PlayStation Now Unveiled at CES, PS4 Firmware Update v1.60 released, Native PlayStation 1+2 Emulation rumors swirling admist new PS4 firmware updates, “The Last of Us” Single-Player DLC “Left Behind” officially gone gold and oodles of schmoodles info on new game releases [UPDATED 2/15/2014]

PlayStation Now officially unveiled at CES 2014, coming to your local PlayStation H/W in Summer of 2014

 

PlayStation Now Gaikai-based streaming service being revealed at CES 2014

PlayStation Now Gaikai-based streaming service being revealed at Sony’s keynote address during CES 2014

 

Sony promised PS3 backwards compatibility for the PS4 via it’s cloud based-streaming service, Gaikai (acquired by Sony in 2012 for a cool $380 million) and it appears to be finally taking shape. Announced on January 7th at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Sony demoed the “PlayStation Now” internet-streaming service on a variety of Sony hardware (which in the future may negate the need for proprietary hardware, ie the PlayStation 4 console, to enjoy and play Sony exclusive titles). Amongst the veritable goldmine of broad Sony exclusives shown running on PlayStation Now, CES goers were treated to streaming versions of 1st-party hits such as “The Last of Us“, “Puppeteer“, “God of War: Ascension” and “Beyond: Two Souls“; all graphically-intense titles that have been released over the past year and a half. The games were playable on PlayStation Vita’s and more interestingly, 2014 Bravia TV’s, and a select few smartphones/tablets using just a DualShock 3 Controller and a connection to the PlayStation Now service. Sony has stated that the service will allow it’s subscribers (yes, it is a paid-for service although at this point I don’t know if it’s part of the PS Plus subscription package or a separate entity) to play PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 classics along with strong support of Sony’s PS3 exclusives. This could be a boon for Sony, as they have an absurdly deep back catalog for both the PS1 and PS2 (the latter selling over 150 million units worldwide making it the best selling console ever) allowing the Sony faithful and even more imperative, gamers new to the extensive retro titles of the PS One and PS2, to enjoy hard-to-find titles that until now, were confined and orphaned on physical disc to specialty game shops. I’ve always been one to enjoy the tangible vs. the digitally intangible software but with classic and hard to find PS1/2 game prices skyrocketing, even I admit this is a fantastic alternative to play all my old Sony favorites akin to Nintendo’s Virtual Console on the Wii and Wii U (WipeOut XL, Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy 7/8/Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Clock Tower, Einhander, Elemental Gearbolt, Shadow Tower, Kings Field I/II, Silent Hill, Megan Man Legends, Suikoden, Xenogears, RayStorm, Resident Evil 1/2/3 etc etc.)

PlayStation Now has begun closed-beta testing as of Jan 28th, and the service is expected to expand across several western and eastern markets as soon as the second and third quarter of 2014, with a full roll out to be completed by end of the year. For optimal performance with minimal gameplay and visual sacrifice, Sony recommends that you are using an wired internet connection with at least 5 MBps or more when gaming on PlayStation Now. A YouTube video was released just recently that showed a complete demonstration of PlayStation Now’s UI and streaming potential while the person played Killzone 3, unfortunately the video has since been taken down due to “copyright violations” by SCEA. The leaked video shows that PS Now is booted from the PSN tab on the XMB, then opens a new app resembling the PlayStation Store to begin the streaming service. Sony also says that in the near future, PlayStation 4 titles are in the works to be streamed across the service. This is certainly a great way for Sony to expand the PlayStation brand for consumers who may not be interested in dropping $300-$400 on new hardware and tap into the lucrative “casual gamer” market that the Wii captured back in 2007 and lost to the current trend of smartphones and tablets. If Sony can reclaim that audience, it certainly could be a dominating force in the casual gaming and console market. To watch the CES preview of the PlayStation Now service, watch the video below to catch a glimpse of the UI and the potential of the PS3 streaming service (video courtesy of Quentyn Kennemer via http://phandroid.com/2014/01/14/sony-playstation-now-demo/):

 

PlayStation 4 gets fancy-schmancy new update, version 1.60 which offers much-needed improved headset support amongst other stability fixes and enhancements

The new official Sony "Pulse" Gold headset works on the PS4 and supports 7.1 virtual surround sound - SWEET ASS SWEET!

The new official Sony “Pulse” Gold headset works on the PS4 and supports 7.1 virtual surround sound – SWEET ASS SWEET!

