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Due for general UK release on the 29th of this month, the wait for many has already become almost unbearable. With Sony having announced preorder sales that trump those of its previous consoles, the PlayStation 4 is set to be in high demand this Christmas. I admit I’ve always loved Sony and although they may not still be the technology giant they once were in other markets, they have no plans of letting go of their grip on the gaming industry.
Although many have criticised the squared, blocky and somewhat bulky exterior of this new console, it’s certainly the inside that counts in regards to this machine and it houses some very impressive specs. Hopefully, as with its previous consoles, Sony will with time release slimmer and more stylish versions of the PS4 for those who truly find this initial offering to be just too much of an eyesore.
Inside the gut of the beast powering it is an AMD next-generation Radeon based graphics engine GPU with 1152 shaders, an impressive 8GB GDDR5 RAM, and a single-chip x86 AMD “Jaguar” processor with 8 cores. But in all honesty powerful specs were always almost guaranteed right from its first announcement and increasingly it takes a lot more than just stunning graphics and a powerful engine to impress gamers and Sony knows this. This new console is packed with an array of features to justify its position as the forerunner of the new console wars.
Instantly from even just a first glance the PlayStation 4 controller looks like a distinct evolution from its predecessors. Naturally it keeps all the distinctive original buttons that have come to be iconic of the PlayStation, however it now has a far more rounded design and feel and includes a capacitive touch panel at the head of the controller and has an improved six-axis motion sensor.
The new PS4 Eye camera accessory has also been upgraded for better motion gameplay, featuring dual cameras with an 85-degree wide-angle field of vision. The new camera accessory will accurately map the location of players in the room and interact and respond to signals from the light bar on the new controller. Rather than the tiny square lights of the current PS3 controllers, Sony has now also included an illuminated bar on the controller to both identify players and correspond with events and provide notifications in games. This, along with the touch capacitive panel and improved six-axis sensor, will expand the motion based gameplay potentially available from games; and Sony has also been keen to demonstrate applications that utilise the existing PlayStation Move controllers. So although this may not be a primary focus Sony has shown it refuses to be beaten by the motion gameplay options available from rival consoles.
The controller also includes a headphone socket and speaker, equipped with the option for voice commands alongside the headset the PS4 comes with too. This is not just to expand the gaming experience options available in games but also part of the console’s push for increased social gaming possibilities. As part of this push Sony has included a brand new ‘share’ button on the controller. Now you can use this new share option to instantly share and upload media with social networking sites such as Facebook.
The most interesting and perhaps most discussed option available with the new share button is the ability to upload and share gameplay footage. The PlayStation 4 partners with Ustream to offer users the chance to utilise the console’s new inbuilt constant video compression and decompression to search through the last few minutes of gameplay and upload direct video footage of the game you’re playing. So next time you’re stuck, getting repeatedly battered by an end of level boss, you can simply share footage of your battle and ask your friends to watch it and help you out with a few tips or ideas, meanwhile they could be playing a completely different game elsewhere.
One major change in Sony’s approach this time round is that although there has been an increased push for social gaming, its online multiplayer services will predominantly be charged, much like Microsoft’s Xbox Live subscription. A PlayStation Plus account costs £5.49 a month or £11.99 when purchasing a three-month pack, and £39.99 for a full year’s subscription. And although this hasn’t received an excited response, it’s understandable why Sony would want to increase use of its PlayStation Plus service, which on the plus side currently offers subscribers a vast range of free downloadable games, content, and special exclusive bonus material.
Naturally Sony plans on massively expanding its downloadable content and takes full advantage of the increased power of the PlayStation 4 by even allowing users to play content while it is still downloading. Sony has promised the new found power and speed of the console will be just as noticeable throughout the experience of using the console and we can expect to finally overcome the mind-numbingly boring experience of waiting for loading screens to finish whilst operating the Playstation 3 and playing through games. Sony has also announced a wealth of new apps that will increase gaming options by allowing smartphone owners the option to use their device as a second screen to view additional supporting material on, or even to continue playing games on their hand-held console, the PS Vita’s, screen, competing directly with Microsoft’s Xbox SmartGlass feature and Nintendo’s Wii U controller.
Currently Sony has promised around 100 games for release in the console’s first year and over 140 games in development already for this new next-generation console. This is definitely a very exciting time for any PlayStation fan, and since its last console launched in 2006 there have been several years of anticipation and speculation around the release of this new console. What’s most exciting however is that it marks a landmark point of transition in the gaming industry. Gaming has evolved far beyond just an elaborate show of power and graphic abilities and speed, in order for game consoles to survive they need to seamlessly integrate with users’ increasing network of smart technology and online social networking habits. The PlayStation 4 will be much more than just a standalone piece of hardware in our living rooms: it will merge, connect and incorporate itself into our everyday digital lives.