Sony PlayStation 4 unveiled

It’s hard to believe that the PlayStation 3 was launched over six years ago. The PS3’s arrival heralded a new generation for gaming and cemented Blu-ray’s credentials as the de facto high definition movie format.

Although Sony’s vision of the PlayStation 3 being a complete media hub rather than just a gaming console wasn’t immediately embraced, users eventually started to realise the potential and power that was sitting under their TV. Even today, the PS3 is one of the most fully featured media hubs on the market, as well as a powerful and versatile gaming device.

So what can the PlayStation 4 bring to the table?

Lead system architect on PlayStation 4, Mark Cerny said that he started working on the PS4 five years ago, while the PS3 was still in its infancy, and while that new console was pushing the boundaries and blurring the lines between gaming and media delivery, it was just the beginning.

“The PS4 system architecture is like a PC, but supercharged” says Cerny. The PS4 will be based on X86 architecture courtesy of an eight-core CPU, which will be backed up by a state of the art GPU and 8GB of GDDR5 unified memory.

Storage comes courtesy of a large hard drive, which seems a little odd considering that the latest PS3 versions have extremely limited storage, and that Sony has been pushing the idea of cloud storage for save games on its current generation devices.

The PS4 will ship with a Dual-Shock 4 controller, which benefits from a touchpad, much like the rear of the PlayStation Vita. There’s a headphone socket and a light bar to identify each player. There’s a camera bar that tracks the controller too, which one assumes means that Dual-Shock 4 is PlayStation Move capable too.

The PS4 will be able to suspend and resume almost immediately, meaning that you can simply stop playing and power the console down into low-power mode. When you return to the console and hit the power button your game will resume from the exact point when you left it.

There’s a powerful video encoder built into the PS4, so you can easily and quickly upload a video of your gameplay to share with friends. You can also view friends’ games in real-time as they play, allowing you to jump in and join the action if it looks like they need help.

The PlayStation 4 will take personalisation to the next level. No longer will you have to configure your system to suit your needs, it will simply learn what you want and present it to you. The PS4 will even work out what kind of games you will want to play and ensure that they’re downloaded and ready to play when you switch the machine on.

When Sony acquired Gaiki it became clear that cloud gaming would be a key component of PlayStation 4. Gaiki has focused on making the PlayStation Network and the PS4 the best possible sharing and social platform for gaming.

Thanks to Gaiki technology you will be able to hit a share button and broadcast your game to all your friends. This isn’t just to massage your ego as you show off your skills, you can also use it if you’re stuck and need help. And, if one of your friends is watching on his PS4, he can drop in and get you past that tough boss that’s been kicking your butt for the past two hours.

There will be a new version of Remote Play, which will put a second screen into play. The PS Vita will be the companion screen, allowing you to throw your game directly to a Vita, with the execution occurring on the PlayStation 4. Basically, it’s a similar concept to Nividia’s Shield running PC games remotely.

Some of the Gaiki technology has been built into the PlayStation 4 allowing it to be a gaming server, while the Vita becomes the client. This technology has vastly reduced latency, which should ensure that you’re not frustrated when playing your PS4 titles on your Vita.

“Everything Everywhere is the vision of the PlayStation Cloud Services” – the goal is to be able to play every PlayStation game from every generation of console on your PS4.

PlayStation 4 Games

KillZone Shadow Fall was shown off at the launch event and it looked pretty damn good. There were some beautiful lighting and shadow effects on show, along with impressive draw distances. There was liberal use of particle effects and fogging too, with no sign of slow down. On the whole it looked more like a PC FPS than a console game.

If KillZone is a launch title for the PS4, it’s going to sell a lot of consoles.

Evolution Studios showed off its latest driving game, Drive Club - “It’s all about driving the best cars in the world, in the best locations in the world, but doing it together.” This is a driving game that focuses on collaborative gameplay, with friends, in teams.

Drive Club looks great, with beautifully rendered cars allowing you to live out your automotive fantasies without going bankrupt. Unlike other racing games, Drive Club plays as a first person experience – you start outside the car and have to climb inside the cabin before you can even start the engine.

This game does look truly special, and could well give GT and Forza a run for their money when it hits the streets. The level of detail on the cars, both inside and out is staggering, and again the lighting effects and draw distances are impressive.

