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The next-gen video game consoles are almost here, with both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 due to be released before the end of 2013. We’ve taken a first look at both consoles, with Matt explaining why he’s firmly in the Xbox One camp, and myself explaining why I’m firmly in the PS4 camp. But to be honest, both deserve a place underneath your television.
A new generation of consoles obviously brings better visuals with it, but graphics aren’t everything. While previous console generations relied rather heavily on improvements to how the games looked, this one is set to value a wide variety of other features above pure aesthetic appeal.
What follows is a list of five key features the next-gen consoles are set to bring with them, all of which are likely to have you salivating at the prospect of obtaining one or both of the previously mentioned machines.
While non-gamers will no doubt wonder why on earth anyone would watch someone else play a video game, it happens, and with increasing frequency. Gameplay videos are watched by millions of people on YouTube, and live streaming footage of people playing games can be viewed on the likes of Twitch.tv and other sites.
The next-gen consoles are catering to this demand, with both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 constantly recording gameplay in the background. The Xbox One will reportedly save the last five minutes of footage, while the PS4 will save the last 15 minutes. This means that if something awesome happens within the game, you’ll be able to share it with other like-minded individuals in an instant.
This brings us neatly onto social networking, which is going to be built into both next-gen consoles. The PS3 and Xbox 360 already have some social features, including chat functionality and Trophies/Achievements, but these are going to look petty and underwhelming in the face of what’s to come.
We don’t quite yet know all of the details, but it looks clear from what we have seen so far that both consoles will let you plug into various online social networks in a big way. This will make it easier to connect with your fellow gamers online, meaning multiplayer matchmaking will be easier than ever.
Speaking of online multiplayer, this is one area which both console manufacturers (and the game developers who support the consoles) are keen to improve. After all, a good multiplayer experience can mean the difference between a mediocre review score and a near-perfect 9/10 (that some people will disagree with).
The processing power of the next-gen consoles will make multiplayer matches more epic than ever before. Rather than having dozens of people in a single match we’ll see hundreds (or even thousands) competing in the same environment and on the same server. And if the developers do their job properly, bugs and glitching should be reduced as well.
It doesn’t seem to matter how powerful games consoles become, how good the visuals look, or even how moving the storylines are, the AI of NPCs is often shockingly poor. Take The Last Of Us, for example, which has everything going for it apart from some woeful AI from the people travelling with your character.
Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic here but I can’t help feeling there will be significant improvements made to the AI in next-gen titles. The developers can no longer blame a lack of resources, so if an Xbox One or PS4 title does feature poor AI it will be as a result of programming inadequacies.
Last but not least is a feature that could be argued comes under the general heading of “visuals.” But I think it stands out on its own, disconnected from the unimportant graphical improvements the next-gen will bring. I am talking about scale, a small (rather ironically) part of any game which actually has a big bearing on how a game makes you feel.
Some PS3 and Xbox 360 games have been able to show off large environments and give the player an impressive sense of scale, but these games are few and far between, and include moments picked out to show off a setpiece rather than sweeping, ever-present portions of the games. The next-gen, however, should allow a sense of scale to shine through unhindered in every single game.
As someone whose desire for better visuals has waned over the years, these features are the real reasons I’m now psyched at the prospect of playing next-gen titles on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. After all, some of my favorite gaming experiences in recent years have come from playing games which value everything else above mere graphics.
Are any of the features listed here enough to get you excited about the next generation consoles? Are any of them — particularly the video sharing and social networking aspects — actually turning you off from making the leap to the new hardware? What other key features are you hoping the next generation of games consoles bring with them? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image Credit: -EMR-