It happened, folks. Sony finally lifted the curtain on the PlayStation 5 in an online presentation this week, revealing a curvy two-toned console that looks like it came from some parallel dimension where our inevitable cyberpunk reality is more bright and optimistic than it actually is. 2020 is the year video games move into the next generation. The way we play games is going to change irrevocably. I definitely heard the phrase ‘paradigm shift’ dropped like a cannonball in the ocean.
The future of gaming is here, again. We are witness to it, right now.
Anyway, the whole thing opened with Grand Theft Auto V, a game from 2013 that you’ll also be able to play on the new PlayStation. Cool.
But before they revealed the hardware, Sony showed a diverse selection of games we can look forward to playing on the console as soon as the end of this year, and as far out as 2022. There were nine games from PlayStation Studios, Sony’s new branding umbrella for first- and second-party developers. We also got a good look at close to 20 other games from third-party publishers, almost all of them for the first time. There was a lot to see, and it was exciting to keep seeing trailer after trailer, wondering what the next surprise would be.
The reveal of Insomniac’s Ratchet And Clank: Rift Apart is the best example of this push and pull of old and new. It was an impressive showing: Start with a wild, world-tripping cinematic and then show how all of that actually exists and works in the game itself. The impressive loading speeds touted by the company can be seen practised in the way Ratchet flies between completely different worlds in a blink. The debris flying everywhere as enemies and the environment are demolished is wonderfully chaotic, and the lighting design that ray tracing allows helps give this fake cartoon world a beautiful edge for sure. I have an idea of what the PlayStation 5 is capable of on a technical level, and that’s great.
But I can also pick up my DualShock 4 while watching the video and mimic exactly what is happening on screen. That’s how familiar it feels. It is a much more beautiful version of what I know I like to play. There are some hints of how these games might fundamentally change in a mechanical sense–hopefully, the portal hopping will exercise my brain in brand new ways later on in that game–but not enough for me to stand up and yell “paradigm shift!” to no one in particular.
There were brand-new properties in there that piqued my interest, sure. Housemarque’s Returnal intrigued me with its setup, and I love its dumb name. Kena: Bridge of the Spirits and Project Athia also raised an eyebrow. Ghostwire Tokyo and Deathloop are games that seem incredibly up my alley. But I still came away with a sense of knowing how all these games play.
Then, there were the ones that I didn’t quite get a true sense of, the ones that really got me to sit up. Goodbye Volcano High, Jett: The Far Shore, Little Devil Inside, Solar Ash, Stray and even the utterly strange Bugsnax were really the only projects that got my mind wandering a little bit, wondering, “How is that going to translate to an actual game?”
I guess that’s the feeling I’m always looking for whenever we move onto a new generational cycle. The look of the box? I think it’s interesting enough, it’s fine. But I’m chasing the feeling that reminds me of opening up a copy of EGM as a kid, looking at screenshots of Mario 64 for the very first time, thinking: “Wow, that looks amazing. I have no idea how it’s going to work.”
Do I absolutely have to get a PlayStation 5 to get those experiences? Judging by all the multiplatform announcements that happened after the show, probably not. We always kinda suspected that the next console cycle would be more of a step than a leap. Maybe the next generation of gaming has been here all along. They just needed a place to be seen.