Slouching Toward the Next Generation: in the shadow of Killzone

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The Playstation 4 sold one million copies in 24 hours. It not only shattered the previous day one sales record, but torched the one week record in a single day. Sony had some last minute bad luck with the delay of Drive Club and Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. They were left holding the bag with only two AAA launch exclusives: Killzone Shadow Fall and Knack, both of which suffered from subpar reviews. But the Playstation 4 did benefit from a number of cross platform (and cross gen) titles including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Need for Speed: Rivals, Battlefield 4, LEGO Marvel Superheroes, and all the usual sports games. But really, the system came out of the gate with a weak lineup. I guess most people didn’t notice.

After the jump, the games that launched a million consoles.

Killzone Shadow Fall

The new Killzone looks great. The draw distance is impressive, the environments are colorful and varied, and the character models are incredibly detailed. There are long sweeping flights over the city, drawn out exit sequences, big set pieces all geared toward showing the stuff the next generation is made of. Unfortunately, the single player campaign seems content to strut its graphics and call it a day.

Most of these gorgeous levels eventually descend into corridor shooterland: there are military installation corridors, random office building corridors, and Dead Space spacestation corridors. There is even a train level. The combat and movement can feel leaden. The sound can be off. Voices tend to sound like whispers no matter the audio settings and appear out of sequence with the characters speaking. Enemies suck up a lot of damage while clips seem to be short on ammo. Reloading takes forever. Objective markers can blend in with your surrounding making it difficult to know where you’re going.

The game does try some inventive stuff with the controller’s touch pad, which you use to summon a companion drone. The various swipes (up, down, left, right) issue different commands: fight, hack, provide shield cover, and shoot a zipline.

The multiplayer is where the game shakes off its old, stale, military shooter conventions and tries something unique. It’s not as run-and-gun as Call of Duty, and it’s much more focused than Battlefield. There are three classes: assault, scout, and support. When communicating with your teammates and understanding your role the three classes offer great synergy. The scout detects enemies, support can launch resurrection drones, and assault can lay down a shield preventing enemy fire but allowing friendly fire to pass through. Each match is objective based; it could be capturing then defending points, it could be arming or disarming bombs. You don’t know the objective until you spawn in with your team. Once a round is over (matches seem to consist of three rounds) the objectives can change. When all three classes work together a point can be very tough to crack. There are many modes I haven’t tried yet and I’m still a very inexperienced player. I know I’m missing a lot of the nuance, but for how rote the single player is, the multiplayer is at least encouraging.

Knack

Knack is a platformer/brawler with a lot of dodging and jumping and punching. Knack is also the name of the little robot you control. At least I think he’s a robot. You collect crystals to power special abilities and find relics to add health and strength. Knack starts out small but as he collects more relics he grows bigger and stronger swelling to Hulk-like proportions.

knack

Knack can be fun when you’re all bulked up and just tearing through enemies, but the game always finds artificial reasons to shrink you back down, often multiple times during a level, effectively starting you over from scratch. It’s not an easy game (I played on normal). When at your most vulnerable, you can easily be taken out in two hits. Health isn’t very plentiful, and the checkpointing system isn’t great, which leads to a lot of going back over the same areas four or five times before advancing. I played three or four hours before giving it up entirely.

Need For Speed: Rivals

For as good as Killzone looked Need for Speed: Rivals blew it out of the water. I suppose we can thank the Frostbite engine for that. There are destructible environments, debris, and leaves shooting across the screen, waves crashing against guardrails, and cars that look spectacular. Tom will have more coverage of Rivals later this week, but suffice to say it’s a real looker on the Playstation 4.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

I’ve only spent a few hours, but that’s enough to get a feel for how a last gen game looks on the Playstation 4: not look nearly as good as I hoped. In the right light (dark scenes are muddy) the colors and details are measurably better than anything on the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. Unfortunately I’ve encountered some game killing bugs, like getting stuck in the bottom of the world or between levels. I’m sure Black Flag is a great game and I’m really looking forward to digging into it. But after spending days with these AAA launch titles, there’s only one game I can’t wait to get back to. And that game is…

Up next: the Playstation 4’s best launch exclusive
Click here to meet the Playstation 4.

Scott Dobrosielsky lives in Northport, NY with his wife and dog. When not rooting around in his parent’s closet looking for an unwrapped copy of Final Fantasy 2, he enjoys overstaying his welcome by playing Dune 2 on his neighbor’s PC. He posts to the QT3 forums as Scott Dobros.

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