 

As of Feb 4th, Sony has officially released v1.60 firmware update for the PlayStation 4. One of the PS4’s many new improvements is that it automatically connects to Sony’s servers, then downloads and installs the update in the background while the system is in standby mode. Or you can do it the old fashioned the way and download the firmware update from Sony’s official website to a USB Flash drive and do a local installation. Reportedly, the update weighs in around 300 MB. Here are a list of the new features, fixes and improvements:

  1. Wireless stereo headsets (CECHYA-0080 / CECHYA-0083 / CECHYA-0086) and a stereo headset (CECHYA-0088) are now supported.
  2. You can now mute the microphone for PlayStation®Camera.

Also included in this update are general stability fixes. But the added support for Sony’s premium headsets is a definitive BONUS! For more information or to download the firmware update and install it to your PS4, head over to Sony’s official PlayStation Support Page at http://us.playstation.com/support/systemupdates/ps4/index.htm.

Native PS2 and PS1 Emulation rumored to be coming to PlayStation 4 via future firmware update

 

 

Sony reigned supreme with the release of the PS2. Selling over 150 consoles worldwide, the PlayStation 2 dominated the 6th generation of gaming systems.

Sony reigned supreme with the release of the PS2. Selling over 150 consoles worldwide, the PlayStation 2 dominated the 6th generation of gaming systems.

Yeah so this is a big deal to me and anyone else who grew up during the 80’s and 90’s, with their ‘rents buying us NES’s or SEGA Genesis’s. We are the first group of gamers to grow older as each iterative console cycle manifested, and therefore we are the first to see the myriad of gaming systems released over the past 25+ years. As such, I feel some kind of ownership towards the current and past gaming ecosystems, with every new generation establishing a solid hierarchy.  In the case of PlayStation, I remember trading my SNES and my 40+ games into EB Games (before GameStop took over EVERYTHING) just to acquire a brand new PlayStation One with Destruction Derby, Resident Evil, Warhawk and WipeOut (franchises that are still prominent today). So the fact that Sony is now rumored to be working on a future update for the PS4 that will allow for native PS1 and PS2 backwards compatibility truly means a great deal to me. If this does come to fruition, it would make the PlayStation 4 the ultimate console in Sony hardware and amongst it’s contemporaries, being able to play PS One, PS2 and thanks to PlayStation Now, PS3 games.

A console that is fully backwards compatible would be an amazing feat, as it seems that most (not all) console manufacturers have remained adamant that deterrent factors such as cost or incompatible hardware is the reason for non-compliance. But with such a ridiculous back catalog of games for both the PS1 and PS2, it would seem almost absurd and shameful that Sony would not take advantage of such a opportunity via emulation if their current PS4 H/W allows it (and it seems more then powerful enough to do so). I still have a small library of PS One games, most of them rarities that I’ve managed to hold onto over the years because well…. their just not that easy to find anymore and aren’t available digitally via PSN yet. Sony has everything to gain and nothing to lose by providing PS One/PS2 emulation natively (whether it be via original disc or download; hopefully we get BOTH) since their are still sooo many titles that have yet to been repackaged from both the PS One and PS2 era. PS4 Backwards-compatible emulation would also allow HD upscaling in a less arbitrary nature that was implemented for the PlayStation 3, presenting an aesthetically pleasing experience while maintaining that great classic gameplay we’ve all come to expect from Sony’s top tier exclusives from the bygone console eras. While all this is just pure speculation, Digital Foundry did have a very interesting and competent report on what could be via future firmware updates regarding PS1/PS2 software emulation.

Hopefully, like the early models of the PS3 that Sony manufactured that actually contained the original PlayStation 2 hardware under the hood, Sony will allow playback of physical discs that people already have in their PS One and PS2 collections. And while Sony eventually removed the PS2 backwards compatibility from those earlier models since each PS3 unit was selling at a tremendous loss, it in fact probably saved the PlayStation brand that is now beginning to thrive again today. Sony has advocated a good amount of pro-consumer idealism thanks to their E3 presentation by simply branding the PlayStation 4 as a true gamers console- no extra fanfare, no forced flagrant takeover of your TV set and unwarranted motion-tracking; Sony was pitching the PS4 as a fundamental gamers machine, not an extravagant all-in-one box that was designed to be the centerpiece of your living room. And while some may prefer the latter, core gamers care about one thing and one thing only: how well does the machine play games and will it provide the gaming experience that a Sony console should offer? The answer is a resounding yes, as the PS4 has already sold well over 4 million units in just a short span of 3 months. It’s clear that Sony is focusing it’s efforts to attract the legions of ardent Sony fans while reaching for a larger audience. In short, Sony knows it’s user base and if these backward compatibility rumors prove true, is doing everything it can to retain previous PlayStation users and attract new gamers that want to do want a console does best: play videogames.

