We now live in a world where Ben Affleck is Batman. Someone, somewhere, sat down and made that decision. But how did they come to the conclusion that, of the many talented actors in the world, the best choice was to ignore them all and go with Affleck? While we can't save the Batman franchise, luckily there's one deciding factor that should help you make the right decision on choosing your next-gen console this Christmas: the games.
With big hitters like Fifa 14, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Assassin's Creed 4 being released on both consoles, it's the platform exclusives that are going to make the difference. So let's take a closer look at Sony and Microsoft's offerings at launch and beyond:
Killzone: Shadow Fall -- Sony's first-party, triple-A offering is a game that stands out in my mind as being truly impressive during the February launch event. Traditionally the Killzone franchise has been all about washed-out colours and gritty sci-fi environments. Guerrilla Games are going less District 9 and more Minority Report with the style and tone of Shadow Fall, and we have to say, it looks stunning.
*This is in game and not a pre-rendered image.
Graphics aren't everything of course, but there are some interesting changes to the multiplayer that are worth noting. Gone are the standard XP progression and weapon unlock systems found in most modern shooters. Instead, players will advance by completing each of the 1,500 challenges, and while you'll be able to unlock upgrades, such as scopes or flashlights, your choice of death dealer will be available from the start.
It'll doubtfully reach the dizzy heights the Halo franchise has, but Killzone: SF is definitely one to consider if you're jumping from the Xbox 360 to PlayStation 4.
DriveClub -- Some things in life are certain. Nintendo will release a new Mario until all life on the planet dies out, or Jeremy Clarkson leaves Top Gear. Ben Affleck is Batman. And Sony will always have more than one racing game at launch. It's interesting (read: disappointing) that Gran Turismo 6 is only being released after the launch of the PlayStation 4, and only on its predecessor. The new console is not natively backwards-compatible and Gaikai, the cloud-based game-streaming service, won't be available to download previous-gen games until spring 2014.
As a result, it's left to Evolution Studios to shoulder the burden of introducing yet another new racing franchise into the market. The studio have some impressive credentials to back them up with this attempt, having developed several World Rally Championship games on the PlayStation 2 and the previous-gen's excellent launch title MotorStorm.
Sitting somewhere between the realism of Gran Turismo and the arcade-style of Project Gotham Racing, this isn't an attempt to take Microsoft's Forza 5 head on (more on that later). Rather it's built to take advantage of the social capabilities of the new console, such as the replay share function to show your friends all your big wins and epic fails. I suspect more of the latter, in my case.
There is a slight worry that purists who enjoy fine-tuning every aspect of their vehicles may be left wanting, but you'll be able to find out for yourself as all PlayStation Plus subscribers will get a free version of the game. Some of the cars and tracks from the box copy are missing, but it's essentially the same game.
Knack -- There is a strong suspicion that this is an attempt to recreate the glory days of Crash Bandicoot. None of Sony's mascots have been as recognisably "PlayStation" as everyone's favourite non-hedgehog-based-anthropomorphic animal.
And who could be better suited to bottling that lightning a second time, than a man who worked on franchises such as Sonic, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Jak and Daxter, and Ratchet and Clank. That man also happens to be the lead designer behind the PlayStation 4, Mark Cerny. More than anything else, his involvement is cause to pay attention to a game you might otherwise have dismissed as being just for the kids.
What Knack is guaranteed to do is make full use of the raw power found in the PlayStation 4 to create an interesting, deep and ultimately enjoyable gameplay experience. There is a slight concern that the audience this sort of game is intended for no longer exists, replaced by a socially connected and online generation. Nonetheless, I expect Knack to be another critically-acclaimed masterpiece to add to Cerny's collection.
Sony has a history of excellent exlclusives. Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation; Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty on the PlayStation 2, and The Last of Us on PlayStation 3 are among my personal favourite games of all time. At Gamescom, Sony announced that Santa Monica Studios, Naughty Dog and Media Molecule are all in the process of developing next-gen games and this can only mean excellent things for the future of gaming.
Sony has also made it clear that it wants to cater to five man start-up developers in the same way it does multi-billion dollar corporations in order to provide several different gaming experiences. Rime looks set to capitalise on the success of Journey and Unfinished Swan and provide a point of difference to mass-market game experiences.