Sucker Punch showed off its latest game, which will be exclusively available on the PS4 – inFamous: Second Son. It looks pretty good, but there wasn’t much in the way of gameplay given away during the demo. That said, inFamous was refreshingly original and fun to play, so it’s probably a safe bet that Second Son will deliver the goods.

Jonathan Blow waved the flag for indie gaming at the PlayStation 4 event, talking about his new game The Witness. He's been working on The Witness for three years – "it's a puzzle game, but the puzzles aren't just arbitrary."

The Witness will provide 25-hours of gameplay, and it will be a PS4 exclusive. The demo certainly showed that it has a suitably sparse and minimalist feel that indie game fans will no doubt love. After pomp, explosions and lush environments of the previous demos, The Witness demo lacks impact, but let's remember that Limbo looked pretty basic too!

David Cage from Quantic Dream made an unsurprising appearance. After the huge visual impact that Heavy Rain brought to the gaming arena, there was little doubt that Quantic Dream would be working on a PS4 showcase.

Quantic Dream has developed a completely new engine, and the real-time demo that was shows at the event was staggeringly good. In fact you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a pre-rendered scene.

Yoshinori Ono from Capcom took the stage at the PS4 event to talk about a new engine, code named Panta Rhei – “Panta Rhei will allow Capcom to take game design in new directions.”

The Deep Down demo, which uses the Panta Rhei engine looked simply stunning, even more so if you’ve got a thing for dragons. Assuming that Deep Down was a real-time demo, we can expect something very special from Capcom on the PS4.

Square-Enix also showed a demo of its custom engine running on PlayStation 4. It looked very cinematic, but a bit too heavy handed on the handheld camera effects for my liking.

When you’ve been covering 3D graphics for as long as I have, you take demos with a kilo or two of salt. Until I see these effects in a real-time gaming environment I’ll refrain from being too impressed.

That said, the Luminous Engine will be employed for a new Final Fantasy title, which will be unveiled at E3 in the Summer.

Ubisoft took to the stage to talk about Watch Dogs, which is the game the game that stole the show at E3 last year, and the title that I’m most excited about playing.

When Watch Dogs was shown at E3 last year it was generally assumed to be running on PC hardware, but the demo tonight was running on the PS4. Seeing Watchdogs demoed again just reminded me why I’m so desperate to play this game, it looks staggeringly good.

The lighting effects, rich texture maps and dynamic range are nothing short of breath taking. Despite all the visual eye candy, the movement is silky smooth and immersive. The term interactive movie is overused by game developers, but it really could be applied to Watch Dogs.

Blizzard will be bringing Diablo III to the PlayStation 4 as well as launching it on the PS3. The PlayStation version of Diablo III will allow four-player co-op mode on one screen, allowing team monster bashing from the comfort of your sofa.

Activision took the final leg of the game developer marathon and talked up Bungie’s new project, Destiny. As a hardcore Halo fan, I can’t wait for Destiny, and every new frame of in-game action that Bungie shows off just heightens that anticipation.

Multi-player co-op will be a defining feature of Destiny, which will appeal to the Halo faithful. Destiny will be launched on both the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation 3, and considering that Halo was an Xbox exclusive launch title, this is quite a coup for Sony.

Summary

Well that’s it. The PlayStation 4 is official. It boasts pretty high-spec PC components and includes bespoke cloud gaming technology. There’s going to be a huge focus on social sharing and collaboration through the PlayStation Network and the ability to stream a multitude of games via PlayStation Cloud Services.

It looks like Remote Play will finally come of age, with the PlayStation Vita able to stream any PlayStation 4 game in all it’s graphical glory, so Microsoft is going to have to get its act together with Smart Glass pretty sharpish.

And then there’s the games. KillZone Shadow Fall looks stunning, and could be a landmark title for the new console, just like KillZone 2 was for the PS3. Drive Club also looks great, and if Capcom’s Panta Rhei engine lives up to the promise it showed tonight, Resident Evil 7 is going to be fabulous.

Watch Dogs looks even better on the PlayStation 4 than it did at E3 last year, and Destiny is what console FPS fans have been waiting for. Conspicuous by his absence, however, was Nathan Drake. I was waiting to see Naughty Dog take the stage and show, at least a brief glimpse of Uncharted 4, but it was not to be.

That aside, it was a pretty compelling event from Sony, and there can’t be too many disappointed PlayStation fans out there. Now we just need to know when it's hitting the streets and how much it will cost.