Sony’s tag line for Playstation 4 has been “Greatness Awaits.” For many gamers, that greatness is something they are still awaiting.
I don’t mean to indict the big name games from the king of exclusives outright, but I would like to call to attention your thoughts on what console gamers have gotten in the form of “greatness” so far and in the near future for a purpose.
That purpose intersects with the newest question to arise surrounding gaming, “What constitutes next-gen?” That used to be something anybody and everybody could easily agree on. Things are different now with gamers more or less giving up on advancement. Evidence for this is found in the recent fascination with resolution (Is it 1080p?) and frame rate (It runs at 60 fps right?). I find myself wondering where the folks are that should be asking for new gameplay innovations.
The word innovation gets tossed around a lot, but usually generically. We need to consider it with each important piece of these new generation games. Are the level designs and traversal methods improved over throwing switch A to open section B after beating enemy wave X? Are we still dealing with just a few basic styles of enemy? Are boss battles still a matter of hitting obvious weak points? If the game is first person what has been changed to make it more immersive than previous games of this type? Can combat be made more intuitive, more dramatic?
The questions are endless, and they are creative ones. Why address all of that though when apparently all we need are the same games as before but with better graphics and frame rates?
When it comes to Sony my chief concern is that we will continue to see more style over substance with PS4’s continuing roll out. I seem to be the only one willing to criticize Second Son but we’ve got to face facts. It was a fun, more accessible, less precarious version of its predecessors. The city got prettier, but went from a giant jungle gym to a blur you swept past. The powers looked beautiful, but there were fewer of them and they were less imaginative to boot.
Killzone: Shadow Fall had little more than its graphics. The settings usually had such wonderful gloss on them you almost didn’t notice how small and familiar they were, often paling in comparison to the level design from Killzone 2. Freefall and zero gravity levels should have added fun new gameplay but no critics felt they delivered. I saw so many missed opportunities I almost wanted to jump in front of that train that hit you a dozen times in a row anyway no matter how you approached the train mission. ;)
Recently Driveclub arrived to mixed reviews, mainly lukewarm ones from the reputable sources. Granted the game isn’t what you would normally call “finished,” we still shouldn’t hit the breaks and forget to ask what makes this graphically impressive drive special in the gameplay department. It is meant to be accessible, but where is the reason to buy it over another racer besides the presentation.
Looking into the future I see The Order: 1886 being subject to similar criticism. Heck, it already has been long before release. If you watch those videos closely you can see even in the gloom of the setting that the soft physics are producing stellar visual effects, the cinematics are a step above, and yet from what we can see of the gameplay we are left wondering what’s new. I would caution gamers not to judge any game just from videos, but if Ready At Dawn isn’t implementing something to make it more than a horror version of Uncharted (a great looking, cinematic, linear adventure) then one would expect gamers and critics to give it the big “meh” no matter how gorgeous it is. Honestly I’m afraid that the next big announcement from Sony will be another Kratos driven God of War game with the same old fixed camera setup.
All of this doesn’t address story and character development, which are also great frontiers for change and innovation (ahem, The Last of Us). However if we are to await greatness any longer then it’d be nice to know if all that “greatness” will consist of from the top performing console platform is the prettiest of pretties in the gaming patch then let’s make it official so we can all stop hoping for something decidedly new beyond what our eyes can see.
Maybe some day The Last Guardian will show up and shake things up for all of us… maybe.