Thursday, February 21, 2013
Sony announces PlayStation 4 with camera and serious “social” focus
Expect a holiday 2013 release date.
Wednesday night marked the beginning of the next-generation of game consoles (well, excluding the Wii U, but Nintendo is sort of running a different race at this point) as Sony announced the PlayStation 4 at a 2-hour event in New York, which we streamed and chatted about here on the Pop Culture Blog. Most people knew it was coming — and we were even pretty sure we were seeing glimpses of it with games like Watch Dogs from Ubisoft — but it was nice to see the game industry exhale a little bit after holding all this information in for a good long while.
So what did they show? How do the games look? Was it hype-worthy or a letdown? Keep reading to find out.
What was announced for sure:
A lot of stuff that was leaked, primarily on Kotaku, turned out to be true. Most notably, images of the prototype controller seemed to be spot on. Makes me more inclined to trust Kotaku’s most recent PS4 infodump. The hardware itself has 8GB of system memory (a big step up from the PS3) and a large hard drive, though they weren’t being too specific about its internal GPU other than to say they thought it was great.
New controller, the Dual Shock 4: The PS4′s controller looks familiar and non-threatening if you’re at all familiar with the PS3′s (or even the PS2′s) controller, though there are some key additions. A big one is the touch panel in the middle of the console (yes, just a panel, not a screen), which seems much like the Vita’s rear touch pad. They didn’t really say what this would be used for, and to be honest I don’t have great ideas that fill me with excitement … but I’m also not a game developer for a reason. It could be awesome.
There is also a light bar on the top that provides built-in PlayStation Move capability, which could be both cool and useful, I think.
A camera: We saw this very, very briefly. They glazed over its announcement and image so fast it’s almost like they didn’t want you to dwell on how much it looks like Microsoft’s Kinect. Will it come packaged in with the system? Will it work with your old Move controllers? They didn’t really say, but it at least works with the new Dual Shock 4 controller. We do know that it’s stereoscopic, allowing it to detect both the depth and direction of the controller. No idea if it’s capable of emulating the Kinect’s controller-free style of gameplay.
Share button and video streaming: Another one that Kotaku totally called: A share button on the controller will allow you to easily share screenshots and video of the games you’re playing.
Play games while they download: As digital games become a bigger and bigger part of the gaming lifestyle, this could be pretty huge. Currently, if you opt to download a retail PS3 game, you might be waiting hours for the many-gigabyte file to download to your hard drive — and who knows how much bigger in size PS4 games will be. Theoretically, if you can start playing the game shortly after it starts downloading, that would be a massive step towards convenience. I’m hoping this one pans out.
The Witness (PS4)
The buzz word is “Social”: They really want you sharing stuff with your friends. Like, a lot. They used the word “social” every chance they got. Expect a lot of social network integration, including the ability to display real names (as opposed to usernames) with friends.
Jonathan Blow showed us The Witness: Jonathan Blow gained popularity with his hit indie game Braid, which I personally loved. The Witness has been in development for awhile, but it was shown off in motion Wednesday as a PS4 game. I thought this was a cool thing for Sony to do, giving an independent developer such a big stage, but I also hope their indie game support doesn’t stop there. Furthermore, I wonder if The Witness will end up hitting the PS3 as well, as it never struck me as a game that demanded a lot of horsepower.
There’s a new Final Fantasy game in development: No duh. That’s all they said about it, though. They said to stay tuned to hear more at E3. To be honest, Square Enix’s entire appearance at the event felt like a waste of time, as their video was a next-gen tech demo that was familiar to most — they started showing at at E3 last year, and it also appeared at PAX later.
Knack Announce Trailer (PS4)
Knack, which looks kind of adorable: It’s a bit hard to tell from the trailer what this game plays like or what it’s about, but the trailer grabbed my attention anyway. The visuals were very Pixar-esque, and the characters seem to have a lot of personality. If the gameplay is good, I’m definitely interested.
Killzone: Shadow Fall: The infamous PS3 trailer for Killzone 2 (which later turned out to be not all that representative of the final product) blew a lot of minds when the PS3 was announced. This new Killzone trailer … didn’t, I don’t think. Don’t get me wrong: It was very, very good looking, graphically. Gorgeous visuals. But PC gamers got a similar gorgeous experience with Crysis 3′s release just this week.
More than that, though, Killzone looked like an exceptionally pretty version of a game I already played a lot of over the past 6 years. That is to say, it looked like it plays very much like other first-person shooters from this generation, of which there have been many.
Hopefully the game rises above my cynicism and is actually awesome, but after the presentation was over, I honestly kind of forgot about it.
Watch_Dogs - Open World Gameplay Premiere (With Commentary)
Watch Dogs: This game was announced back at E3 last year, and while it was announced for Xbox 360 and PS3, a lot of people were highly skeptical that what we saw was possible on current systems. So it’s probably little surprise to see that Watch Dogs is, in fact, a next-gen game, though Ubisoft quickly pointed out that it is still also coming to the Xbox 360, PS3, and even the Wii U (and if I were a betting man, I’d bet that Microsoft’s next system will be getting it as well). I’m pretty optimistic about this one. It seems to be doing something truly different with open world gameplay, rather than simply being another third-person shooter. Don’t let me down, Ubisoft.
A new inFamous game: I really like the inFamous games on PS3, so I’m glad Sucker Punch is hard at work on a new one for the PS4, inFamous: Second Son. They didn’t play it live, though, which was a bummer.
