In case you were living under a rock last week, Sony officially announced the Playstation 4 Slim and Playstation 4 Pro (the proper name for Playstation 4 Neo), the worst-kept secret this side of anything related to Nintendo’s next console. This follows on from Microsoft’s Xbox Scorpio reveal at E3 earlier this year.
Three console manufacturers. Three new consoles. It almost feels like the next generation is about to begin.
Between Scorpio and the PS4 Pro, what have we learned about the immediate future of gaming? Aside from the revolutionary nature of uncompressed pixels” or the fact that HDR is as close to touching the face of God as we mere mortals are ever going to get?
It almost feels like the high-end, AAA gaming space is running out of ideas.
Following the reveal of the PS4 Pro in New York last week, Internet forums, social media sites, YouTube comments sections and gaming website big and small have all erupted into mass arguments. All of these arguments are centred around the same, tired things they’ve been centred around since PS4 and Xbox One were first launched almost three years ago.
Framerates! Resolutions! GPU’s! CPU’s! Teraflops! RAM! And there’s also some stuff about Blu-Ray players.
That list isn’t exhaustive, of course. It also leaves off the fanboys who treat these console manufacturers as football teams, as though they should be supported at all costs and the other team is the devil. I’m sure by the end of this editorial I’ll be accused of being a Microsoft fanboy, a Sony fanboy and a Nintendo fanboy. And probably an Atari fanboy to boot.
And probably an Atari fanboy to boot.
The Internet at large is debating back and forth about everything that makes video games great. Is upscaled 4K content any good compared to native 4K support? Why can’t Sony just create a console that can play native 4K games? Will this improved hardware finally allow developers to create 60fps gaming? My console has more teraflops than your console! Oh yeah, well my console has HDR support! Mine has a UHD Blu-Ray player! Sony Lamestation! Microsoft Failbox!
And so on.
These are all critically important questions and points of debate, of course. Without true 4K gaming, built-in UHD Blu-Ray players, uncompressed pixels and all the teraflops, how could we ever have good games again?
It’s as predictable as it is tiring. For three years the video game industry and its fans have been consumed by a baffling obsession with graphics and framerates. Maybe this is the end result of these endless debates and arguments over the PS4 being able to render a game at 1080p that the Xbox could only manage to do at 960.
Because, as we all know, that means that the game is orders of magnitude better on PS4.
Don’t get me wrong. I love great graphics as much as the next person. When I reviewed Valley last week I took some time to fawn over the sheer beauty of its landscapes. And I love 60fps as much as the next person. In an ideal world, I’d love every game to be rendered at a crisp 1920×1080, running at a silky smooth 60fps.
But 1080/60 doesn’t make games good. It just makes them look nice(r).
I didn’t give Valley a 9 out of 10 because it hit that technical benchmark. I gave it a 9 out of 10 because its gameplay was extremely well made and its story was thought-provoking and interesting. The fact that it looked gorgeous was just a bonus.
This obsession with technical specifications and graphical fidelity that has dominated the gaming conversation for three years has led to the Scorpio and PS4 Pro, there is no doubt in my mind about that. By giving us more teraflops and framerates and uncompressed pixels I imagine they truly believe they’re giving us what we want. They’re definitely giving us what we appear to be asking for.
But all the teraflops and framerates in the world can’t make a good game. The Order 1886 looks amazing. It probably would have been a pretty good game too, if Ready At Dawn hadn’t been so focused on making a tech demo that they all but forgot to add some gameplay into the mix.
Compare that with something like Axiom Verge, a game which looks like it came straight out of an NES. I gave one of those games a Game of the Year award, while the other made its way to my disappointments list.
The truth of the matter is that graphics don’t matter. We’re playing video games not tech demos.
PS4 Pro is a nice bit of tech. So is the Xbox One S. If you’ve got a 4K television, or you haven’t yet made the leap into the current generation of consoles, either is a fine purchase to make. I’m sure that when it arrives next year the Xbox Scorpio will be another excellent piece of technology.
And who knows what’s going on with the Nintendo NX anymore?
But you won’t find me getting all that excited about these graphical upgrades because they’re not going to give me better games. As long as the graphics are working and the framerate is stable it’s all good. What I’m looking for, and what we all should be looking for, are good games.
All the graphical power in the universe can’t save a bad game from being bad. It just gives you something nice to look at as you’re bored to tears.