Sony Unveils The Playstation 4 In An Endurance Testing Press Conference

Who has the time to wait around for E3? Not the big three console makers — not this year. Nintendo pretty much laid out it’s 2013 in January, and yesterday evening Sony dropped it’s own bomb, unveiling the PS4. Based on how things are going, an impatient Microsoft will probably show off the next Xbox this weekend.

So, how was the Sony press conference? Well, it was long, and very filled with corporate buzzwords, but some interesting announcements and nifty game footage managed to sneak in here and there.

Hit the jump for a breakdown of the press conference with my instant, off-the-cuff, almost-certainly-to-be-regretted-some-day reactions…

videos via Sony and Gamespot’s Youtube pages

You should still be able to watch a stream of Sony’s press conference right here. Those without two hours to spare, read on…

– The conference is in a large room surrounded by giant wraparound screens. Could this be a hint that Sony’s totally planning to steal Microsoft’s wall-projector holodeck thing?

– The screens are shouting slogans at us! Imagination is our one weapon against reality! What’s Sony got against reality? I know coming in 3rd this console generation was a hard pill to swallow, but don’t take it out on reality. Bunch of clips from old Playstation games and ads.

– A guy with goatee named Andrew House is out. Lots of corporate marketing speak tumbles out of his mouth. They’re going to reconceptualize how you play! My spell check doesn’t like most of the words this guy’s using.

– The system is officially called the Playstation 4.

Instant Reaction – So they didn’t dump the most successful gaming brand in history for a name that sounds like it should be attached to a new brand of sugarless gum? Color me shocked.

Sony’s press conference served up all of this guy I could handle.

– The creator of Marble Madness and the Lead System Architect of the PS4, Mark Cerny saunters out.

Instant Reaction – From Marble Madness to creating Sony’s next console. That’s a hell of a career path. Also, this guy looks and sounds like Kenneth from 30 Rock, just, you know, not funny or likeable.

– Cerny goes on foooorever with the interminable marketing speak. He sort of, kind of gets into system specs. The CPU is, in many ways, like a PC! Get out. The GPU is “enhanced” in some way. It will have a hard drive. The only real stat revealed is that the system has 8 GB of RAM.

Instant Reaction – Why are console makers so f–king afraid to tell people what’s inside their boxes?

– The Playstation 4 controller is unveiled. Looks just like the pic that leaked a few days ago. Everything does what it looks like it does.

– Ooo, time for Sony’s specialty — bulls–t tech demos. We get the Unreal Engine 4 demo we’ve all seen before, and a video of a million cubes falling on a city. Okay.

– Mark Cerny himself is working on a game — Marble Madness The Next Generation! Just look at those marble textures! Oh, no wait, actually it’s a game called Knack about a robot made up of little floating trinkets. The graphics looks like something from a second tier CG animated movie. I’m assuming this is mostly cutscenes — the bits of gameplay don’t look as good. Looks like a farily standard, albeit cute, brawler.

Instant Reaction – Hey, let’s play a game — it’s called “Does This PS4 game look better than the PS3 game The Last of Us?” Answer — nope. I mean, I guess we’re supposed to be impressed that Knack is made of a thousand little nuggets, but ehn.

– Lots more talk that basically boils down “the PS4 will connect to the INTERNET guys”.

Instant Reaction – Oddly, no talk of how all this “fluidly connecting to a larger world” is required and how you’re not allowed to fluidly connect to used games.

– David Perry, creator of Earthworm Jim and founder of Gaikai is out to unveil some stuff that’s actually interesting. You can suspend and resume any game. Updates and downloads are handled by a separate chip and can be done while playing games or while the system is shut off. Can instantly record and share gameplay videos.

Instant Reaction – Not exactly groundbreaking, but some nice features nonetheless.

– Just push the “share” button on the PS4 controller to broadcast your gaming to other PS4s or to UStream. Friends can “look over your shoulder” and post comments as you play, or even take over your game if you’re having trouble. You can also let game developers monitor your gameplay.

Instant Reaction – First actually interesting feature of this now almost-hour-long conference. Although am I the only one who remembers when people looking over your shoulders was a bad thing?

– Can transfer PS4 games to Vita with Remote Play. Goal is to have most PS4 games playable on Vita. Browse videos and challenge friends on smartphones and tablets.

– Very non-specific talk of the Playstation Cloud service. Gamers could theoretically access all of Sony’s past, present and future games on the service.

– Endless video of developers saying the PS4 is wonderful. God-dammit, I’m skipping ahead to when they actually show another game. Okay? We all cool with that? Thanks.

