The “Next-Gen Leap” As Experienced From PC

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I made a couple posts in the past about console gaming and PC gaming and 1080p vs 720p. As Christmas rolls around I get an opportunity to talk at length about it again because my main Christmas event this year has been building a new PC and hooking it up to a television.

Since the PS4 and Xbox One don’t really have any exclusive software I feel I have to have right now, I just decided to upgrade my PC so I could get on my Steam backlog and play some of this year’s multiplatform games with better performance. The result has pretty much been a realization of what I’d been saying earlier.

I imagine for a lot of new PS4 owners part of the next-gen “wow” factor is playing AAA console games in 1080p and for some games, at 60 frames per second. I’ve seen people laud this increase in image quality after years of 720p and 30-frame-per-second console games on PS3 and Xbox 360, but does it make the game?

I’ll attest that this image quality by itself has had a significant effect on my experience with the games I’ve tried so far. Seeing the PC versions of even current-generation games like Dark Souls and Borderlands 2 running cleaner and smoother has a significant and immediately recognizable affect on their visuals. It’s almost like looking at HD ports of those games compared to their console versions. Even games with 2D pixilated graphics like Rogue Legacy look noticeably better in 1080p, with pixels and colors that seem to pop out more. The closest thing to a “next-gen” game I’ve tried out so far on my new system (remember, there really aren’t any next-gen games I feel like I have to buy yet) is the first Crysis game, which I can finally run in 1080p at 60 frames per second… most of the time.

The entire experience is like nothing I’ve seen before. In the past the only games I’d played at this resolution on a TV screen with a controller were bite-sized games with modest graphics, never anything in a full-blown graphics engine like Unreal or CryEngine. Seeing the combination of graphics this intense with image quality this clean certainly feels like a next-gen leap, even if I’m experiencing it on PC. But still, this visual revelation alone does not make the game.

I started to really think about the image quality leap while trying out Saint’s Row The Third, and then I realized despite the resolution and frame rate advantage, this game still didn’t look more impressive to me than Grand Theft Auto V. Even if GTA V runs in 720p at a very unstable 30 frames per second on my PS3, the level of detail with which Rockstar crafted that game’s massive world still outdoes any other open-world game I’ve seen. GTA V still feels like the next level of sandbox gaming to me while everything else is just living in a post-GTA V world. Even as I’m messing with this new PC I still find time to go back to my 3DS and A Link Between Worlds because of how fun that game is.

This ultimately tells me that while we may be getting a recognizable next-gen leap in the short-term, we’re not really there yet in terms of the overall quality of the games, especially since we don’t really have a next-gen-exclusive killer app yet. All my favorite games this year still came out on current-gen (or PC, or 3DS), and almost all the major stuff next year is cross-generation or current-gen-only.

It’s happened before. When the PS1 first came out in 1995 I recognized it as a next-gen leap — the CD-ROMs, the CD-quality sound, the 3D graphics, the FMV cut scenes, etc. But there wasn’t a game I noticed that mastered all those elements to create something I really wanted to play until Final Fantasy VII came out in 1997. What will be the game to do that for the new graphics and 1080p of PS4, Xbox One, and today’s PCs?

BULLETS:

  • Left 4 Dead 2 on PC, Mac, and Linux is free today only. http://t.co/FtNSMJRUym
  • I think I’m gonna start doing user reviews on Steam. It’s been too long since I did full game reviews.
  • Episode 4 of the Ninja Turtles YouTube series. http://t.co/nI4f4pI2a0
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