In addition to Apple announcing two solid hours of nothing, Sony held a press conference yesterday at the PlayStation Theater in the heart of Manhattan to tell us all what we already knew. It was a very odd day. But we finally have a name, some specs, and a whole lot of new 4K footage.
Well, sort of 4K. There are a lot of caveats to that little flag these new consoles have stuck/will stick at the top of the hill. Most games will simply choose to lock the resolution somewhere over 1080p like 1440p while others will take the “quality mode” route and have dynamic resolution that fluctuates depending on how the game is performing. Some titles like The Elder Scrolls Online will be at true 4K, but it’s not like that’s a particularly demanding game to begin with.
Then there’s the bombshell that the console won’t be able to play Ultra HD Blu-ray. It’s definitely a shock considering the Xbox One S can do exactly that, and apparently the Microsoft marketing team isn’t afraid to tweet that. (No one, apparently, at the Redmond campus is afraid to fire off some shots.) Probably because the drive required to handle that would have bumped the price beyond the consumer threshold?
PlayStation 4 Slim
It’s been leaked, it’s been reviewed, and now it’s been officially announced: the PlayStation 4 Slim is real. It’ll cost you $299 and will hit “in most markets” come September 15. And all it really does is give you a smaller footprint to work with.
Well, it also removed the optical audio port and gave the system a USB gap tooth while revising the DualShock 4 to make the light bar visible from the front, but it’s really all about the size. And holy smokes is it tiny. Like, almost absurdly so after this generation got us used to this portable grill-sized profiles. I just might have to get in on this.
PlayStation 4 Pro
Surprisingly, I don’t hate the name. It’s not like they prefixed it with an X or an i. I just think it’s lazy. The next thing that stands out from the stage presentation (aside from the ludicrous profile of the damn thing) is that despite having lead system architect Mark Cerny out there, it was decidedly nontechnical. It actually felt a lot like when the Xbox One was originally showcased at E3 2013.
And the aftermath for Microsoft is very much Sony from that same E3. It’s weird how things can flip, isn’t it? Whereas then Microsoft played its hand at making you feel like you wanted one, Sony threw facts at the problem: specs and price made it the obvious winner from that encounter, and it has continued to show through stellar sales. Now we have the potential reality that the eventual Scorpio will be far more powerful than the Pro, and Microsoft is already touting as much.
4K and HDR
To be clear, HDR (high-dynamic-range) lighting has been around for a long, long time in gaming. Half-Life 2 actually took advantage of the decades-old rendering techniques to great effect. The rub of it is that displays generally haven’t been truly capable of showing the full range necessary to make HDR stand out, so it’s mostly been contrast hackery.
So what does this actually change with the all-inclusive HDR update to PlayStation 4? Not much, really, except you’re more likely to get higher quality lighting in more games with this systemic support for the technique. But if you do have a display capable of fully showcasing HDR lighting, it’ll look damn fine. This, honestly, is far more important than have 4K resolution or using the extra Pro horsepower to juice up the antialiasing and whatnot. (Ars Technica has a great breakdown of why things are the way they are.)
Horizon Zero Dawn — 4K Gameplay
I actually went to a Best Buy and convinced the employees to let me hook up to a 4K display to watch this thing, and gosh is it a pretty game. It’s hard to convey just how stupidly crisp everything looks, and how all-encompassing the view can be, as if you could reach into the damn thing and touch that robo-dinosaur. I swear I could count the actual feathers on the passing birds.
As for the actual game, it looks way more Uncharted than I was expecting. The Shadow of the Colossus comparisons in this particular clip are obvious, but the climbing mechanics and flow look distinctly Naughty Dog. But don’t take that as a criticism; I am still incredibly excited for this game. It was just a little surprising.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare — 4K Demo
Yeaaahhh okay, I’m into it. I like that they’re willing to play with some horror tropes, especially the sci-fi ones. This straight-up is a sci-fi story (or at least the setting is), so it’s nice to see that Infinity Ward is embracing that. It would have been easy to just make another Call of Duty but in space, but this inspires hope that they’re trying new things.
It’s obviously angering a lot of people (even that ripped footage from the stage presentation is having middling YouTube reactions), but it’s at the very least refreshing in a long-stagnant franchise. I guess we’ll find out how it all shakes out, though, when it comes out on November 4 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Mass Effect: Andromeda — 4K Tech Video
It’s weird that the video they would put up on the official Mass Effect channel isn’t the same as they showed during the press event. It’s not like the developer voiceover is all that helpful in reminding us what we’re seeing. Telling us we’re looking at HDR lighting doesn’t make our eyes see it any better.
That being said, I think I’m ready for another Mass Effect. There’s no way BioWare was happy leaving one of the most successful franchises in the history of video games going out on that very sour note of Mass Effect 3. Nobody was happy with that one. But this looks like a tight slice of so much of what I loved about those games. It comes out early next year for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.