 

PlayStation emulators have been commonplace on PC's for years, but Sony *MAY BE* taking a page out of these software emulators to run PS1 and PS2 titles natively on the PS4. ePSXe is one of the more popular PS emulators for the computer.

PlayStation emulators have been commonplace on PC’s for years, but Sony *MAY BE* taking a page out of these software emulators to run PS1 and PS2 titles natively on the PS4. ePSXe is one of the more popular PS emulators for the computer.

While PS3 compatibility will be relegated to Sony’s cloud-based streaming service PlayStation Now, previous generations of Sony H/w (PS1 and PS2 respectively) will be played via software emulation on the PlayStation 4. Even more interesting is that games played via emulation could contain HD upscaling and higher resolutions, something that is already possible on a mid-end PC running a PlayStation emulator such as ePSXe which can significantly alter the graphical fidelity of older PlayStation 1 and 2 titles. Using software emulation on the PS4, Sony may be implementing native HD resolutions instead of the blurry, artifact filled upscaled resolutions that the PlayStation 3 used when it runs PS One software or PS2 games (on earlier “fat” models of the PS3 that contained PS2 emulation via direct hardware or through software on later fat models). Again, while this is all speculation and rumors at this time, I sincerely hope Sony is hard at work on this project.

 

The Last of Us single-player DLC “Left Behind” released, download it now via the PlayStation Network Store

 

Ellie and her BFF Riley's story is told through this 3 hour campaign about how it sucks being a mischievous teenager in a post-pandemic North America.

Ellie and her BFF Riley’s story is told through this 3 hour DLC campaign about how it sucks being a mischievous teenager in a post-pandemic North America.

 

Probably the most anticipated downloadable content aside from Bioshock Infinte’s “Burial at Sea”, The Last of Us jas dished out a mini-prequel of sorts establishing Ellie’s backstory before she met crazy-like-a-fox Joel. The DLC chapter, entitled “Left Behind”, has been in development for quite some time and was officially released on the loneliest day of the year for fat, unkempty gamer-nerds the world over; AKA: Valentines DayPerhaps there was some amorous intent for releasing the 2-3 hour campaign on V-Day, reminding all of us dateless wonders that we still do have something to live for outside the mystique of the opposite gender. That our empathy can be redirected towards Ellie after enduring the grueling and abhorrent cross-country cordecyps road trip with her paternal ward, Joel. After all, The Last of Us intricately wove one of the most well-defined and tragic survivalist tales to grace the console market in a long, long time. True to form, instead of focusing on new gameplay elements, more updates/weapons and new skill-trees, Left Behind takes the player on Ellie’s own journey beginning with her time orphaned at a military-style school. Left Behind introduces a new character that was only mentioned briefly in passing during the main campaign: Ellie’s best friend Riley. If you played through the main campaign and enjoyed it, you would be a silly, inbred smelly fool not to purchase and playthru Left Behind. Now available via the PlayStation Store on PSN  for $15 or through the TLoU Season Pass (or eventually via the yet-to-be-announced retail GOTY edition on disc; wait and see I’m sure it will be hitting store shelves by the end of the year like every bestselling PS3 exclusive). To watch the Left Behind trailer, play the video below:


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BEYOND: Two Souls Review in progress, New PS3 Releases and PS4 won’t support Bluetooth Headsets out-of-the-box

Beyond: Two Souls, the, last true great character and story driven PS3 exclusive for this generation?

Quantic Dreams curtain call for the PS3 has polarized gamers, critics and news outlets a like. I'm currently about to start the long, arduous process of playing through David Cage's latest attempt at combining conventional game interactivity with cinema-style writing and actors with extraordinary results. Visually, the game is probably the prettiest thing available for Sony's console and it should be, as Cage and company have had years to develop the engine, assets and mo-cap technology that take great advantage of multifaceted Cell processor.

Quantic Dreams curtain call for the PS3 has polarized gamers, critics and news outlets a like. I’m currently about to start the long, “arduous” process of playing through David Cage’s latest attempt at combining conventional game interactivity with cinema-style writing and actors that hopefully achieve extraordinary results. Visually, the game is probably the prettiest thing available for Sony’s console and it should be, as Cage and company have had years to develop the engine, assets and mo-cap technology that take great advantage of the multifaceted Cell processor.

