Previews// PlayStation 4: The Roundup

Posted 12 Jul 2013 11:00 by
Sony isnít kidding around when it comes to its PlayStation 4. Since its announcement back in February, the Japanese games company has clearly communicated a hunger to take back some of the Western marketshare that Microsoft snatched away with the Xbox 360.

But itís not doing it by way of direct retaliation - itís simply been spurred to refocus its PlayStation platform on doing what it has traditionally done best: play games.

This is evident in the countless interviews with system architect Mark Cerny, full of anecdotes about visiting third party publishers and independent developers to get their feedback on the PS3 and how it could make the process of development easier. This, in turn, results in better games for the players.

At a special event in London, post-E3 buzz, Sony showcased a number of titles heading for release on the upcoming next-generation console. While these franchises donít necessarily invoke the same involuntary nerdgasms that might befall a Nintendo console, itís clear that the games lined up here all serve a particular purpose, with an intent to satisfy a particular audience. Read on to see what I thought of five of these upcoming titles.


Killzone: Shadow Fall

This is clearly the technical showpiece for the PlayStation 4. Guerrilla Gamesí leap into the next-gen is looking absolutely fantastic, swapping the dull greys and browns of past Killzone games with vibrant blues and greens. If proof were needed that the February demo of Shadow Fall was the real deal, a hands-on gameplay preview covering a lush and dense jungle area would surely be it.

Gameplay amounted to your typical Killzone fare - shooting the crap out of bad guys as you storm an area - although this time you get a real sense of atmosphere as stages branch out and feel much more open than past titles.

Some missions did break from the series tradition, asking you to hack a terminal and defend it while incoming enemies tried to stop you - with the option to take out targets any way you wanted. If previous Killzones are any indication, youíll be done with this over the launch weekend - but for a game on PS4 that looks anything close to Ďnext-gení, this is one to watch.


E3 2013
E3 2013
inFAMOUS: Second Son

I wasnít allowed to play inFAMOUS: Second Son. Sad face. I was offered a hands-off demonstration though, which was essentially a carbon copy of the official PlayStation gameplay video that hit the internet during E3. So go watch that for the meat of that experience.

Having said that, the nice man who demonstrated the game for me did offer a few more details about the lead protagonist in this sequel. For a start, youíre not playing as Cole MacGrath anymore (to be fair, the events of inFAMOUS 2 would make that rather difficult). Instead, you play as teenage upstart Delsin Rowe. Iím told that Delsin is much different to Cole, in that upon receiving his supernatural powers, he becomes much more comfortable with his fate and decides to use his powers for a cause.

The cause being, to take down the Big Brother-style government that has kept the city safe for many years following the events of inFAMOUS 2. While yes, the government is doing a good job of keeping citizens safe, strange things start occurring with the security organisation that maintains the peace. Delsin believes that something fishy is going on, and uses his new powers to investigate.

Unlike Cole, where you had essentially one power, Delsin has the ability to absorb multiple powers. The one that you see in the demonstration is called Smoke, and allows him to puff between certain solid obstacles to reach new areas. He also has something of a Ďsuper-moveí, in which Delsin decimates everyone around him (thatís the bit of the video at the end where you see him fly up in the air, wink, and then slam into the ground).

Thatís not exactly scripted, it appears - the player can initiate that move at any time, but if you did thereís a risk of hurting any civilians that might have been in that compound. Which, in turn, affects your Karma rating. Being reckless with your powers in general, regardless of human casualties, also affects it.

You can see that Iíve written about this game for five paragraphs now. God, I want this game. Itís not a launch title, though, so weíll have to wait a bit longer to get our hands on the full thing.


E3 2013
E3 2013
DriveClub

DriveClub is mental. Evolution Studios wants to dazzle you with jazzy presentation right from the off, in an attempt to make the art of arcade racing a bit more exciting. I have to say, it kind of worked on me, a chap whoís not too accustomed to driving games at all. If a PlayStation Eye is connected, youíll be able to take a photo of your ugly mug - the first step in what is being called a Social Racing Experience.

You pick a car, as well as a driving Ďstyleí (I imagine this is a way of masking the more advanced features of a carís spec, like suspension, for accessibility purposes - no doubt thereís a menu somewhere to fine-tune a carís mechanics to the max if youíre a bit of a petrol-head), and tackle a course. All sounds pretty normal, until you start playing.

Itís not just lap times youíre competing for, you see. On occasion, DriveClub will throw a Social Challenge at you, asking you to beat a high score set by one of your friends. These range from maintaining a top speed for a certain amount of time, to getting more drift points on a particular corner. While the PS3 gets GT6, a more serious approach to racing, DriveClub gives the PS4 a nice, approachable and interactive way to scratch that driving itch.


Knack

I was initially interested in Knack for a couple of reasons. The first being that itís the latest character platformer from the mind of legendary developer Mark Cerny, who was also instrumental in bringing Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Mega Drive classic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to life. Itís also a colourful, vibrant and accessible complement to the rest of PS4Ďs launch titles.

Suffice it to say, then, that when I played Knack I went away feeling slightly underwhelmed. It plays very well, and I can imagine it being very fun for kids, but you can kind of tell that Cernyís full attention isnít on this game. Which is understandable, given that the creative has also doubled as PS4ís lead architect.

In gameplay terms, itís been described as a cross between Katamari Damacy and God of War. Thatís kind of true. As you smash objects and enemies and collect the fragments that spill out of them, Knack dynamically grows in size to the point where one city-based level (split in this demo between several segments) sees you start as a tiny pudgy creature and finish as a colossal beast, towering over buildings. The camera - which canít be operated by the player, swooping from area to area - is pulled from God of War, and the combat channels that to a degree, albeit without the depth or flair that Kratos brings. Square to win, Right Stick to dodge, basically.

There was something about the game that, while exceptionally cartoony and colourful, lacked charm. Knackís main problem right now is that it doesnít necessarily feel as fresh and engaging as it could be - or at least, as fresh and engaging as youíd expect from a Cerny game. Hopefully this was a result of the fragmented demo, split across segments of random levels, and the full game will inspire come launch day.


Hohokum

Iím surely not the first - and not going to be the last - person to take one look at Hohokum and wonder what exactly the developers behind it were smoking. But, as examples of Sonyís PS4 indie movement go, this adventure experience is a great one. Itís immediately engaging; its colours and characters intriguing players to explore and interact.

You control a snake-like creature, that warps between colourful abstract worlds through cloudy Ďportalsí. In order to open the portal to the next world, you have to slither around the current level, understand your objective and accomplish it. Nothing is truly explained to you, tasking players to discover cause and effect for themselves.

Whizzing around floating flowers, for example, will allow a little blue man to pop out of a house nearby. You later learn that snaking past him will make the man jump on you, Noby Noby Boy style. After further exploration, you discover acorns in the level - which the blue men pick up - which need to be planted into the grassy hills at the top of the stage.

Itís simple, itís chilled out - especially with the relaxing soundtrack - and itís a great game to showcase the PS4ís approach to indie studios and more creative games. Which, if you want my opinion, is what this industry desperately needs right now. Sony can only be championed for trying to spark a new generation of creativity for our home console experience.

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