Deep in Sony's bunker at E3 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, T3 spent a good few hours investigating the veritable might of the new PS4.
In a series of demos, we got to grips, quite literally, with the new DualShock 4 controller, the PlayStation Camera, the companion iOS and Android app, and a smattering of new titles such as DriveClub, Killzone Shadow Fall and Knack, plus a Play Room demo.
Sony PS4: Controller
The controller itself is sturdy and reassuringly weighty in the palm compared to the always-a-bit-light-for-us DualShock 3, which is interesting as the Xbox One has slimmed down just as Sony has homed in on heft. It's not bulky though, and its sleekness is married to an almost textured coating on both the base and dual sticks that helps grip.
The dual sticks feel stiffer compared to the PS3's, and while this initially jars, we found with more exposure to them we actually preferred it for accuracy, though it takes some getting used to.
The triggers are now really very trigger-like indeed (although Killzone, rather bizarrely, still doesn't assign them as aim and fire) and their close placement to the shoulder buttons is a good design move that aids quick changes.
Sony PS4: Touch panel
The central touch panel is very responsive when navigating menus and a satisfying click acts as a surrogate Start button in its absence.
We actually really missed Start and Select to, well, start with (how do you pause?!), but the more time you spend with the touch panel, the more you realise what an increasingly exciting addition it is. Indeed, it's as at home replicating a touch screen as it is the movements of a PC trackpad.
On Killzone it brings up a secondary menu of attacks, while on Play Room it was used for everything from throwing things onto the screen to rubbing to interact with on-screen characters to moving on-screen paddles for air hockey. The bridge between smartphone games and the new raft of independent developers that PlayStation's busy pleasing is a very palpable one.
Sony PS4: 10 things you need to know
The motor rumble of the controller and speaker combine to generate some very impressive feedback, though not quite of the standard of the Xbox One's new joypad.
There's no rumble in the triggers here, but there is a real feeling of weight being moved around. At one point in the Play Room, AI bots fill the controller, and you can hear and feel them moving around inside the pad as you manipulate it. Alas, none of the demos used the new Share or Options button so we were unable to test their use.
Sony PS4: Camera
The PlayStation Camera is a bit of a micro-Kinect, following in the best tradition of EyeToy. Like Move, it reads the light bars on the rear of the DualShock 4s so that you can manipulate items on screen with it, but also reads your flailing arms to interact, too.
The resolution is decent if nothing too scary – it doesn't track your expression or engagement, but it can tell if you've covered your eyes (the crowd of AI bots on the demo hushed, before we pulled our hands away and they all cried in a really quite charming game of Peek-a-boo). It will also set your head on fire – virtually, at least – in that AR style that Reality Fighters and its Vita brethren did.
Sony PS4: App
Even more exciting was the PlayStation companion app, which will be available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets (in this case an Sony Xperia Z tab, obviously) as well as the PS Vita.
This is what the likes of Ubisoft are using in Watch Dogs and The Division as Sony's answer to SmartGlass, but here it was used to draw objects on a very simplified version of art package and literally 'throw' them on to the big screen. It's basic so far, but again, there's real potential there if they can expand the options.
The Play Room, a thoroughly enjoyable tech demo that's not confirmed for any official release, makes great use of the cam and we think Sony would be bonkers not to include as a getting-to-grips-with-the-hardware retail release. Maybe it could be packaged with the PlayStation Camera now Sony has confirmed that omitting that from the PS4 box was a way of keeping the costs down?
Sony PS4: Games
DriveClub is a decent racer with some nice features, although graphically we weren't as blown away as we expected (though the 'Pre-Alpha, 35% complete' sign should explain that). Handling is decent, with a focus on drifting with the shoulder buttons, but the system of Fame points is what is really interesting.
You race in clubs, but as you make your way round the track, independent challenges pop up with headshots of other drivers attached. You then have a variety of durations to better the random opponent – be it cornering, average speed or, yes, drifting – for extra goodies. It certainly keeps you interested, even if you've raced well ahead, and we can only imagine the online integration that will follow.
Sony PS4: Games we want to play right now
Knack is a rather basic combat brawler that has you smashing up scenery and growing your body, Katamari-style, before beating up a succession of bulky henchmen. Some twitchy camera angles aside, it's fun, though very much a 'first wave' title at first glance.
Finally, Killzone Shadow Fall looks rather gorgeous, although, in forests and detailed shrubbery, the particular level we played looked bugger all like typical Killzone.
The sheer number of combat options across triggers, d-pad and touch pad baffled us to the extent that we blew ourselves up twice with a grenade before we knew what was going on, but with persistence we actually killed some people and left intrigued by exactly where the extensive weaponry and drone assistance would take us
Sony PS4 release date: November 2013
Sony PS4 price: £349