Destiny PlayStation 4 Official Announcement
Destiny, the new game from Bungie (creators of Halo) is coming to both PS3 and PS4: Bungie went independent a few years back (Halo 4 was not developed by them. Microsoft owns and operates the Halo brand). The first fruit of their multiplatform labor is Destiny, an online FPS with a lot of potential … that we haven’t seen a ton of yet. It looks and sounds cool, but I need to see more gameplay before passing judgement. Still, there are a lot of Sony fans who are very excited about having a Bungie game on their platform.
On top of that, Bungie said that there would be “exclusive content” for PlayStation users, though what that means remains to be seen. Could be significant, could be something tiny that Sony wanted them to play up as a bigger thing. Very hard to say for sure.
Other games/demos: In addition to games, we saw a lot of tech demo stuff. Media Molecule (the guys behind LittleBigPlanet) showed off a kind of cool cooperative sculpting/puppeteering demo, Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, the upcoming Beyond) showed off an impressive “old man demo,” which showed a pretty realistic old man full of emotion, and we also saw a driving game called Drive Club. I’d say more on that, but I think the first rule about Drive Club is that you can’t talk about Drive Club.
Capcom also showed off the new engine they’re working on with a game tentatively titled Deep Down, which looked pretty cool. Very Dark Souls-esque, on first impression.
Diablo III is coming to PS4, and PS3: And that’s … kind of all we know. Kind of cool to see Blizzard on the console stage again, but it wasn’t to announce that the canceled StarCraft: Ghost was coming back, so no thank you.
Sony is going after the Wii U with PS4/Vita remote play: One of the coolest aspects of the Wii U is easily the fact that you can seamlessly stream the consoles gameplay onto the tablet-like Wii U GamePad, allowing you to play games like New Super Mario Bros. and Batman: Arkham City from your bedroom. Sony is claiming that you can do the same exact thing with a PS4 and a PlayStation Vita. If that’s true, that will be awesome.
Some potential hurdles, though: Remote play isn’t a new idea. Sony tried it with the PSP, and they’ve tried it with the PS3/Vita. However, there are precious few games that actually support the feature, and when it does work, the experience isn’t always fantastic. Also, the Vita has four fewer physical buttons than the PS4 controller (L2, R2, L3, R3), which could be problematic.
Cloud gaming service Gakai, which Sony bought recently, claims to have solved this stuff and promises a much brighter future. Of course, it will be much more expensive than the Wii U is (buying both a PS4 and a Vita isn’t going to come cheap. At all), but if it works as intended it could be a very awesome feature.
Not backwards compatible with PS3 games out of the box: Not a surprise, but still very much a disappointment. You should keep your PS3 if you want to keep playing its games, as the PS4′s internal infrastructure doesn’t allow it to play PS3 games. Sony and Gakai are hoping to solve the backwards compatibility conundrum with cloud gaming, which could theoretically allow you to play games from the past two decades of PlayStation history, but that could require spending more money, and it’s not a sure thing just yet.
The release date … vaguely: After the event, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House announced a holiday 2013 release date for the PS4, which isn’t a surprise to most. Rumors have it launching in November of this year, which is what I’m betting on. Gotta get on store shelves before the holiday rush.
What they didn’t say and what we didn’t see:
The console itself: A lot of people were apparently annoyed at this fact in both our live chat and on Twitter. I didn’t personally go into this super anxious to see what the system looks like (I’m guessing it looks like a video game console), but there you go. I bet we’ll see it at E3.
There was no talk of a price point. Rumors and potential leaks have said it will come in two models, retailing for $429 and $529 respectfully, but that could very much still be up for discussion internally at Sony. They might be hoping Microsoft blinks first, so they can adjust their price accordingly.
Will it play used games? They didn’t address the recently rumors that the system would not play used games. Interestingly, this same rumor persisted leading up to the launch of the PS3, which of course ended up being false. I don’t blame people for worrying about it, but I also don’t think Sony is prepared to force users to only purchase new games. [UPDATE: Eurogamer has confirmed that the PS4 will, in fact, play used games. Rest easy, GameStop shoppers!]
What about online play? Still free? Absent was talk of whether or not playing games online would require a monthly or yearly fee. Traditionally, Sony hasn’t charged for online play (unlike Microsoft), but there are substantial rumors that this might not be the case with the PS4, which is said to require a service fee for “most” online features.
The launch lineup? We can hope/assume many of the games we saw will be launch games for the PS4. We know Watch Dogs and Destiny at least are targeting holiday 2013 releases, so those are both pretty safe bets.
The missing games: No The Last Guardian (that was doubtful anyway) or Metal Gear (or “The Phantom Pain”). No Battlefield. No Madden. No EA at all, actually. No Star Wars 1313. I’m sure all that stuff is coming.
What came after:
The Oddworld developer is making a PS4 game: That’s kind of all we know so far, but it’s still cool.
They didn’t let press go hands-on with anything: I wasn’t in New York to confirm this first-hand, but that’s the word from Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo. I plan on heading to E3 in LA come June, so hopefully they’ll let people play with the system there.
What’s Microsoft going to do? We know the Durango (their next system’s code name) is coming, almost certainly later this year — right alongside the PS4. Will they wait until E3 to start showing it off, or are they scrambling to put together their own show as we speak?
What do you guys think? Personally, I like what Sony is showing — I think they put on a good show — but I need to see more. I’m interested, but I’m not at “OMG TAKE MY MONEY” levels of excitement yet, especially considering we don’t know how much all of this will cost.