At the time of writing, the PlayStation 4 is an exceptional system – but it’s not perfect. While the next generation console represents a significant step forward from the PlayStation 3, augmenting key features such as cross-game chat, background updates, and multitasking, it lacks the maturity that future firmware updates will bring. Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida has already admitted that the manufacturer’s work on the format is not complete, and that its Tokyo-based operating system team is busy beavering away on a slew of improvements behind-the-scenes. But what should be at the top of the division’s growing checklist?
Putting things in order
While many worried that the PS4’s user interface would lean a little too heavily on the basic side, that’s not quite panned out as expected. Compared to the busy layout of the Xbox One, some assumed that Sony’s console may be stripped of key features, but that’s not entirely true. In fact, the manufacturer’s new dynamic interface is something of a triumph, allowing you to dash around the, er, dashboard with ease, switching between social features, games, and catch-up services. However, while it’s a breeze when you only have two or three titles installed, it quickly gets convoluted.
The problem is that the main area which shows your software can’t be sorted. While you could prevent the XMB from transforming into a never-ending list of downloadable titles by grouping content, the company’s next generation console expands enormously as you add new software to it. This isn’t a problem for the type of people that only play two or three games a year, but if you’re planning to invest heavily into the console, then there needs to be some form of sorting options. We’re not entirely sure how the manufacturer can organise the current layout without squandering its immediacy, but the ability to move software into folders needs to be available as an option at the very least.
Something called personality
While it’s an attribute that some critics have spent hours complaining about, we actually think that the current style of the PS4 interface looks fairly attractive. However, as evidenced by the previous sentence, the inability to change the next generation console’s colour scheme has rubbed some up the wrong way. This issue could easily be solved with a colour toggle similarly to on the PS3, allowing you to choose a hue that suits your tastes – although we’d also like to see custom wallpapers make a return, too.
In truth, though, we think that Sony’s missing a trick by not offering dynamic backgrounds. While these were added fairly late to the platform holder’s previous system, they offered an additional revenue stream for publishers and third-party firms – not to mention simple pre-order bonuses and PlayStation Plus giveaways. Moreover, some of them actually looked pretty good. Granted, there were some intrusive options on the PS3, but if you looked around, you could find some pretty swish animated backdrops that injected the otherwise soulless XMB with a bit of personality. Bring them back, please.
Unlimited media access
We spent much of the wait for the PS4 waiting for something to go wrong, but Sony executed flawlessly on virtually every aspect of the format. It’s probably a testament to the successes of the system, then, that the biggest backlash pertaining to the device revolved around some of the missing media functions. Nonchalantly revealed by a pre-release FAQ, the firm quietly explained that the next generation console wouldn’t support MP3 playback or DLNA media streaming. Cue plenty of angry messages pointed at Shuhei Yoshida’s personal Twitter account.
Fortunately, the executive was quick to respond to the furore, and has already confirmed that the firmware team is working hard to rectify the abovementioned complaints. This is less a request, then, but more of a reminder that they must get added as soon as possible. While they’re not necessarily features that everyone’s likely to use, their implementation will play a pivotal role in ensuring that the next generation console functions as a competent multimedia box. After all, no one wants to pay for a Music Unlimited subscription in order to play their back catalogue of No Doubt records, do they?
What’s New? It’s honestly hard to tell
Arguably one of the cooler features on the PS4 is the ability to keep track of what your friends and family are up to in the new ‘What’s New’ tab. While this represented a hastily implemented advertising box on the PS3, it adopts a slightly different guise on the next generation console, providing LiveArea-esque updates on your friends’ purchasing habits, gameplay achievements, and more. The problem is that it’s pretty much impossible to read in its current, clunky guise.
All things considered, this is a simple issue for Sony to solve – but it needs to work on it soon. The problem is not functionality-based – indeed, the way that the console tracks information pertaining to your friends is fine. Instead, it’s more of a design issue. While social networks struggle with similar conundrums, the Japanese giant’s attempt at a Facebook-inspired activity wall is beyond awful. The mess of different sized squares is difficult to follow, and there’s no cohesion to the way that information is presented. This has the potential to be one of the go-to areas of the PS4’s interface, but it needs to be completely overhauled visually before it comes anywhere close to realising its full potential.
Broadcast yourself to the biggest audience
We were sceptics to begin with, but the PS4’s on-board share button is a game-changer. It’s so alarmingly easy to upload videos and screenshots to Facebook and Twitter that you’ll find yourself doing it often – but the functionality is impeded by the lack of YouTube compatibility. Granted, the ability to broadcast live videos on Twitch and Ustream is a reasonable substitute, but your best gameplay clips are likely to get lost on the aforementioned social networks. This is where compatibility with Google’s gigantic video streaming service would come in handy.
Seeing as the PS3 allowed direct uploads to YouTube in certain compatible games, we’re not entirely sure why this feature isn’t available at launch. True, you can upload to Facebook, download the video file to your computer, and then re-host the footage on the popular website – but it’s a long-winded workaround that takes time, and it detracts from the otherwise amazing immediacy that the share button offers. We’re sure that this is in the works, but we’d very much like to see it added sooner rather than later.
Are there any features missing from the PS4 that you’d like to see added in future firmware updates? Do you agree with our picks, or do you think that there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed? Update your system’s software in the comments section below.
Which of these features would you most like added to the PS4? (76 votes)
I really want to be able to categorise my games
I hate the blue and want to change the UI’s background
I’m missing MP3 and DLNA support pretty badly here
The ‘What’s New’ area is a cool idea but is a bit of a mess
I wished that I could share my clips to YouTube
Please login to vote in this poll.