I am, at best, a casual video gamer. I played a lot of Nintendo and Sega when I was younger, but I haven’t been an active video game consumer since the PlayStation 2. Still, I like to keep up on what’s current, even if all the latest controllers vex me with their myriad of buttons, and what really interests me is whether I can download every game from my childhood. So when I was offered a chance to preview the upcoming PlayStation 4 (PS4) from Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (Sony), along with some games that will accompany the launch, I went after it the way Sega’s Altered Beast would have gone after a shiny blue orb released by the death of a two-headed white wolf – in other words, like it was pretty darned important.
About the hardware: Along with the PS4 console looking more squared-off than its predecessor, changes have been made to the DualShock controllers that are intended to improve game play. The thumbsticks, for example, are more comfortable, and the trigger buttons are curved to accompany the index fingers better. More radical changes are the addition of a small touchpad—it’s utilized significantly in Sony’s Killzone: Shadow Fall game, which I demoed, but more on that later—and a Share button that allows players to send in-game images to social media sites including Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook.
Other hardware additions include a PlayStation Camera, which works in tandem with the DualShock controllers to let users interact with certain games by simply moving their controllers through the air. (More technical specifics on the PS4 can be found here.)
About the games: The PS4 boasts superior graphics compared to older consoles, which was very evident in the aforementioned Killzone: Shadow Fall, a first-person shooter aimed at mature audiences. Players take on the role of a soldier who finds himself embroiled in a conflict on an alien planet. The demo, set in a forest with spacecraft hovering in the distance, featured photo-realistic visuals and extremely fluid animation that definitely pulled me in. Moments that were especially engrossing—and by that I mean they nearly caused heart palpitations—included zip-lining through trees high up in the air, which is done by simply swiping one’s finger across the touchpad.
Taking full advantage of the trend toward online, connected play, Killzone: Shadow Fall allows up to 24 players to stalk the alien world together. According to the reps I spoke to, a series of downloadable maps is also planned to keep the game fresh and players coming back for more.
Another new game was Sony’s Knack, which is aimed at families and proved unexpectedly addictive. Set in vividly-colored, three-dimensional landscapes, players control a hero/monster that smashes things and grows larger by adding the pieces to his body—think Katamari Damacy with more flailing limbs. The demo showed off a couple of levels requiring a combination of quick reflexes and puzzle-solving skills: At one point, a wooden bridge has to be crossed, but stepping on particular spots causes a series of arrows to be fired at the monster. Thanks to the compelling character designs as well as game play that was simple enough even for me—only a couple of buttons were necessary—I spent way more time playing and re-playing it than I probably should have. Meanwhile, as far as connected play options, players can share items they find during the game with their PlayStation Network friends list.
My takeaway: The introduction of any new game console is a big deal, but at this stage, it’s tough to say for certain what effect the PS4 will have on the industry, since it will probably take developers a little time to fully unlock its capabilities—which is usually the case with new systems. But the online features of both games hint at where gaming is potentially moving, and it’s nice to see two well-developed titles that are aimed at different audiences.
On a side note, it’s too bad that all the classic games from my formative years, which were downloadable for PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network, are not compatible with PS4. But it sounds like Sony has a new gaming service planned that might address this; meanwhile, at least Knack has plenty of old-school charm. (Sorry, Killzone. I’m not video-game zip-lining again anytime soon.) The PlayStation 4 arrives in North America on November 15.
For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!