2013-02-22

PS4 Debut – Sony Give A Peek At New Console

by Yo Snyder

Well, Sony has struck first in the true next-gen console
wars (the WiiU is more of a current-gen, next-gen system). At their PS4 debut
event, they gave us a peek at what we can expect from the console. I say a
peek, because there was a lot that wasn’t revealed. For instance, the actual
console wasn’t shown ala how Nintendo showed off the controller first before
the WiiU console. We did get a peek at the DualShock 4, but not the console. We
also didn’t hear any hints at all about price, or if it will still use Blu-Ray
format, or an exact release date, or…well, there were a lot of specific details
left out, but we did learn one thing for sure; PS4 is going to be one powerful
piece of hardware.

I can’t help but juxtapose Sony’s approach to Nintendo’s. It
was quite sometime before Nintendo talked specifics about how powerful the WiiU
actually was, not so with Sony. Power was the theme of the day. They came right
out and gave us a solid idea of what was under the hood. A X86 CPU, enhanced PC
GPU, 8 gigs unified memory, local storage hard drive, 8 CPU cores, 2 terraflops
performance, 170 gig per second bandwidth, dedicated video compressor and
decompressor and so on and so forth. I started to wonder if the Sony execs had
been watching old episodes of Home Improvement; they kept talking about “more
power” so much is sounded like Tim Taylor right before he started grunting. So the
PS4 is going to powerful, but what will all that power do?

Well, before we get to that, a couple quick notes on the new
controller. The DualShock 4 looks pretty much like all Playstation controllers
have, with a few new additions. It was stated that the feel of the triggers and
control sticks have been tightened up, latency issues have been improved, and
there’s an interesting looking flat surface towards the top which is a
touchpad; kind of like what’s on the back of the PS Vita. There’s also a new
share button, which allows you to instantly make gameplay videos and share them
with friends. The controller also features a light bar, which when paired with
a stereo camera, essentially makes this the DualShock version of the
Playstation Move. The share button could be an interesting feature, and was
actually used during one of the demos. I’m not entirely sure what function the
touch pad will serve, and as far as the light bar and camera, well I remember
the last time Playstation tried to make the DualShock a motion controller back
in the Wii days; it never really worked out. The DualShock is starting to feel
like a “and the kitchen sink” approach to a controller as it tries to
incorporate everything it can.

Getting back to the power of the system and what it will do,
Sony had a lot to say on that. The PS4 will allow you to browse live video of
what your friends are playing, and if they need help, you can jump in and take
control of their game. Interesting…but I have some reservations about that. As
mentioned, you can upload videos from gameplay instantly with the share button.
You’ll be able to start playing a digital download before it’s even finished
downloading. The PS4 will “get to know you”; it will learn your likes and
dislikes and make game and media recommendations based on what you’ve been
playing and watching. It may even download games for you before you even buy
them, before you even know you might want them. This was all about how “personal”
the PS4 will be, but getting games for me before I even decide to buy them
sounds more “intrusive” than “personal”, but we’ll see what that ultimately
ends up looking like. The PS4 will be social, using Facebook and Ustream, and
it was hinted that gamertags may be a thing of the past and the use of real
names is where the future of social console gaming lies. Again, I’m not so
sure. And of course, there will be the ability to have PS4 experience via
tablets, smartphones and of course, the PS Vita.

In fact, there was quite a bit of focus on second-screen
remote play. Thanks to “cloud gaming”, there may be the possibility soon to
have every PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games available to play anywhere, anytime.
Bold claim. As to the PS Vita as a companion for the PS4, I was a little
confused; if the PS4 is going to be a huge powerhouse graphically and
otherwise, wouldn’t anything taken over to the PS Vita be a downgrade in
performance?

In the end, however, all this event really came down to was
just how powerful the PS4 is and how great games will look on it. We saw demos
running Unreal 4 that were impressive. David Cage from Quantic Dream showed
some test footage that looked like the CG from the Final Fantasy movie; truly
impressive. Capcom showed footage using their new Panta Rhei engine; again, it
was impressive. Still, I felt a bit underwhelmed. There was a lot of talk about
what the power of the PS4 might be able to do, and then a lot of looks at how
good it will make games look. We already knew that new generation of consoles
meant prettier games, but I would have liked to seen a little more about the
other potentialities of the PS4 beyond graphics.

At the end of the PS4 debut event, I had the impression that
this new console may do some compelling new things when it comes to shared
media and digital downloads, and may have a pretty impressive online network.
However, most of those impressions were vague. It was clear that games will
look great on the PS4, but I was already expecting that. The Dual Shock
controller has been changed up, but I’m not quite clear what some of it’s new
features will do for gameplay. So in the end, what did we learn? Not much beyond
what we already knew. There is a PS4. It will be powerful. Game will look great
on it. Hopefully we’ll get a clearer picture of the PS4 at E3, and in the meantime,
it will be interesting to see what Nintendo and especially Microsoft do in
response to keep their consoles top-of-mind in the gaming world.