PS4 makes a splash at E3 | Bangkok Post: tech

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PS4 makes a splash at E3

Sony's latest PlayStation was a hit at the Electronic Entertainment Expo

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  • Newspaper section: Brunch
  • Writer: Scott Stein
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The PlayStation 4 kept its appearance _ and price _ under wraps until the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Las Vegas earlier this month. 

The PS4 was originally announced at an event in New York back in February, during which we heard lots of details about features and strategy, but didn't glimpse the system itself _ just its new controller.

Now that it's been revealed, we know that it's ... a black box. In fact, it not only looks like a PlayStation 2 on steroids, but it bears more than a passing resemblance to the equally portly and piano-black Xbox One.

DESIGN

About that design _ the angled parallelogram design of the PS4 clearly conjures PlayStations of the past, most clearly the PS2. It's an attractive look, but it's boxy; it doesn't seem nearly as big as the Xbox One, however.

Also, box design really means nothing. But, hey, at least we know what it'll look like next to our TV, and it's fine-looking without being obtrusive.

USED GAMES

Yes _ the PS4 will support used games, and not need to be online in order to play games. Both of these issues have reared their head with the Xbox One. And the PS4 will support the same PlayStation Plus service as the Vita and PS3, with no new subscription price increase _ it's all folded together.

The PS4 will have its own Instant Game collection service: Drive Club PS Plus Edition will be the first free game at launch, with one free game a month after that. Titles will include Don't Starve and Outlast.

VIDEO CONTENT AND SERVICES

Leading off PS4 discussions at E3 was mention of Sony's video efforts, seemingly aiming for a similar type of video-content approach with the console as Microsoft has with the Xbox One. Sony touted its studio strength and the eventual launch of exclusive videos coming only to the PS4, but it's unclear what those are. Video services such as Video Unlimited, Redbox and Flixster are some of the services launching on the PlayStation Network in the US, but it looks like these services will be available on the PS3, too.

The big challenge with fronting content as a reason to buy a console is this: Can game systems really become video networks? Microsoft and Sony seem to be betting on this direction, and it's a dicey endeavour.

GAIKAI AND CLOUD STREAMING

Gaikai cloud technology, acquired last year by Sony, was discussed back in February as a possible trial-based way of playing games before buying, working via streaming-game technology. Back then, David Perry, CEO of Gaikai, discussed the many ways that PlayStation Cloud services will potentially reinvent the back end of the PlayStation experience.

Gaikai technology will also be used to power the PS4's spectating experiences, and that aforementioned ability to continually one-button broadcast your game progress via Share. It's certainly the first time a home gaming console has entered this territory, although PC gamers have enjoyed similar types of functions and services (OnLive, for instance). The streaming/sharing technology will also work with Facebook and Ustream.

NEW GAMES

Sony demonstrated games at E3 _ as you'd expect _ in a mix of new titles and sequels: The Order, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Infamous: Second Son and The Dark Sorcerer. Some of these were teased back in February at Sony's last event. It was hard to glean what advantages the PS4 was offering these games that the PS3 couldn't accomplish, but for the most part these games looked pretty.

Sony has also pledged massive third-party support, and a very easy process for independent developers to publish on the PS4.

HARDWARE

The PlayStation 4, as you'd expect, has impressively bumped specs:

- An eight-core X86 AMD Jaguar CPU.

- A 1.84 teraflop AMD Radeon graphics engine (with "18 compute units").

- 8GB of GDDR5 memory.

- Hard-drive storage (not SSD).

- Blu-ray drive.

- Three USB 3.0 ports.

- 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi.

- Ethernet, HDMI, Bluetooth 2.1, optical audio and analogue A/V out.

The PS4 will use a hard drive for storage versus an SSD, but the included capacity in the box (and whether it'll be as easily swappable as the PS3's hard drive) hasn't been specified. The specs overall match that of a modern PC with integrated AMD processors and graphics, or so it seems. It's not a particularly stunning set of specs for a PC, but it's far ahead of any existing game console. It's just not as ahead-of-its-time on the hardware end as the original PlayStation 3 seemed to be.

Immediacy of response reducing lag time while accessing content is also one of the promised PS4 features (unlike the extremely laggy Wii U, perhaps). The PS4 will allow speedy background downloading, and Sony claims that games will even be playable as they're being downloaded.

What about PS3 games playing on the PS4? Sony has so far discussed PS3 gameplay on the PS4 under the same umbrella as playing PS1 and PS2 games, via a digital library in a yet-to-be-determined PlayStation cloud service. Whether this would be accomplished via streaming, digital downloads or emulation wasn't specified, but it sounds like Sony's answer to the Virtual Console.

TOUCH AND MOVE

The new DualShock 4 controller is one of the few parts of the PS4 that there are actual pictures of. Much like the advance rumours, it feels like a fusion of the PlayStation DualShock with some of the design philosophies of both the Vita and the Move. It has enhanced rumble, a touch pad, a Share button, a standard headphone/microphone jack and a light-up bar. The two-finger touch pad with click, located right in the middle of the controller, has the same look as the pad on the back of the PS Vita handheld. The DualShock 4 also has a Micro-USB port, Bluetooth 2.1 and linear and rotational motion sensors.

The PlayStation 4 Eye has also been redesigned: Instead of the single webcam-like lens setup before, the new Kinect-like bar has stereo cameras, and works with the light bar for motion control.

ONLINE: THE NEW SOCIAL SHARING

Sony promises that you'll be able to scan the last few minutes of your gameplay with the push of a Share button on the DualShock 4, uploading screenshots or clips, and even chat during other people's games, just like PC gamers already do. Many screens shown at the PlayStation event show what looks like a serious revamp of Sony's social gaming network, using what look like real photos and names for players. Whether or not video game footage-sharing is a feature with mainstream appeal has yet to be determined.


The PlayStation 4 will retail in the US for US$399 (12,300 baht) _ undercutting Microsoft's Xbox One by $100. Pricing in Asia is yet to be announced.

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