The PlayStation 3 has had a great run, and it’s still not over with. Sony has publicly stated that the PS3 is meant to have a 10-year life span, which is entirely feasible as Sony supported their PS2 while the PlayStation 3 faced multiple first-party software delays, extreme ineptitude with it’s online support and sub-par multi-platform releases. The Wii outsold the Wii U consistently month after month when Nintendo’s new console got off to a rocky start, thanks to an absurd amount of first party software delays and an abundance of third parties choosing not to release their multi-platform titles for Nintendo’s next-gen console. While Nintendo recently announced they have discontinued manufacturing Wii consoles, It’s no surprise then that a month from now when the PlayStation 4 comes to town, PS3 owners should expect the same level of support they’ve been receiving for years from Sony. Nintendo still has the 3DS and the Wii U will get a boost this holiday with some strong first-party support, and while Microsoft doesn’t exactly have a strong track record of supporting their previous console iterations, they should acknowledge that their are still somewhere in the neighborhood of 70+ million households with XBOX 360’s. Eventually it previous-generation will drop off as the PS4 and Xbox One gradually takes their place, but there will still be a strong level of support from Sony. However, while  multi-platform titles are a no-brainer to see releases on both last-gen and next-gen PlayStation consoles, what we may not continue to see much more of is first-party exclusives for the PS3. Beyond: Two Souls is a huge first-party release for Sony, simply because it may be the last PS3 exclusive outside of Gran Turismo 6 to be released for awhile.

Sony will concentrate most of it’s efforts to shifting it’s first-party studios from the out-dated Cell-powered PS3 and acclimating their prized studios with the much more developer friendly x86 8-Core AMD powered PS4. Typically, the first batch of games for a new console are watershed titles; games that players will recognize and instantly be attracted to. Sony, however, has chosen to release two brand new IP’s in Knack and Drive Club. The only recognizable franchise is Killzone: Shadow Fall which has always been a show-off title for Sony’s platforms. The sandbox shooter will take advantage of the PS4’s new touchscreen on the Dual Shock 4 controller and the integrated mic. However, Shadow Fall’s most significant contribution will probably have nothing to do with gameplay at all, but instead will be the title that demonstrates what the new horsepower Sony has under their sleek new parallelogram-shaped box is capable of: Particle effects, larger depth of field, higher resolutions running at a solid 60 fps, high-res textures, background UI computations with the “SHARE” button…. etc. Shadow Fall looks to be a visually stunning game and while the Killzone franchise has never reached the level of success like Microsoft’s HALO series, on launch day that won’t matter because Microsoft doesn’t have Halo, or any new exclusive FPS to compete directly with Shadow Fall. Sony can simply win by default, as Microsoft did back in 2006 when it released the XBOX 360 a year a head of Sony’s PS3. MS showed up to the party first, and many gamers didn’t feel it was worth the wait for a console that was more expensive and included extra features they didn’t care about (ie: the Blu-ray Drive, Micro SD slots, four USB slots; although as a retrospective Sony clearly made the right move implementing BD as Blu-Ray has become the go-to replacement for DVDs, and as the price continually dropped for the PS3, gamers saw that owning a game machine that included a BD drive and a bevy of great exclusives was a clear win-win choice).

Titles like Beyond, Heavy Rain, The Last of Us, Ni No Kuni, Uncharted, Little Big Planet, Journey, Puppeteer, Ratchet and Clank, Gran Turismo, Resistance, Killzone, WipeOut, Metal Gear Solid 4, Kingdom Hearts Remix, Persona 3, 4 (and hopefully 5) show that Sony clearly has a broad selection of first-party content and clearly aren’t afraid to take chances with more daring content. As long as Sony can keep the great exclusive content coming, the PS4 should be just as, if not more successful than it’s predecessor. Here’s hoping that my play-through of Beyond: Two Souls leaves a lasting impression on me like all the great aforementioned Sony exclusive content. Oh and by the way, Team Ico, if you’re still out there, please let us know if the “The Last Guardian” is really still in development or it has been sucked into the gaming abyss of lost titles, otherwise known as vaporware. PS3, PS4, PS Vita, I don’t care at this point anymore- JUST RELEASE IT FOR ONE OF SONY’S PLATFORMS ALREADY!

New multi-platform and exclusive PS3 releases that you shouldn’t pass up

A couple of awesome re-releases have come to pass this October. First and foremost, if you haven’t yet played Borderlands 2 or found reason to buy it yet, Borderlands 2 GOTY Edition  (released October 8th in NA) contains all the DLC packs on disc that were released for the title over the past year (there were like 6 or 7 DLC packs for this game, SERIOUSLY) along with the crucial update which raises the level cap and two new playable character classes. I have easily put well over 80-100 hours into BL2, so I traded in my old copy towards the GOTY Edition because I know i’ll be playing the new content and maxing out my character class again.

