After months of rumors and speculation, Sony has finally revealed the PlayStation 4 at a special event in New York City – well, details of the console, but not the console itself. The company revealed a wide range of impressive features for the new system, including a DualShock 4 controller that syncs with a 3D camera, games streamed from a cloud service, and the ability to play PS4 games on the PlayStation Vita. Here's everything you need to know about Sony's next gaming console.
One of the most noticeable features of the new PlayStation is the DualShock 4 controller, which blends the basic form of past PlayStation controllers (two short hand grips, dual analog sticks, four main face buttons, etc.) with some completely new elements. In the center is a small touchpad, which allows users to interact with games and other programs much like a tablet or smartphone. It also includes a headset jack (a mono headset will be bundled with the console), built-in speaker, and a light bar on the front that changes color to designate different players and match on-screen actions.
The controller will also sync to the newly-revealed PlayStation 4 Eye, a 3D camera that uses two wide-angle lenses for depth perception, similar to the Xbox Kinect. Players will use the Eye for motion controls, face recognition, and better precision with the Move controller. The PS4 Eye also incorporates four microphones for distinguishing between different voices and can detect the positions of players in the room using the light bar on the DualShock 4.
The main feature of the controller Sony pointed out, though, was the Share button, a dedicated button that activates a number of social functions depending on what you're doing. At any time, you can press the button to broadcast that you're online, communicate with friends, and watch them play their games live. The PS4 always has a video compression and decompression system running, so you can also use the Share button to take screenshots and record video clips, which you can then instantly upload to Facebook and other social sites. In certain games, friends will be able to drop helpful items into the gamespace for you to use or even take control from you remotely to help out on difficult levels or bosses.
Sony has upgraded the processing and graphics capabilities considerably by including a chip with eight x86-64 AMD cores and an AMD Radeon GPU with 1.84 Teraflops of processing power. The console is equipped with 8 GB of GDDR5 internal memory, which is unified to enable 176 GB/s of bandwidth for some impressive graphical feats. To demonstrate the new visuals, Sony showed a live demo created with Havok's physics engine of a million blue balls falling over a cityscape and bouncing around individually.
Here are the full specs released by Sony:
The main goal Sony stressed with the PS4 was decreasing the time it takes to actually start playing a game once a person has sat down in front of their TV. To this end, the PS4 will be able to go into a "suspend mode" at any time just by pressing the power button on the controller. This will pause a game and put the console in a low-power state, letting a user pick right back up where they left off at a moment's notice. Additionally, players will be able to load certain programs, like the web browser, without shutting down the game.
The hardware also incorporates a second chip just for background processing, meaning software updates can be downloaded and installed with a game running or with the system in standby. Sony has even gone a step further and incorporated some of Gaikai's streaming technology to allow gamers to play games as soon as they're purchased. The console will simply download a portion of a title and then download the rest as you play – no more waiting an hour for a full game to download so you can play it.
Taking a cue from Nintendo's Wii U, the PlayStation 4 will allow players to stream certain games from their home console directly to the handheld PlayStation Vita, so next-gen games can be played even without a television. Adding to that, Sony is releasing a PlayStation App for iOS and Android that will turn any smartphone or tablet into a secondary screen on select titles. The second screen can be used as a game map, to watch another player's game, or purchase games and other media.
For all the PS4's advances though, a game console is still only as good as its games, and plenty of developers showed up to Sony's announcement with their latest projects in tow (except for Square Enix, who showed off the same Agni's Philosophy tech demo from last year's E3). Many developers focused on the improved graphics capabilities, such as Evolution Studios with its racing title, Driveclub, which models each unique material of every car almost photorealistically. Capcom unveiled a fantasy game with the working title Deep Down, which was made with it's new Panta Rhei game engine. Quantic Dream – who previously created an astounding tech demo with the PS3 – also announced a new game engine aimed at building characters in such detail that even the subtlest emotions could be recreated.
The next installments of some PlayStation-exclusive franchises were also shown, including Killzone: Shadow Fall and Infamous: Second Son, as well as a unique title called Knack, which centers around a creature that grows and shrinks by absorbing or dropping thousands of tiny objects. Blizzard took the stage to announce forthcoming ports of Diablo 3 on both the PS4 and PS3, while Bungie revealed plans to bring its upcoming title, Destiny, to Sony's console. LittleBigPlanet developer, Media Molecule, was the only one to demonstrate how the PlayStation Move controller could come into play by forming a digital sculpture and allowing others to reshape it. Finally, Ubisoft practically stole the show once more with some new gameplay from its hacker-centric game, Watch Dogs.
Unfortunately, with all these impressive features, there was bound to be at least one negative bit of news. Sony revealed that the PS4 will not play PS3 games natively, so your library of PS3 discs won't work in the new console. On the plus side, Sony did mention plans to bring PS3 games to users using Gaikai's streaming technology, which could also include support for PS1 and PS2 games.
Though Sony revealed quite a bit at tonight's event, it still left a lot to be revealed at a later date, most notably the PS4 console itself. Though numerous speakers heaped loads of praise on Sony's new gaming system, the hardware itself was nowhere to be seen. Whether the company is leaving something up its sleeve for future events like E3 and PAX or whether the design of the console is still being finalized, it was still a strange omission for such a huge announcement.
The PlayStation 4 is set to release this "holiday season," though no official pricing has been announced yet. Sony definitely has an array of impressive features to get excited about though, and we'll no doubt hear – and hopefully see – more before that release day comes.
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