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PS4: The tech is good, Sony's creative bravery is even better

A colleague, who shall remain nameless, told me this morning that seven years on and £425 down he still isn’t really convinced that his PS3 has been a worthwhile investment overall. 

I told him I thought he was mad. 

Because however badly Sony’s current (last?) generation started, by its mid-point Sony’s frequent, defensive PR lines about “running a marathon, not a sprint” utterly came true. After a painful, bloody, drawn-out birthing period, the PS3 steadily grew into a healthy, brainy, funny, strapping young lad of a console, brimming with rapidly realised potential.

Over the last seven years, Sony has merrily subverted the vast majority of critical clichés thrown at mainstream console gaming. It has taken risks with both technology and creativity. It has embraced and promoted the expressive, the artistic and the arcane. It has proffered the most consistently eclectic spread of games seen on any console this generation, from Killzone and Ratchet & Clank to Heavy Rain and Journey. It has had failures along the way of course. The ambitious, unnecessary and ultimately unengaging 256-player shooter MAG springs to mind. And I’m assuming that Sony is still planning to get PlayStation Home out of beta at some point before the PS4 launches…

But those mis-steps are just the price you pay for consistently pushing the edges of your comfort zone. And those ever-expanding creative boundaries are exactly the reason that the PS3 became my console of choice practically overnight a few years ago, after a long period of Xbox loyalty.

And so that stuff, more than any rampaging geometry or existentially troubling realism of texture detail, is what I was looking for in Sony’s PS4 presentation. I discussed the matter rather enthusiastically with another colleague tonight, just before we plunged headfirst into the long, dark night of journalistic intrigue ahead of us.

Not for me, any tortuous debates over the feasibility or implausibility of a Killzone demo. I just wanted to know that the PS3’s brave, pioneering soul had survived the Frankensteinian transfer process into its next body. I wanted to see next-gen technology of course, but I wanted to see it as a conduit for innovative new experiences and witty new ideas, not simple as fuel for a retaliatory shot against the increasingly noseward-looking PC master race.

And bloody hell, I got it.

There was plenty of room for traditional eye-catching tech-fappery of course. Drive Club is a visual corker, and Sony will always be able to rely on David Cage to trot out a glassy eyed visage of well-rendered sadness in order to make the argument that real art comes from high polygon counts. Killzone: Shadowfall was a big surprise given the series’ traditional aesthetic, packing the visual jolt of a poke in the eye from a glass needle coated in mescaline. And as such a departure from the visual trappings of current-gen FPS malaise, it makes a good segue point into the triumphant return of that good old Sony innovation.

Because the PS4 feels like a system focused around real expansion of gaming and real freedom for the gamer. Criticise the titles shown off, if you like, as the usual launch line up of shooter, racer, RPG and glossy action game. Criticise Sony for starting the show with a long, drawn-out discussion of system architecture and connectivity features. But the point in the Venn diagram at which those two elements cross over is one hell of an exciting place as far as I’m concerned.

17 comments

  • zombi3grim - February 24, 2013 6:36 p.m.

    The share button is my favorite feature.
  • CrashmanX - February 21, 2013 11:08 p.m.

    IMO, I'm still waiting. While I love my PS3 and many of it's games, I'm still on the fence about the PS4. Though I suppose that's from being spurned by the PS3 initial release. Here's hoping things turn out WAY better than before. (Be less that $500 please!)
  • n00b - February 21, 2013 3:24 p.m.

    Sigh Maybe I've just become a cynical old man but i feel the PS4 and the games shown are uninteresting and underwhelming. I feel there is no place me in the modern gaming world and that the types of games i enjoy are not being made, and if they are made they are few and far between and get looked down upon as shallow and old school. Oh well. At least the indie scene who grew up playing the same types of games i did are making something worth while whenever they can get their heads out of their asses and stop make physics based puzzle crap.
  • Gaiten - February 23, 2013 11:28 a.m.

    I'm right there with you, buddy.
  • 7-D - February 21, 2013 2:37 p.m.

    Respect for actually looking to the positive, I certainly am. You're being quoted on CVG too David ;) http://www.computerandvideogames.com/392889/features/united-by-division-worlds-critics-react-to-ps4/
  • giovanni-de-oto - February 21, 2013 1:08 p.m.

