Friday, 22 February 2013
There was absolutely nothing that told me I was looking at the next generation of gaming. All of the tech demos that were shown looked pretty much like graphics look now, on the current generation. Granted, games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 still look pretty stunning and I'm not really sure how they can be improved (the improvements are most likely to come in the shape of larger game worlds etc), but I was expecting a lot more. One game shown (and it was rumoured to be actual game footage up on the big screen, rather than a mock-up), titled Knack, looked no better than anything I've played on the current generation, yet there were gasps from the audience. Did I miss something? Here, look:
See what I mean. The rest of the stuff shown just looked like rendered mock-ups (and not very impressive ones, either), although the Capcom demo of a new IP called Deep Down piqued my interest, if only because it featured an armour-clad knight fighting a dragon, and I can dig that shit. Elsewhere, I was left completey stunned by the complete lack of any hardware on show - where was the console, Sony? Sure, they showed off the damned controller (which is basically a Dual Shock with a 'share' button and a coloured light on top) and also a bit of the social media-type stuff that the console will support, but what we really wanted (and I think I speak for most people interested in this shit) was a glimpse of the goddamned hardware. When I think 'PS2' I see the black oblong and blue highlights; when I think Wii I see the little white box up on it's side; and when I think N64 I visualize the bizarre art-deco stylings....but when I think PS4, I don't really have an image of the thing because nobody knows what it looks like! Sure, Sony probably want to keep their final design away from the prying eyes of Microsoft, and that's quite probably the reason they didn't reveal any technical specifications either...but this was billed as a 'reveal,' and surely these are the important things that people who are interested in this kind of thing need and want to know.
So what do we know about the PS4 after the event? Well, there are a few franchises that will continue on the new platform (Kill Zone for example), along with a few new ones (Driveclub was one, but it instantly conjured up images of Driving Emotion Type-S from the PS2 launch), and the joypad will have a share button. Oh, and social media will be high on the priority list and you'll be able to use your PS Vita (who even owns one of those?) as a sort of Wii U knock-off controller. Er...and apart from that, not a great deal to be honest.
Speaking of the Wii U, I almost bought one a few weeks ago, even after my complete destruction of the thing in a previous post. But then I looked at the games available for it and also the release schedule for the next few months. I kept my money in my pocket. Just a little side note for you. I almost-but-didn't buy a PS Vita for the exact same reason: no games.
It'll be interesting to see what Microsoft offer up in the form of a reaction, but I can't help but think that Sony jumped the gun a bit in order to just be 'FIRST!' when it came to showing off their next-gen machinations. On the subject of the next Xbox (or whatever they end up calling it), there are quite a few hideous rumours floating around the net at the moment, and I hope for their sake they turn out to be just that - rumours. The most worrying of these is that the new machine will not allow used games to run, so that would effectively kill the second hand games market. And as a gamer who primarily buys used games (as they're y'know, cheaper) I'd have to think long and hard about whether I was prepared to pay £50 for a new game every time I wanted to play something else. Actually, no I wouldn't - I simply would not buy the console in the first place. Think about that for a moment. Every single time you got bored of a game, you had to go and buy a brand new game to replace it. No more trade-ins, no more selling your old games on Ebay or giving them away to friends or family. A game would be locked to the first console it was used in. How fucking shit would that be?!
Another rumour is that it will need to be connected to the internet at all times, and come with a Kinect as standard, that needed to be plugged in at all times too. Now, I'm no crackpot conspiracy theorist (allegedly), but doesn't that sound a bit creepy? An 'always on' console, with a camera peering into your living room? George Orwell, eat your heart out. Fair enough, if you've got nothing to hide, then why would you have an issue with that? Well, maybe you wouldn't...but what about if the camera could identify how many people were watching a rented movie or something, and block it from playing until the allotted number of people only were in the room? That's the scary shit right there. Our own technology telling us how we get to use it. Who is playing who, exactly?! OK, so that's a bit far fetched, and I only heard about it listening to a gaming podcast, but it's a real possibility that this kind of limitation could be introduced to our next generation of games consoles. And if they do, I think I'm going to have to either find a new hobby, or just go back to playing my Dreamcast and wondering about what could have been. Hmm.
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Firstly – what the fuck have they done to the Games Radar site? Jesus, talk about fucking up something that didn’t need to be fucked around with. Seriously – go there and have a look at the new layout. It didn’t look like that until yesterday; previously it was a bit like a blog where every new story would just go to the top and push the previous ones down and off the bottom of the front page onto page 2. Now it looks like Lawnmower Man has thrown up all over the screen – there doesn’t seem to be any logical arrangement to the articles...just complete random chaos. Sheesh. Think I’ll be going elsewhere for my daily gaming news until they sort that design car-crash out. Ho-hum.
