So, the PlayStation 4 was finally unveiled on the 20th February. Staying up pretty late to watch the livestream, I’m writing this feeling ever-so-slightly knackered. Was it worth staying up until 1:15am to watch? Well, disappointingly, but totally unsurprisingly, most of the key information was kept under wraps, including what the console looks like, the price, and a release date.
A more immediate disappointment, considering this presentation was dubbed ‘future of PlayStation’ was that the poor old PS Vita was entirely ignored beyond a few mentions of remote play and using it as a PS4 remote/ controller. Sadly, it looks like my beloved handheld is fast becoming a rather expensive paperweight.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. The presentation itself was actually quite refreshing, aimed directly at the hardcore gamer, but explained in such a way that most people with some technical knowledge (i.e. you know enough about PC specs) were able to prettily easily grasp what was going on, and what the rough power of the machine will be.
And for all Sony’s posturing about this generation being more about services than raw processing power, the PS4 is clearly a powerful beast, with 32x the usable memory of the PS3, and a far-more PC-orientated architecture that should make it much easier to develop for than the tricky cell processor found in the current hardware. It should also hopefully make it more affordable, although Sony didn’t even mention a word about pricing.
The one piece of hardware we saw beyond the spec-sheet had also already been leaked well ahead of time, being the controller. Thankfully the DualShock 4 looked far more sleek than the prototype screens that have been all over the web. Perhaps less interesting is the fact that Move is now integrated (although it can’t be worse than SixAxis), and there is no start or select button, but instead a front touchpad that frankly looks like it will be a real pain to use without dropping the controller.
Sony talked a lot about improving the interface, which looked like a combination of the current PS Store and the Xbox Dashboard, so that didn’t impress me much, and many of the other features seemed fairly gimmicky, although I’m sure many reviewers will appreciate the TiVo-esque functionality of being able to record gameplay directly from the machine. I can’t imagine this being must-buy functionality though.
The thing that was a pleasant surprise though was the number of partners announced, and the number of games demoed. The quality was, unsurprisingly, mixed, but there was plenty of potential, even despite the re-showing of a year-old Square Enix trailer and Unreal 4 tech demo were frankly a waste of everyone’s time. I’m not sure anyone wants another Killzone, but at least this was real, actual gameplay on-stage, and whilst the compression of the livecast made it difficult to judge, clearly this was still a decent jump over anything the current console can do. Watch_Dogs (stupid name, Ubisoft) looked fine, but as a clearly bridging game, several of the titles in this category did just look like smoother, crisper versions of what will still be available for the current generation this Christmas.
Most impressive (although it’s unclear as to how real it was) was Capcom’s Deep Down, which had some frankly stunning lighting and animation effects. This is the kind of thing we need to see far more of to really light up the imagination of undecided customers.
Overall, there weren’t many surprises beyond the fact that not more of the games had leaked out. The hardware specs and controller had been widely reported, and Sony didn’t elaborate much on what we already knew.
The games announced looked nice for the most part, but weren’t confirmed for launch, and there’s a lot more to see. Frankly, I was left a little disappointed, with only a couple of the titles really stunning me. Having said that, Sony is definitely chasing me as a customer with the direction it is taking, and I hope Microsoft hasn’t lost sight of this and gives the Japanese giant a run for its money.
The ball is very much in their court, and I’m really hoping that the Durango / Xbox 720 reveal isn’t a disappointment. Mainly that’s down to inertia, as I have friends and a profile that I’d rather keep, and Xbox Live still remains the better service. Sony’s put one foot in the door though, so here’s hoping the hype train doesn’t die down now.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the PS4 in a way I never was about the PS3, so it’s up to Sony not to muck it up, and Microsoft to respond properly.
The next generation starts here, and count me excited.