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While Sony’s lax at­ti­tude to PS4 firmware up­dates com­pared to its ri­val can be given a pos­i­tive spin by point­ing out that there was much more that needed fix­ing in Xbox One’s launch dash­board, by the time PS4 sys­tem soft­ware 2.0 ar­rived, the sys­tem’s OS was be­gin­ning to strug­gle. Friends lists and new mes­sages could take a cou­ple of min­utes to load in, and it was pleas­ing to see that the Oc­to­ber firmware up­date sped things up a lit­tle in ad­di­tion to bring­ing new fea­tures such as YouTube up­loads and Share Play’s vir­tual lo­cal mul­ti­player. Much work re­mains to be done, how­ever, par­tic­u­larly on how games are ar­ranged on the main menu. That hor­i­zon­tally scrolling list has be­come rather bulky to nav­i­gate as PS4’s li­brary has grown, and Sony’s lat­est so­lu­tion – hav­ing 15 re­cently used items on the Home screen, with ev­ery­thing else in the Li­brary sub­menu – doesn’t quite cut it. to full-fat Minecraft on the mar­ket. With that in mind, it’s stag­ger­ing that the two haven’t been bun­dled to­gether for launch; the £85 bun­dle comes with down­load codes for Ol­li­Olli, Ve­loc­ity Ul­tra and, for rea­sons that pre­sum­ably made sense to somebody along the line, Worms Revo­lu­tion Ex­treme. A Minecraft bun­dle has to follow at some point – at least as­sum­ing that Mi­crosoft, Mo­jang’s new owner, has been hon­est in its prom­ise not to block the game from ap­pear­ing on other plat­forms – but hav­ing one on shelves for Christ­mas could have made all the dif­fer­ence.

Yet re­gard­less of com­pat­i­bil­ity is­sues, PSTV’s support for PS1, PSP and PS Mini re­leases means it launches with a li­brary of some 700 games, giv­ing it a clear com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage over other set-top boxes. That, it turns out, is just as well given how far PSTV lags be­hind the likes of Ap­ple TV, Chromecast and Ama­zon’s Fire TV as a me­dia box. While a Net­flix app was on the PlaySta­tion Store when Vita launched in North Amer­ica almost three years ago, it has never made it to Europe. As such, PSTV launches in the UK with no support for the world’s most popular sub­scrip­tion video ser­vice. Ama­zon In­stant Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Now TV – all, like Net­flix, avail­able in app form on PS3 and PS4 – are ab­sent from the PSTV store. Baf­flingly, you’re even for­bid­den from ac­cess­ing the PS4 ver­sions of the apps over Re­mote Play, the sys­tem throw­ing up an er­ror mes­sage and then boot­ing you un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously back to the PS4 Home menu.

It’s all a bit con­fus­ing. Set-top boxes should be sim­ple to set up and easy to use. While PSTV’s setup is straight­for­ward enough, the prob­lems be­gin the minute you sit back and start us­ing the thing. It is an ir­re­sistible idea in the­ory, and a fine bit of in­dus­trial de­sign too, but it is blem­ished by sub­stan­dard soft­ware support. It is, in that sense, a per­fect metaphor for the cur­rent state of Sony. After Mi­crosoft spent most of 2013 leav­ing its goal un­tended and gen­tly ush­er­ing Sony to­wards it, the lat­ter half of 2014 has been very dif­fer­ent. DriveClub, the game Sony used to dull the pain of charg­ing for on­line mul­ti­player on PS4 by of­fer­ing a cut-down ver­sion of the ti­tle to PS Plus sub­scribers, has en­dured a dis­as­trous launch. The only thing sav­ing it from reach­ing Sim City and Di­ablo III lev­els of shame is the fact that it can still be played in sin­gle­player when the servers are down. How­ever, at the time of writ­ing, the game has been on shelves for almost a month and it re­mains an almost en­tirely off­line pur­suit. The long-promised PS Plus Edi­tion, mean­while, has been de­layed in­def­i­nitely.

It is a sorry tale for Evo­lu­tion Stu­dios, whose sup­posed PS4 launch game was 11 months late onto shelves and then ar­rived stripped of key fea­tures by net­work trou­bles. But Sony’s re­sponse – or lack of it – is the more damn­ing part. It took three weeks for World­wide Stu­dios pres­i­dent Shuhei Yoshida to ac­knowl­edge the prob­lem, while se­nior Evo­lu­tion staff, who were open on so­cial me­dia dur­ing de­vel­op­ment, fell sud­denly silent.

Sony’s net­work prob­lems ex­tend far beyond DriveClub, how­ever. While ex­tended pe­ri­ods of PSN down­time for ‘sched­uled main­te­nance’ were an in­con­ve­nience in the PS3 era, they are

There’s lit­tle wrong that isn’t fix­able, but who, given Sony’s cur­rent form, would ex­pect it to be fixed?

PlaySta­tion TV’s slen­der, 6x10cm form fac­tor is just big enough for all the nec­es­sary ports on its rear. The power but­ton can be ig­nored once you’ve synced a DualShock 3 or 4 to the de­vice, since it can be wo­ken from standby by press­ing the con­troller’s PlaySta­tion but­ton. Next to it are ports for a Vita mem­ory card , USB drive , HDMI cable , Eth­er­net cable and power sup­ply . A flap on the side of the de­vice con­ceals a slot for PlaySta­tion Vita game cards, and the de­vice also has 1GB of on­board stor­age to hold your game and me­dia downloads. un­for­giv­able now that Sony is charg­ing for its ser­vice. Once a month, Sony takes down its £40-per-year on­line ser­vice for up to eight hours, tak­ing with it al­wayson­line games like Des­tiny, the mul­ti­player com­po­nent of many more ti­tles and, in our ex­pe­ri­ence, block­ing ac­cess to dig­i­tal pur­chases be­cause PSN re­fuses the con­sole’s hand­shake to check for the proper li­cences. The net­work has a re­cur­ring DDOS prob­lem – one re­cent at­tack was con­ducted specif­i­cally to show that Sony has not in­vested in im­proved net­work pro­tec­tion – and since Des­tiny’s launch in early Septem­ber, PS4 users have had to en­dure five pro­tracted pe­ri­ods of down­time, only one of which was planned for.

It af­fects PSTV, too. A bug in PS4 sys­tem soft­ware 2.0 – the con­sole’s first sub­stan­tial firmware up­date since launch – meant its standby mode, for some rea­son re­named Rest mode in the up­date, didn’t work prop­erly, shut­ting the con­sole down fully after a time, and even lock­ing up the unit. Re­mote Play only works if the PS4 is in Rest mode, so our tests meant a few dis­con­so­late trips back down­stairs to turn on the ma­chine by hand. Ver­sion 2.01 fol­lowed a week later to fix the

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