The PS4: Glass Half Empty

When a new console is announced, it appears to be customary for games writers to fall into one of two camps. On one hand, we have those who devour press releases and regurgitate them in sprawling paeans to god given silicon form, frothing wildly at the mouth and genitals for the chance to touch the very future of gaming. On the other, the cynics. The embittered husks where joy and enthusiasm once dwelt, their faces a sculpture of disdain and ill-hidden sneers.

I am going to try to avoid falling into either camp, but I’d like to apologise for the inexorable decline into cynicism and sarcasm that I’m pretty confident will happen throughout this article. You see, I don’t really hold out much hope for the PS4 as the future of gaming.

PS4

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a stalwart Sony man, ever since I was a tiny Sony child. If I’m ever held at gunpoint and forced to choose which of the three big consoles I’d support, I’d probably cry and wet myself. Then I’d wonder what sort of maniac holds someone at gun-point to ask a simple question, briefly wonder if a gaming PC counts as a console and finally confess that the Playstation is where my heart lies. I cut my gaming teeth on JRPGs played on my dull-grey Playstation 1. I remember playing Kessen 2 on the PS2, my first game on the console, and tripping balls over the amount of graphics it had (it had all the graphics). I use my PS3 daily. The thought of a PS4 should be catnip to me, causing me to freak out and play with balls of yarn. I’m not quite there though.

It doesn’t help that Sony decided to frame the PS4 as a “supercharged PC” during the conference. We know, Sony, that the PS4 is essentially a PC; we can tell from the AMD processor and the emphasis on 8GB of RAM. While it is making huge leaps on from the PS3, the problem is that I already have a PC. My PC can do all sorts of things. It can play brand new games, browse the internet, develop new games, let me write out my articles and post them to the site and all sorts of other pursuits, many involving porn or kittens (and never the twain shall meet). When my PC gets old, I can take it to pieces, buy new equipment and rebuild it better than it was. Better. Stronger. Faster. I will be afforded no such luxuries with a PS4. The PS4 will, going by the experience of my PS3, be used primarily for media and games. Which is no bad thing, but Sony really made a misstep in comparing the PS4 to a PC; it’s just not going to win.

That’s OK though. We can just take the PS4 as a console and look at the new features it’s going to bring to the table. Streaming games, letting us play our games the very moment they release? That’s something I can really get behind, especially as my PS3 slowly chugs away, too full of unplayed games to download any new ones. Except, like most people who would buy the PS4, I don’t have the perfect internet connection. I really want to be able to stream games to my console, but when my internet occasionally fails to allow me to update Twitter, I’m really not going to hold out much hope for my being able to play a game for even a few hours uninterrupted.

Chances are though that I’d still be working through my massive backlog of PSN purchases, my unplayed Uncharteds and Sly Coopers, were I to get the PS4. Sorry, Sony, I didn’t quite catch that? Can you repeat it for me? Oh, so the PS4 will be incapable of playing any of the games I’ve purchased on the Playstation network? Well, I’ll just pop in my disc for Uncharted 2 then an- oh, you’re not going to be able to play PS3 discs? Right. Sony have suggested that they might allow us to stream games we’ve previously purchased through their store (eventually), but that leaves us floundering back around the internet issue and I’m not much looking forward to owning a console and not being allowed to play any game I own on it.

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The sharing feature is a good idea though. I’m not even going to tear that down in a second, because it is genuinely a good idea. I like the whole concept of pressing a button on my controller and being able to upload the footage or take a screenshot of the insanely cool thing I just did in XCOM 2: XCOM With A Vengeance. I’m not looking forward as much to my social media feeds being full of brosephs posting videos of their insane kill-streak in the next Call of Duty, but really, that’s a small issue in the face of such an intrinsic change to how we share our gaming experiences.

I really do feel as if I’ve not only full joined the cynic’s camp, but that I’ve also promised to come back every Summer and help run the place for free. I was more enthusiastic about the console when I started this article, I swear. It’s just hard to keep that enthusiasm going when one of the games announced at the launch is Killzone 4. Sorry, Killzone: Shadow Fall. We get a new console announcement, a console full of infinite potential and wonder and we get another iteration of the man-shoot genre. Missing were the games that make me enthuse about my hobby: the Starbounds, the Owlboys, the Proteuses (Protopodes?). I know that there’s a solid demographic that Sony were aiming for with that announcement, but they had the chance to wow the world with the future of home gaming and they chose shooting humanoid figures in the face again? Sometimes this is a hard hobby to have. In the few games that were announced, we had two sequels, the completely over-hyped (already) Destiny and a game unironically called DriveClub. DriveClub, all one word. Listen now for the screams of editors across the land. Don’t even get them started on Watch_Dogs.

Although it doesn’t have too much to do with the actual console, the conference did seem to pack more sausage than a butcher’s window in regards to the speakers. Not a single woman was invited on stage to discuss the new console, despite reports that there were many women in the company ready and able to do so. It’s a move that I’m not sure was entirely deliberate (though that absolves Sony of no guilt), but there’s a reason why #1reasonwhy was so popular. Too many misters, not enough sisters.

The PS4 conference was, to me, a huge waste of potential. The potential to change gaming for the better, to move us on from head-popping shooters and the infuriating lack of backwards compatibility that has plagued Sony in recent years. They didn’t even show the console. Think about that for a minute. At the announcement for the PS4, the world’s press were invited but the console itself was not. I imagine it sitting at home, watching the livestream and wondering why Brenda from the PR department didn’t invite it, before slowly sinking into a bourbon-soaked funk.

The conference hasn’t sold me on the PS4.

It shouldn’t have convinced you either.

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4 thoughts on “The PS4: Glass Half Empty

  1. fimiller says:

    Words cannot express how much I love this article. Oh wait, those were a lot of words expressing my LOVE for this article ❤

  2. fimiller says:

    Words cannot express how much I agree and love this article. Oh wait, those words were plenty 😛 ❤

  3. Joe Roberts says:

    Great review. It’s interesting to see how it markets itself as a glorified PC. It means if it wants any chance it will have to be priced below a mid-spec PC if it’s to be competitive, but I find that unlikely given each new gen of console becomes more expensive than the last! If it can’t distinguish itself far enough from a PC too I think that would make people angry because then it will feel like it is just a PC with gimped functionality, it’s tricky! It can’t necessarily be helped though because of the performance demands expected from “console” platforms and i’m guessing 720 will go much in the same direction. As consoles are forced to become less distinguishable from PC’s and close in on PC territory I guess only one side can come on top – PC seems far the most practical and effective but the console format can make the most money! Suffice to say, for the time being a lot of good console games have been ported to PC, I hope that doesn’t change with PS4/720! Like hell i’m buying a console for the price of a PC, that is built from PC components that can only play games because of a corporate format war.

    No backwards compatibility would show complete contempt for the Sony fan base, they would be stupid not to allow that, though the reality is I can see this being a way to charge people for re-released PS3 games etc (too cynical?). The “man-shoot” game as the flagship for the console is pretty uninspiring, though very expected – but that is another can of worms! Hey, will we be seeing Worms on the PS4? In a lot of respects I consider that to be a shooter!

  4. Lucas Bert says:

    PC master race…. something something…. boo consoles.

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