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Confirmed: Games on the PlayStation 4 will be mostly prettier than games on the original PlayStation

By John Teti • August 19, 2013

The good people at the PlayStation Access computer television channel are looking forward to the release of the PlayStation 4, so they put together a video chronicling the history of PlayStation graphics across all four generations of the PlayStation line. While this narrative controverts Sony’s official position that the release of the PS4 will mark the beginning of art and that no worthwhile creative endeavors were possible before this moment, it is nonetheless fun to see games from 20 years ago compared directly to their ancestors of today. Some early games have aged poorly, but Final Fantasy and Metal Gear are among the examples that hold up: They look great in any era.

The most notable thing about the video is that in most cases, it’s hard to tell the difference between the last two generations—even if you watch the video using YouTube’s large HD player. (Caveat: YouTube video is highly compressed, so the differences would be more noticeable in person.) I often didn’t realize that the footage had switched from PS3 to previews of the PS4. The images of the original PlayStation are unmistakable, as those games had polygons so huge that you could use them for shelter from the elements in a pinch. (Cloud’s hair in Final Fantasy VII can be fashioned into a smart lean-to.) From that starting point, you see unmistakable improvements—a dramatic refinement of texture and color on the PlayStation 2, and the jump to HD on the PlayStation 3. And then the shift becomes more subtle.

Some of the PS4 images are striking, but the video suggests a reality that many fans have already realized: The technological improvements in the new generation of consoles will be more notable for allowing deeper artificial intelligence and world design than for enabling new-’n’-improved graphics. Make no mistake, we’ll still have to suffer through a year or so of GAME YOU’VE PLAYED BEFORE: SUPER BLASTO SHINY EDITION hogwash. Yet the days in which your average Jane and Jimmy Punchclock could be bowled over by a new console’s graphical refinement are over, at least for now.

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37 Responses to “Confirmed: Games on the PlayStation 4 will be mostly prettier than games on the original PlayStation”

  1. NakedSnake says:

    I’m still waiting for the announcement that the PS4 will reveal the story of Ancient Snake, as that particular franchise hurtles forward through the generations. Only eight generation consoles can render his wrinkles in enough detail to make the story meaningful.

    • MintBerry_Crunch says:

      *Shake controller wildly to suppress cramps and old man grumbles* 

      *Execute near impossibles QTE’s to avoid unskippable, additional 30 minute monologues every time Ancient Snake talks, “You know, in my day. . .” 

      *Tap button shoot button wildly when aiming carefully to avoid dozing off! Watch Ancient Snake spook himself every time you shoot!*

  2. caspiancomic says:

    Do Jane and Jimmy Punchclock have any relation to Joe, or is it just a coincidence?

    • John Teti says:

      You’re mixing up the Connecticut Punchclocks and the Long Island Punchclocks. Common mistake.

      • MintBerry_Crunch says:

        Hey I didn’t know that Mr. Teti was back! 

        I hope your dirty underlings have been keeping your palanquin extra plushy and shiny!

      • Cloks says:

        I’m going to suggest something radical here – maybe don’t punch cloks?

        • caspiancomic says:

           I thought the Punchclock family was like an offshoot of the Clok main branch. A sort of Baggins/Sackville-Baggins thing.

  3. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    I wonder if the trend of “prettier but shorter games” will hold true as well on the PS4/Xbone generation, or is storage space becoming so little an issue that game length is recovering now?

    • MintBerry_Crunch says:

      Well, I’m mostly worried (and every bleeding heart who looks at indies, then triple A’s, then vomits) at the homogenized, iterative hell that might worsen. 

      But there’s hope! All that hardware and technology can’t simply go towards fostering intense cognitive dissonance with Murder Joe and his slew of sequels and spin-offs.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I suspect the issue has less to do with storage than with development cost (and time). You can only design so many unique hovels, ruins, and dusty hallways before you have to cut things short… or just give it the ol’ copy and paste.

    • ChicaneryTheYounger says:

      I think that developers are just getting better at pacing their games and giving them appropriate lengths. I don’t think anyone wants to spend ten hours walking back and forth through the same locations. Imagine The Last of Us with ten more hours of repetitive towns, it’d be much worse.

      Shorter games aren’t really a problem.

      • SamPlays says:

        Honestly, the idea of extremely long games is somewhat a turn off for me. Even when you have ginormous games like Skyrim, it’s far too intimidating to commit that much time. Playing for 120 hours would be the better part of a year for me.

