As I said earlier, I made it back to the Tokyo Game show for the second and last public day. It was great to get a train directly there, which meant I arrived a bit early and was in the show before the big crowds formed. This day I devoted to actually playing the games- well, I did of course take some time out for the cuties, but when you have lines that take around 45 minutes just to play a game for 10, you have to be willing to give up your time.
My impression? The games I played on the PS3 were excellent, far smoother than similar things on my PC. But they certainly weren’t revolutionary. Grand Turismo HD had some beautiful backgrounds, but other than the high resolution, it was just another driving game. seeing the ‘spectators’ repeatedly making the same gestures, even when you crash into them with your car, reminded me that we are still in computer-game land and not yet the elusive realm of ‘virtual reality’. Ridge Racer 7 looked better, with beautiful reflections on the car going through caves and the feeling of speed that series gives you, but of course it was still just another version of Ridge. Then they had the first person shooters, which to be honest I thought were more a Microsoft or PC thing. They had booths lined up with networked PS3s for team play, complete with decorations such as alarm lights blinking and ammo boxes with camoflaged webbing in the corners. I tried Warhawk and Resistance, both having fantastically detailed graphics, with rich use of shaders; a generation above PS2, and probably at least as good as the X-Box 360.
Having such smooth gameplay and vivid images shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of how immersive the games become, increasing the feeling of ‘being there’. It really felt like a high-end PC at a budget price and I was pleased to see that more sophisticated gameplay is possible here than on the previous kiddy-consoles. Nothing I saw, though, was a match for the HD videos on the theatre screens. This was all a far cry from the games I played on my 48k Sinclair Spectrum (the ‘Speccy’) when I was growing up, loading them from tape to see a simple but back then impressive game. Many of them were made in someone’s bedroom, but are still being played today on emulators, just as I sometimes do on my Nintendo DS on the train. Back in the ‘golden ’80’s the game design was more groundbreaking, with those 2D innovations forming the basis of todays genres of shooters, racers, platform games and RPGs (role playing games, not rocket-propelled grenades), incredibly more sophisticated though they may now be.
From the videos, Metal Gear Solid 4 looks like it will be truly amazing- very stylish, and the clips for Final Fantasy XIII contained some of the best computer animation I’ve ever seen. It was worth going to the show just to see such things on the big screen and to feel the excitement of ‘tommorow’s games’. Microsoft also made a good showing, giving out bags near the station and having long lines at their booth, mainly for ‘Blue Dragon’, a Japanese-style game designed by the Final Fantasy Director. PS3 may well have a harder time than Sony would wish for and of course the Nintendo Wii, with it’s innovation and low price could well be successful, though I personally think it’ll do best in the kid’s market, as Nintendo have traditionally done. What is perhaps most exciting about the PS3 is that it could popularise Blue-Ray disks and bring the next generation of DVDs into the living room. That, or the rival HD-DVD, could herald the true home-theatre, when images and sound as detailed as the cinema make it into our homes for real. I actually know people intending to buy a PS3 for just this reason, just as many bought a PSP predominantly to watch videos on the move, though this led them to also pay extortinate prices for little memory sticks, so that had they bought a hard-disk based video player in the first place, they would have broken even (the memory sticks are cheaper now, though).
All in all a great show, again, the perfect thing just before my birthday- and I uploaded my favourite pictures of it here– but be prepared for a deluge of cuties!