The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 1, 2013

Joe Hadsall: Lot to like about Playstation 4, but not much to see

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — I've always had a rule when it comes to home video game consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox: Wait a year.

When a new piece of hardware comes out, wait a year. The price will have dropped, the technology inside will be more reliable and the game library will be bigger. It'll be a better experience all around.

And history has proven me right. They don't stop making games for old-and-busted systems when new hotness system comes out, after all. That seems like it runs counterintuitive to the geek lifestyle. But this geek ain't made of money, so I keep my geek-mode in check.

While I'm enchanted with the new PlayStation 4 system that was announced earlier this month, I won't be waiting in line to buy a system during its anticipated release at the end of this year.

That being said ... man, does the system look sweet.


Great games

With the exception of "Halo," and all the Mario games, Sony has always had the edge on exclusive titles and franchises. And it's no surprise that, according to IGN, Sony has all of its 12 main studios working on PS4 titles.

During an announcement last week, Sony officials announced the existence of the system and showed a controller (more about the lack of information later). They also showed trailers and gameplay footage for a few great-looking games, including:

Watch Dogs

By far, the game I'm geeked out for the most on PS4 is "Watch Dogs," from Ubisoft. Sony showed off a full five minutes of how this sandbox game plays out, and I'm already jonesing to play it.

The story revolves around a hacker named Aiden Pearce, who appears to own the world's most powerful BlackBerry. He can hack into any electronic device instantly and snag intelligence of passers by, surveillance systems, ATMs, anything.

In the trailer shown at the conference, Pearce walks by a crowd of people. Personal details appear over each one. Where other people see a woman giving money to a homeless man, Pearce knows that the woman, who is recently evicted, is giving money to an Iraq War veteran.

He passes a pro-life lobbyist, hacks into his bank account and steals his money through an ATM in a matter of seconds. Then he spots a woman buying a newspaper and discovers she recently won a custody suit.

For some reason, he follows the woman. Sure enough, he spots her ex -- the loser of the suit and on the wrong end of an ex parte. A confrontation starts, yellow lights switch to red, and Pearce is all of a sudden out to prevent a crime. He pulls a gun on the man, who runs away.

They chase across streets through a cafe and an alley. Then, thanks to the amazingly helpful smartphone, time slows down and Pearce makes a transformer blow right beside the stalker. He takes the bad guy down and hears the sirens of approaching cops.

But the cops are after Pearce -- things just got a lot less hero and a lot more vigilante.

Pearce runs from the cops, using his device to make barriers pop up and stop oncoming cars, before making a subway hit the brakes so he can get away "U.S. Marshals" style. Sayonara, slowpokes.

Throughout the entire gameplay video, the transitions between outside and inside areas are seamless. The run through the cafe made me drop my jaw, and that was before things got slow-motion and "Matrix"-like.

The entire game looks incredibly detailed and deep. Developers Ubisoft Montreal say that the version of the game they had for PS3 just got a lot bigger with the PS4. According to an interview with Digital Spy, "Watch Dogs" is able to be pushed even further because of the system's specs. Everything from the graphics to the AI can be improved.

The game will also use the PS4's new touchpad controller, which is the only part of the PS4 that we really saw last week.


Big tease

Sony's announcement of the PS4 was most remarkable for what the company didn't say. In addition to some games, officials announced that the PS4 will feature:

Other enhancements include an improved cloud system, intuitive sharing on social sites and better immediate response time, cutting down lags.

The things they actually showed were the controllers. The new PS4 controller features a touchpad in the center and a "Share" button -- presumably for social networks. It also has a lighted strip that works with the new PS Eye, which is a Kinect-like camera system instead of the single webcam. That means each PS4 basically comes with a Move system, which is a nice touch.

But that's all they showed and told.

No pictures of the console.

No solid release date.

No price.

No word on whether it would be backwards compatible.

Those last two points are big deals to me, because I am a huge cheapskate.

Expensive outlook

I waited two years to get a PS3 because of its price. While initial offerings of "Heavenly Sword," "MotorStorm" and "Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction" looked amazing, I had no desire to pick up a video game system for around $600. When I finally got one, I got it used from a co-worker who gave me a tremendous deal in 2008 -- two years after its release.

It was perfect, because the PS3 played all the PS2 games I owned. So, we had an instant massive library of things we could play with no problem.

We have a library of almost 50 PS3 games at Geek Central, from the outstanding "Lego" games by Travelers Tales to the immersive "Skyrim"; from the cute, playable "Little Big Planet" franchise to the dark, challenging "Assassin's Creed" series.

I don't want to stop playing those games with a new system! Most of them are pretty good, and they could take advantage of the PS4's upgraded gear.

That puts me squarely in the "disappointed" camp of PlayStation fans. I know I'll get a PS4 one day, and I like what I see so far. But there's nothing that screams out "gotta have" about this system.

Granted, things could change -- there's plenty of months remaining in the year. But with Microsoft and Nintendo looming large nearby, and rumors of Steam- and Droid-powered consoles on the way, wouldn't Sony be smart to win us fans over completely right now?