Letter from America: Next-gen - shipping bricks
Plus the new Zelda looks rubbish.
This week, we've been busy attending review events, but of course I can't tell you anything about them, because I've been NDA'ed and embargoed up the wazoo. Coming from a time when consoles weren't rolled out with military precision, with specific information being released at requisite times, I honestly find the whole thing really annoying. I understand that marketing and PR folk want some kind of control over the roll-out of information, but not being able to tell you that a game I played yesterday that you won't be able to buy until next Friday is actually really good just seems rather silly.
Anyway, here's what I can tell you. Firstly we talked about the Xbox One's interface, apps and how it handles games and entertainment. Part of that is a 12-minute video showing how the system works, which seems to be very exciting to some people. But call me a cynical old scrote - probably because I am - but looking at it, it makes me wonder why you'd want to be playing Forza while watching American football while Skyping your friend while getting updates about meaningless achievements your mates have just clocked up. Yes, I'm kind of taking the mick, because obviously the demo is contrived to showcase all the Xbox One's fancy doo-dads, but it does seem rather over-engineered.
We also wrote a similar feature highlighting all of the PlayStation 4's apps and functionality. Really exciting stuff, it must be said. I can't wait to get Hulu and Netflix on PS4, so I no longer have to worry about my iPhone, iPad, Tivo, PS3, Xbox 360, desktop PC, laptop PC, Mac and connected TV all breaking down and not being able to watch the next episode of Melrose Place. I know I'm sounding crabby about all this, but I do understand the concept of an all-in-one entertainment and games system. It's just that I simply don't find this stuff exciting. This aspect of the machine makes it an appliance, and as with every appliance, all I care about is that it works.
Which neither do straight out of the box. Turn on your Xbox One on day one, and it'll do nothing but connect to Microsoft's servers and then impersonate a brick until it's downloaded a patch so it can actually function. Just like its competitor the PS4, which also needs to download an update before it can do anything meaningful. Of course this is to be expected with all this complicated new-fangled technology. But at the same time, is it too much to ask for a machine I can whip out of the box and bung a game in, without having to faff about with patches and whatnot?
Before I move onto other things, just a quick word about both system's launch games. Last week we looked at Xbox One's roster of new titles and talked about which ones we think are worth buying, and which ones you should avoid until we've had the chance to put them through their paces. This week we did the same for PS4. At this point, I've played most of the launch games, and there are definitely some good ones out there, but none of them have that truly next-gen feel, like the first time you played WipEout, or F-Zero, or Pilotwings. I'm sure games will become much, much better over time, but right now, the next generation feels like an incremental transition, rather than a huge step forward.
Back to the current generation, we took a good look at the new Zelda game, A Link Between Worlds. This 3DS up-and-comer looks like utter rubbish... but fortunately plays like a dream. Once again proving that graphics maketh not the game, and it's all about content.
Staying on a Nintendo tip, with the “Year of Luigi” drawing to a close, we took a gander at potential candidates for Nintendo to pimp out in 2014. I'd personally like to see the obscure villain from Super Mario Bros. 2 being put back into the limelight. Year of Wart would never get old.
We wrote a story based on a recent VentureBeat interview with Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer in which he lauded Valve for keeping the PC gaming ecosystem going, and admitted that Microsoft could have been “more focused” on PC gaming. But more interestingly, he talked about Microsoft's new efforts to streamline Windows 8 and Xbox One into a single shared ecosystem, which might have positive ramifications for PC gaming. I'm still a big sucker for PC gaming, so I'm welcoming this as good news, even if I have doubts about Microsoft's gaming chops.
Finally, my favourite story of the week was an article chronicling Konami's chronic 80s arcade flyers in which they used sexytime models and sundry chumps to promote their arcade games. Some of them are absolutely priceless: cheesy, tragic, and utterly naff. You really need to take a look, if only to laugh at the ginormous 80s haircuts.
And on that bombshell, I'll bid you adieu.
Jaz Rignall is editorial director of USgamer.net, Eurogamer's American Ambassador.