Monday, 25 February 2013

Time to Stop Beating Around the Bush a.k.a. PS4 Thoughts

Rambling mode engaged.

Alright, so I've been very pointedly avoiding this topic for a few days now. No longer though. I should mention that this could be a multi-part endeavour, or even a week (although I do feel that would be a bit much to be honest), but it does have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is right here right now.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week or so when it comes to developments in the gaming community, you're probably well aware that on February 20th Sony announced the Playstation 4. During a roughly two hour press conference they announced the system, showed off a DualShock 4 prototype -- one that thankfully looked a fair bit less goofy than the one leaked online days before -- showed off some games and some tech demos and did the general chest-puffing "we're the best!" stuff that all gaming companies do when they're trying to sell us on new stuff.

To sum up my thoughts as briefly as possible: while nothing I witnessed repulsed me, nothing really enthralled me either.

I wasn't really expecting to be blown away by any graphical improvements, mostly because I've become accustomed to being quite cynical regarding anything that's released for a console before I can actually sit down and play it. Certainly Killzone: Shadowfall, Driveclub, Deep Down, and the other showcased games are pretty, but not only might they be slightly fudged in terms of the actual representation, but they're also not that big of an improvement over what we've come to expect from the current generation of consoles.

I know that making such a comparison -- old technology that people have gotten plenty of time to max out to new technology that work has only barely started on -- is somewhat unfair, but it's a comparison that is simply going to be made regardless, even if I didn't bring it up. Certainly what was shown was impressive to a certain degree, but it also wasn't mind-blowing, at least not from where I was standing.

The game -- or perhaps experience is a better word -- that has seemingly earned the most attention and also most of my skepticism, is Media Molecule. Touted as something that uses the Move controller to create 3D models in such a way that it is accessible to anyone. There was a lot of big talk about how even people that didn't want to model could use what others had created in order to facilitate unique experiences. That being said though I can't help but feel that this is one aspect that, if hyped any further than it already has been, may turn out to be hugely disappointing.

You have to remember that these aren't just random yahoos playing around with this; it's a dev team and the people that helped design the bloody thing. People may be less than thrilled when it turns out that the learning curve to create something even half as good looking as the models seen takes hours. As much as such a learning curve should be expected, people may simply be unwilling or unable to invest that much time. Likewise, until we see actual methodology behind the implementation of what was somewhat idealistically referred to as people's dreams it stands to reason that there may be more limitations in play than freedoms.

Certainly Sony could prove me wrong. I would certainly be quite pleased if that were the case. However, I'm honestly not holding my breath. As for the other games; while Knack and The Witness both look promising, that's more due to their own premises rather than simply by virtue of being on the Playstation 4. Killzone and Driveclub simply look like your average shooting and driving games, albeit maybe a little prettier, and for things like inFAMOUS: Second Son there wasn't even any actual gameplay so it's impossible to judge.

Anyways though. That, for now at least, is enough about games. Tomorrow we turn our attention to what the system has to offer in terms of benefits to both designers and players as a whole. Granted, benefits might be a term I use with a great deal of reluctance, for reasons that I will elaborate on when the time is right.

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