PlayStation Neo becomes … PS4 Pro

sony-announces-playstation-4-pro-147328048462I watched the PlayStation event this morning and, if I’m being completely honest, I was left a little underwhelmed. It was a low-key briefing – it only lasted about 45 minutes – with lots of talking, but I didn’t go away from the briefing yelling at the top of my lungs, “Yeah, yeah, I’m gonna pre-order me a PS4 Pro.”

The briefing revealed the aforementioned PS4 Pro  and also perhaps one of the worst kept secrets as far as PlayStation was concerned, the PS4 Slim which everyone knew about weeks ago but PlayStation acted at the event as if it was a surprise when they announced it today. That was just a little weird. The PS4 Slim will launch in NZ from September 16 for $489.95 for a 500GB console or $569.95 for  1TB model (September 29).

The PS4 Pro will retail in New Zealand for $639.95 and launch on November 10. That’s a really sharp price but the owner of a current PS4 that does all I need it to, I won’t be upgrading any time soon.

If you want the technical specs of the PS4 Pro, you can find them here (thanks Eurogamer) but my take on the PS4 Pro is that unless I have a 4K TV, which I don’t (and I’m not planning on buying one soon), I’m best to stick with the launch PS4 I have. I’m fine with that. The games look great on my PS4 and while Sony says owners of 1080p TVs will notice a difference with the PS4 Pro,  frankly, my eyes are getting so bad I can’t actually see the difference between 4K and 1080p unless I’m up really close and my nose is pressing on the screen (OK, I’m not that bad but, you know, old age …)

PlayStation said a firmware update next week will enable HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities on all current PS4’s, which is great, but again, that’s pointless on my 1080p TV as I’m pretty sure it can’t output HDR. Right now in my life, 4K and HDR gaming isn’t an option so I’ll stick with my perfectly fine current generation PS4.

frontps4proPlayStation sees 4K gaming as the future (but showing off 4K content over a 1080p stream is never going to do it justice) and the Pro will do 4K content playback but strangely, it doesn’t come with a 4K Blu Ray drive, and that does seem an odd omission, given that the recently released Xbox One S, which I believe is cheaper, comes with one as standard.

My take on this, though, is clearly Sony doesn’t see the future of 4K entertainment in physical media (ie Blu Ray discs), evidence by PlayStation’s Andrew House pointing out how many hours of 4K content would be on streaming service Netflix by the end of this year.

That said, I can see why PlayStation have come up with the PS4 Pro. It’s releasing its entrant into the VR wars, the PS VR, next month and the PS4 Pro will offer better VR performance than the current PS4. (I’m still tossing up whether I’ll get a PSVR so if/when I do, I’ll perhaps contemplate a PS4 Pro)

Also, if you’ve always thought about buying a PS4, but never got around to it, and do own a 4K TV then it seems November will be your lucky month, won’t it? The cynic in me also wonders whether PlayStation hopes that the PS4 Pro will help sell more of its own 4K TV sets …

Part of me can’t help but wonder whether PlayStation has jumped the gun here with the PS4 Pro in a response to Xbox’s Project Scorpio console which isn’t even due for release until the end of next year. Surely the PS4 Slim could have filled the gap until next year when the company could have announced its competitor to Project Scorpio.

The PS4 Pro will almost be a year old when Xbox’s more powerful console comes to market and I can’t help but feel that Microsoft have the upper hand here, given that Project Scorpio is more powerful than the PS4 Pro already – and  it’s hardware configuration could change dramatically between now and the end of next year.

Speaking of Xbox, the company couldn’t help having a dig at PlayStation in this tweet suggesting its own Xbox One S was a better option:

My son and I were talking about hardware announcement cycles this morning and it seems to me that games consoles are almost going same way as mobile phones, with a new model being announced almost every year.

To be honest, I’m contemplating whether might even just invest the money that I might put into a new console into upgrading my PC’s GPU (it’s got an Intel i7 CPU  and 8GB of Ram so I’m OK on that front. My GTX660Ti, however, is well past its use by date), connect it to my 55-inch TV using Steam’s Big Picture mode and do it that way, meaning I can still game from the couch using a controller (and to all those who  bleat “You’re not a real PC gamer if you use a controller!” I say, bollocks to you).

Right now, I don’t see any benefit for me buying a PS4 Pro console unless a 4K TV magically appears in my lounge to replace my two-year old LED screen, and that’s not going to happen.

I may be proven wrong but right now, I’m not jumping on the PS4 Pro bandwagon just yet. I’ll be watching with interest.


No Man’s Sky Trade & Fight trailers

PlayStation have released trailers two and three for upcoming space exploration game No Man’s Sky., titled Fight & Trade. The final trailer, which will be released in a few days, I’m guessing, is called Survive.

I posted the first trailer, Explore, on the site the other day but if you missed it, here it is:

No Man’s Sky is out on PlayStation 4 on August 10.

