Thursday, 21 February 2013

PlayStation 4: The Re-EnPlaystationing

 Just before the start of Sony's massive press event unveiling the PS4 last night, I compiled a short list of things that, if they were announced, would make me a day-one system adopter.
  • Gitaroo Man 2
  • The return of the original PlayStation loading screen
  • New controller in the shape of a goose
  •  Backwards compatible with the PS3, PS2, PS1, N64 and Mega Drive
  • Console and controllers covered in conflict diamonds
  •  System cries like a wounded deer when turned off
  • Is crafted from Adamantium, weighs 7.4 tonnes
  • Something, anything, to suggest that The Last Guardian is still in development. ANYTHING.
  • David Cage not to be allowed to make any more public statements ever
Not only did Sony offer precisely none of these things, they summoned David Cage from whatever shadow dimension he resides in to shit on silent films for a bit. I'd have a minor rant about the ridiculous claims Cage made, but John Teti at the Gameological Society has already done a much better job of that than I ever could, so read that instead. You can imagine I wrote it, if you like.

Another thing Sony didn't offer was a look at the console they were supposedly launching. Sure, we got the new controller, which looks like a Dualshock but not quite finished yet, and we saw the Kinect-ish camera thing that will doubtless be shoehorned unnecessarily into every bloody game on the system, but we didn't get to see the PS4 itself. I realise this is probably because they haven't actually finalised the design of it yet, but is that OK? Is it really advisable to launch a console without anyone seeing it? If we don't see the hardware at work, doesn't cast some small doubt over the videos we're being assured are "PS4 gameplay"? What with the recent furore over Aliens: Colonial Marines undergoing a demake somewhere between preview video and release day, and Sony's own history with the PS3's launch promises, it seems like a lot for Sony to ask sceptical gamers to take on trust.

I don't want my concerns about not actually getting a glimpse of the PS4 to veer into tin foil hat territory - I'm sure the hardware is sorted, and it will be as powerful as ten wolves or whatever. I'm sure it will be capable of running games with all the polygons that David Cage could ever want. Where I do want to get paranoid is over Sony's idea of 'personalisation'. To simple folk like you and I, that means "making something your own through customisation". To Sony (and, lets be fair, Microsoft too), that means "burrowing into the deepest recesses of your brain to sell you things we hope you'll buy, whilst restricting your ability to make this your own through customisation". Since we didn't see the console, and Sony said “the living room is no longer the center of the PlayStation ecosystem—the gamer is", I would not be shocked if the PlayStation 4 is some kind of neural implant.

The plan is for the PS4 to pre-emptively download games it thinks you will like, so they are ready as soon as you even think their names. This troubles me, as I suspect it will recommend me an endless conveyor belt of shite, and then pout when I don't purchase it. I can see it refusing to load up other games, bringing up messages saying "PLAYSTATION DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WILL NOT PLAY MEDAL OF HONOR. PLAYSTATION HAS DETERMINED YOU WILL ENJOY. PLAYSTATION HAS DETERMINED YOU MUST COMPLY."

In terms of games, there wasn't a great deal that called out to me. Driveclub looked like a very pretty realistic driving game, and Killzone: Fallen Thingy looked like a standard manshoot, and neither of those things interest me that much. Knack looks to continue the hallowed trend of gearing up a 90's-style mascot platformer and sending it out to die at launch. Watchdogs looked great, and that puppet thing that Media Molecule showed looked as intriguing as it was baffling, but that was about it for me. I feel like I should like the look of Johnathan Blow's The Witness, but I've already played Myst once and didn't enjoy it.

So all in all I still feel like I'm in the dark about the PS4. There was nothing to grab me by the throat, but nothing that really kicked me in the groin either. I'm not sure how I feel about them trying to turn the PS4 into HAL 9000, but as long as it doesn't automatically purchase things for me I suppose I could live with it.


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