Six Weeks In

So how's the Next Gen going for you so far?

Six weeks ago I was as excited as a child on Christmas Day. A planetary alignment meant that not one but two new consoles were launching in successive weeks causing me to become – as I’m assured by my wife – almost unbearable. My eagerness grew as the triumphant time approached and come the week of Friday 22 November I was barely able to do any work; I watched the clock tick sluggishly down to the time I would get my hands on the next generation. I literally skipped off having picked up my Xbox One whilst a week later was willing to drive through four counties to source a PlayStation 4.

On both occasions I found a great joy in clearing out a space in my entertainment unit to slot them in. A satisfaction in wiring them up and watching the day one update screens as though they were a New Year’s countdown. There are many jaded in my industry but I still think that the birth of a new generation is something truly special.

There’s an allure about new hardware, a buzz that I get from being part of the zeitgeist. It’s not due to them being the must-have item or because advertising agencies assure me I need it to be complete – I’d have succumbed to iOS device by now if that were the case – but because I have an urge to form my own opinion on how each system shakes down. Like Sam Beckett, I want to find out how far we’ve leapt. Though without myriad judgements from either side of the “console war” tainting what are at the end of the day both superb bits of kit.

Each has had their moment in the spotlight with me as I pored over every corner of their systems. Admittedly they are both some way short of the finished, even promised, articles, but for every non-story about Sony not supporting MP3s at launch or Microsoft’s apparent new found love for micro-transactions, I have had many hours’ worth of enjoyment from each system respectively.

On the Xbox One the wonderful use of rumble feedback through the triggers in Forza V has finally begun teaching me the proper way to approach corners; Ryse shows offs of on a range of graphical levels meaning I regularly call Ali in from the other room just to appreciate the cutscenes; and Dead Rising 3 gives me what I want from the leap in machines. For me the improvements should not just be resolutions and polygons but content and the huge number of zombies on display offers an example of how I want the new power to be used.

A week later I’m holding a DualShock controller and for the first time in 20 years I’m not feeling the urge to saw my own arms off in disgust. The DualShock 4 with its lengthened prongs and wider face is a joy to hold, and Resogun, with an evil glint in its eye, shows what happens when you take a simple arcade concept from the 70s and hurl everything you can at it. The PlayStation appears to be the early choice as our multiplayer machine too as FIFA’s online clubs have already taken off whilst in Battlefield 4 we team up and together fly helicopters straight into buildings. The former is lovely as EA have thrown numerous extra animations and subtleties into the beautiful game where as Battlefield 4 goes for pure looks. On certain levels with the wind whipping the trees and the dark clouds drawing in overhead it is a true sight to be seen.

And just like a game of Battlefield, just when you think things are ticking along nicely, all the initial momentum is lost as both machines come to a crashing halt.

Or at least that is the perceived opinion with no more major launches until March, but I do think that is a horribly negative point of view. The two machines have put out the largest number of launch titles ever assembled and whilst there may not be vast strength in depth what does exist can surely sustain. With many multiplayer titles that will no doubt last the length of the whole year and smaller releases such as Sam: Curse of the Brotherhood and Don’t Starve appearing digitally I look at it purely as a chance to catch up. After buying nearly ten games in the space of as many days over the launch window I need some space and time to get my money’s worth from them.

So, to the naysayers out there, those decrying the need for new machines and those who are criticising the lack of content I’m very content to say that for one I am pleased. It may not be perfect and there are a host of things that I can’t wait to be updated, especially regarding the online parties on both platforms, but I’m looking at this glass and I call it half full. Probably with some rather fancy lighting and reflections, too.

About James Thomas

I make my living as a programmer at a British games developer. In my spare time I try and spread myself between writing, gaming, drumming, goalkeeping, rolling dice and keeping my hair blue. Somewhere around that my wife fits in. Disclaimer: the views expressed are my own and do not neccessarily reflect those of my employer.