Shadow of the Beast review: side ways hack ‘n slash

SOTB_PS4_Final_05_1462868539Meet Aarbron. That’s him on the right. He’s the chap lifting some poor sod up in the air. He’s a vicious killing machine that likes nothing more than slashing things to pieces with his razor-sharp talons. He’s the main character in Shadow of the Beast, the re-make of a game of the same name made waaaaay back in 1989 and originally appeared on the Amiga. This new one’s on the PlayStation 4.

Aarbron wasn’t always like that, though. He used to be a normal man. With a normal life. He probably did the gardening every weekend. Took the recycling bin out on Wednesday nights. Took the dog for a walk. That was until Maletoth came along. Maletoth isn’t a nice chap. He turned Aarbron into, well, a blood-crazed monster with razor-sharp talons.

This new Shadow of the Beast is made by Heavy Spectrum Studio, a small seven person team. I never owned an Amiga so I never played the original. I hear it was quite tough, although the music was great. The remake follows the same storyline as the original, though: Aarbron was captured as a child and turned into a vicious monster through magic and becomes the servant of an evil creature called Maletoth. The game deals with Aarbron chasing down Maletoth in an effort to make him pay for what he has done.

I’d like to say Shadow of the Beast is purely a side-scroller game, but it’s not. Not really. In some levels, Aarbron is able to teleport forwards and backwards but the bulk of the action happens on a horizontal plane with Aarbron moving left to right. Encounters with enemies involve a small area being blocked off by laser barriers, forcing Aarbron to fight the materialising hordes before moving forward. In his quest to defeat Maletoth, who conjures up enemies by throwing his green blood about the place, Aarbron faces off against the dark lord’s foes using a variety of attacks using his razor-sharp blades. There’s plenty of blood on the ground, that’s for sure. There are buckets of blood. Pints of blood. Oodles of blood.

SOTB_PS4_Final_01_1462868539Aarbron can block enemy attacks, he can stun enemies, he can order spikes to rise out from the ground, impaling enemies. He can even, if you time it right, jump onto enemies and stab them repeatedly with his razor-sharp talons, spewing forth precious health. You have to pound the controller’s square button to do this move. Aarbron can also do a rage attack when his three-bar blood meter is full. The rage attack is a mini Quick Time Event where if you press the square button at the right time Aarbron slices and dices enemies. Chain attacks together and you earn more mana points which can be used to unlock special moves or the original version of the game and soundtrack.

I’ve got mixed feeling about Shadow of the Beast. On the one hand, it’s a marvellous effort from the seven-member Heavy Spectrum Studios, with great visuals and production values. It’s a reasonable price, too: It’ll set you back $NZ23.95. On the other hand, I found the combat got tiresome rather quickly and the combat doesn’t often flow as nicely as I’d like it to. If you time things right, thought, the combat is visceral and brutal.

Shadow of the Beast is entertaining and it’s a passion project for the small development team that have done a masterful job in re-imagining the game for the modern age – I take my virtual hat off for that – but I just can’t see it holding your attention for too long. I’d imagine that many fans of the series would play it just so they could unlock the original game and listen to its pretty neat soundtrack.

Paris Games Week: Colour me impressed, Sony

Is Paris Games Week a new games show? I’ve never heard of it before (which doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been going for a while, of course).

Anyhoo, PlayStation had a press even 6am this morning NZ time and showed off a whole swag of games for the PlayStation 4and stuff, like PlayStation VR, Uncharted 4 multiplayer, some unseen footage from Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn and a new game from David Cage, the guy behind Fahrenheit and Beyond Two Souls. I think it also announced a release date for No Man’s Sky.

I didn’t get up for the briefing (I was cuddling my pillow too much) so I watched some videos when I got home from work. Cage’s Detroit Become Human, which seems to be based on the Kara PS4 tech demo that Cage did, impressed, so did Guerilla’s Horizon Zero Dawn, which I’m also quietly optimistic about (at least from what I’ve seen so far).

Here’s a trailer for Detroit: 

And some footage of Horizon Zero Dawn: 

PlayStation also announced an on-rails game for its virtual reality headset, the imaginatively name PlayStation VR, called Until Dawn Rush of Blood. Here’s a trailer for that: 

There is also a new game coming from Media Molecule, the studio behind Little Big Planet. It’s called Dreams and it continues MM’s wacky game style. Watch it here: 

Then there’s Robinson: The Journey, from Crytek (the developers behind the original Far Cry). It has a futuristic feel to it but there are dinosaurs running around. It’s certainly interesting. Here’s the footage:

There’s certainly a lot to digest, isn’t there? I’m a little bummed that it seems like Sony has given up on its handheld, the PS Vita. It’s quite disappointing, actually.

Here are some other trailers to keep your eyes occupied:

RIGS Mechanised Combat League

Gravity Rush (which first appeared on the PS Vita): 

Uncharted 4’s MP reveal: 

GT Sport (from Polyphony Digital, the makers of Gran Turismo): 

Street Fighter V 

Something called Matterfall: 

Some more Star Wars Battlefront: 

Seems like it’s a good time to own a PS4.

Let me know what you think in the comments.