Welcome to the Next Generation!

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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.

5 Responses to “Welcome to the Next Generation!”

  1. Applejack November 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

    This has to be one of the most unenthusiastic launches of ‘next gen’ hardware I’ve ever seen. Seriously, nobody outside of the websites that cover this stuff exclusively seems to care all that much (and “South Park”, which is several years too late), the level of hype is noticeably lacking. Maybe because I’ve left the video game scene and haven’t kept up with it anymore. Maybe I’m tired of playing the same six games repackaged year after year.

    Video game consoles are no longer what I want them to be, and video games are too expensive to produce. So what we have is a market of machines that cost way too much and come with a lot of whizzbang features nobody asked for, and game franchises that release the same thing with a different coat of paint every six months to a year. In a way, it has to be like this, gamers want new shit all the time, and hardware companies are trying to come up with anything that might be heralded as ‘the future’. Motion controls, touch screens, media integration, whatever they can advertise as being a new feature.

    Don’t think the indie scene will save it either, because as indie developers are accepted by and integrated into the hardware releases (usually as online store purchases), more of them will pop up trying to get in the market which will lead to the release more and more Shitty Little Indie Title games and you’ll end up with software oversaturation. Think of it, a thousand cheap first person shooters to compete with “Call of Duty”.

    It’s not a sustainable model, I foresee a second video game crash like the crash in ’83. Remember all those music games that came out last generation, each with their own plastic instruments? See much of those anymore? I didn’t think so. I wonder how many people have closets full of that stuff, right next to their R.O.B.s and Super Scopes.

    I’ve said it before, I’m staying out of this generation of video games. The industry is fucked and consumers are apathetic. All the games I want to play have already been released as far as I’m concerned. That, and I have a good group of board gamers in my area, so I have a lot more fun playing with them than sitting on a couch by myself.

    • Michael Barnes November 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

      Brother, I hear you…but take heart. There is a company that remembers that video games are toys and not half-assed Hollywood blockbusters aimed at angry 13 year old rednecks harboring murder fantasies and seeking vicarious power trips. There is a company that remembers that gameplay is is more important than acting like video games have Important Things to Say between shooting motherfuckers in the face.

      Nintendo.

      It’s really too bad the internet decided that the Wii U is a failure because it may just turn out to be real video gaming’s last best hope in the coming generation. People bitch about them repeating the Mario and Zelda formulas, but I’d much rather play something timeless and joyful than most hateful, negative and ultimately disposable AAA action games.

      I mean shit, they sell you a new one every year now… What does that tell you about the longevity of the product?

      • OnePompousPenguin November 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

        I really need to get another game for my Wii U. I haven’t played anything on it since the New Super Mario Bros game at launch. I think my next game will end up being Super Mario 3D World. I’ve heard great things.

        I might get Wind Waker, but it’s been so long since I’ve enjoyed a Zelda game (I’m thinking Wind Waker was the last one I remember liking) that I just can’t get excited enough to play.

        I love platforming games so much and Nintendo still does it as good, if not better than anyone. Also looking forward to the new Donkey Kong Country game coming out.

        They may release games of the same type over and over, but they know how to make each game have it’s own feel and uniqueness, which is a skill the Assassin Creeds/Call of Futys of the world lack.

      • oakenspirit November 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

        I have lurked for a while and never posted here, but this comment brought me out of hiding- this is pretty much exactly how I feel… Pikmin 3 and Wind Waker have been the only games I have actually played all the way through this year- I have a bloated steam account full of games I heard were brilliant that I gave up on after I shot the 1000th dude in the face to get the next nugget of cliche. I am happy to still support nintendo. I enjoy games that offer unique experiences and stories with merit, but if that story would be better delivered in another format, why shoehorn it into a bad shooter…

  2. Ryoku75 November 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    “…it makes me wonder why Sony saddled us with terrible controllers for all of these years.”

    I can’t speak for their eyetoy now the PS move (not a motion control fan), but I’ve found most past Dualshocks to be good controllers, minus the wireless PS3 controller which later on became cheapened out to help slim PS3s have a lower price. This is why I use a third party wired controller.

    At the same time I argue that the game industry seemed to like the Dualshock, just look at the Gamecubes controller, the slimmed original Xbox controller, the Xbox 360 controller and by extension the Xbox One controller. Yes these controllers swap the crosspads and joysticks around but the same basic layout is there.

    This next Dualshock seems to have a better joystick rubber to it, but the screen in it only means that as usual buying a second controller will cost a fortune and it won’t hold up with age.

    Of course, my biggest complaint is that as with roughly every video game console generation you have to buy new controllers, in some cases I get this, of course a Genesis controller will not work on a Dreamcast, but shouldn’t I be able to let a friend use my spare PS3 controller if I boot up a PS4?

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