Road to Next-Gen: PS4's Launch Games Underwhelm

The PlayStation 4 launches tomorrow, but while the machine itself has been well-received, the early games lineup is somewhat tepid.

News by Pete Davison, .

PlayStation 4 is out tomorrow! Are you excited?

Jeremy and Mike were pretty impressed with the new machine in their hardware review, but unfortunately the same can't quite be said for the launch lineup of games; Jeremy came away from Killzone: Shadow Fall singularly unimpressed, for example, and Knack, a title Sony has been pushing hard to be some sort of mascot for the new platform, currently sits at a Metacritic score of just 59.

Speaking with our sister site Gamesindustry International, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida noted that he had found the low scores "disappointing" and acknowledged that they were "mixed." He attributed the scores in part to critics having a lot of games to cover in a short period of time and the lack of online functionality preventing journalists from getting a good look at, say, Killzone's multiplayer. He remains confident about the future of the system, however.

"It's disappointing," he says, "but I don't think it's worrisome for the launch of the system. I've played through all of our games -- Killzone, Knack and Resogun -- and I totally enjoyed playing through these games. These games really grow on you when you play more."

When queried about Knack's poor performance, and whether it was a result of Mark Cerny being spread too thin between game development and his responsibilities as PS4 system architect, Yoshida was characteristically candid.

"The game wasn't designed [to meet specific] review scores," he says. "I was hoping Knack could score in the mid-70s and last I checked it's around 59-60, so I'm hoping it goes up. The game uses only three buttons to play, so it's not the type of game reviewers would score high for the launch of a next-gen system. The game was targeted as what we call a 'second purchase' -- you know, people may purchase PS4 for Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed or Killzone, but if they also buy Knack, this is a game that you can play with your family or your significant other. It's a message that as a platform we are not just trying to cater only to the hardcore, shooter audience."

Gamesindustry also asked Yoshida what his thoughts on "resolutiongate" were; does 1080p really matter?

"I can confidently say that graphics matter," he says, decisively. His reasoning? 1080p resolution isn't just about making games look sharper; it's about making them play better. He cites the example of Killzone: Shadow Fall, and that the increased resolution of the game means that control is more accurate and there's less need for the usual "aim assist" function typically found in console-based shooters. "You don't need to be able to spot the difference in resolution, but it just feels great," he adds.

Interestingly, much of the resolution debate has surrounded Call of Duty: Ghosts, and how it runs at a native 1080p on Playstation 4 as compared to upscaled 720p on Xbox One. Except that's not quite accurate; our sister site Eurogamer reported last night that in direct contradiction to both Inifinity Ward and Sony's statements about the game, an unpatched version of Call of Duty: Ghosts actually runs the single-player campaign at 720p resolution. Whoops.

Fortunately for those who care about such things, by the time you get a PlayStation 4 hooked up to your TV, there'll be a day-one patch available that corrects the resolution in single-player to native 1080p. Activision has blamed the mistake on a "configuration issue" rather than the game not being optimized correctly -- but it's yet another log on the "resolutiongate" fire.

Yoshida notes that at this early stage, a lot of developers are not taking advantage of what he calls the "hidden powers" of PlayStation 4, and as such these launch games are perhaps not the best means of judging what the new system is capable of. He cites PlayStation 4's use of GPGPU -- a technology where graphics processors can be used to perform calcuations normally offloaded onto the main CPU -- as a particular example. He does, however, point out that launch game and initial PlayStation Plus freebie Resogun does make use of GPGPU, and perhaps coincidentally is by far the highest-scoring PS4 game in the initial batch of reviews.

"At least we have one game that's getting great reviews," he says, and in my mind's eye he follows it with a cheeky wink and smile.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for rocksteady13 #1 rocksteady13 4 years ago
    Honestly I'm not worried about the score of the launch games and I never am for any console launch. We all know the best games come later in the console life.
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  • Avatar for docexe #2 docexe 4 years ago
    Quoting myself from Eurogamer:

    “The mixed reviews are not surprising. Knack, while interesting in concept, never seemed to live up to that potential, and the previews always painted it as a very “meh” game. At least, Sony seems to have realized that it was not going to be a big hit, given Yoshida’s comments here.

