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PlayStation 2013

February 21, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

For weeks, Sony Computer Entertainment have been building up to a big announcement on the 20th February. As expected, it was an announcement for PlayStation 4, the fourth in the long-running series of PlayStation consoles.

First, the basics about the console. It’s going to be using PC architecture in order to overcome the issue the PS3 had with being difficult for developers to work with. This is a good sign for developers and is likely to lead to a wider selection of interesting games from a variety of sources, although there have been complaints from the more technically minded who claim it’s not that much of a leap forward technologically.

And they’re right, as all the gameplay demos pretty much showed a slight improvement in graphics quality, but not quite the leap we saw from the PS1 to PS2 or from PS3 to PS3. A facial expression demo from Quantic Dream’s David Cage, a live demo of the console’s Move capabilities from Media Molecule and various tech demos all looked very nice, but they weren’t earth-shattering.

As for those features, one major thing Sony are big on is a social side to PS4. Inspired by social networking and the various ways people talk about video games online, they’ve introduced a number of features to allow you to share your gameplay with others. Some of these sound awesome, such as the ability to stream gameplay direct to your friends, while others sound awkward and have me screaming for the ability to switch them off, such as the ability to get your friends to take over your games at the hard parts. That’s a feature that bugs me so much and worries me about its potential abuses. But I guess we’ll see how it works over the coming months.

Another thing that walked a fine line between exciting and worrying was the PS4’s ability to detect your gaming tastes, allowing it to anticipate future releases for you and customise recommendations for the PS Store. One thing that I’m sure sounds amazing to Sony but sounds less amazing to me is the apparent feature for the store to automatically download future releases and then convince you to buy them. While the aim is to reduce wait times when you buy games, it’s a system that could easily become frustrating if the system insists on downloading games you don’t want or don’t have the money for, therefore cluttering up your system with games you can’t actually play.

There’s also cloud gaming, and promisingly, this functionality is apparently going to allow you to try before you buy, which genuinely sounds interesting. I just wonder how it’s going to work.

There is also talk about reduced load times and start-up times, which is always good, and apparently the console has a hibernation mode similar to the handhelds, which I actually do approve of. We’ll just see how well it works when a massive firmware update needs to be downloaded!

The controller (naturally, the DualShock 4) was a relief to see. After rumours that Sony were redesigning the controller, I got worried. They tried that with the PS3 with the infamous “boomerang” controller and suffered for it, so to see it’s just an evolution of the controller rather than a straight re-design makes me pretty happy. Drawing from the console’s inevitable Vita connectivity, the DS4 features a small touch screen situated above the sticks. There’s also a share button, but I’ve already stated I genuinely don’t like the sound of the social aspects of the console and worry they’ll be intrusive, so the presence of the Share button doesn’t fill me with hope.

We never got to see what the console looks like, which is unfortunate, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of it at E3 later in the year.

So, what about the first announced games? Well, here’s a quick roundup of my thoughts.

Killzone: Shadow Fall
Not the best game to open with, quite frankly. With Sony making claims about revolutionising gaming, the worst game to open with is a futuristic first-person shooter. After all, this is the genre that’s pretty much littered the current gen, so announcing this first suggests we can expect even more of the same.

I’m not a fan of the Killzone franchise anyway, so while it certainly looked impressive, it’s still more of the same generic protagonists and faceless antagonists seen elsewhere in the franchise. If you like this sort of thing, I’m sure it’s great, but a massive disappointment as the first game to roll out.

Drive Club
The obligatory racing game. From Motorstorm creators Evolution Studios, this is apparently a team-based racing title with photorealistic cars. However, all that was really shown was the animation of getting into the cars while the director got far too excited over it. It’s all very nice that you’ve rendered every single fibre of the car seat, but how does this affect the gameplay that never got shown?

Infamous: Second Son
Not much was shown of this beyond a cinematic trailer inspired by the Occupy Movement, leading into the reveal that multiple people have superpowers and that a young protagonist tells the police cameras that “you’re not in control”.

This could certainly be interesting, since it looks like an expansion on the Infamous formula, and I enjoyed Infamous, but without any gameplay it’s hard to judge it. And sadly, it’s still notable that the new console still has no new ideas.

The Witness
Created by Braid director Jonathan Blow, The Witness was described as an open-world puzzle game. The trailer, however, showed little. We got some shots of reasonably nice scenery and some vague shots of what appeared to be some very dull-looking circuit board puzzles. For a game that its own developer hyped up like crazy, the trailer was a massive disappointment.

Shockingly, gaming journalists are already calling it the highlight of the night, describing it as high art and an example of the interesting ideas indie developers are coming up with. Some even called it thought-provoking. This was despite the fact that it showed exactly nothing. It’ll be interesting to see it in action, but something tells me this isn’t really the major gameplay revolution the gaming press wants to think it is.

Deep Down
The first of the third party titles, Deep Down came from Capcom. Much was made of their new engine “Panta Rhei” (prompting immediate snickers from Twitter with responses like “Panda Ray?” and “Panty Raid?”) before they showed a not-particularly-exciting swords ‘n’ sorcery high fantasy game, seemingly taking inspirations from the PS3’s Dark Souls.

I’m not a fan of high fantasy in any media, as my Hobbit review made clear, so stuff like this doesn’t excite me. And using it as a theme for next gen gaming isn’t helping anybody.

Future Final Fantasy title
Square Enix were up next, showing off the exact same tech demo they showed off at E3 last year before announcing an announcement for a PS4 Final Fantasy title. Because no one saw a Final Fantasy coming from Squeenix.

Watch Dogs
Ubisoft had already announced this game, prompting suspicions that it was running on next-gen hardware. Its appearance here was an official announcement that these suspicions were correct.

When I first heard about this game, I genuinely wasn’t interested since initial impressions gave me the impression it was yet another GTA-clone, but watching the gameplay here I realised that I was wrong. Watch Dogs looks genuinely interesting. It’s a detective story set in the near future where information is heavily monitored, and it looks intriguing and exciting.

Diablo 3
The least exciting announcement of the night. Diablo 3 is already out for PC. It got complaints about being always online for no reason. Wooooo

Open with a futuristic FPS…close with one too. If this is next gen gaming, then it really is more of the same.

Much fuss has been made over Destiny, which is the big new title from Halo developers Bungie. It’s basically a “shared-world” FPS, which can be summed up as a Halo MMO. I don’t like space marines and futuristic FPSes, so for all this game’s hype, I really don’t care about it.

Shown amidst the console’s announcement (and therefore I keep forgetting it got announced), it’s hard to know what to think of Knack, a new Sony Japan effort with direction from esteemed developer Mark Cerny. The trailer looked more like a Dreamworks movie than a PlayStation game, so without any gameplay, it’s hard to know what to think. This could be interesting, though.

So, overall, the announcement was a little bit of a letdown. Only a handful of interesting looking games, no clue what the console actually looks like, and no real release date or price tag. I’m sure E3 will give more insight, but for now it’s kind of a maybe on whether or not I’ll get it.

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