Smoke on the water
The Sony announcement has come and gone, and much of it was as expected. There was the announcement of the Playstation 4, the controller was a refined version fo the prototype we’d already seen, and the only real hardware surprise was the extra 4GB of DDR5 RAM, bringing the total up to a healthy 8GB. More interesting was what they didn’t show us, namely the actual machine, the price, the date or much about the online service which will apparently be subscription-based. All of this points to a slightly pre-emptive display, trying to (successfully) beat Microsoft to announcing the next gen. They had some games to show off and for the most part they were fairly impressive, even if they weren’t all real.
For one thing, not all of it was fake. Killzone was definitely running on a PS4 and it looked amazing. They showed the same demo on Jimmy Fallon last night and he was terrible at it, handily proving this was a live demonstration. It’s a great looking game and if Killzone 3 was anything to go by, it’ll be broad and diverse in terms of visuals. The only issue I have will Killzone is that it’s dull. I mean it’s a perfectly well put together game, and Killzone 3 was easily in my top 10 FPS games of this generation, but even the fact that there are ten FPS high quality games of this generation is slightly mind boggling and it’s getting to the point where developers are running out of ways to make it interesting. Here are my top ten and the main interesting things I can remember from their single player campaigns:
1. Half life 2 – The final hilariously overpowered charge through the citadel
2. Halo 3 – Getting into a space fighter and doing a quick space-sim mission
3. Killzone 3 – The wander through the enemy stronghold in disguise
4. Bioshock – The first thirty minutes, from the plane crash to your first splicer
5. Battlefield 3 – Tanks rolling across the desert
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – The AC-130
7. Crysis – The opening beach
8. Far Cry 3 – Swimming with manta rays
9. Singularity – Time travel
10. Left 4 Dead – Abandoning Le Petit Dodo on a street to be devoured by a horde
All of these moments were great, but what next? What else can developers really do? The problem with many of the features on that list is that they were set pieces, and th rest of the game was fairly similar to all of the others. Few games change up the actual shooting mechanics, the 30 seconds of gameplay that you will repeat over and over again. There’s a reason you can load up the next Call of Duty game and do fine without reading the manual, it’s because you’ve been playing similar games for fifteen years now.
All of this means I’m worried about the next generation if they continue to rely on FPS games to lead the way. In much the same way as the jRPG got stale this generation, already looking at next gen games I can feel that it’s hard to get excited about the new Killzone, even Crysis 3 I’m still not sure about. Is it worth £40 to play through the same game I have 100 times before, but this time it’s a lot prettier?
Other than Killzone the games we saw that will be real games were few and far between. We saw Watch Dogs again and it looked magnificent, although how free you really are to use all of those hacking tools is up in the air. Like many games, developers will have created cinematic setpieces to show off all those tools, but in the real game will you find one tool works fine 99% of the time and so you’ll never have need to raise bollards or stop a train? I think the challenge for them is to find ways to encourage the player to think outside the box.
Knack looked fun and had a lovely art style that showed what the PS4 is capable of while at the same time providing something a bit different. It essentially looked like Kameo, but that’s fine because Kameo was great and I’d happily play through a next gen action-adventure with a few interesting mechanics.
Destiny was another FPS, from what we’ve heard I’m imagining it’s more Guild Wars 1 than DayZ, but it’s definitely got MMO aspects to it. This could be exciting if they get it right, but I was disappointed with the announcement that it’ll be out on PS3 too. In my mind I want to move on to next-gen, if the whole game was possible on the PS3 then what’s the point?
Diablo 3 is a game I played for a few weeks last year and then got bored of. I understand not everyone is into PC gaming, so it might attract a new market, but it doesn’t sound like they’ve improved the game too much so it’ll probably be a pass from me. Four player local co-op is a nice touch, I wonder if one person could play on the Vita Wii U style?
Everything else was just hype, videos of games that may never get released and will certainly not be the same as what we saw. The Unreal 4 demo seemed an odd choice as we’ve already seen that and despite their claims it was running on a PS4 that’s incredibly abstract as it lacks AI or any of the other background processing that games require, so it’s just a pretty video really. The Media Molecule sculpture thing looked great but I have no idea how it could work. It did show the PS3 Move controllers being used though so I suggest buying up a couple now as their prices will skyrocket when the PS4 comes out. Capcom and Squenix’s presentations were dull really. Tech demos with no evidence they were running on the PS4 just showing off art styles that we’ve seen before in other games. They didn’t teach us anything new or exciting, and the Final Fantasy manager’s announcement that there will be an E3 with some game announcements was ridiculous.
Overall the conference was far too long and contained a lot of filler, but I’m genuinely interested in the console and particularly the streaming features. There weren’t any game announcements that got me really excited and I hate the new controller already, but at least it got us talking about the PS4 before the Xbox 720, and that’s what they wanted isn’t it?