On October 27, Sony releases its first Firmware update for the PlayStation 4 in almost a year. It's news that PS4 platform holders have been eagerly awaiting – not least because Microsoft seems to toss out a patch every other month (the last one arrived last week). The new Firmware update, dubbed Masamune, is set to roll out a raft of features – some of which have been in the pipeline since last year.
First up is the long awaited Share Play feature, announced back at Sony's PS4 non-reveal event in February of last year. It's pretty simple to use; simply hit the Share button on the control pad and a menu pops up in which players can select the Share Play feature. Then it's all a matter of sending out an invitation to a player in their friend list.
Share Play allows players to let friends take control of the game they're playing, watch their in-game progress, and even lets them invite friends to play with them co-operatively or competitively (depending on the game). The most interesting aspect about this is that both players don't need to own the game in order to have a shared session.
Sharing is caring
First up, players can hand control to other players on their PS4 via the Internet. This is useful if you happen to be stuck on a particularly hard section of a game and your friend's prowess is superior to your own. This won't be of much interest to hardcore players – after all, why would you want to farm out the difficult parts of your game when you're into a challenge – but it may make an upcoming rock hard title like Bloodborne more accessible.
The host always has the deciding control in any session – so don't fret about the idea that a pal of yours could decide at any moment to abuse the control you've given them in a game to impede your progress. You can boot them from Share Play at any time; simply hit the Share button on the control pad and you can end the Share Play party, dumping them back onto their own console.
The most interesting feature on Share Play is the fact that it allows two players to play the same game – both co-operatively or (if the game allows it) competitively – with only one player needing to own a copy of the game. For example, if you own a copy of FIFA 15, you can invite a friend who doesn't own it to a Share Play session and they'll be able to either play on your team or play against you online.
There are a couple of factors players need to keep in mind. First, in order for them to be able to play against each other, both players will need a PS Plus account. This, incidentally, isn't needed for all of Share Play's functions, but it's needed if you want to play a game together. Second, gaming sessions on Share Play are capped at an hour at a time. It's possible to play a game together all afternoon but the Host – the player who owns the game both are playing – will need to send out a new Share Play invitation every hour.
Third, the visual experience on the invitee's console won't match that of the Host's. Resolution is capped at 720p and framerate can dip significantly if you have a lousy Internet connection. Finally, all trophies and in-game content the pair manage to unlock while playing their game of choice land up solely in the Host's profile. If you decide to help a friend grind through an RPG, for example, you won't see any benefit to your own PSN profile.
The idea behind Share Play, according to Sony, is aimed at pushing players towards buying more games. Share Play makes it possible for players to enjoy games they don't already own, certainly, but their in-game experience won't have the same visual fidelity as if they own a copy, and playing a game is contingent on a friend being online and inviting them to a session. It's tempting to think of Share Play as the next stage of demos.
The Firmware update is also aimed at making a lot of the PS4's menus and functionality more streamlined. The Homescreen's icon count is now capped at 15 and shows only the apps and games that the player has most recently used. The rest are housed in the library, which players can easily access and search out games, apps and any films or videos they've saved. There's a new raft of voice commands too; players can access the entire range by saying "All Commands", which brings up the full menu.
YouTube : www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8j90KcOX64
The sound of music
Players can listen to their own music off a USB stick while playing a game. They can't load their music onto the PS4's hard drive, but if they fancy listening to Oasis while playing a game of FIFA, they now have that option. It's worth pointing out that listening to music while playing doesn't stop the music on the soundtrack in any game the player is playing, unless that game offers the option of disabling that. So if you fancy playing OutLast while listening to "My Patch" by Jim Noir – however funny that may be – you'll need to check that the game allows it, otherwise you might end up with a rather head scrambling cacophony blaring from your TV's speakers.
The functionality concerning watching and uploading videos has also been made a bit easier. Players can now upload clips from their PS4 to YouTube; it works in a similar manner to uploading to Facebook – just hit share and click the YouTube icon and you're able to edit clips, name them and provide a description. You'll need a Google account before you do this, though, and to have it synched with your PSN account.
There are also a few more options dealing with Live From PlayStation; players have better access to official broadcasts and the video channels of any other players they follow. They can also search for games by name now; if you want to watch a speed run through any particular title, they simply tap the name of the game into the search box and they'll be able to see a series of videos from players who happen to be playing it.
There's no word yet on the size of the update. Sony has also been quite cagey about certain features players have been calling for. No external hard drive support is on the cards for this update. Players still can't change their PSN ID, either. But Sony hasn't ruled out these features altogether.
For the moment, it looks like it's waiting to see how players react mainly to Share Play. Whether it's correct and this function leads to a bump in sales remains to be seen.