Juxtapose this with The Order: 1886, which has an intriguing CGI trailer that probably cost more than the entire budget for Rime, and it's easy to see Sony's master plan in action. That is to say, they are courting the developers of tomorrow, and endear them towards Sony by making it as easy as possible to get their game out to consumers. This way, when the sequel comes out or they're head-hunted by other developers, it's Sony at the forefront and not Microsoft. Very clever.
Dead Rising 3 -- I'll admit it: I originally bought an Xbox 360 for Dead Rising. It was exactly what I wanted to play at the time, and in no way do I regret that decision. It's easy to criticise the third iteration for removing the colourful fun of its predecessors but there's no denying that the trailers and gameplay videos make it look as fun as ever. The latest video shows the protagonist dressed as a knight, killing zombies with a lightsaber. I don't see how anyone wouldn't enjoy that unless they hate fun.
Will it be a classic? No. It will likely be one of those 'yellows' on Metacritic that are scored slightly higher than they would have halfway through a consoles lifecycle, just because they're a launch title. Does that matter? Not in the slightest. You can throw a sledgehammer with a chainsaw strapped to it at a zombie. Shallow perhaps, but entertaining? Heck yes.
Forza Motorsport 5 -- Of all the launch titles, I believe this is the one that will genuinely sell the most consoles. Forza is now the daddy of all racing titles, and I say that knowing that games are subjective and everyone has their opinion. That's fine, but if you're a racing fan and don't consider Forza the best in class then I would love to know why in the comments below.
This iteration's big feature is "Drivatar," which will apparently learn from Forza's human players via cloud-based technology, and emulate that behaviour through AI opponents. This means that even when you're away from your consoles, your avatar will race for you based on your own habits and mannerisms.
You'll earn in-game credits as a result -- or not, if you're as crap at racing games as I am. It's impressive tech if it works, although if my Drivatar wins more races then I do, then it sets an uncomfortable precedent. Why bother playing if my AI self is so superior?
Ryse: Son of Rome -- The protagonist is called Marius Titus. Slightly pretentious and very much mirroring Gladiator's namesake, but it works. Of all the games on this list, this is the one I'm most sceptical about. Again, because it's a launch title, it will likely receive more positive reviews than it perhaps deserves. With an emphasis on quick-time events and running on CryEngine 3, my guess is that this will be more a tech demo in the same way Kameo was on the Xbox 360.
Ryse started life as a Kinect-only current-gen game, which at least gave it a point of difference. Now Kinect is no longer mandatory, but players will control the Roman legions through voice commands and has the moniker 'better with kinect.' Mm. Because there have been so many games that have been better with Kinect. Why there's... and... hmm.
However, the multiplayer is quite interesting for those interested in living out that Gladiator fantasy. There's also no denying that CryEngine 3 is one of the most graphically impressive on the market. I would love nothing more than for Ryse to prove me wrong by being genuinely excellent. Improved games making use of Kinect can only mean better things for the future.
While Sony is keeping their cards close to their chest on what their main development teams are working on, Microsoft has no such qualms in announcing that, yes, next-gen Halo is in the works. However, with only a CGI trailer and next to no mention at Gamescom, it's a fair assumption that it's still at least another year away.
Microsoft isn't worried though, because they have another ace up their sleeve: Titanfall.
If there was one game on everyone's lips after E3, it was unequivocally Titanfall. Developed by most of the same staff who worked on Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, this is EA's next great hope. With the likes of Epic and Cliff Blazinski now working on other, non-exclusive titles rather than Gears of War, and Bungie working on multi-platform behemoth Destiny, it could be argued that Microsoft needs Titanfall to be successful as much as EA does.
On paper, there's nothing to dislike about Titanfall. The CoD franchise itself has now gone near-future, and it's still selling more copies of each game than the combined IQ of every single person who watches 2 Broke Girls...times a million. And who doesn't like mechs? Add to this the fact that CoD does ten minute-burst gameplay like no other on the planet, and that Infinity Ward (which makes up the foundations of Respawn) has never made a bad game. Granted, they've never made anything other than a CoD game, but I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.
However, my alarm bells start ringing when the developers begin adding plot-line epilogues and a beginning/middle/end to each multiplayer match. It might be interesting the first few times, but eventually it's just going to become tedious. I'll also be fascinated to see exactly how the cloud-computing functionality of servers, physics and AI actually affect real time gameplay.
But considering we live in a world where Ben Affleck is Batman, I just don't know what to believe anymore. What games are you looking forward to at launch? Will it be exclusive games that sway you one way or another, or is it a function of the consoles themselves?