2014 : The Year Of Retro Gaming
As the glitter and baubles enter hibernation for yet another year, the Martin household remains devoid of a next-gen console.
At first it was a very bitter pill to swallow. This is the only console generation in all eight that I haven’t had a new machine at launch. And to begin with, it felt like I’d lost a limb. That sinking feeling in your stomach as you realise that others are embracing pleasures that you can only read about – or sample round at your smug mates’ houses.
And then it hit me: 2014 could be the year that retro gaming finally hits its full stride.
Despite Hindsight-ing a number of notable retro games, it’s an area that I’ve generally never been all that passionate about. I’m certainly not knocking those that still curl-up next to their ZX Spectrums or MegaDrives on an evening, but from a personal perspective: whenever I’ve sampled a game from yesteryear, it’s almost always shattered the illusion. There have been some notable exceptions such as Stunt Car Racer, Half-Life or the odd, iconic PS2 title – but as a technology-junkie, the huge advances between each generation have more than made-up for any feint sense of nostalgia that I may have harboured.
Yet early reports from those close to me that have taken the plunge appear to suggest that the next-gen isn’t really all that amazing. Sure: there’s more ‘shiny’, but whereas the seventh generation offered the fairly significant leap from SD to HD, the eighth generation only seems to offer, well, more of the same. Whether its resolution, geometry, lighting, frames-per-second, audio channels or textures: the XBox One and PS4 do a fine job of ‘more’, if not entirely ‘new’.
Granted: some of this is rational sour-grapes from a man without either machine – yet some of it is also perfectly rational indeed. Don’t get me wrong: there will be some truly amazing games this generation that we will all want to play – but from a purely technological point, the honeymoon does seem to be pretty much over. Virtual reality offers an enticing prospect, for sure, but for console owners at least, this is a good half-a-generation away from being a De facto reality.
So what’s a guy to do in the meantime? Well: play a few seventh-generation games is what. So I have. And then it hit me (again): they’re drop-dead amazing.
From ploughing through all three Bioshock titles from start to finish to embarking upon the somewhat underrated Resistance trilogy: the seventh generation of consoles – with its HD-ness and steady 30fps gameplay – offers an experience that’s unlikely to age to any great degree any time soon. Sure: wandering through 2007’s vision of Rapture highlights some rough geometry and the odd, fuzzy texture, but the overall level of polish and refinement – coupled with the game’s visionary art-direction – makes for an experience that’s every bit as immersive as anything a bleeding-edge PC rig could muster. Granted: extra bells and whistles make for more ‘wow’, but in my experience, ‘wow’ fades quite quickly to leave only the game’s vision and mechanics to speak for itself.
As a film-buff, I often say to people that – from a technological point of view – you can take pretty much any film from 2000 onwards and it won’t ever really age. You can say the same for music from about 1990 onwards – or earlier still for literature. When we look back at games in decades to come, I reckon we’ll be able to say the same about the seventh generation of consoles.
If I could wave a magic wand, would I furnish my home with brand new machines? Of course I would. Am I happy in the meantime with what I have? Without a doubt.
Happy as a pig in s**t.
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.