Remember when we first saw those swirling vapour trails, dynamic animation and seemingly freeform progression as Sony first showed off Killzone 2 at E3, 2005? This was what the PlayStation 3 was capable of, apparently, and I for one was mesmerised, my attention locked for the whole two minutes.
It would, of course, later transpire to be more the handiwork of Glasgow’s Axis Animation than the undoubtedly talented Guerrilla but by then the vision was entrenched, the message clear: the PS3 was a beast, and that we were all to be very excited about it.
This year, in June, expect to see something similar.
The so-called next-generation has been a long time coming. New games continue to push what we thought the console would be capable of but there’s still a clear technological bubble that can’t be burst by Cell, RSX and limited RAM. At E3 this year, that’s all set to change, as everyone expects Sony to go all out with the reveal of the PlayStation Orbis.
That’s the codename, of course, much like Durango is that of the next Xbox console, but it’s a codename all but confirmed (and has been for nearly a year) so it’s sticking. When the final name is given it’s more than likely to be PlayStation 4, but certain age-old Japanese traditions might put a bit of a stopper on that one if SCEJ get their way.
That would point to Christmas this year, at least in Japan and the States, with Europe (potentially) having to wait behind until early 2014 – hardly extraordinary, given past precedent.
But what will it be? This time around Sony need to ensure that developers can quickly get the most out of the machine, so it’s much more likely to use off the shelf components rather than internally developed tech like Cell.
We’ve touched on this before, with various chipmakers popping up in various rumours, but the point is that the PS4 will handle like a PC, which should hopefully (if coupled with a decent amount of RAM) make multi-platform title parity much more common.
This’ll pretty much rule out backwards compatibility though – The PS4 won’t play PS3 games, retail or download. We’ve mentioned this before too, but it’s not just about rumours it’s about common sense – without the hardware in place no amount of software emulation is going to cut it. What is most likely, however, is that Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai (remember that?) will come into effect, and it’s not exactly out of the question to envisage a bank of PS3s sitting somewhere in Sony pumping out live streams of last-gen games to PlayStation 4 owners.
It’s hardly a given, but it’s a possibility.
I’m anticipating something of a crossover period, too, given Sony’s propensity for multiple versions of their key first party titles just now (with regards to Vita). Could there be an ‘enhanced’ version of The Last Of Us that runs on PlayStation 4? Will we see PS3-era games pushed out again as ‘Classics’ like the God of War and Team Ico series were recently?
An image pulled from a patent that suggests Sony are looking into merging Move with the Dual Shock. It's a bit unwieldy, but the possibilities are endless and the ability to switch between the two, or use Move for backup, could be great. Could this be for next gen?
Recent speculation over newly discovered patents pointed to a touchscreen, a la Wii U, but this isn’t particularly Sony and it’s difficult to see how well that strategy will work for Nintendo long-term. My guess would be that the DS4 will look very similar to the DS3.
That said, Sony are also unlikely to abandon the moves towards choice that the Vita presented.
Whilst I don’t think there’ll be a touch screen on the new controller, there might be a touchable surface, populated with the same little icons that the Vita’s rear touch pad is.
It could be on the back, in the middle, but it could also be on the front. If it is, this’ll expand the potential control possibilities without forcing an entirely new change of direction.
Try it: hold a Dual Shock 3 – your thumbs can just about reach that bit in the middle with the PS button that does nothing of any merit during a game other than to bring up the XMB. Imagine if that area around it was a little square that you could interact with, pulling apart, swiping, twisting. It’s a gearbox on Gran Turismo, a weapon changer on God Of War, a sniper zoom in Killzone.
And whilst I’d kill for a something like Apple’s Magic Mouse (once you’ve used one, it’s impossible to go back) where the entire surface can be a touch pad, if Sony even attempt to add something to the Dual Shock I’ll be happy.
And then there’s this – a patent picked up that suggests Sony are thinking Move should be part of the controller too. That one’s a year or so old, but the idea is solid: no doubt Sony invested plenty in Move, and it’s unlikely to be cast aside for next gen when even greater accuracy is possible. Uptake from gamers and developers, too, if it’s part of the day one package.
I'm ready for next-gen Gran Turismo. GT5 was ambitious but hamstrung, a full pack of 'Premium' cars will be amazing to behold.
All these rumours focused on trying to guess hardware specs and release dates are fun enough, but the real draw is the how the hardware will offer up new potentials and how those games will look and feel – and making sure we don’t spoil the surprises too much.
That’s what first struck me about the PS3 when I saw Killzone 2’s video – I thought this is going to be amazing and that’s something best experienced cold. Nobody really expected that, and although the final game didn’t quite match up in terms of visuals, I still bring Killzone 2 out of the drawer to show people who’ve never seen a PS3.
Who knows, in just six months time we might be seeing Killzone 4 do exactly the same thing again.
In real time.