PlayStation 4 finally announced! Sort of..

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The eagerly anticipated date of 20.02.2013 left gamers and technology fanatics anticipating what promised to be the start of next gen gaming. Sony’s press conference at The Hammerstein at Manhattan Center allowed press and the gaming community to see what the next generation of gaming had to offer, after 2 hours of detailed talk from game developers, CEO’s and hardware architects we now finally know what the PlayStation 4 is going to bring. What was shown was quite honestly mind blowing in terms of capabilities and visuals, a lot of key information was discussed by a plethora of important people. We now know the specifications of the console, we know the intricacies of the PS4’s revolutionary new controller, we know how social gaming and the gaming network is evolving through the PS4 and we even know details of some launch details. The only minor details we don’t know are what the thing actually looks like, how much it is going to cost us and whether or not we are going to be robbed blind for online capabilities, however a vague release date of Holiday 2013 was issued. Nevertheless here is the run down.

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PlayStation 4 Specifications
The specifications of the PlayStation 4 is itself pretty astonishing. The lead system architect for the PS4 Mark Cerny opened the conference and described the hardware for the PS4 as “Supercharged PC architecture”. Cerny boasted that he wanted to make the console incredibly accessible to developers and has achieved this by including an impressive 8GB of RAM. This console has an excellent amount of memory. Games which are released on the PS4 will have the benefit of being as detailed and as large as the developer wishes with this amount of memory, while also making loading screens a thing of the past. The graphics use a GDDR5 which is synonymous with the top range graphics cards used in computers and it clearly showed. The press conference showed off these specifications by dropping a million separate objects onto a real usable map to show the scale of what developers could achieve, while other developers created stunning tech demo’s.

Features

The new features added to the PS4 revolve around the idea of social gaming and the ability to share the experience with friends without having to let them into your house, something which I think we are all grateful for. The PS4 allows you to take videos of you playing a game and upload it online, so that people can bother you with their mediocre kill streaks or show you how to solve a tricky puzzle. Another new feature lets you use remote play. This means that if you have been grinding at a particularly difficult section in a game and have decided that the task is impossible and you simply aren’t a good enough gamer or human being, you can let your friend do it for you from their system allowing you to continue with your game while also allowing your friend to demonstrate how much better they are at life than you. The PS4 also has added a feature which puts games in a save state even when the system is shut down, a slightly underwhelming concept, however I am sure a day will come when we are all extremely grateful. Thank you Sony.

Since Sony bought out Gaikai we have eagerly anticipated how this is going to fit with next generation gaming. Cloud gaming has been debated in terms of accessibility and its ability to reduce the influx of second hand gaming. The PS4 will allow players to stream new games from the store while at the same time downloading them, no one can truly argue with the benefits this idea will bring providing it works. The current PSN has the ability to download games, but with a common download time of a few days you could walk to the store, buy it, come back and start playing in the same time. This new feature will mean that providing some of the game has installed you can play immediately. Gaikai also offers the ability to stream a game through the network as a playable demo, meaning you can trial the actual game instead of an in development hashed together specific demo.

Social gaming: a key concept for PS4

Social gaming: a key concept for PS4

The DualShock 4

The new controller is the same one which had been previously leaked on many gaming websites, so no real surprise on this one. However a few of the details about the controller were explained. The most intriguing new feature for the DualShock 4 is a small button with share next to it, this button allows players to take a video from the game they are playing and upload it to their gaming community using Ustream and Facebook. The controller also features a small touch screen in the centre, details of how this is going to be used in games was pretty vague however its sleekness within the actual controller makes it a no brainer from Sony. A new camera peripheral comes with the controller which basically turns it into its own move controller. The game pad has a speaker in the centre much like a wii remote and also comes with a headphone jack just like the previous Xbox controllers. Originality wasn’t particularly what inspired the new controller, however capability was and this new controller looks very capable of enhancing the overall gaming experience.

The new DualShock4 unveiled by Sony.

The new DualShock4 unveiled by Sony.

