I’ve been gaming on PlayStation home consoles and handhelds since the late 90s when games like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII made it worth your while to own a PSone. Since then the PlayStation brand has had its ups and downs but there’s no denying that many of the best games since 1994 have found a welcome home on one of Sony’s consoles.
After years of wondering when Sony would release the PS4, the platform holder finally announced during last month’s PlayStation Meeting that the console will be introduced in at least one territory by the end of the year.
There’s still plenty we don’t know about the PS4 but based on what’s been revealed so far, here are my top five most anticipated features of the new console:
A New Controller
The DualShock 4 not only looks sleek and sexy but also features thinner, deeper triggers (L2 and R2) and concave analog sticks for more precise control. Sony has claimed that the controller latency of the DualShock 4 is even less than the DualShock 3 while the rumble feature has also been improved. We’ll have to wait and see how the controller’s touchpad is used to enhance gameplay but I definitely see the front-facing speaker creating more immersive experiences by putting an extra sound source within 50cm of your ears. If you’ve played Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on the Wii then you’ll know how developers can make innovative use of this type of speaker.
It also looks as if you’ll be able to plug a headset directly into the controller which is a far more convenient and elegant solution than the long cords currently found on wired PS3 headsets.
Better Graphics, More Immersive Worlds
The PS4’s confirmed specs reveal that the console has approximately sixteen times the amount of RAM than the PS3, a far more efficient, faster graphics chip and system architecture which resembles a PC. What this effectively means is that PC games are easier to port to the PS4 and that games can run at a higher resolution and feature more realistic graphics with higher texture detail and smoother edges. Hopefully we’ll see plenty of PS4 games running at 60 frames per second at 1080p but the fact that Killzone: Shadow Fall targets 30fps is slightly concerning considering how powerful the PS4 is supposed to be.
What the PS4’s graphical advantage over the PS3 should ultimately lead to it far more immersive worlds with wide, open areas to explore and realistic object, weather and particle physics/effects which help to sell the illusion. I remember being gobsmacked the first time I sailed the open seas of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and feeling a swelling excitement growing in me thinking that I could literally go anywhere. While you couldn’t explore the ocean depths, you could float on the breeze using a giant leaf as a parasail or ‘possess’ seagulls and fly wherever you wanted to. I hope to feel that same excitement playing an open-world game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PS4!
Remote Play on PS3 via PS Vita is somewhat of a joke as only PSone Classics and a few PS3 titles are supported. Sony definitely misled us by showing Killzone 3 being streamed to the PS Vita before the handheld’s launch, despite a Remote Play patch never being released for the game. Sony’s excuse is that the PS3 was developed long before PS Vita so Remote Play functionality is not what it could be on the handheld.
Thankfully most PS4 games will support Remote Play and the console will stream video and audio to the PS Vita at its native resolution of 960×544. This is quite a bit higher than the current 852×440 resolution which PS3 games run at on the handheld.
The PS Vita lacks four buttons that are on the PS4 controller (i.e. L2, R2, L3 and R3) so these can be assigned to the rear touchpad and potentially the touchscreen. Sony is also asking PS4 developers to create a secondary control scheme for their games which will work effectively on the PS Vita.
When I get a PS4 Remote Play will be one of the first things I test out as I’m curious to see what the image and audio quality is like on the PS Vita and what kind of latency there is if you’re playing within range of your PS4.
Sony recently revealed that PlayStation Plus will play a prominent role on PS4 but we still don’t know how exactly it’s going to work on the new console. Will there be a tiered system whereby you pay more to have more games added to the Plus’ Instant Game Collection each month or will we be able to select a certain number of games from a predetermined list?
Whichever way you look at it, PlayStation Plus currently represents exceptional value for PS3 and PS Vita owners (especially here in PAL territories) and this popular subscription-based service is likely to continue to gain traction once the PS4 is out.
New Online Functionality
Not everyone knows this, but PS Vita supports many of the online functionality made popular by Xbox LIVE including Parties and Cross-Game Chat (and unlike Xbox LIVE these services are free). PS3 gamers who have not yet experienced these conveniences will be able to on PS4, with Sony confirming that the new console will support Cross-Game Chat thanks to its abundant RAM.
Of course, the PS4 features lots of other great online functionality such as being able to capture and share or live-stream high-resolution videos of gameplay, or spectate while your friend is playing a game and even take over the controls for a while. However, our internet speeds in South Africa will limit what we can do with this type of streaming-based functionality so I’m not getting too excited about these features just yet.
Which features of the PS4 are you most impressed by? Does what we know about the console so far leave you hot or cold? Let us know in the comments.