Invisible, inscrutable, inevitably indispensable – PS4

Last week my “other” favourite brand announced as many details as we’re allowed to see of the PlayStation 4, like so many unwanted peas thrown under the table to the family dog. Sure, we still don’t know the price, full specifications, what it looks like, launch date or – most importantly, in my opinion – colour, but there’s plenty here to sink the teeth into. I’ll try to keep this one as relevant as possible, and for that reason Im not going to discuss any of the exclusive titles for a couple of reasons. Firstly I don’t think the game makes the console, unless you really love the taste of marketing department in the back of your throat. More importantly, all we’ve seen are effectively sales pitches for each of the games by their respective studio, which of course tells us exactly nothing. On we go…

TECH SPECS

No need for me to bore you, here’s a handy comparison chart with the PS3

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Meaning? Well they’ve skipped a lot of the fluff, for starters. The N wireless card will be a welcome addition for anyone that doesn’t own their router. No money wasted on the endless and utterly pointless “newer better” versions of Bluetooth either. An apparently massive upgrade of the RAM will undoubtedly sit well with the ever-growing legion of developers. I’ll leave the CPU talk to wiser people than myself.

BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY

Begin the controversy! The story goes that from here on in, older PS3, PS2 and PS1 titles will be playable on the PS4….but only streamed. Does my original physical relic count? Probably not. Sony seem to be sending us a three-pronged message here

  1. We don’t give a shit about your bandwidth cap or stability, and if you live outside Manhattan that’s your own tough fucking luck
  2. Oh you’ve bought these games before? I’m sure you won’t mind buying them again, then
  3. Pre-owned, is it? Well, for all you game retailers out there, let us just move our boot from your neck to just over your increasingly blue, twitching face. A little stamp here and kick there, and yes, that should do it. Don’t try to resell our shit without giving us our slice again. Ever.

An always-on connection is currently available in roughly 15% of Irish homes. I don’t have numbers for the rest of the world, but I’m guessing that streaming full games isn’t going to be a much better option in large swathes of Sony’s potential market. To be honest, I’m genuinely surprised they didn’t just cash in on the backwards compatibility question in exactly the same manner as they did with the PS3, ie “let’s sell it to them for an exorbitant cost for a short period of time”. This not only gave people the option of paying more to protect the investment they’d already made in their games library, but also incentivised early adoption of the console itself without forcing increased spend on NEW NEW NEW titles. An opportunity missed, methinks.

SOCIAL OBSESSION

Sure it wouldn’t be technology if it didn’t have High Level Social Media Interaction And Integration. God forbid any device be intended for use privately. SHARE! SHARE ! SHARE! UPLOAD VIDEO! SHARE WITH FRIENDS! SHOW YOUR FRIENDS YOUR GAMING SKILLS! LET THEM STREAM HOURS OF MIND-NUMBING INVENTORY MANAGEMENT! UPLOAD SCREENSHOTS OF HEADSHOTS WHILE YOU DRINK JAEGER SHOTS! Yes, the PS4 will give you the option to let your online friends se what you’re doing and even take over for you.  Why in the name of all that is good anyone would want this is beyond me. I think the logic is that I can (for example) hit a brick wall in Call Of Zombies : BattleZone 9, and get help. Sure, if it was any decent  free-roaming Bethesda game I’d just fuck off in the other direction and do my own thing, but now I can message one of my friends, transfer control of my game to him video it, upload the video, share it with him, tag us both, delete him from my friends list, and maybe at some point go back and finish my own goddamned game. It’s clearly not occurred to anyone that the diminishing level of achievement is now on an inexorable slide that began with “not needing an ending”, progressed through “get a trophy every time you clear a level” and has now arrived at “fuck it, someone else can do it”. Pretty soon we’ll reach the zenith and the whole game will be replaced by a video of somebody playing it to completion in product testing. Mmm…satisfying.

ONGOING SILENCE

So does multiplayer stay free? Will it have enough hard drive space to install LA Noire AND another title? What does it cost? Why the fuck does it have TWO ethernet ports? All this and more as it’s leaked to internet news sites, because apparently the launch event wasn’t the time to tell us any of this.

INEVITABLE COMPARISON

This is the second of four expected console announcements within twelve odd months. The wii U came first and predictably brought absolutely fuck all to the table for the “core” gamer. The Steambox will probably be the cheapest, most practical, lowest power and most beloved of the core despite being the newest dog to run with the pack. Right in the middle, where the battle is fought for dominance, the PS4 will have to fight it out with the new Xbox which – apparently – will require an always on internet connection to play ALL games. If that rumour’s true, the PS4 is already out in front. Still, both companies seem happy enough to force global gaming into a bandwidth arms race. This race has certainly been on for quite some time anyway, but as the most profitable digital art form, gaming is the ticket to push ISPs around the world into action.

It’s taken more than one attempt to sit down and write about the new Playstation. The fourth incarnation of Sony’s home console will, almost inevitably, be the third console I’ve ever owned. The first was a PS2, mainly because – like many others at the time – I was interested in having a console that doubled as an affordable DVD player. My first ever bonus from work was spent on a GTA4-bundled PS3, again justified by the inclusion of the blu-ray player. Gone, however, are the days of the physical media. My movies on disc gather cobwebs on bookshelves, occasionally joined in haunting efforts by the memories of buying actual music in an actual shop with actual cash (sorry, ex-HMVers). This console won’t be able to coast on its extra features, despite the PS3 already being the most-netflixised (if it isn’t a word yet, it will be) platform in the world. I’d love to see this newest creature succeed. Actually, like most of you, I’d love to just see the fucking thing at all in the short-term. It’s been a hard few years for Sony, between global economic meltdowns, earthquakes, database security breaches and countless shitty shooters. This may not be the dramatic saviour of the big S that I was hoping for, but I’m damned if I’m buying an Xbox.

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Invisible, inscrutable, inevitably indispensable – PS4

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