There is a common theme to the complaints launched at the PS4, mostly from Xbox fans – but not entirely, that the machine lacks any triple-A first exclusive titles. We know they’re on the way, it’s just they haven’t arrived, or in many cases, even been announced yet.
This may be a sticking point for some, but for many gamers, this is actually proving to be a good thing. Right from the pre-E3 Sony conference in 2013, Sony executives came straight out and told us two very important things: firstly, that the PS4 would show strong support for independent developers (with over a thousand companies now registered to self-publish on PS4, the support seems pretty strong); secondly, that the PS4 is ‘for the gamers.’
Perhaps not everyone realised what this meant? Or that those two statements were so inherently linked.
In either case, if you are the kind of gamer that enjoys only top-line, triple-A titles and likes to sink endless hours into the blockbusters, then perhaps you may be disappointed? Except, of course, despite the PS4’s youth, it has a Call of Duty, a Battlefield, an Assassin’s Creed, a Madden AND a FIFA (depending on your side of the Atlantic persuasions) – plenty of top tier games to swallow your time.
Of course, the issue there is that none of the aforementioned titles are exclusive to Sony’s console. All are available on the Xbox machines too. When it comes to exclusivity, PS4 saw the lackluster Knack at launch and has made empty promises so far on games like Drive Club, which is yet to see the light of day. Most recently, the first knockout exclusive was launched in the form of Infamous Second Son, an incredibly beautiful third-person action game.
Though critics have been largely very positive about Second Son, it has inadvertently been pitched against the Xbox ‘exclusive’, Titanfall due to similar release dates (Titanfall isn’t a true exclusive as it’s also available on PC, you can still play it without owning an Xbox machine, though still a PC is still a Microsoft product).
Titanfall has all the power of FPS crazed Xbox fans behind it and has arguably a greater ‘mass appeal’ than a game like Infamous, it also happens to be exceptionally good. And so the war of the triple-A exclusives continues, with the Xbox machine appearing to have the upper hand.
For a long term gamer though, not one who stepped on the wagon during the last generation or two, Sony is actually orchestrating something incredible.
Through their steadfast support of independent games developers, their machine – in fact their whole console family (PS3 and Vita included) – is bringing gaming back to the gamers. There have been masses of astonishingly cool, retro inspired and totally exclusive titles released for the Playstation consoles. If you hear anyone bemoaning a lack of titles for their PS4 – direct them to the Playstation Store immediately.
It started with the awesome Resogun and the intriguing Contrast that launched – for free – with the console. Resogun being a glowing, particle effect laden, retro shooter – reminiscent of R-Type. Different ships, different levels and different difficulties all available for a game that was essentially about getting and maintaining multipliers to your score and smashing those world wide leaderboards (or coming in 4,674,345th like I have so far achieved). It’s true old school gaming, all the pick up and play appeal of 80’s arcade shooters, combined with the actual skill and perseverance required to so much as put a dent in those leaderboards.
Contrast, also a PS4 exclusive, is an adventuring puzzle platformer, where light and shadow unlocked new paths if you are smart enough to use it. All the charm and unusual concept of those first forays into 3D gaming, but with the high level of gloss finish from next-generation games.
Before long, PS4 gamers were treated to the superbly difficult Don’t Starve. This had a unique art style and removed all of those pesky ‘tutorials’ that spoon feed you the gameplay for two hours before letting you play properly. Don’t Starve just dumped you into a cold, harsh world with one solitary life and told you simply to survive. Just like games of my youth, you didn’t reach the next save point after dying infinite times with no consequence, you actually had to learn the games systems and figure out your own methods for doing a little bit better each time.
Outlast followed this, another PS4 exclusive from an indie company (and free upon release for PS+ subscribers). This was pure terror in game form. Again, the modern trappings of massive guns, stacks of ammo and a well lit scenario were set aside and the focus was put back on players, shredded nerves and all, simply learning how to make it through each level. Developing your skills on how to deal with enemies in a non-violent way was all part of the process. This game also looked like a next-gen title, all the more terrifying for it!
The latest PS4 title to hit the PS+ Instant Game Collection is Mercenary Kings. This game looks just like the games of my childhood, just as consoles were moving into the 16-bit arena and gamers were as likely to be playing Atari ST or Commodore Amiga as they were MegaDrive (Genesis) or Super Nintendo. A side scrolling shoot ’em up, like Contra, Midnight Resistance or Metal Slug, Mercenarey Kings also has up to 4-player multiplayer, locally or online (or any
combination of the two) and deeper systems for weapons, crafting and 100 missions to battle through. It’s incredible stuff and as impressively filled with modern twists as it is with nostalgia.
What the PS4 and its varied band of indie developers are doing is bringing gaming back to its roots. They’re saying games are about fun first, graphical prowess second. And they’re right.
There showing modern gamers that the games of old: side scrolling 2D shooters or adventures, games without auto save and infinite lives, still have their place today. Furthermore, thanks to strong online functionality and powerful technological advances, there are things we can do with these games that we couldn’t have even dreamed of back in the 80’s or 90’s.
Set aside the free games or the ones that are PS4 exclusive and we get an even bigger library of awesome games that have an old school look, but a decidedly modern feel. Recently released Fez (cross-buy and cross-save for PS3, PS4 and Vita),
looks like an 8 -bit platformer at first glance. Once you pick it up and play, you see that the little fez wearing hero has a lot more skills up his sleeve than ‘jump’ and the world itself is a surprisingly complex set of puzzles that, though presented in 2D, work very much on a 3D playing field. The world has to be manipulated in order to figure out how to get around.
Towerfall has its roots firmly in games like Super Smash Brothers (or original Mario Brothers player vs. player), yet despite its 8-bit veneer, a more complex and fun game lies beneath. Once you see players getting the hang of catching their opponents arrows out of the air with inch-perfect timing, you can tell something more is happening here.
Many of today’s developers grew up on a diet of 1980’s 2D arcade games and remember them fondly. Personally, I can’t wait to see what comes from them next. The PS4 and Playstation brand in general has some of the finest exclusives being released today. I hope more people take the time to explore and discover what lies behind the hype and hysteria of the next-gen machines.
At the moment, if we were to judge the consoles by their covers, the Xbox One looks like Titanfall. If we open it up to see what lurks behind, we find Titanfall. The PS4 looks like Infamous Second Son, step behind that cover and we find not only Infamous but a whole other world of gaming, for many of us it’s filled, not only with amazing games, but nostalgia and our childhoods reinvented. Games that are played in short bursts as you try to get that little bit further or beat that last hi-score, before moving on and playing a couple of levels of another.
I haven’t sat down for a single gaming session and found myself playing on four or five different games since I was 11 years old in 1993. It’s superb stuff and finally all starting to make sense what
Sony meant when they said this machine is ‘for the gamers’, turns out what they meant was this console is for people just like me.
With more quirky indie titles on the way, we at TwinstickGaming are excited to see what delights are on offer when games like Hohokum, Rime, Velocity 2X and N++ launch over the coming months.
It’s a great time to be an older gamer and an especially great time to get yourself a Playstation 4.
What retro or old school game has got you reliving your youth? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.