Something happened last night. Something totally unexpected.
During Sony’s PlayStation 4 reveal, arguably the biggest gaming night of the year thus far, I found my thoughts wandering. My inattentive mind began to linger on subject matter that was completely irrelevant to what I was watching. (Does chocolate milk really provide health benefits after a workout?)
No matter how hard I tried to focus on the task at hand, I just couldn’t concentrate. Dare I say it, I might have even been… bored.
But then I began to worry…
What the hell was wrong with me?! Had something come askew in my DNA? A brand new console was coming; the future blueprints of the PlayStation brand and the next-generation of home entertainment were being laid bare right before my very eyes. And yet, here I was, barely able to muster even the smallest flutter of excitement.
As the conference trudged on, a revolving door of men in suit jackets and oddly-fitting jeans took turns to turn up the hype. Speculative trailers were shown to bolster their carefully construed, heavily practiced presentations. Games were shown off, bold promises were made, polygons were counted (literally) and the Cloud was praised to the point of worship. But ultimately, the whole event washed over me like a tame wave, unable to crumble the soggiest of sandcastles.
A new controller was revealed, one which looked like a cluster bomb of ideas meshed together to create a Frankenstein, jack-of-all trades device. It came across as a box ticking exercise. Nothing more.
A bulky new camera was thrown in: a re-worked PlayStation Eye which is sure to match Kinect in the arm waggling, voice recognition stakes. A middle finger to Microsoft. Nothing more.
The console’s specs were announced and yes, they were impressive. Very impressive. But at what cost to the consumer? And was there really that much disparity between what was shown to what we have now? Nowhere close to previous graphical leaps, that’s for sure.
And what of the games themselves, the lifeblood of any console. Surely I would be somersaulting and bouncing off the walls at any moment? Did we see developers’ imaginations unleashed, free from the restrictive confines of past-generation hardware, inspired by the wondrous opportunity that the PlayStation 4 would offer? Sadly, my gymnastic skills were not tested on this occasion.
We saw the customary FPS – with improved visuals; the customary driving game – with improved visuals; the customary action game – with improved visuals. And numerous mentions of graphical horsepower. More of the same, and a shed load more to come.
Not one game left a lasting impression; no real wow factor was present besides the obvious fact that gaming is taking one step closer to Hollywood quality, cinematic games. For better, or for worse.
But it wasn’t all bad. In fact, the most appealing aspect surrounding the PlayStation 4 was the services on offer and the substantial upgrades to the operating system. The ability to play games as they download, instantly share gameplay footage, stream PS4 titles to the Vita, interact seamlessly with friends and access content through different devices were all fantastic additions. The sticky situation of backwards compatibility was also seemingly covered, albeit potentially. But how many of these blockbuster features will rely on a high speed and rock-solid Internet connection to function properly? What about the gamer who doesn’t have a blistering fast connection (which, if you haven’t noticed, is the majority of people, not the minority)? That’s quite some caveat if minimum speed requirements hamper the innovation on offer.
As the lights came down on Sony’s momentous day, I found myself in a reflective state of silence, pondering intently – feeling noticeably tired and rundown. Sony had failed to pour water on the hype gremlins that were so eager for a dousing, omitting so many key pieces of the puzzle that will shape their next-gen picture. My adrenal glands had failed to excrete one dose of heart-pumping adrenaline throughout the two-hour conference.
However, despite my trepidations, let’s get one thing clear. Potentially, Sony has a fantastic console on its hands. And I’m fully aware of how rapidly games and the systems themselves progress during their life spans. Nevertheless, the main bullet point of Sony’s presentation seemed to be an admirable attempt to satisfy every single possibility, nullify every possible threat, without paving their own unique and exciting path. You know, kind of how they used to do.
I wish I could just claim that old age is turning me into a cynical, impossible-to-please sort of bloke – spoilt by this media mecca that society is building around us – but it’s simply not the case. I literally did about five 360 degree spins in my office chair, hands aloft, when I watched Nintendo’s Wii U Direct broadcast a few weeks back. My passion for this industry has never been stronger. Perhaps that may be the reason why I was expecting more from Sony.
Roll on E3…