In slightly related, but not at all related news, I feel I must pay homage to the late, great Sir Patrick Moore who passed away at the weekend. Obviously, his main interest and knowledge sphere was astronomy and all things extra-terrestrial (by which I mean planets and quasars and all that malarkey), but to pretty much every gamer of a certain age, Sir Patrick was also the face of Thursday night gaming television on Channel 4: he was the Games Master. Fair enough, Dominic Diamond and Dexter Fletcher were also in there (the former much more than the latter, I know), as were several other UK-based industry types (publisher Dave Perry and developer Peter Molyneux among them), but it was the titular Games Master who set the challenges and was the main focal point of the series.
For those who never saw Games Master, there were several series set over a few years and it was a show I used to watch religiously whenever it was running. The format was sort of like a game show where there was a presenter (the aforementioned Dominic Diamond, and for one series Dexter Fletcher) and contestants who would come on to take part in challenges set by the Games Master. The Games Master was basically Sir Patrick Moore’s head with various CG overlays, who spoke from a giant screen. If the contestant was successful in the challenge set, he or she would walk away with a coveted Games Master Golden Joystick. The best bit was that these challenges were usually set in games that were available to buy for the consoles of the time, and if you watch the episodes back on Youtube, you can sort of tell the era they were from by the games they were using. As well as the challenges, there were reviews and news items focusing on the latest games. Back in the early to mid nineties, gaming was still seen as a bit of a geek’s hobby (and probably still is by most people) and Games Master went some way to establishing the medium in the mainstream, certainly in this country. Obviously, the PSX had a little bit to do with it too, but I’d say that GM also had a fair part to play.
Alongside the TV programme, there was a magazine (titled, er, Games Master Magazine) which I would get monthly as part of my regular haul of gaming mags. It was a really cool mag, and was kind of like an all-format Amiga Power-lite, in that it was written in a fairly adult tone, with lots of references to real-world happenings. The magazine is still going, but has since taken a bit of a diversion and is squarely aimed at the younger gamer these days. I suppose that’s why GamesTM and Edge now exist; filling a niche and all that jazz. But Edge is a self-important load of old toss, so we won’t mention that particular mag again. So yeah, what I’m trying to get at is that Sir Patrick Moore died at the weekend and I’m sure most people will remember him fondly for the part he played in the whole Games Master saga.
Again, following on in this games-related diatribe, I read last week that Nintendo have re-launched the original Wii console (there it is, up there!). I say ‘relaunched’ but that’s probably taking things a little too far – they’ve pooed out the Wii Mini into Canadian stores (?). The Wii Mini is basically a stripped down original Wii, with all the internet functionality and backwards compatibility taken out, and repackaged in a rather garish looking black and red casing. The question remains: why? They’ve already confused half the casual gaming world with their Wii U, and now they’ve gone and added to the confusion further by releasing yet another ‘new’ Wii. Baffling.
I took the Macbook to the Apple Store in Bristol on Saturday. The two people I spoke to on the phone last week said that I could have the chipped palm rest replaced in-store and even though I was slightly sceptical I still traipsed down the M5 (and discovered I had a flat rear tire on the way...which wasn’t fun) and took the Mac in to their ‘Genius bar.’ Genius?! More like Retard bar! The guy didn’t know what he was talking about for a start and then after he’d consulted his iPad for about 10 minutes just came back and told me they couldn’t do the job (even though I had been told otherwise on the phone by TWO different ‘Geniuses’). He did, however, go on to tell me at great length that there was a place in Cheltenham that would do the repair, but “it wouldn’t be cheap.” What happened to Apple replacing these palm rests for free?
I rang the place in Cheltenham and they said the same thing – they’d have to send it off to their workshop blah fucking blah, and that it wouldn’t be free unless I called Apple and got their approval. Yes – call Apple. And get their approval for a free repair to my computer. As if that’s going to happen. I fobbed the guy off and hung up.
Something made me go back into the Apple Store though, I don’t know what. I suppose I just wanted to have a muck about with the new Macbooks and stuff. It’s been a while since I’ve been into an Apple Store and just had a play with the sexy gear on show. And it’s amazing what you pick up just from being able to see the whole product range of a company just laid out and easily accessible. For one, I didn’t know that the Macbook Air and the new Macbook (with Retina display) don’t have DVD drives. Who the fuck thought that was a good idea?! Sure, the omission of an optical drive reduces weight...but what about being able to watch a DVD without having to lug an external drive around with you? It’s almost as if Apple and Nintendo are working together to wind people up by doing stupid things with their new hardware (the whole ‘you can’t use a USB stick on two different Wii U consoles’ thing is equally strange). That neither of those two systems (and the new iMac) have optical drives instantly makes me look elsewhere.
