Archive: December, 2015

The PS4’s prosumer appeal

The PS4 has record sales and gained significant mind share among gamers. Yet among game journalists and core gamers, there’s disappointment. Kotaku’s Kirk Hamilton recently ran a positive yet tempered post on the PS4, calling it an “unexciting video game console.” Kat Bailey at USgamer finds this console generation “disappointingly conservative”. And I see similar resentment all over popular gaming forums like NeoGAF.

I’m a big fan of both Kirk’s and Kat’s writing. But I suspect their enthusiast perspective is coloring their viewpoint. For those of us that are more casual gamers, the PS4 has been great, a big improvement on previous console generations. It feels tailor made for what I’d term a “tech prosumer” market.

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PS4 sleeper essentials

As evident from recent sales figures, there’s a lot of new PS4 owners. Console bundles have reached a $300 sweet spot, and both the Xbox One and PS4 have built up a decent library. But most game recommendations I’ve seen online – from enthusiast (Polygon, Kotaku) to mainstream (BBC, The New York Times) – feel safe. They lean heavily on mega hits and franchise sequels like Halo 5, MGS V, and Destiny.

Granted, they aren’t bad choices. I’m currently hooked exploring the wastelands of Fallout 4, and I’d recommend it to almost any RPG fan. Yet the PS4 has many strong games that received little coverage. They are accessible, cover a wide range of genres and are affordable. Here are some of my favorites from the past year:

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Fallout 4: when a bad UI distracts from strong gameplay

Fallout 4 relies on a classic RPG feedback loop. Venture out and discover. Aquire loot and experience from combat and finishing quest lines. Improve your character, equip cool weapons and armor. Repeat. But thanks to an unwieldy user interface, part of Fallout 4’s feedback loop is broken. It’s increasingly problematic for me as I advance through the game’s main narrative.

Admittedly, that’s not a factor during most of my playtime thanks to Fallout 4’s superb open world design. There’s always something new to explore, little of which feels like filler content. The art direction and detail on most locations is impressive. Map layout is intuitive and influenced by real world constraints. Many terminals and safes add to a location’s backstory and the characters that populate it. It all adds to a breadth and unpredictability to Fallout 4 that I haven’t encountered in any other game this year.

Yet solid open world exploration and interesting loot only get you so far. Once you’re back at home base, Fallout 4 strains during character improvements and management. I’ve burned long stretches of time micromanaging inventory, encumbrance, and crafting items.

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