Online gameplay works largely the same way as on the PS3. It took me some time to find online matches to play Assassin’s Creed IV—but the console hasn't officially launched yet, so it's a bit early to assess the online gaming environment. Also, your online gaming experience will vary depending on the strength of your network. That said, the provided earpiece and microphone worked well, and I had no trouble communicating with other players.
When it comes to making friends on the PlayStation Network (PSN), there are a few options. You can designate someone an Online Friend, which gives you access to his or her profile and screen name. If you want to get to know someone better, or if you know the player outside the gaming world, you can make them a Real Name friend: This lets you see real names and photos.
You can also sync your PSN account with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you can update and annoy your friends with your gaming accomplishments. The privacy settings can adjust to how much content you want to share (if any).
As for entertainment options, the PS4's streaming services include Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Redbox Instant, and Vudu. And you have access to Sony’s Video and Music Unlimited streaming services; the latter can be used to replace the soundtrack of a game with tunes of your choice.
Subscription fees for all of the streaming services apply, but you won’t need a PlayStation Plus account ($10 a month, $18 for 3 months, or $50 a year) to access them. Unfortunately, you will need a PlayStation Plus account to play online games on the PS4. (You will also need the Xbox Live gold membership to play online with the coming Xbox One.)
Some of the most touted features of the PlayStation 4 require accessories that don’t come with the console: the PlayStation App, PlayStation Camera, and PlayStation Vita. The PlayStation Camera is probably the chief offender, as it really does seem like it was supposed to be bundled with the console.
An app called Playroom, for example, which comes installed on the PS4, requires the Camera to work. If you open the app and don't have the Camera, you end up watching a video about how awesome the Camera is. The Camera is also used for facial recognition and voice commands. These seem like features that were meant to be integrated, not optional.
The free PlayStation App, which requires an Android or iOS mobile device, lets you send messages to friends and see what games they’ve been playing and what trophies they’ve earned. You can also use the Second Screen option from within the app: The function of this option changes depending on which game you're playing and which second-screen features are available for that game. For example, in The Playroom, you can draw toys on your touch screen and throw them onto the TV screen so you can interact with them. You can also use the app as a remote to navigate the PS4 menu.
The PlayStation Vita, Sony's handheld gaming device, is required for Remote Play: This means that you can stream compatible games from your PlayStation 4 to your PlayStation Vita. For best results, you’ll need a strong network connection, so don’t stray too far from your router. Sony also recommends that you connect the PS4 via Ethernet and make sure both devices are on the same wireless network for the best results.