Sony PlayStation 4 Is Cool and Flashy, But Not Essential

Video-game fans who reserved Sony's PlayStation 4 several months ago won't have any regrets when it goes on sale in North America on Friday: The PS4 is a terrific game machine that will feel familiar to PlayStation 3 owners while delivering the flashier eye candy you'd expect from gaming's next generation.

Microsoft diehards will grouse about the PlayStation hype until Nov. 22, when the new Xbox One comes out. There's no reason for envy: Most of the best PlayStation 4 games will be available on Microsoft's new console as well.

Indeed, many gamers have already made up their minds months ago. If you're somewhere in between -- say, a frequent game player who doesn't feel an ironclad allegiance to either system -- the PlayStation 4 is a good buy.

Its launch lineup includes 22 games to attract fans of just about any genre, from military shooters to sports simulations to family-friendly adventures. It also offers such a wealth of easily accessible media apps, including Hulu and Netflix, that may draw even the non-gamers in your household.

It's not yet absolutely essential, but if you're ready to upgrade from a PlayStation 3 or rival console, it's worth the $400 price tag. That's $100 cheaper than the Xbox One, but $100 more than Nintendo's year-old Wii U. The PS3 will still be available for $200, but that's now 7-year-old technology.

The PlayStation 4 is a slender, unobtrusive box that plugs into your TV via HDMI cable. Once you've turned on the power, it takes just a few minutes to connect to the Internet and create or update a free account on Sony's PlayStation Network.

The PS4's on-screen user interface has been streamlined, with a horizontal bar of large icons for games and apps. Above that is a line of smaller icons that let you connect with other PlayStation...

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