As was anticipated by many, yesterday heralded Sony unveiling the new Playstation 4 in all its glory during a press conference in New York City. Along with repeated details of new titles which would be available to the system, the press conference outlined a number of the machine’s systems specs and some of the new technology involved.
The most visual change (with the PS4 itself not being shown) has been the significant upgrades to the classic DualShock controllers which have only evolved slightly over the past three generations. The DualShock 4 displays a significantly different design with a touchpad, “share button,” and lightbar installed into it. The latter feature allows for a separate camera to track its movement and positioning in relation to the machine. While concerns have been raised by critics in terms of its design of shoulder buttons and thumbsticks, it seems that many elements of the successful design have remained unchanged.
The most notable change in relation to controllers is the new technology which will allowed users to take over from other controllers over the network, supposedly to help them if they are stuck in one section of a game—something which is to be a point of concern as much as praise, for obvious reasons.
The console itself has been described by Mark Cerny, Sony’s lead systems architect for the PS4, as being a “supercharged” PC. The speakers at the conference backed up this point, revealing it would run off of an x86 processor with eight CPU cores and with an enhanced PC GPU. The exact amount of memory it is stated to be shipped with is 8GB, but it can be assumed as with the console’s predecessor this can be enhanced or replaced.
A new engine being developed for the PS4, called Panta Rhei, was showcased along with these specifications to display the machine’s capabilities, along with multiple demos.
As with the PS3, the machine will have the option of a sleep function to avoid waiting for it to completely power up, and it downloads titles directly into its library. The difference this time is that owners will be able to begin playing directly after purchase, even while the bulk of the game’s files continue to download onto the machine.
Also, the system will be capable of learning your preferences and dislikes to display digital titles which that appeal more to the machine’s owner. This is another indicator that Sony is placing extremely heavy emphasis on methods of playing titles beyond utilising a disc for the upcoming generation. An announcement two days prior to this revealed the PS4 would feature a cloud streaming service for PS3 titles and that games would additionally have the option to be streamed from the PS4 onto the Vita. Much in the way the Wii U streams, it allows the ability to transfer a PS4 game from the TV to the Vita screen.
Cerny claimed in his presentation on the PS4’s capabilities that many of the features outlined above were made with the desire to “provide easy access to everything Sony has to offer.”
Also reflecting the idea that the chief focus was going to be on the players themselves, the PS4 was shown to have a wide array of online social features. The Playstation Network will be updated to coincide with the console’s launch to allow for this. Aside from Facebook and Ustream integration, plus a new brand of social network dedicated to gaming, it lets players share videos and screenshots, and watch friends playing live. The PSNetwork itself will continue to offer access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Epix, and Amazon, among others.
Video game titles, which have been mentioned thus far, have not been detailed in depth and in the case of many, there is little known about them beyond a name.
Recognisable titles are new games for the Final Fantasy, Killzone, and inFamous series (Shadow Fall and Second Son, respectively), with others such as a team racing title called Drive Club, a Sucker Punch exclusive to the console, and an open world puzzle game called The Witness from the creators of Braid. The presentation also displayed the presence of the Sony Move, with one game where the controller was used for a “sculpting game,” allowing you to create characters and then animate them on screen. One highly anticipated Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs, was given a live demo.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was the appearance of two developers who have had no involvement with Playstation consoles in the past. Along with Bungie coming to the Playstation 4 with Destiny, representatives from Blizzard Entertainment appeared announcing that Diablo 3 would be available for Sony’s new console. This is certainly a surprise, considering the game has been available for the better part of a year on PC systems, and with the criticisms of the title. It does suggest, however, that Blizzard might be a potential partner for the PS4 and we may see other titles from the developer in the future.
The announced release date for the Playstation 4 is ambiguously “holiday 2012” but that is no closer than would otherwise be expected for the system.