PlayStation 4’s reveal was big, but I’m still on the fence

Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:49 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Stephany Nunneley reports her impressions from Sony’s PS4 reveal event in New York City last night: while the party was large, she isn’t sold just yet.

Bravo on your big reveal tonight, Sony. You teased the hell out of all of us. You left us wanting more. But I’m not sold.

Sony knows how to host a party. All developers and publishers do. They rent out a theater with murals, sconces and balconies, and play thumping house music to get your feet tapping. It’s always the same. Everyone stands in line to get in the doors before being herded into a large, lovely room like cattle to slaughter. Everyone takes seats, gets prepped, maybe chats a bit with the person next to them, maybe eavesdrops on the conversation behind them. Sometimes the air is electric with anticipation; sometimes everyone’s just checking their watches, waiting for it to end.

Tonight the atmosphere was one of cautious optimism, but Sony was determined eliminate doubt. One of the first things Andrew House said when he stepped on stage was this was a “moment of truth and a bold step forward,” how Sony was creating a “magical experience” which can only be found in its world: the world of PlayStation.

Wonderful. Whip it out, Sony. We’ve been dying to see this not-so-secret console you’ve been working on for the last five years. Wait – you want to show us slides first. The slides tell us, along with lead system architect Mark Cerny, that the new console has a deep feature set; super-charged architecture featuring a x86 CPU; an enhanced PC GPU; 8GB of unified memory; and a local HDD.

Nice. Can we see this gorgeously powerful living-room console? No, the soft spoken Cerny has more to tell us first. He wants to talk about DualShock 4, which Sony and game developers worked on together in order to “enhance the feel of the joystick and finger buttons.”

It comes with a headphone jack, a light bar, share button, touch-pad, and a separate camera for motion-sensing. Cool. What does the touch-pad do? We still haven’t seen it work.

And we still have no idea what the PlayStation 4 will look like. Sony didn’t show it off. Not even a picture.

Caring and sharing

The big take-away from the event was one of social and sharing. This seems to be PlayStation’s future, and whether or not the old guard comes along for the ride willingly remains to be seen.

Sony talked the talk tonight, showed a lot of flash and made a lot of promises, but I was left wondering when I walked out of the venue whether it can deliver. Is this just a glorified social networking machine or a true gaming console?

Another question mark hung over “always-connected” element. David Perry is an intelligent man. He knows his stuff, and if anyone can deliver a fast gaming network, he and his team at Gaikai can do it. But what good is a “lightning fast” service to play games if players are unable to connect? Will latency be an issue if people live, say, out in the middle of a horse farm in God’s Country USA? Will Gaikai have servers available in all reachable areas of America? Of the world?

I think it’s a fantastic idea to be able to start playing a game automatically – as you can with some PC games – and allow the rest to download quietly in the background. But, again, what about people who don’t have a stable internet connection? We don’t have the answer to this either because, like many of PS4’s features, all will be better explained at a later date.

Haven’t I seen you some place before?

As for the games, the audience was really excited over the new Killzone. Lots of hooting and clapping before and after the live demo. I am usually skeptical of press conference performances because it’s hard to tell if it is choreographed or not, but, regardless, it was a damn nice looking game.

I wasn’t really sure what Media Molecule was up to. Was it a claymation game, a Move game, LittleBigPlanet on steroids? I was left wondering what the point to the title was – if it was a title at all – and it seemed the rest of the audience felt the same. Still, it’s MM we’re talking about here, so I’m sure whatever it is will be fun and creative.

Naughty Dog’s no show was a downer, Sucker Punch’s third installment in the InFamous series was expected, and while we know Sony Studios is up to more than just God of War it would have been nice to see more.

The most excited developer was Evolution Studios with new IP Drive Club.

When Blizzard’s Chris Metzen took the stage, I heard at least three different people in the room shout out “StarCraft Ghost”. As you all know by now their guess was wrong: Metzen was there to announce Diablo 3 for PS3 and PS4. The crowd seemed disappointed, but I know more than a few PS3 users who’ll be tickled over the news.

Tech demos and special guests

When Yohsiro Ono stepped on stage to reveal Capcom’s Panta Rhei engine, the crowd became more energetic. How can you not when faced with Ono and his massive smile? The tech demo looked really impressive (and not just because I love anything with fantasy elements and dragons).

David Cage’s briefing discussed a new PS4 engine, and while the render of the old man looked impressive, human eyes still seem to plague many developers no matter how powerful their engine is. The uncanny valley is alive and well, still, and until I get to see more than just an old man’s head spinning around I won’t be able to form an opinion on Quantic Dream’s new tech.

Unreal Engine 4 and Square’s Luminous Engine looked just as lovely as when we saw them the first time last year.

While all these tech demos were nice to see (I mean, who doesn’t like graphics, particle effects, beautifully rendered water and every color of the rainbow splattered across their vision in HD?), I just felt something was missing through all of this: concrete information.

Here’s what I was hoping to get when I walked into the Sony event tonight: a glimpse of PS4; more information on how the “always-connected” aspect will work; details on the touch-pad integrated into the DualShock 4; an idea of how much this thing is going to cost.

I didn’t expect a date, or any form of hands-on. Sony isn’t ready yet, and, honestly, none of us in the audience were really expecting it. Just more information.

However, I believe there’s a method to the madness here. While it would be easy to believe Sony jumped the gun on its announcements, you could argue yesterday’s event was an ingeniously orchestrated move to beat Microsoft to the punch. I personally think it’s the latter.

Going ahead of the Seattle giant gives plenty of time to build buzz for E3. Despite the lack of information tonight, I think it will work in Sony’s favor.

So, bravo on your big reveal tonight, Sony. You teased the hell out of all of us. You left us wanting more. But I’m not sold. While I’m not too fond of the “sharing” aspect of the console, I hope we won’t have to use those features if we don’t wish to. We don’t know yet, of course. And, until I find out more information on how people – like me – with a spotty internet service will be able to use PS4 without issue, I will remain on the fence.