The launch titles

Sony decided not to reel off a long list of future PS4 games but instead demonstrated some exclusive titles, an indie title and a few major third party releases. The first game shown was called Knack, The gameplay details weren’t explained in great detail. However, it was really the graphic capabilities that were on show. The game’s cartoon Pixar like like presentation showed that the PS4 can really produce on a visual level and with some diversity from the usual explosions and car chases.  Other titles shown included a team base driving game called Driveclub as well as two new sequels. Killzone: Shadow Fall again showed off the stunning graphical capabilities of the PS4, this time with explosions and gun fire hoping to boost a series waning in popularity. Infamous: Second Son will excite fans of the previous two games. While the originals looked pretty good, the PS4 looks set to take them to the next level.  Indie developer Jonathan Blow (creator of the fantastic Braid) released details of his new puzzle game The Witness set in a condensed open world accompanied with a teaser trailer. With Blow announcing that the game would be release only on the PS4 during the release window Sony appear clearly to be attempting to market to an ever expanding community of Indie game fanatics, of whom previously took favour with Xbox Live Arcade and its support of indie titles.  Yoshinori Ono of Capcom then took to the stage to announce their new engine, Panta Rhei and also show a trailer for the working titled Deep Down, a sort of medieval/fantasy fighting game.

Killzone: Shadow Fall showing of the graphical capabilities of the PS4

Killzone: Shadow Fall showing of the graphical capabilities of the PS4

Then it was time for Square Enix, I have to say this is the moment which excited me most. As some will remember, Square showed off the original PS3 capabilities with a stunning re-imagining of the opening to Final Fantasy 7 thus creating an unwanted amount of hype for a pipe dream remake. However this time they played it safe and introduced a generic fantasy world tech demo. The few minutes of footage were absolutely breath taking and showed the capabilities of future Square titles including a future Final Fantasy. When the lead Final Fantasy developer took to the stage the crowd was clearly ready and tense for an announcement. It was then announced that a Final Fantasy will be released at E3 this year, without a video or a snippet or anything, the news is great but some content would have been better. Ubi-soft showed of their next gen title Watch Dogs, at first glance the game seems very impressive, one of the few on show at the conference which attempted to take game play as well as graphics to the next level. Bungie took some time to show off a glimpse of it’s upcoming shooter destiny before Blizzard made a surprise appearance, usually dedicated to PC gaming, the developers announced that they would be bringing Diablo 3 to PS3 and 4 which in itself is great but more than anything shows that Blizzard is taking the console market much more seriously, watch this space intently. It was Activision’s turn next, but really they had little to announce and I think just turned up to have their name printed in this and other gaming articles, like an annoying friend that in a conversation talks over everyone very loudly just to be noticed.

The not so great parts

With every new announcement will come some criticism, the main criticism for this however is that there was no real unveiling. The controller, the specs and some games were shown, however we never actually got to see the console in the flesh. Maybe they haven’t finished it yet, or it’s just a lie to get us exited. Or maybe the PS4 isn’t so much a material thing that you can see or touch but lives inside all of us like a soul… no that’s ridiculous. The people at Sony simply intend to trickle information out throughout the year as a marketing ploy to keep us interested in the PS4 and to avoid the new Xbox distracting everyone. Another thing Sony failed to touch upon was the pricing of the console, numbers have been rumoured in forums and on websites yet Sony failed to address the one thing people needed to know. If I had found out yesterday the price I could start deciding which one of my Kidneys I need the least and set up a price plan, however I do not know and am struggling to match a figure with my anticipation. The other minor pricing detail Sony did not mention was whether online capabilities would incur a fee, most gamers expect that it will or that there will be some sort of premium service available at a fee. Sony failed to mention pricing details, possibly out of respect for the hype they were trying to create or because they felt guilty about robbing us from the word go. Some other bad news is that the PS4 will not be backward compatible, however Sony insisted that using Gaikai they would be striving to achieve the ability to play any PlayStation game through any device. A promise that, if it comes of, will please a lot of gaming fans, however it seems likely that this ambition could become a long unanswered process.

Despite the PS4's unveiling, this is still a legitimate possibility for it's design.

Despite the PS4’s unveiling, this is still a legitimate possibility for it’s design.

Clearly Sony have only touched the surface on next gen gaming with this conference, however it has left everyone craving for more.  The specification’s of the system are otherworldly, while the innovation of social gaming and the beautifully enhanced graphics leave little to the imagination. The games shown look stunning while new gameplay features will leave gamers intrigued for more. Truly this is the next step in the history of gaming, the leap from PS3 to PS4 is arguably the biggest yet and I am sure Sony has much more left to announce. Your move Microsoft.

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I have a keen interest in video games and technology. I write mostly about the best games and sometimes the worst. follow me on twitter @jakecov

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