A PC Gamer’s thoughts on the PS4
A couple of days ago the PS4 was announced and Sony gave us some information about the specs of the console and some of the games coming out for it. I guess it’s no secret that the two loudest groups on N4G are PS3 and PC gamers and this reveal caused a lot of arguing between the two groups. Unfortunately the arguments laid out by both groups were less than informed and intelligent debates and as time has gone on it has turned into insults and bickering. I have always wished that N4G would become a place where people had fun debates over these kinds of things however I don’t believe the systems in place (bubbles, vote down spam) allow for this.
I mention in the title that I am a PC Gamer however I do own a PS Vita and have a PS3 on the way so I think I am in a good position to talk about this without becoming clouded by an agenda. Anyway that is enough talk about N4G let’s get on to the PS4.
The most notable thing about the specs of the PS4 is how close the console is to regular PC components. Sony have described it as a Supercharged PC Architecture (whatever that means) and it contains an 8 core AMD Jaguar APU rumoured to be running at a low clock speed and 1.84 TFLOP GPU. Probably the most talked about part of the PS4 is the 8GB GDDR5 Unified memory. Well first what is unified memory? Well it means that the CPU and GPU both share the same pool of memory which has its own advantages and disadvantages. This part of the specification has left me a little bit puzzled as AMD has always struggled with making there CPUs play nice with high speed DDR3 ram and the PS4 is using GDDR5 which is a hell of a lot faster and with the CPU rumoured to be running at around 1.6Ghz it could become a potential bottleneck however that is all speculation and I am sure (hope) that this is not the case.
The console on paper seems a lot easier to develop for and I hope Sony will open up their console a little bit more like Microsoft did with the Xbox 360. The PS3 only had one core as opposed to the PS4s 8 cores which finally means we will be seeing some “easier” optimizations such as multithreading (I am not claiming multithreading is easy however it is easier than working with the SPUs of cell). For comparison the Xbox 360 had 3 cores however each core had two threads each. As a PC gamer with an 8 core CPU this is very exciting as it most likely means the big engines will push multithreading improving performance on both console and PC. The lower clock speed of the APU will not matter as much if games are optimized to work with all 8 cores.
I would comment on my thoughts on the GPU however I could not find a reliable source for specs of the thing so that leads me to talk about some of the other stuff that was announced at the conference. The first thing that struck me as odd was when they showed off that each new console used a different device for storing games. I think this means that we will be seeing a push towards Digital and Cloud solutions with the PS4, they will most likely not be sacrificing physical games however will be making there store more appealing when compared to a cheaper service like steam. The price of new games on PSN is ridiculous where on steam you usually find them discounted and around £10 - £15 cheaper. This for me is a step in the right direction, I do not have an optical drive in my gaming rig as they are slower than a HDD or SSD and less convenient leading to worse performance in games and disk switching.
The whole emphasis on share did not appeal to me at all as I don’t want other people to be watching me as I play. Of course the whole thing is optional so I don’t have to use this if I don’t want to and it looks like it will be a good feature for those who like this sort of thing. The push on social gaming and integration with facebook also did not appeal to me and I hope this will be optional. A lot of the stuff in the meeting I feel should not have been there such as the watered down tech demos of Unreal Engine and the high poly face which has been possible and outdone for ages however I think this was aimed at the casuals and people who are less into the industry / technology as it shows off what the PS4 can do compared to the PS3 and it is a big leap indeed.
The last thing I want to talk about is Sony’s graphical showpiece Killzone Shadow Fall. While watching the stream I thought the game looked terrible however after watching the footage again on youtube it is clear that the game looks very good. I would not put it up there with Crysis as it lacks a lot of the detail and high res textures most noticeable on the clothing of the characters. I was really disappointed to hear that the game was running at only 30fps at 1080p. With specs that Sony describe as a supercharged PC I was expecting close to PC performance and after playing Crysis 3 at 45 – 60fps on high it all felt a little underwhelming. Hopefully this will be improved as I and a lot of other games prefer performance over graphics.
All in all the PS4 looks like a very powerful system on paper and I hope that the games shown are not representative of its performance and are just a result of the developers being new to the hardware as the games are being outclassed by mid-range PCs (Crysis 3 and Project Cars). I have a feeling it is the latter and we will see some very impressive visuals soon from first party developers such as Naughty Dog. I hope you all enjoyed the read and would love to hear your comments on the PS4. All I ask is that you keep it as civil as you can.