What is it that makes you excited for the new generation of consoles, is it the graphical leap or a new way of making the gameplay both fun and progressive? This is a question I was asking myself when looking at comments on my review of Infamous: Second Son that was released a few weeks ago on the PS4. I gave the game a rating of 7; graphically it was amazing, there is no disputing that, but I felt the gameplay just wasn’t innovative and belonged very much to the PS3 era of gaming.
Reading through the comments posted it seemed as though people disagreed with the rating I gave mainly on the basis of this game looking so good. But is a leap in graphics the only improvement we really expect to come from this, the eighth generation of consoles, and is it also our main basis when looking at a new game? Personally I feel that the answer lies in both, there has to be a good mix and both have to improve when more powerful hardware is released.
Graphics are hugely important in drawing the player into the world, especially in a real life setting like Seattle, the detail in the background achieved in Second Son was very impressive and highlighted an attention to detail that just wouldn’t have been possible on the PS3 and I am sure that this look is perfect for Sony’s marketing team to make some amazing looking adverts for TV and online. To the casual gamer I do think the look of the game is the biggest selling point as this is likely the only part of the game they will see before buying it, but for a more avid gamer the gameplay mechanics play a much larger part in whether you will purchase it or not.
I’m going to take the Resident Evil series for an example now, my favourite series of games from the PSOne era. Capcom released several great and critically acclaimed games over both the PSOne and PS2 consoles but whilst the graphics in Code Veronica were vastly superior to the graphics in the original Resident Evil the mechanics of the game were not, and as such the series was tired and becoming repetitive. This all changed when Resident Evil 4 was released showing a completely new engine that was hugely innovated and changed the way the game was played from the pre-rendered background and tank controls to the over the shoulder 3rd person view that so many games now use (the demise of the series after number 4 is another article for another time).
This innovation in gameplay is something that I felt Sucker Punch could and should have done with the Infamous series. Second Son plays exactly like Infamous 2 on the PS3 just a more beautiful and sadly shorter version. With this in mind how can this game score a higher score than its predecessor? How can a game that averaged around the 8 mark then be given the same score or even higher on newer hardware solely because the graphics have been ramped up? In this case where new hardware separates two games in a series then graphical improvement is the very minimum improvement I expect to experience.
The logical question that comes next is simply ‘what was I expecting to be improved’. That’s a tough one to answer as so far we have not seen anything revolutionary in the gameplay on the new consoles. While larger and more detailed environments are of course expected, I would like to see more interaction with that world, and more destructive environments in shooters surely has to be a must. In Second Son I felt the world was a bit empty, it needed people wandering around and interacting with each other to make Seattle a more realistic representation of a real life city. Maybe, in that respect, Watch_Dogs might fill a void.
It’s clear that graphics are crucial to showcase the new technology and easily show casual gamers that there is a leap in the games you are going to play by buying the latest console, but once you have them on board it is crucial that the games feel new; very few people want to play a game that they have played several times before just with a new lick of paint, if that was the case then we would all be playing Pong in HD. Innovation is what makes games so great and keeps the industry fresh and moving forward.