The Playroom and PlayStation Eye Camera review - Double Header!

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The world we live in doesn’t afford us much privacy. As technology progresses, we are opening ourselves to more and more devices that have cameras, recording features, or even voice recognition. In a perfect word, all of these things would be independent of one another. As we all probably figured out by the age of two, this is not a perfect world. And so, people get a little paranoid over things like cameras and microphones in their houses. And rightly so, if it’s connected to the internet, it’s a liability. Of course, most devices like these give you the option to turn them off. I’m looking at you Kinect. Yes I know you recognize me, and yes that is my favorite brand of potato chips but, hey wait, how did you know that!?

Jokes aside, it’s okay to be paranoid, but ultimately it’s pretty awesome to have a high tech camera in your living room that also recognizes voice commands and allows you to play augmented reality games. Today, we’re here to talk about two things that go hand-in-hand. The PS4 Camera and the free game that comes installed on PS4’s known only as The Playroom. These PS4 Cameras have been incredibly hard to find lately, so it’s time to ask the question on everyone’s minds: Do you need one? The answer, like the ending of Bioshock Infinite, is complicated so read on. Let’s start with the Camera.

The PS4 Camera Review - I do not Have a Girl’s Face!
The original PlayStation Eye Camera was on the PS2 and they called it the Eye Toy. It allowed you to play games where your image was placed into the action and the movements of your body controlled the events on screen. A novel idea to be certain, but ultimately it never took off. Then came the PS3 Eye Camera which was better, but still limited in it’s capabilities. It’s primary purpose toward the second half of the PS3’s life cycle, was a companion accessory to the PlayStation Move. The camera, in conjunction with the Move created an excellent method of motion tracking because the Move controller’s light ball acted as a constant frame of reference for the camera. This was one-to-one motion tracking so good that it made Luigi turn even more green with envy.

The Playroom PreviewNow we have the PS4 Camera. This thing is quite a beast to look at. Of course it’s still about a quarter of the size of the massive Kinect that comes forcibly bundled with the Xbox One, because how can it spy on you if it doesn’t have eyes? The PS4 Camera features a rectangular shape and has several high definition camera for three dimensional tracking, along with directional microphones to properly receive voice commands. In terms of PlayStation Cameras, it’s the top of it’s class by far. The resolution alone is a massive upgrade, let alone the cameras and microphones.

Hooking up and calibrating the camera is simple, with a port on the back of the PS4 designed solely for plugging in the little guy. Upon calibration, you can have the Camera register your face for awesome facial scanning capabilities when you login to your PS4. Starting with this feature, I will say it works well, but it doesn’t act as anything more than a novelty. My girlfriend was able to sit in front of the Camera and it scanned her in as me. It also reads the controller which I think is part of the problem, as it probably just assumes it’s me if the controller is player one. Now before you go in the comments saying that my girlfriend looks like a dude, let me stop you now. She is drop dead gorgeous, and I’m not just saying that, it’s a fact. So that leaves two options. Either I have a really girly face, and am therefore drop dead gorgeous (Oh PS4, stop it you!) or this feature isn’t as accurate as it could be.

Moving on, the other main features of the camera include voice recognition, the ability to chat with people using it’s microphones, and finally the ability to broadcast yourself doing commentary whilst you're recording your gameplay. First off, the voice commands. They work well enough, but there are not many of them. You can navigate the PS4’s UI with voice commands, and you can turn the system off or start games. That’s about it. The recent Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition added the ability to use voice commands, but they were ultra sensitive so I ended up disabling them in the options menu. More incorporation and tweaking of this feature could make it better. As it stands, it falls into the category of “Neato”

As far as chatting with friends, the Camera works great, although someone like me who lives with roommates may find that it picks up too much. My friends online were hearing things that my housemates were saying in the kitchen! Granted the kitchen is like ten steps away, but it’s not like they were yelling or anything. This leads right into the ability to record yourself while broadcasting gameplay. The video and audio quality here is great, and this is one of the best features of the Camera so far. I’ll hold off on my final thoughts until the end of the review. In the meantime, let’s check out The Playroom!