And as a matter of fact, I did: at the Macbook Pro. The normal, £999, 13,” 2.5 Ghz, 4GB RAM, 500 GB HDD model to be precise. What an amazing piece of engineering. I can see why people love Apple hardware, with it's super-sleek aluminium casing and quality feel. I had a play around for a good while and instantly fell in love with it – the two-fingered mouse pad commands were something I had never come across but instantly didn’t want to live without. So I just went and bought one. Right then and there I just went up and asked for a 13” Macbook Pro and paid for it outright. And I have to say it’s the greatest purchase I’ve ever made (apart from the HS30 EXR, naturally...but they go hand in hand what with iPhoto and all the other cool Mac photo shit). It’s been two days now and I’m still fascinated by the thing and all the cool stuff it does. Not too impressed that you can’t plug normal headphone-jacked speakers into it without getting this weird buzzing noise (something to do with feedback of the current or some crap), but I’m totally blown away...and while it doesn’t have a Retina screen, it does have a DVD drive so I can watch my Warehouse 13 series one boxset when I eventually get around to it. I still have the used Macbook white sitting on a shelf, but that badboy’ll be going on Gumtree by the end of the week.
Thursday, 22 November 2012
The last Nintendo console I actually bought with real money (and not the glowing green rupees I pay for my grocery shopping with) was the Gamecube, and it was a fine machine that served its purpose well. After that I went towards the Xbox and 360 and have never looked back. The Wii never appealed to me simply because of the casual gamer image it assumed, and the odd ‘lifestyle’ adverts full of smiling, sockless idiots playing Wii Sports in neutrally coloured IKEA living rooms turned me completely off: was that the audience Nintendo were suddenly trying to attract after years of ‘proper’ gaming? It just alienated me is all, and my desire to own a Wii died before it even had a chance to draw a single breath. And in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t fork out for a Wii because there’s so little of any real value there for the serious, adult gamer. Sure, there are the Zelda games and a few decent Mario offerings but where are the Mass Effects and the Halos? The serious football games and driving simulators? I want to be blowing shit up in full HD, not waving a fucking Wiimote around trying to knock hats off statues of clowns. Jesus.
And now we have the Wii U. What the fuck were they thinking? Releasing a console with an iPad for a controller? The design of the Wii U is retarded on so many levels I barely have enough words to describe how annoyed I am at the thing’s very existence. Great – you can keep playing if somebody wants to watch TV. Er, Nintendo? It isn’t 1979 anymore - most people have more than one TV these days. And if that’s what Nintendo are pushing as the killer feature, I have a horrible feeling that the Wii U will bomb with disastrous results. But wait – there’s more: the Wii U uses a proprietary Blu-ray format for its games, but can’t play Blu-ray movies or DVDs. The Wii U controller pad monstrosity has a battery life of about 3 hours before it needs to be recharged. Buying a second pad will require you taking out a bank loan, and the pro controller (the one that looks like a normal control pad) isn’t compatible with every game. The console needs a software update out of the box to enable a lot of the extra features (like backwards compatibility), so if you haven’t got broadband at home...you’re fucked. These are just a few of the screw-ups I’ve been able to glean from new user reviews, and there seem to be more weird little problems everywhere you look...but the main one for me is that it just feels like a stop gap. A stop gap before the next consoles from Microsoft and Sony appear and basically redraw the console war battle lines.
Where will Nintendo be then? I’ll wager they’ll be in exactly the same place Sega found they were in when the PS2 appeared, only without a console even half as good as the Dreamcast was compared to its rival. The Wii U does at least have HD graphics, but the two models available have pitifully small storage options (8GB and 32GB) and the technical specifications are likely to be dwarfed by the next generation Xbox and PlayStation. I don’t care that you can add external storage – the Wii U should have come with at least a 60GB hard drive and in one technical configuration. Different colours are fine, but the different versions thing is just insulting and confusing for people who aren’t really gamers (like parents buying Christmas presents, for example).
Nintendo have really fucked up here, and I don’t think I’ll be proven wrong. The Wii U already boasts inferior visuals to most 360 games, and that’s worrying: all of the pre-release shots of ZombiU (the only game that really interested me) seem to have been mock-ups judging by footage I’ve seen in most of the video reviews flying around Youtube, and the other games that are ports of existing 360 and PS3 titles...well, opinions are mixed but who exactly are they trying to appeal to? PS3 and 360 owners who already played Mass Effect 3 and Arkham City a year ago? Quite. I want to make it clear that I’m not a Nintendo basher – I’ve owned every Nintendo console up until the Wii, but this new direction the company has taken infuriates me more than it probably should. Please Nintendo, drop the boring motion control shit, the odd controllers and the ‘we don’t care about technical specs...we care about fun’ holier-than-thou preachy bullshit. Just go back to making kick-ass, boundary-pushing games that run on a conventional, graphical ball-buster of a console. Or to put it more simply, go back to making N64s. Urgh. Just thinking about how much of a cock-up the Wii U is makes me want to punch something – why Nintendo? Why? It could have been so different. OK – you wanted to try something new with the original Wii and it paid off. Good work, but trying to draw it out and appeal to the same audience with a new hardware release that shares a name with the predecessor will only end badly.
Confusion, poor sales and consumer alienation are probably the only things that will make Nintendo sit up and realise that actual gamers want a convention console from them. I really hope their next offering comes quickly, and there isn't a motion sensor or a tablet PC in sight.