2017 is just getting started and not only do we have a strong candidate for the worst game of the year, but Life of Black Tiger may well be the most awful title we've ever played on PlayStation 4. Indeed, it may well be the worst game of the console generation so far - it really is stupendously bad, to the point where APB Reloaded on Xbox One is an immeasurably more enjoyable experience.
Surprisingly, Sony has granted a console license for what is effectively a very basic port of a years-old iOS and Android game. And even on its original platform, Life of Black Tiger is bad - to the point where booting the game up on an iPad 3 sees the game completely fail to load the 3D engine, resulting in a 'start mission' prompt immediately jumping to a 'failed' caption. Playing on an iPhone 6 Plus does get into the game but freezes the phone shortly thereafter, apparently because we're running a recent OS.
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Booting up the new console version reveals a logo screen proudly revealing that it's powered by the Unity engine. It's easy to prototype game concepts on this platform, but producing an optimised, polished title requires a lot of work - something that Life of Black Tiger clearly lacks. As things stand, the basic idea is simple - the game drops you into one of several ugly, empty maps and asks you to hunt things down or survive for a fixed time. And that's just about it. Controls are awful and the action is slow, plodding and unresponsive, bookended by screens of text with only a passing familiarity of the English language.
The chances are you've watched the video by now or seen one of the PS4 trailers available online - and yes, it really does look and move just like that. Animation is extremely basic and there is no interpolation or any kind of transitional movement in play whatsoever, leaving the titular black tiger to rigidly snap between various directions as you attempt to run in a straight line. Also, bizarrely, there is no real collision detection whatsoever - everything can pass through everything else (attacking an enemy involves holding down the circle button and if an enemy is within a set radius, damage is inflicted). Annoyances even extend to the lack of options - so camera controls are inverted and cannot be changed. Sound is limited to a smattering of samples for each animal and ultra-repetitive background audio.
A title like this should run smoothly and flawlessly as there is almost nothing to it. The action starts off promisingly enough, running at 1080p60, but as soon as you arrive at the next map with a forest area, that silky-smooth frame-rate collapses to just 20fps. That's on PlayStation 4 Pro by the way, which appears to have no additional enhancements over the base PS4 whatsoever.
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Multiplayer is seeming integrated - it's an option on title screen anyway - and from there you pick an animal avatar, such as a bear, wild boss dog (yes really) or even a chicken, but after jumping in, the player list reveals absolutely nobody to play with. So maybe there's no-one online to play with, but equally, maybe multiplayer just doesn't work? Remarkably, we managed to find someone on our friends list who also owned the game and couldn't set-up a working multiplayer experience at all. Alternatively, maybe the servers are being slammed and just can't keep up with demand.
All of which begs the question - what's the actual point of this? Perhaps there's an argument for opening out the PlayStation Store to all developers, similar to what we see with Steam on the PC, but questions must surely be asked about why Sony has actually allowed this miserable release onto its console. And here's the thing - players are charged $10 for the honour of playing a game that is completely free on mobile platforms. Right now, Life of Black Tiger is only available on the US version of the PlayStation Store. The EU PSN features no trace of the game whatsoever, thankfully.
So it really goes without saying here - we can't recommend this game at all, other than as a form of extremely cruel and unusual punishment. It looks awful, runs terribly (even the FMV sequences aren't smooth) and it lacks any kind of compelling gameplay whatsoever. The worst game we've ever played on PS4? Yes, really.