The Playroom Review The Playroom Review - It Will Set your Hair on Fire.
Sony is becoming associated more and more with the word “Free” and they are all the better for it. Free to play games, free PlayStation Plus downloads, and now free PS4 Camera games. It’s like having Opera in your living room! All PS4 systems with an app pre-installed called The Playroom. This little game is like an ever expanding portfolio of what your PS4 Camera and controller are capable of. It doubles as a method of showing off features, and having fun while doing it. When you first go into The Playroom, you’ll be greeted with an overly awesome tour of the DualShock 4. You’ll see a view of your living room and the controller in your hand will suddenly light up on the TV screen, going through all of the various features of the controller and “Activating” them as if it were the startup sequence for a fighter jet.

Once this is complete, you are able to swipe the touch pad and watch as a menu emerges from your controller. All of this is viewed on screen showing the events occur in your actual living room. The camera essentially takes your “reality” and changes it, hence the name “Augmented Reality”. It’s always been something I’ve enjoyed and here it has never worked better. You navigate this holographic menu with the touch pad on the Dualshock 4 and select from a variety of activities. As of right now, there are four possible activities to use with The Playroom and more to come. All of these are free downloads, so when you visit The Playroom page on the store, you can download the latest games for free to add in. The base game has three, and my count of four includes the latest release. Here’s a rundown of each game.

The Playroom Review 1 - AR Bots:
This game is fun because it allows you to mess around with or, completely torture an army of cute little robots who live in your controller. If you swipe forward, they pop out and begin walking around your living room. What’s really fun is to pop out a bunch of them and kick them around on screen with your feet, watching them fly and occasionally crash into your screen. You can hold down the touch pad to create a vortex on your controller that you can sweep around your living room to suck them back inside.

There are a lot of cool touches here, such as when you shake the controller, the speaker releases cries of help as they tumble around. If you swipe down, you get a onscreen view of the inside of the controller. Pressing buttons causing lights and beats to sound out, the robots dance along for an awesome dance party. You can even cover the lightbar with your hand and watch the inside of the controller descend into darkness. The amount of detail here is great, and while it won’t keep you busy for hours on end, it’s fun nonetheless.

The Playroom Hockey 2 - AR Hockey
This particular game requires two players and while simplistic, works well. Each player sits on opposite sides of a holographic air hockey table. You control the orientation of your blocker by moving up and down on the touch pad. Pressing it in will give the puck a boost. First to seven points wins. Once you win, you get to shake up your controller and swipe the touch pad to release a stream of champagne. It’s hilarious and fun.

The Playroom ASOBI 3 - Play With ASOBI
Fans of Portal 2 will instantly connect with this Wheatly-esque character design. This little mini game is essentially composed of watching a robot eyeball fly around and watching what happens when you make it angry. It’s fun though because if you hit it enough times, it will zap you with ice or a ;laser. In one case it encompasses your head onscreen in a thick layer of ice, and another it will set your hair on fire. It’s all well and good though, as long as he stays in the game and doesn’t somehow escape and actually set my hair on fire.

The Playroom Alien Buddy 4 - My Alien Buddy
Made by one of my favorite game studios, Double Fine, this free download add on for The Playroom allows you to take control of an alien in a UFO and wreak havoc upon various toy landscapes. It’s really mindless, allowing you to abduct cows and cars, or absorb batteries that allow you to go on destruction sprees. It keep you interested for a while, like most of the activities on here, but it’s not an incredibly deep experience.

Final Thoughts
The PS4 Camera works incredibly well, more so than any other peripheral I have come across in the past few generations. That being said, it doesn’t do a whole lot yet. I have faith that it will receive more love in the future, but for now it provides a handful of entertainment for free, and a great substitution for a headset if you live alone. The Playroom is a great reason to get the camera, if only to have some fun and show it off to friends. With the potential for more games to come and the promise of all of them being free, this is a great reason to get one. The price isn’t too high, and if you plan on doing a lot of broadcasting, it will serve you well. Overall, it’s really hard to find right now, so I wouldn’t say it’s worth paying double for on EBay, but if you come across one and you have an extra sixty dollars to spend, it’s worth having in the hopes that more integration will come soon.

Final Score: 8/10

Game Category: Casual / Party

Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 02/04/2014

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