    I personally cannot wait to see what square enix has in store for the ps4, i love FF. I dont care what other people say about xiii and xiii-2 i loved them, and yes ive played almost all of the older games
  • lordgodalming - February 24, 2013 2:21 a.m.

    I'm with you, man. Love the FF series, old and new. However, I believe Square's successes this gen have been due completely to its creative talent and IN SPITE OF it's corporate and marketing side. And after the BS they pulled during the PS4 unveiling, I'm starting to doubt SE can find enough humility to pull its head out of its ass for this gen.
  • Y2Ken - February 21, 2013 9:09 a.m.

    Agreed, Dave. I was impressed by the variety Sony showed. No, they didn't pull out a completely unheard-of new triple-A IP. But they've got to save something for E3 at least. What they did do was offer an impressive amount of variety in the games they did show. It really didn't feel as though any two games on display were that similar, which is quite the achievement. What impressed me most however was definitely the UI and architecture, the share features and streaming demos are really great ideas that could genuinely be a big deal. That said, Sony doesn't have the best track record when it comes to having a fast online service, so I guess we'll have to wait and see whether they can truly deliver on those promises.
  • wadesmit - February 21, 2013 9:09 a.m.

    I have a great, great feeling for this gen. And Sony really has gained my loyalty back completely. On another note, I sincerely hope 'Deep Down' will play along the lines of Dragon's Dogma.
  • Mooshon - February 21, 2013 8:44 a.m.

    I thought Sony knocked it out of the park to be honest. They've obviously listened to what people have been asking for, addressed issues, but also taken a very user centric approach. Almost the reverse of the norm. The Gaikai integration sounded incredible. Background downloads, remote play, instant demos, jumping into friends' games - and the killer app: streamed access to every PS title ever across devices! I'm in.
  • CitizenWolfie - February 21, 2013 8:31 a.m.

    I felt a little bit sorry for the guy (I forget the name) who introduced Knack. The room seemed to react with a giant "meh" at the end of the footage and it all seemed a bit awkward. I think people were probably expecting something more flashy. Anyway I do hope all Sony's talk of innovation, imagination and creativity gets followed through. At the time it felt like a lot of PR buzz but the Media Molecule video of the Move controller used as a sculpting tool was really cool and my first "wow" moment of the event.
  • shawksta - February 21, 2013 3:48 a.m.

    I frankly loved Knack's presentation because of how unique the concept is. You can see Sony is pushing to make accessibility more improved and making you do everything without having to bother your gametime, which is really neat and the Gakai relationship is just getting better.
  • blue-heelerky - February 21, 2013 3:19 a.m.

    Drive Club, not Race Club. Great write-up! As a PC Master Race, the only reason I own a console is for the exclusives...Both Nintendo and Sony offer the best and I'll continue to support them.
  • taokaka - February 20, 2013 11:16 p.m.

    As the lonely, grouchy hermit I am I didn't care for any of the speculation about the social side of the console before the show but after the presentation I say bring it on. I think that sony did a fantastic job with the ps4 reveal except for the slow beginning and square enix not really having any reason to be there.
  • ncurry2 - February 21, 2013 5 a.m.

    Here here! All of my friends have migrated to purely PC gaming and I hate facebook. The only reason I'd get the PS4 is for the games that I can only play on it. I think it's got promise for sure but it likely won't be a day 1 purchase for me.
  • lordgodalming - February 24, 2013 2:23 a.m.

    This. Social gaming can go to hell for all I care, give me good single player. I am glad other people like to play together though. :) And frigging Square Enix. I was actually most excited about their part of the presentation--which I was sure would be a Versus XIII reveal--and then they did...whatever that was.
  • BladedFalcon - February 20, 2013 10:19 p.m.

    I didn't forget about Knack, certainly, it wasn't the highlight of the show. But I definitely liked seeing a game that looked more colorful and more "E for Everyone" friendly, without looking super saccharine like a lot of the crap nintendo sometimes churns out. (I'm looking at you NintendoLand.) And if nothing else, I am more interested in that game than say, Killzone: Shadowfall or Drive Club. I still need to see way more in the way of game variety, but at the very least, the first impression of what they showed here was far more impressive than the first unveiling of the Wii U back in 2011. It remains to be seen what Microsoft will come up with though, so we'll see.

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