app in their games as an alternative to developing their own full-fledged apps, which is also nice. And you can't beat the price, either.

What we wonder Aside from the messaging features, how much social networking will the app support? Communicating and sharing with friends is a huge pillar of the PS4's overall strategy, and it should be interesting to see just how much access the app provides.

SOCIAL FEATURES The system files your friends' activities into a special What's New feed on the console, so you can see what trophies they've earned, the movies they've been watching and games they're playing.

What we like Players can now send out and respond to group messages, which makes life easier for people trying to organize multiplayer matches.

What we wonder When everything you do is shared through the What's New feed, do individual communications lose their meaning, and will the most important bits get drowned out? THE CAMERA The optional camera features dual camera sensors to capture video images, including depth, as well as four microphones to detect audio from different directions.

What we like The camera quality is markedly improved over the PlayStation 3's counterpart, offering nearly twice the resolution.

What we wonder The big question is simple: Will any third parties take advantage of it? Because it's not bundled in with the console like the Xbox One's Kinect 2.0, we'd be surprised to see it widely embraced by developers.

CAPTURE AND STREAMING Sharing video content can be as easy as pressing a few buttons. Players can stream their videos on Twitch and Ustream, though only Twitch will allow those videos to be archived on the site. Players who pick up the PlayStation Camera also can embed their images onto the footage.

What we like Easy is good, and this is about as easy as it gets.

What we wonder Sony says that it will be patching in support for external capture devices at a later date, but we'll have to see how this plays out.

THE CONTROLLER The DualShock 4 is an excellent controller, with a touchpad, an LED lightbar, a speaker and higher-quality gyroscopic tracking.

What we like The ergonomics are great; it's a pleasure to hold the controller. There's a lot of functionality packed into it as well. The touchpad in particular has a lot of potential. We've seen developers use it for anything from map navigation in Lego "Marvel Super Heroes" to an interface for your AI companion in "Killzone: Shadow Fall." What we wonder How long will the batteries last in real-world use? Will developers skip past the gimmick phase of the controller's various technologies and find meaningful ways to incorporate the new features? GAME INSTALLATIONS The days of running a game off a disc are over, or at least they are for the PlayStation 4. The console requires software installations, which can vary in size from a few hundred megabytes to 35 gigabytes or more. Fortunately, players can jump into their games after a percentage of the content is downloaded from the disc onto the console's hard drive.

What we like Publishers can ask players what they plan on playing first, and tailor the download depending on the response. For example, if a person is going to play "Call of Duty: Ghosts" as a multiplayer, they shouldn't have to download the campaign first. Fortunately, they don't have to. Players simply check a box for either single or multiplayer, and the appropriate download begins.

What we wonder How quickly will your 500 GB hard drive fill up? If it does, will installations be so speedy that you won't mind shifting games on and off your drive, or will it inspire you to upgrade to a larger-capacity drive? MEDIA FUNCTIONS Players can use Sony's Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services via apps on the PS4 console. Sony's streaming-video service is now running off the cloud instead of being downloaded locally, and the company says it's prioritizing smooth playback over rigid quality standards (similar to how Netflix dynamically adjusts resolution).

What we like You can now stream your Music Unlimited audio over gameplay, and it's pretty amazing. The sound quality is great, and it's much easier than navigating to a media PC or other external device.

What we wonder If your online connection isn't top-notch, how will the quality suffer? (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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