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Feb 26 2013

Sony Unveils the PS4: A Rundown of What We Got & What It Means.

SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT INC. PLAYSTATION 4[Ed’s Note: Today we’re lucky enough to have one of our favourite submitters, D’arcy Briggs, run down the ins and outs of the recent PS4 event and what those mean both to us gamers and to the developers. While the news may have a had a couple of days to percolate already, sitting for a broad view of it all sounds like just the perfect thing right now, so enjoy.]

I might say that the biggest reveal of the night was the accuracy of many of the leaked and rumoured reports from the internet. We had already seen the controller with all of it’s new bells and whistles. It was very interesting to see how exactly the “share” button will work. It seems to not just act as a button to throw a link on a profile, but allows users to edit and share their own unique content from their gaming experience and share it around the world. It was also interesting to see what addition Gaikai will be able to make to the Sony platform. It has been known for some time that Sony picked the company up and would likely include their tech into the PS4, but what they’ve worked on was something I was quite impressed by. The ideas such as the ability to play a game while it’s downloading as well as multiple updates and downloads occurring without noticing is awesome, as will the inclusion of Facebook and Ustream functionality.

While we didn’t actually get a look at the console itself, it has been made clear that it is being built with a PC architecture with smart separation of the CPU and GPU. This sort of framework will be much more developer friendly and will increase third-party support. This is a great move for Sony as their processors for the PS3 weren’t incredibly easy to manage and this is their way of opening themselves back up to all developers from the big guys to the indies. This is more than a positive step for their new console.

PS4-controllerThe graphics for the system are looking great, sure, but games have looked great for more than a decade now. Obviously the step up in fidelity will be nice, and the new architecture has to do with this, but I might be more excited for the aspects of connectivity than fidelity of the system itself. During the conference they made mention that the player will be able to pause any game or application at any point and can resume it again at a later time. While I wasn’t quite interested in this point at first, the more thought I gave it, the better it seemed to me. Later that night my girlfriend and I were watching some X-Files on Netflix. The phone rings for her and the show is paused. It was only a 10 minute conversation; it wasn’t long enough to really quit Netflix and boot up a game, nor was it short enough to quell my desire to remain on the console. It hit me! the ability to have a save state of any game just ready to go, and being able to have your paused Netflix in the background, would be brilliant. This will also help to stream video and games to the system with fantastic speed. From the ability to play a game as you download it to the chance that all past Playstation games will be streamed to the PS4, this is what is really getting me excited about the new system.

But what is a system without games? While Sony certainly did have some announcements, I didn’t feel like they fully delivered. The first game chosen to show off the PS4 hardware was Knack, an action-platformer along the lines of Spyro, Ratchet and Clank, and Jak and Daxter. The game itself doesn’t look too bad and like something I would enjoy, but really didn’t do much to show off the new technology of the console. Perhaps the intention was to showcase the amount of unique particles in-game at once with the new hardware or even its implementation on the Vita, but it just didn’t deliver that initial “wow” moment that I think they needed. Other notable disappointments were the Square-Enix presentation. They simply played the Luminous Engine tech demo as well as announcing they have a new Final Fantasy coming down the pipe. Did they really need to mention they are making a new entry into the franchise? Of course they are! Final Fantasy is like the Madden of JRPGs.

ps4movingobjectsTwo other lowlights for me were the Blizzard and the Bungie presentations. First let’s talk about Blizzard. They’ve announced that Diablo 3 will be coming to PS3 and PS4. This was a bit of a trend among many games announced at the event. It seems there will be quite a bit of overlap with PS3 and PS4 games come this holiday season. Also, by the time Diablo 3 is actually out for the consoles, anyone who really wants to play them will have picked them up on PC. Unless Blizzard puts out the game for a decent price with bonus content, I just can’t get too excited about Diablo 3 on PS3 or PS4. At Bungie’s Destiny presentation the only content they offered that differed from their presentation done a week before was a maybe 4-second clip of the player reloading a rifle. The rest was just a rehashing of the world-building and scope of their planned project. These things are all well and good, but when it’s a presentation for a new console, we need to see your ideas running on the new console.

It wasn’t all boring or repetitive content though. Many developers offered great new trailers, ideas, and even a little gameplay. Capcom offered a look at their new IP which has been tentatively titled Deep Down. While it was posted as gameplay footage, it looked more than a little bit like trailer footage. It might have been the only footage where I thought it really looked “next-gen” with amazing graphics and (maybe) great in-game animations and nuances. The trailer ended with a small clip that maybe teased at the game’s utilization of the PS4’s connectivity and social utilities. Good job, Capcom! Evolution Studios unveiled something that I think will be an awesome game, though many don’t seem quite as into it as I am. Their game DriveClub will feature team based racing with an awesome utilization of social connectivity. Rivalries will be built and broken on the pavement. Again, it’s awesome that it might not just be the graphics selling these games, but the evolution of gameplay using social media and utility to enhance the gaming experience.

PS4-Watch-DogsOther notable presentations were from Sucker Punch and Guerilla Games, both delivering the next chapters in their trademark series. SP’s Infamous: Second Son was presented in trailer form [Ed’s Note: this was apparently in-engine and gameplay, just shot cinematically] and showcased a dystopian alt-present which might put the game in a bit of an Orwellian-esque world with you at the helm to, likely, help or hinder its progress. Guerilla offered up some gameplay footage of the next Killzone. Along with Deep Down, this might have been my favourite reveal. It actually looked like gameplay with fantastic graphics and an energetic set piece. Ubisoft unveiled some more advanced gameplay footage of Watch Dogs, a game that will be on both PS3 and PS4. It looked pretty decent, but not really like something that will define the “next-gen.” Sony also did something quite smart with their presentation: acknowledging the large developments made by the indie community! Journey’s artwork was featured prominently throughout their videos and even Thekla’s The Witness was featured. The Witness will be a ‘small and focused’ open-world game with plenty of puzzles. This was another great move on Sony’s part by not just showing us what we want and expected, but showing some delightful surprises along the way.

Overall I feel that Sony had some great ideas and content put forward, but didn’t always showcase what should have been showcased. I think they’ve done two things right that will really make a difference: Using the Vita for remote play will completely rival the Wii U gamepad (something which might make them quite different from Microsoft’s next system) and allowing more connectivity between players as well as allowing better and faster streaming services with media and games. Will this be enough to make them different enough from Microsoft’s next box? Sony have proven enough of a parity with the Wii U in order to get some interest from game publishers and they’ve returned to a more open access model for developers. With Microsoft stating that they’re interested in the whole “entertainment” experience rather than a pure gaming experience, maybe Sony can become the king of the next-gen gaming consoles.

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