Woo I bought an Xbone! Woo I bought a PS4! Woo I bought a Wii U (said no one). The next generation has been around for a while now, but a lot of people are feeling a bit short changed. If the grievance extended only as far as ‘there’s no games!’ then that would be understandable, but it’s been much more than that. There’s a significant amount of anger still being levied at Microsoft by the Sony cheerleaders, although quite why they feel the need to get so worked up over the fact that someone hasn’t chosen to buy the same console as they have when it has absolutely no impact on them whatsoever is a continual source of facepalm. Whilst the Xbox fan boys have had little choice to keep quiet, timidly waiting for Microsoft to drop their next bollock and embarrass themselves yet again; even those still trying to kid on that Titanfall is the most awesome thing to happen since first person shooters since Hitler invaded Poland have grown weary of being ignored. All the while, the PC fraternity have sniggered at the pettiness of the console underclasses and gone back to programming macros into Warcraft and not having girlfriends.
And yet, for all this petty infantile behaviour, underneath it all there may actually be a reasonable complaint; so far, the next generation hasn’t lived up to expectations.
Do we blame the consoles? We could do. Despite owning an Xbox One I have no problem saying that in many respects it is found wanting. I said way way back when the console was first announced that I thought Microsoft had chosen to try and beat Apple to the living room rather than beat Sony to the games room, and I stand by that. The problem however is that Apple haven’t turned up to the fight, leaving the One as the decathlete going up against a sprinter in a 100m race. What we’re left with then is one console that’s trying to appeal to a customer base that has failed to materialise, whilst the other has concentrated on the one that they had in the first place. That said, I will openly admit I love my Xbone much more than my 360, and frankly the constant over compensating swell of self-satisfaction over the size of their GPU’s (something which, I repeat, no one cares about) makes me think that the Sony crowd probably feel the same way.
Do we blame the game manufacturers? Again, we could do. With launch titles little but glorified demo’s (Ryse), bug ridden frustrations (Battlefield 4) and shiny versions of old gen titles (Call of Duty), there was little to get excited about if you weren’t a Forza fan. Titanfall turned out to be good not great, Thief slipped into a Remember Me like state of forgetableness and Watchdogs, whilst never likely to live up to the deifying levels of hype, is certainly not without its flaws. Are the games a huge step forward from the previous generation? No. Are there many of them? No. With games continuing to be churned out on the old consoles those who have handed over their money expecting greatness are still sitting on the side lines, waiting for something exciting to come along.
Can we blame EA? It’s fashionable and they often deserve it, but it isn’t just them. The relentless effort to try and make day one DLC an acceptable practise rumbles on, but that would happen regardless of which generation of console we were in. Check out PC add ons and you can see that games can easily run into hundreds of pounds if you really want to see an example of a fan base being milked into dehydration.
I however, have a theory. I think the biggest problem with this generation is the consumers, and the unrealistic weight of expectation we have placed upon it. Ask yourself – what is a next gen game and what MAKES it a next gen game? Difficult to answer isn’t it. If we could have reasonably expected a unicorn that shits rainbows and shoots Angel Delight from its nipples than that disappointment would be fine, but we didn’t. So what did we actually expect? Does next gen mean ultra-realistic graphics? Of course it doesn’t, there’s so much more to games than just being able to see Lara Croft’s armpit stubble. New functionality? I for one am glad that Kinect 2.0 has been met with the same warm embrace as Kinect 1.0, and I don’t see the light bar on the Dualshock 4 blowing anybody’s mind. Level size? One of the things that impressed me recently about Sniper Elite 3 was the huge sandbox levels, moving from task to task with no loading screens. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘this is what next gen gives you’ conveniently forgetting that the same thing happens in GTA V and many others.
Shortly after the announcement of the PS4, I got to go and see a demo of Watchdogs on the new console. I asked the rep from Ubisoft what it was that set the PS4 apart from the then current technology. ‘It wont be graphics’ was his first answer ‘We’re currently maxing out the PS3 and 360 and just starting with the next consoles, so it’ll be a year to 18 months before we see anything truly impressive. The main difference will be the environments’. The example he gave was how if you play GTA you’ll find a really rare car, and suddenly it’s everywhere. That’s because the console only has enough power to generate and render a certain number of models, which is why you get this repitition happening. The 4/One have the guts inside to render much more in depth and active environments, which is currently where the big difference lies. Watchdogs is a case in point; a side by side comparison of it being played on 360 and a One would show you walking into rooms filled with considerably more NPC’s, different scenery and more interactive environments.
To be honest, there’s an awful said about our current generation of consoles that I really don’t care about. The whole ‘haha! Your console can’t do 60 fps!’ business that seems to have been going on for months, and I’m yet to see any gameplay footage that makes me think ‘sigh, if only it was at 60 fps’. Similarly, I don’t care whether my game runs at 1080p or has been upscaled; a game can look shit in high definition as easily as it can in low definition. And anyway, if I REALLY cared about graphics I would have spent three times the money I spent on my Xbox on a gaming PC which would then instantly be out of date.
My advice would be stop worrying about whether this game is going to be like stepping into 2001 A Space Odyssey, whether its graphic enough to give you post-traumatic stress syndrome or whether your buddy with the other console is enjoying it in slightly higher resolution. Stop worrying about what other people are doing and just enjoy playing your game.
Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and writer. A fan of racing sims and first person shooters, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes.He's usually found in front of his Xbox or his laptop, follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 Gamertag: drewski060609