What happened in the US this week? Apparently, some new kind of new console surreptitiously slipped into stores with barely a whisper.
Well, I wish it had. Some in the games industry have been doing an impersonation of a Ritalin-dosed, ultra-caffeinated six-year-old on Christmas Eve over the impending launch of Sony's new console, and it just seems a bit much. I understand the excitement of a new generation, but there's a point where you step back and wonder if it's really necessary to have things like an hour-long TV show airing "interviews" with Sony marketing execs and highly enthusiastic, money-waving punters lining up to buy the machine - while running non-stop trailers for all the launch games.
Pre-release launch parties are fun, but, putting on my grumpy old gaming grandpa cardigan and leaning back in my chair while puffing on a pipe, it does make me wonder. Do these earliest of early adopters rush back to their homes, plug in their PlayStation 4s, slap in a game and fall about in paroxysms of orgasmic joy? Or do they stare at the screen and say, wait a minute. This isn't the next generation I was looking for.
Sure, the PlayStation 4 is a step up from its predecessor and has a bright future ahead of it, but right here and right now, the best launch games are only incrementally better than the best current PS3 games. The truth is that tech is beginning to plateau, and while the PS4 has a ton of processing headroom waiting to be unlocked by canny programmers, right out of the gate we're not seeing the kind of leap forward that we witnessed going from, say, Mega Drive to PS1 (think about the first time WipEout socked you in the chops) or from Commodore 64 to Amiga (Defender of the Crown, anyone?).
I'm not really complaining, but gaming has always been about gameplay first and foremost. Playing something in super-cool, 1080p, 60fps, holy crap-o-vision is awesome for sure, but if it's no fun, isn't challenging, or is basically the same thing you've played before, those good looks won't carry the game for very long. And Killzone Shadow Fall is a good example of that. We did a bit of a hatchet job on it, I'm afraid, which did upset a few people. But as someone who played it for hours at a recent review event and was bored witless by its by-the-numbers gameplay, I have to support Jeremy's limbo-low score. He also got lumbered with reviewing Knack, which he's still in the process of working through. I played it at that same review event after Killzone, and it was like a double-snoozer whammy.
I had the luck (or was that skill) to pick some more entertaining games to review. The first was Call of Duty: Ghosts, which looks fantastic on PS4. Almost exactly like it does on my fairly decent PC, indeed. I had a lot of fun playing it, but let's face it - it's more of the same, and because of that I ended up spending a fair amount of time pontificating on where the franchise should go. I think Squads and Extinction are the most exciting parts of the game, and I'm hoping Infinity Ward will explore their potential in future COD releases.
The other game I reviewed was Need for Speed: Rivals, which I called the PS4's first must-have game. It's very much in the mould of Hot Pursuit and the like, and delivers relentlessly mental, smash-and-bash, laff-a-minute action. I've played the PS3 version too, which is basically the same game, but not quite as good looking.
Mike played PS4 Assassin's Creed 4 and said that it was, like most of the other launch games based on prior-gen releases, just like the prior-gen release, but slightly better looking. Which takes me back to the point I was making earlier. It's cool to be the first guy on your street to have a PS4 and all, but really, there's no rush. These launch games aren't going anywhere, and will probably be tuppence ha'penny by next Christmas, after the second wave of games have come out and made them look like the rapidly developed cash-ins that they are. Plus you'll be able to stroll into your local store when you're good and ready, and pick one up without having to wait 15 hours in the freezing cold.
Perhaps the only unique-to-the-system game that makes a PS4 worth having right now is Resogun. I was hoping Contrast would be too, but unfortunately that's not quite the case. So for now, king of the exclusives is this killer shooter inspired by one of my all-time faves, Defender. Jeremy didn't quite give it a perfect score - but I probably would.
Of course, the PS4's launch games are a mere hint to what's to come, and we looked at what's up and coming on the indie front. There are some great titles in the works, and I think Sony has done a great job in taking the indie initiative. Microsoft is still scrambling, and while they'll catch up of course, Sony has the edge right now.
And that brings an end to this week's PS4-dominated instalment. I'm off to take a half-time breather as we get ready for next-week's Xbox One roll out. I'm interested to see how Xbox One goes off. My betting is that it'll be just the same, with slightly less hype.
See you next week.
Jaz Rignall is editorial director of USgamer.net, Eurogamer's buddy from across the pond.