Released Oct 8th, BL2 GOTY includes over $100 worth of DLC and other awesome goodies for the massive FPSRPG

Released Oct 8th, BL2 GOTY includes over $100 worth of DLC on disc and other awesome goodies for the massive FPSRPG

Another great GOTY Edition released October 8th was Dishonored Game of the Year Edition which includes all the awesome DLC packs ON DISC released for the critically acclaimed Stealth-FPS hybrid. Again, if you have yet to play this title here’s a great reason to pick it up. At only $40 brand new, Dishonored GOTY Edition is a great addition to any gamers collection who is looking for a serious FPS challenge.

Corvo returns to wreck havoc on those who wronged him in the GOTY Edition which contains all DLC packs on disc. The total pack is a very lean $40.

Corvo returns to wreck havoc on those who wronged him in the GOTY Edition which contains all DLC packs on disc. The total pack is a very lean $40.

And last but not least, Capcom Essentials is a collection of Capcom games this generation. Released also October 8th that includes 5, yes FIVE full-fledged signature releases from Capcom this console cycle. Included in the bundle: Dead Rising 2, Resident Evil 6, Devil May Cry 4, Super Street Fighter 4 and a download code for Megaman 10. I’m not sure why Megaman 10 wasn’t included on disc, especially for the PS3 version which can take advantage of absurd amount of storage space used by BD discs. Anyways, here’s a breakdown of the bundle for the XBOX 360 version:

The Capcom Essentials 5-in-1 bundle may be a nice addition to your collection if you don't own any of these titles, although you probably can pick up most of these titles used for under 10-15 dollars. The MSRP is $59.99 for this new bundle, so it may be more of a matter of convenience to have all these games in one package.

The Capcom Essentials 5-in-1 bundle may be a nice addition to your collection if you don’t own any of these titles, although you probably can pick up most of these titles used for under 10-15 dollars. The MSRP is $59.99 for this new bundle, so it may be more of a matter of convenience to have all these games in one package.

For PS3 Exclusives, there are a couple obvious choices.

We had Beyond: Two Souls, which was Sony’s big exclusive for October. For September, we had the whimsical platformer Puppeteer which was released for a reasonable $40 brand new. And on the digital front we had the PSN exclusive puzzle-platformer RAIN which came out mid-October. And for you rabid Last of Us fans, we have the first of the DLC multiplayer content being released October 16th. It’s a map pack that contains around 4-5 new maps.

Released September 10th to mostly positive reviews, Puppeteer is the latest retail release from Studio Japan. You take control of a puppet (duuh) missing his head and throughout the game you obtain different heads that each give you a unique power . You also obtain a pair of shears that you wield as a sword and also as a means to "cut: through certain parts of a level to access new areas or navigate through specific areas. You will also face some pretty intense boss battles, which many reviews highlighted as the games strongest moments.

Released September 10th to mostly positive reviews, Puppeteer is the latest retail release from Studio Japan. You take control of a puppet (duuh) missing his head and throughout the game you obtain different heads that each give you a unique power . You also obtain a pair of shears that you wield as a sword and also as a means to “cut: through certain parts of a level to access new areas or navigate through specific areas. You will also face some pretty intense boss battles, which many reviews highlighted as the games strongest moments.

PlayStation 4 won’t support Bluetooth headsets for chat, Sony confirmed to Game Informer

With the PS4 and XBox One on the near horizon, new details are emerging about both consoles as launch day nears. One little nugget of info is that existing PlayStation 3 Bluetooth Headsets will not be compatible with the PS4’s chat features. This is definitely a bummer, since I own a Sony licensed and manufactured Bluetooth set that works beautifully with my PlayStation 3’s online gaming. Fortunately, I didn’t pay much for it so if need be I can replace it if Sony hasn’t fixed this glitch with a firmware or software update to the PS4 OS. I won’t be purchasing a PS4 probably until a year or two into it’s life cycle, so PS3 headsets will eventually be made compatible by a firmware update. If you own a Sony Pulse Bluetooth headset (which costs around $100).

The PlayStation 4 will include a simple headset/mic combination, but these typically are not as clear sounding as Bluetooth sets. As previously mentioned, an update will provide compatibility for Sony’s branded PULSE headsets and Sony will issue a system update to provide this compatibility in the coming months, but would not specify an exact date. The included USB headsets will be mono, so you essentially get what you pay for (the bundled PS4 headsets are free, btw).