I went to go pick up a Playstation 4 this morning at the local Gamestop where over the course of the past nine months I shrewdly traded my way into the $399 Next Generation entry fee. There was no fanfare. Jack Tretton did not show up to shake my hand. Two or three hopefuls walked a foot in the store, asked if there were any, and turned right around probably to go try Best Buy. The store manager, who knows me by name and understands that I have an impossible to beat saving throw against suggestive selling half-heartedly asked me if I wanted any games. I kind of grimaced and said “I really don’t care about any of them.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I got FIFA for free in that Target sale last week, along with Pikmin 3 and Wonderful 101. He went into the back and brought out a black opaque bag that looked suspiciously like a body bag for a midget. I suppose it was to help protect me from getting mugged on the way out of the mall. “Have fun with it!” he said.I didn’t get mugged on the way out, although several food court vendors stuck bits of meat on toothpicks in my face. I speed-walked to my car, just in case someone was waiting to ambush me. I sat in the car for a minute, kind of excited, but really not so much at all. Here it was, in my car- the golden ticket item everybody wants today. The harbinger of the 8th generation of video game consoles. I reflected for a minute on past console launch days- specifically waiting in line in the wee hours to get a Wii back in 2006 and winding up with four of them, none preordered, by breakfast. Within a week, I was $1500 richer and had a new Nintendo console. I also strangely remembered the day I bought a TurboGrafx-16. For some reason, the plastic carrying handle on the box reminded me of that. I was so excited that day, to finally get to play Keith Courage in Alpha Zones and China Warrior. But I wasn’t as excited today, just sort of oddly indifferent to it.
I went home and set it up, it took two minutes. Except for the traditional Sony update that takes 20 minutes. I played a little Wind Waker while I waited for the Next Generation to begin. Once it did its reboot roundelay, I logged into PSN and collected my PS+ spoils. Housemarque’s Resogun and Contrast. Resogun is pretty neat, but yes, it is essentially Defender 2013. I spent the first 20 minutes of the Next Generation playing a variation of a game that I was playing in arcades over 30 years ago. But I was actually kind of OK with that, because I’d much rather play something that fits that description than this year’s assortment of paramilitary redneck simulators designed to appeal to angry teenage boys. I played Contrast for all of ten minutes before I decided that I have absolutely no desire to see any more of it and I considered just deleting it.
So I moved on to my one AAA game, FIFA 14. It looked, for the most part, like FIFA 14 on the PS3 or Xbox 360, at least until you get onto the pitch and it does look pretty impressive with some awesome physics and a higher level of incidental detail and lighting. I am totally a casual, “World Cup year” football fan. I really like the sport, but I don’t follow results or anything like that. So I dutifully picked Manchester United as my team because I know at least three of the players’ names and fumbled around as I usually do before I once again get the hang of passing and shooting. I lost my first game. I wanted it to play the Chvrches song that’s on the soundtrack, but it didn’t.
And then I went back to playing Wind Waker, which is one of the greatest games of all time. And it’s over a decade and a couple of generations old.
I know, I know. It’s launch day. The games blow, the potential lies untapped. Five years from now we’ll probably be playing all new variations on the past generation’s AAA blockbusters but with a whole new set of politics and controversies. We’ll probably never have an innocently magical experience like getting a Nintendo 64 and playing Mario 64 on Christmas morning again, or opening that big NES deluxe set that game with the zapper and R.O.B. (and Gyromite) like it was a box full of childhood treasures. I’d like to say that I’m just jaded and older, but there’s just so much to not be excited for as we head into the Next Generation. I’ve been trying to not be so negative about video games lately, so I’ll leave it at that.
On my positive notes list- the Dual Shock 4 is awesome, it makes me wonder why Sony saddled us with terrible controllers for all of these years. It feels fantastic in the hand. The console itself looks cool, runs quiet, and isn’t gigantic. The UI is still singularly Sony, which may or may not make any sense to you but since I’ve retired my 360, it’s now intuitive to me.
And there is potential, of course. That’s why I went ahead and took the opportunity to bring a PS4 home, so that when Metal Gear Solid 5 hits or Destiny turns out to be something really worth looking at I’ll be ready. And I am looking forward to The Last Guardian when it realizes the day before Apotheosis strikes the Earth. But there again, the irony is that the game I’m most looking forward to is the new edition of Diablo III.
I wasn’t going to get either next generation console. Sony didn’t impress me much with their initial offering, although I appreciated that they seemed very much “with it” in terms of presenting a very games-focused console with an emphasis on supporting indie publishers moreso than AAA shooter factories. After Microsoft’s egregious strategic blunder and subsequent public-eye penance, I realized that Sony represents more of what I want from video games that Microsoft does. And I’d much rather play another Valkyria Chronicles than another Gears of War. So to some degree, my whole entry into this next generation was against my better judgement. But what else would I have done with $400 of Gamestop credit?
So now I’ve got a $0 trade credit balance and all I’ve got to show for it is this black box with a question mark on it. I’ve got a soccer game that largely baffles me, a terrible indie game with moody lighting, and a game that may as well have been designed by Jeff Minter for the Atari Jaguar circa 1994. The mail hasn’t come yet, but I may have a Gamefly copy of Knack in there, which sounds about like a bad PS2 game. I guess I could download Warframe. Except that shooting people in a free to play game sounds like the worst possible way I could spend my free time right now.
Man, I can’t wait to play some Wind Waker tonight.