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Want to feel old? Try taking a twelve year hiatus from gaming before jumping back in as if nothing had ever changed. That’s what I did, and folks, it’s been a wild ride.
Here’s just a sampling of the (somewhat embarrassing) discoveries I’ve made in the three weeks since I became the confused, proud owner of a Playstation 4:
· You have to install games now. Insane.
· Controllers have colorful lights on them.
· It’s incredibly easy to blow a bunch of money on games in one evening.
· Still waiting on Half Life 3
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had coworkers, online acquaintances, friends, and family members coaching me on how best to navigate the Playstation life in 2019—the games to play, the accessories to buy, and the mistakes to avoid.
So I thought I’d share my findings to date, in a piece that will hopefully be a guiding light to other aging dweebs who need help figuring this stuff out.
For more guides on gaming in this crazy age of streaming content and HDR TVs, check out Reviewed's Guide to Gaming.
The first mistake I made when setting up my PS4 was the easiest one to avoid: I plugged the dang thing into the wrong HDMI port.
You see, I own a Playstation 4 Pro and a TV that supports HDR, but since it’s a mid-range TV from 2017, only one of its four ports is HDMI 2.0a—the type of connection required for an HDR signal.
Newer HDR-compatible TVs are far more likely to offer HDMI 2.0a support across all of their HDMI ports, so there’s a good chance you won’t have to concern yourself with port management if your TV is relatively fresh out of the box.
And if your Playstation 4 isn’t of the “Pro” variety, none of this applies to you, either, since standard PS4s don’t support 4K HDR gaming at all.
Even if you intend to do some ultra-high resolution, 4K HDR gaming, it doesn’t matter which HDMI cables you use for your PS4, so feel free to use the one that came with your console or any of the ones you already own. Our recommendation is the ultra-affordable AmazonBasics HDMI cable from Amazon—a two-pack will only set you back nine bucks.
At some point in the future you might need to upgrade your HDMI cables, but at that point you’ll probably have upgraded your TV, too. I could go into the details about HDMI standards, transmission rates, and how cables work, but you would probably close the tab (and you’d be right to do so).
My colleagues and I write about this often, but it’s worth repeating: There’s no reason to spend a lot of money on HDMI cables. As long as your cables are long enough and made with quality, you’ll be fine.
That’s not to say that cheap, poorly-made HDMI cables don’t exist—they certainly do. But any company offering premium features, extra-high speeds, or special gold-plated connectors is probably giving you the run-around. Just make sure they’re durable and long enough.
You can read more about HDMI cables and how we tested them in our round-up of the best HDMI cables.
So you finally got that new copy of God of War up and running, and there’s a big, honkin’ letterbox wrapped around your picture. Not good! Those black bars aren’t a deliberate choice on the part of the game’s creators, so don’t settle for a scaled-down picture. Fixing the problem is as easy as accessing your PS4's settings.
From the PS4's dashboard, select "Settings," then "Sound and Screen," and then "Display Area Settings." Next, enlarge the display to fit your screen.
I'm not sure why this particular display setting only affects certain games, but in any event, it's good to get the adjustment out of the way, even if you've never encountered the bars yourself.
Red Dead Redemption 2. Next question.
OK, but seriously—you should probably play Red Dead Redemption 2. If you're looking for more recommendations, my colleague Lee wrote about the most popular video games last fall in the run-up to the holiday season.
When it comes to choosing the right games, the best advice I received came from an online acquaintance of mine who recommended I use the website PSPrices. In addition to letting you search for titles on the Playstation Store and track their price history, you can also sign up for email alerts from PSPrices whenever a game goes on sale. It's the easiest way to keep tabs on the games you might be on the fence about paying full-price for.
Whether you need a way to chat with players online or you want to stay up late without waking up your housemates, a good pair of headphones is essential for most PS4 owners.
Over the years, we've tested several headsets—both wired and wireless—for Xbox and Playstation, so we've got a pretty good idea of what makes for a slam-dunk pair. You can check out our round-up of the best PS4 headphones for a the full story, but to summarize, we found the HyperX Cloud Stinger to provide the overall best value. One drawback: These cans aren't wireless.
If you're looking for a wireless pair of headphones and don't want to fuss with third-party companies, consider the Sony Gold Wireless headphones. At $130, they don't come cheap, but you'll be investing in 7.1 surround sound and all of the ease that comes with using a first-party accessory.
For my money, there's no better option than Sony's official Dualshock 4 wireless controller. I used to despise the Dualshock controller until this current fourth generation, which feature fuller, "beefier" handles for better ergonomics.
Buying Dualshock 4 controllers on Amazon is a decent option if you don't mind choosing colors that are in stock. The two color options that are seemingly always in stock and always listed at lower prices are the standard Jet Black variant and the Crystal variant, and some, like Berry Blue, are much harder to find at a sensible price.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.