After five years of development, Sony's PlayStation4 arrives next Friday, November 15th. It's a beast of a gaming machine, from its custom graphics card and 8GB of RAM to its redesigned DualShock 4 controller and PlayStation Vita Remote Play. But the machine is capable of plenty more, and may become the new centerpiece of your entertainment hub. Here's a look at what PS4 can do the moment you plug it in, along with some of the games you'll want to check out at launch.
PS4 users will have access to services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and Redbox Instant streaming. In addition, PS4's Video Unlimited streaming service includes a huge library of movies and TV shows; according to the company, new movie releases will be available weeks before their DVD/Blu-ray release, and TV shows will be streamable the day after they air. (Other services like Crackle, Crunchyroll and Epix will also be available at launch.) If you have a 4K television, PS 4 can output video and photos at full 4K resolution; still, it's not yet clear how you'll actually get that hefty video content onto the console.
PS4 is effectively a portal for Sony's Music Unlimited. The subscription service offers up a library of songs millions strong, and allows players to create custom soundtracks and listen them while playing games. Subscriptions range from $4.99 to $9.99 per month, and can be accessed via PS4, PS Vita, Android and iOS smartphones and devices. Unfortunately, the PS4 doesn't support playback of music CDs or MP3s, which means Music Unlimited may in fact be the only way to get music out of your PS4.
PlayStation Vita Integration
One of the PS4's coolest features is Remote Play, which allows "virtually every PS4 game" (according to Sony) to be played on the Vita screen, streaming from the PS4 over your Wi-Fi network. It's a great way to maintain household harmony; when someone else wants to use the television set, players can simply "untether" with the push of a button. In this era of so-called "second screen" multitasking, your Vita can also be used to make PS4 game purchases, message friends and watch gameplay from remote streams while the main event happens on the television screen. Some games will also allow the Vita screen to display useful information, like in-game maps.
As of launch day, you can't play PlayStation 3 games on your PS 4. While it won't be ready until sometime next year, Sony's cloud gaming service Gaikai will eventually allow users to stream PlayStation 3 titles from the cloud. (It remains unclear how many games will be available, and if users will automatically gain access to PS3 games they already own.) Gaikai will also allow games to be streamed to PCs, televisions, Blu-ray players, smartphones and tablets.
If you're concerned that the PS4's built-in 500GB hard drive won't be big enough to sate your massive gaming appetite, fear not: the internal drive is user-upgradable, meaning you'll be able to install any standard SATA drive (up to 2 TB) for instant legroom. More concerned with speed? Plug in a solid state drive (SSD) to reduce load times across the board.
The Games: Killzone Shadow Fall
If you're looking for a game to show off what your shiny new console can do, Shadow Fall is a good choice. Developed by the Sony-owned studio Guerilla Games, this latest entry in the first-person shooter franchise laces its graphics with more visual effects and than your eyes know what to do with. Killzone titles have always been a bit polarizing in terms of gameplay – think slower, heavier movement and combat – but visually it's a guaranteed stunner.
The Games: Battlefield 4
The PlayStation 3 version of EA's Battlefield 4 was graphically underwhelming, in part because the game was designed with the higher-spec PS4 in mind. Fortunately, if you already invested in a copy of the PS3 game, you can upgrade to the PS4 version for just ten dollars. Same goes for Activision's Call of Duty: Ghosts, which will also be out on launch day.
The Games: NBA 2K14
Sports games are often a good judge of hardware capability, and if the pre-release videos are anything to judge by, 2K14 is going to be mighty impressive. If the gridiron is more your cup of tea, EA's Madden NFL 25 is also sure to be a big hit. For fans of the other football, FIFA 14 drops on launch day too.
The Games: Resogun
Finnish developer Housemarque has been a PlayStation regular since its PS3 hit Super Stardust HD, and Resogun looks to hit the sweet spot on PS4. This frenetic space shooter fires gobs of special effects at the player and will be available to download at launch. Remastered versions of Sony's own Sound Shapes and Flower will be ready to download at launch as well.