Sony’s PlayStation 4 Unveiling, Our Impressions From New York
Written Thursday, February 21, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Sat waiting in the packed out room at the Manhattan Centre in New York, a mix of emotions washed over us. On the one hand, we were sat in anticipation waiting for the first console announcement of the new generation. After Sunday's Bungie and Destiny "unveiling," Sony had been handed a lifeline, a lifeline that said, "whatever you do, it'll be better than Bungie's unveiling." It was.
It's wasn't without its own pressures though, as being first out the blocks with the next generation announcement means Sony is effectively setting the benchmark.
The other emotion was excitement. Having only come into the console media market this generation, this was officially our first experience of this whole next generation phenomenon. Boy, we've come a long way as a network in 7 years and that hit home pretty hard.
Fast forward two hours and those emotions were replaced by relief. Relief that the console had finally been unveiled, offering a glimpse of the new Sony. A Sony that 5 years ago wouldn’t have been able to put on such a show. We had admiration. Admiration that Sony, with the pressure on and backs to the wall, delivered for the most part.
Okay, so first things first, the best news, no matter how inevitable it was, it's called the PS4 and it has trophies. We have that domain so that means we'll be with you for another generation... not that we wouldn't have been anyway, but this makes things easier in terms of redirects and what not
Now onto the meat of it. Just how well did Sony perform? Well, if there was a prize for delaying the inevitable, and that's formally announcing the PlayStation 4, then they would have won, with it taking them 7 minutes by my reckoning to mention the two words in succession.
Sure, the first 10-15 minutes might have been full of marketing spiel and hyperbole, but did you expect any less? When the push came to the shove though, they started to shine.
Mark Cerny, Lead System Architect on the PS4, lead the charge, throwing spec after spec to the onlookers in the theatre. The X86 CPU, 8 GB unified memory, and detailed information on the graphics card might well have baffled any non tech savvy person in the audience or at home, but the short and narrow of it is that the PlayStation 4 is one hell of a powerful machine.
One of the key messages that Sony conveyed perfectly through its presentation was that the PlayStation is no longer a bitch to develop for, calling it a console created by developers, for developers. This is something that Microsoft has had over Sony for the entirety of this current generation and Sony referring to the PS4 as a "supercharged PC" must come across as a delight for developers.
Then came the controller, effectively confirming every rumour that spilled out on to the internet last week, from the touch screen and the headphone jack to the ‘Share’ button. Those rumours failed to convey the extent to which Sony had put on social networking with the PS4 though. You know, the fact that you can not only share gameplay and watch someone else play on their console, but that you can remotely control their game should they wish you to.
David Perry, CEO of Gaikai, was next on the stage talking about the new evolution of the PS Store and such, with highlights that included instant try-before-you-buy, a partnership with Facebook, and more impressively, the integration of Ustream, and of course, remote play via the Vita. The bombshell that the PS4 wouldn't be backwards compatible is likely to sting Sony fans, but Sony said they are looking to get around that via the cloud. Damage control, yes. Will you likely have to play for titles again to play them on your PS4, you can bet your bottom dollar you will! It’s the price that gamers have to pay for the new architecture of the PS4.
The PlayStation 4 is about instant access and the announcement that the PS4 will have instant play for digital downloads, and have instant suspend and resume with the power button will come as a delight for a generation of gamers who want content quicker.
Sony can talk about the core tenets as much as they like (you know, the whole Simple, Immediate, Personalisation, Integrated, Social thing... or as I like to call it, I PISS), but a console is judged on its games and so Sony had to put its money where its mouth is.
Game announcements included Sucker Punch's latest inFAMOUS title, Cerny's Knack, which was clearly used as a tech demo of sorts as it wasn’t incredibly mind-blowing, Evolution's Driveclub and an announcement likely to anger entitled PC fans, that Diablo 3 was coming to the PS3 and PS4.
The photo realistic was balanced out with Jonathan Blow's The Witness, although that was an interesting choice for Sony as it hardly packed a punch; the playful and mind-boggling tech demo from Media Molecule – basically to remind us that Move was still a big part of Sony’s long-term plans – was balanced out with the hyper realistic tech demo from Quantic Dreams’ David Cage... that face... wow. Just, wow.
Everything seemed to be paced excellently – as long as you weren’t expecting too much from the console’s announcement – and Sony covered both ends of the spectrum throughout. Guest appearances from Capcom – with their new IP, Deep Down (working title) – and Square, both showing off their new engines, was another win for Sony and its system, as was showing off more of the wave-making Watch Dogs. That Final Fantasy “announcement” though… yeah, we don’t know what that was about. The one true disappointment of the unveiling.
How much of it was cinematics as opposed to in-game footage remains to be seen, so forgive us for being slightly sceptical at this stage - it's in our nature, especially after the Killzone 2 incident from the PS3 era. The fact that Guerrilla uploaded a gameplay video direct to Facebook from the in-game menu though keeps our hopes high.
In all though, Sony don't really have the greatest track record when it comes to conferences, but one thing is for sure after last night, they picked a perfect time to bring their A game. Their PS4 unveiling had swagger, showed the world the system's innovations, wowed people with its visual prowess and they even silenced the critics by revealing the system specs. Sure, we didn't get to see a the unit itself and some of the games were hardly innovative or original, but now we know what's under the hood and what it's capable of, and that’s a good start.
Honestly, I'm not sure anyone was expecting that much of an in-depth look with a solid stable of games and tech demos to back it up, one not bogged down with pointless stats and bumph either, so the platform holder has delivered. More importantly, Sony have laid impressive foundations with their unveiling, and now they have the next 8 months to kick on, drive it home and really impress us.
Your move, Microsoft, the bar has been set... and it's pretty damn high too!
You can read all of our news coverage from the PlayStation 4 announcement here, and check out all of the screens and vids here. We were also snapping pics from the event itself, all of which you can see here.