Killzone: Shadow Fall is announced. Lots of shots of a large futuristic city. Walking around in more antiseptic futuristic environments. Ruh oh, everything just went boom! Shooting, shooting, shooting, more shooting.

Instant Reaction – Does this game look better than The Last of Us? Nope again.

Driveclub. It’s a racing game.

Instant Reaction – Does this game look better than The Last of Us? Eh, kind of apples and oranges. Looks photo-realistic at times, but then driving games have pretty much looked photo-realistic for the past five years or so.

InFAMOUS: Second Son — we live in a culture of fear man! Britain has 4.2 million security cameras! Time to fight to regain control of our lives! This is the message of Infamous: Second Son, a game coming out on a system with a built in camera, which gives other players and developers the ability to “look over your shoulder” as you play.

Instant Reaction – Hard to say if this one looks better than The Last of Us, since it was all cutscene. Even then, the two are still pretty close.

– Jonathan Blow introduces The Witness, his take on a Myst-like adventure/puzzle game.

Instant Reaction – Don’t get me wrong, I like the game’s visual style a lot, but again, this could easily have been done on the PS3.

– David Cage is on stage and he unleashes a classic Sony bulls–t tech demo. Yes, the old man face from the PS2 launch is back! He’s so wrinkly! So, so wrinkly!

Instant Reaction – Really? Does Sony really think people are still impressed by a single detailed object floating in blackness? I guess it’s always worked in the past, so why stop now?

Of course you can lavish detail on something if there’s nothing else on the screen. Does this look better than The Last of Us? No, because Joel and Ellie look pretty impressive and have things happening behind them.

– Media Molecule, the makers of LittleBigPlanet are out to show something. Sculpt objects using Playstation Move. Make collages and game levels out of people’s sculpted objects. Well, this sculpting game looks fun and innovative! What’s it called? Oh, it was just a tech demo? Hmmm.

– We see a video of a couple guys mindlessly tilting and swinging move controllers around, which somehow causes detailed 3D characters to engage in complex, intricately animated routines. Are we supposed to think the guys with the Move controllers are actually making this stuff happen? Come on Sony, this is guys jumping behind the couch with Wiimotes stuff.

– Yoshinori Ono of Capcom is out, and he unveils Deep Down, a new fantasy RPG…maybe? It’s got dragons, so there’s a good chance it’s at least a little RPG-ish.

Instant Reaction – It took nearly two hours, but here’s a game that doesn’t look like it could be done on current gen consoles! I mean, assuming everything we saw wasn’t a cutscene. Capcom, who knew you had it in ya?

– Okay, now Yoshihisa Hashimoto of Square-Enix is out. He shows the Square-Enix tech demo that’s been around for a while. Also believe it or not, they’re working on a new Final Fantasy.

Watch Dogs is coming to the PS4 (although it’s also going to be on current gen systems and the Wii U).

Instant Reaction – “The heart of America. Feels like, somewhere it must have skipped a beat.” Woof — hopefully that line’s not indicative of all the writing. Looks impressive though (although again, it mostly fails The Last of Us test).

– Diablo III and Destiny are also hitting the PS4.

– ..and that’s it! The PS4 is coming holiday 2013. No mention of a price, and weirdly, we never actually got to see what the machine itself looks like.

Overall Thoughts

Give me a minute to stretch my legs — my butt fell asleep sometime during the past two hours.

I’m sure most of the games shown last evening will be good and the Playstation 4 will be a perfectly fine system, but Sony certainly didn’t fill be with the urgent need to upgrade. The system doesn’t seem to have any sort of hook that changes gaming in any significant way. The “share” button, being able to suspend games and Media Molecule’s sculpting thing all looked neat, but “neat” is about as far as I’d go.

The PS4’s leap in processing power will probably mean something eventually, but most of the games Sony showed off today didn’t look much better than top-level current gen games. Sure, tech heads who count every pixel and dropped frame will appreciate the difference, but the average consumer isn’t going to appreciate the difference between The Last of Us or even an Assassin’s Creed III and Killzone: Shadow Fall. Hell, I’ve been playing and obsessing over video games for almost 30-years and even I struggle to see the difference.

In place of an actual, tangible reason to upgrade Sony provided a lot of flowery marketing speak and vague promises. For a company trying to brand themselves as “a leading authority on play”, Sony didn’t look like much of a leader last night.

How about your folks? Wowed by the Playstation 4? Disappointed? Let your voice be heard.