    Killzone, on the other hand, has always been touted as a technical marvel in almost all its incarnations (and Shadowfall certainly looks very pretty), but the series has never enjoyed the popularity or appeal of other shooters.

    To be honest, Resogun and Infamous: Second Son are the only exclusive games in the launch window that have caught my attention. To a minor extent, The Order 1886, but very little information has been disclosed about that game.”

    There is also Deep Down, but I'm still on the fence about it.

    It should be pointed out as well that the launch line-up of all PlayStation consoles has always been defined by quantity and variety, rather than by having timeless classics at launch. Those usually come later in the console cycle.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #3 Thusian 4 years ago
    What bothers me about this response is that it dances around the real issue with the reviews I have seen. The graphics leap is not that big, and the gameplay is not evolving whatsoever. So what did we need new hardware for? More lighting effects and assets bloating the cost of development. HD already made dev decisions so conservative and games so homogenous that my tastes are being ignored almost entirely. I can't wait for this to put a bullet in the types of games I like to play.
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  • Avatar for gigantor21 #4 gigantor21 4 years ago
    @Thusian Considering how much games chugged and lagged at sub-HD resolutions, I'm more than happy that new hardware is available. The problem is that we're still seeing the same thing happen in several next gen titles--including Dead Rising 3, a 360 up-port running at 720p. Hopefully that gets worked out as devs get used to the hardware.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #5 Thusian 4 years ago
    @gigantor21 What's to get used to its x86 with more RAM and a bigger processor? I'm not really buying that excuse this time around especially since the issues on display seem to be more around game design, than hardware limitations. Knack and Killzone are uninspired from design doc up as far as I can see. I don't buy the getting used to platform this time around.
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  • Avatar for gigantor21 #6 gigantor21 4 years ago
    @Thusian Indeed, someone at Activision said that it wasn't the hardware that was the issue, since that was established in advanced. Instead, it was how the goalposts on how many resources non-gaming functions took up that kept shifting that gave them more problems, particularly for the Xone (although I expect the PS4 OS and functions to be plenty malleable too). I don't expect that to be as much of an issue over time.
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  • Avatar for Thusian #7 Thusian 4 years ago
    @gigantor21 sure, I see your point. Real question is, from my point of view, can these systems provide me with a new experience or just a prettier one? So to your original point, sure smoother is nice, but I like to think that the medium is advancing, going somewhere, and I've been concerned for some time that its not.

    Look at the last hardware cycle we were promised so much, but by the end the most publicized games were linear corridor shooters, third person shooting broken up by hold your hands platforming, and open world games with bigger cities than their previous incarnations.

    I worry about where the actual core game design has been placed in this spectacle heavy world. Look you don't need to indulge me, I know I might just be a crotchety old man about this, but $400 to play an inferior platformer is scary, it could at least be as good as stuff coming out on existing platforms like Rayman or Mario 3D World. So until the promise is met, I will remain skeptical, I'll gladly be wrong.
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  • Avatar for gigantor21 #8 gigantor21 4 years ago
    @Thusian Oh, no, I absolutely agree with you. Cerny himself has compared Knack to Spyro several times, but it doesn't look anywhere near as ambitious or grand in scope as that game was. In that regard, it'a a microcosm of how untrustworthy devs promises of brave new worlds became this gen--it felt like games got smaller despite the extra power they had to work with compared to generations past.

    They were constantly complaining about how difficult it was to work with current gen hardware, especially the PS3. Now that they have more powerful systems that they keep singing the praises of, I don't want any more excuses. They have all the tools they need.Edited November 2013 by gigantor21
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  • Avatar for Thusian #9 Thusian 4 years ago