PlayStation 4 is Go for Launch!

After months of leaks, speculation, theories and ponderings, Sony has finally stepped forward and announced their next generation console, the PlayStation 4. In a flurry sweeping marketing statements such as “a bold step forward” and a few mentions of the word ‘synergy’, Sony has given us our first look at their offering for the new console generation. This is just a figurative ‘look’, keep in mind, seeing as they never actually showed us the console. But I digress.

Needless to say, this has put a great deal of rumor-mongering to rest, and has given some insight as to the direction Sony is planning to take in the next-gen console game. Lets take a look at some of the highlights.

Social Interaction

Social and online interaction has become all the rage in game companies these days, and Sony isn’t immune. That being said, they’ve come forward with a set of interesting features that seem to be driven by issues gamers are having right now, rather than issues Sony plans on inventing. Most notably is the ability to stream, record, trim and upload your gameplay clips during gameplay. Your standard user might not leverage this too frequently, but I can see this as being a great boon to the rich streaming and broadcasting community out there.

On top of that, there appears to be the ability to interact with other gamers currently online, drop in and out of their games, and even have a friend take control of your game, in order to help you through a difficult level. Interesting stuff all around, not sure how it will be in execution, but my interest is still piqued.

User Interface

We got our first look at the PS4 user interface, and it seems Sony is abandoning their traditional look they had held for the past two generations. The current look of it seems to resemble the 360 or Metro user interface, with a large screen of boxed icons and widgets. Not a ton to say about this, but its interesting to see them running off in a new direction.

Games?

Yes, there were games demoed at this game console announcement! But I find myself in an odd predicament…I don’t really know what to tell you. Killzone looked like a very nicely rendered Killzone game, Driveclub looked like a very nicely rendered driving game…but that is the sum total of insight I can give you.

To be frank, I didn’t get a sense that the gaming experience would be fundamentally improved, other than adding some greater graphical capabilities. It will all come down to what third party developers are able to do with the hardware after launch. On that note…

Hardware

Our first look at the new DualShock controller

The hardware specs were released, and without going into too much detail, they are as comparatively beastly as expected(as far as consoles go, that is.) Though specs aren’t everything, it seems as though Sony has gone through pains to deliver a console developers can use, an approach that has been a long time coming. From what I gather from individuals who understand the development game far better than I, Sony has made some excellent engineering decisions that should make it easier for developers.

Easy for developers generally means more and better games. So I’m all for that.

Updates

Addressing one of the most prominent user complaints, Sony has tackled the notion of game and console updates head on. The PS4 will now be able to enter a low-power state when it is not fully on, allowing it to update when the console is not active, hopefully eliminating that 20 minute firmware update on startup issue that had vexed so many gamers. On top of that, you will now be able to play downloadable titles before they complete. So if you only have the first three levels of a game downloaded, you’re welcome to play that while the rest completes.

How easy that feature is to implement in all games is yet to be seen.

Remote Play

Leveraging technology from one of its subsidiaries, Gaikai, you will be able to stream games from your PS4 and play them on your Vita. Similar in concept to what Nintendo has done with the WiiU, but only requiring another couple-hundred dollar piece of hardware. So I’m not entirely sold on this notion yet. It seems great for those who own a Vita, but doesn’t quite seem to be enough incentive to buy a Vita, especially after dropping an undisclosed amount on the PlayStation hardware itself.

At the end of it all, I’m impressed enough with what Sony had to offer to remain interested, but I don’t think they’ve sold me on the concept just yet. I need to see a bit more than prettier versions of older games before I’d be willing to invest, but I’ll be keeping my eye out from here on in. The platform itself seems solid, the hardware is great, and the social features may be brushing closer to how gamers are interacting now.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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