    • George_Liquor says:

      Since all three next-gen consoles are equipped with something at least akin to a blu-ray drive, I wonder if PC games will start to be distributed on blu-ray. I hate multi-disk installs, so I kinda hope they do.

      • fieldafar says:

        Would be nice, but I remember it took a while for physical PC copies to shift from CD to DVD. 

        Also, digital distribution is the “wave of the future”, not to mention that Blu-Ray disks are still quite expensive to make. 

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          The problem with that is that bandwidth caps for pseudo-flatrates are also the “wave of the future”. A dual-layer Blu-Ray is 50GB, AT&T for example apparently caps at 150. Steam should probably start looking into scheduling their sales so that they’re not in the middle of the month anymore. PS+ subscribers will simply be out of luck.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          Yeah, I was ready to kiss the disc goodbye, but my plan is about be suddenly become a 250GB limit.

          So apparently I need to start spacing out Steam downloads of bigger games.

    • Boonehams says:

      The upcoming Killer Instinct game will only have 6 characters at launch with 2 more to be released post-launch.  That’s still 3 characters short of the original’s roster, and that game’s nearly 20 years old.

      If that’s a sign of things to come, I’m not really looking forward to the near-future of gaming.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Wow, I thought fighting games were notorious for adding characters over time.  It’s not like you need to create much of a story for them…

  4. Boonehams says:

    “The most notable thing about the video is that in most cases, it’s hard to tell the difference between the last two generations—even if you watch the video using YouTube’s large HD player…. I often didn’t realize that the footage had switched from PS3 to previews of the PS4.”

    Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one. In most of the montage footage I thought, “Wait, did they even show the PS4 footage?”

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I think scope is the big jump this time around. Ultimately, yes, everything should look better, but more than that I would simply expect worlds to be more detailed.

  5. mizerock says:

    More pixels doesn’t automatically make for a better game machine. I’m still thinking the jump to a cell processor was almost as big as the jump to HD … and now that’s gone. Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m still planning on buying a new PC and a new smartphone and probably even a replacement for my current car before I buy a next generation console.

  6. oldtaku says:

    Do you really think Final Fantasy holds up for graphics? Sure, V and VI do, but those aren’t Playstation.  FFVII looks incredibly bad now, even worse than I remember it, especially compared to something like Wild Arms that launched at the same time. But you didn’t specify, so maybe you meant VIII or IX or X (which do still look pretty decent).

    Also, I remember the ‘no worthwhile creative endeavors were possible before this moment’ hype for the PS2 launch as well. Emotion Engine!

    • John Teti says:

      I think the harsh angles of FF7 are appealing, especially in the context of the techno-pocalypse theme, but to each their own, of course!

    • George_Liquor says:

      Yeah, the Emotion Engine was just a bit oversold. I remember the media flipping out over rumors that EE chips were so powerful that they might find their way into the guidance systems of enemy cruise missiles. 

      I think the best-looking PS1 games are either completely 2D, like Rayman, or use 3D sparingly, like Symphony Of The Night & Fear Effect 2; the latter I feel is the best-looking PS1 game of all time.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I don’t know, I’m playing FFVII on PC and I think it looks surprisingly good. The pre-rendered backgrounds are obviously pixellated, but the polygonal models in battle actually look really good. It’s too bad Square either doesn’t have or won’t update the backgrounds with hi-def ones. Then the game would be perfect.

  7. Knarf Black says:

    I was playing the 2006 PS2 shooter, Black, the other day, after my friend rescued a sizable portion of a defunct rental place’s inventory from sitting out in the rain, and the fact that it looks just as good as a mediocre current gen title left me disheartened over the state of console graphics tech.

    We have clearly hit a point of diminishing returns when it comes to “realistic” graphics.

    • Flexanimous says:

       I had Black on PS2! I remember what a bad shooter that was, how enemies had wonky hitboxes, repetitive AI, how the bloom lighting was pretty lame and all that. Also, the slowdown on that game in the last 2 chapters got ridiculous, and the levels were pretty simplistic, the guns felt real samey, even by the rock-bottom standards of shooter design today. It looked as good as a MIPS processor clocked at 200-something MHz could get shit looking
      I mean the HD era had a lot of perks other than things looking rubbery and shiny and able to reflect bloom lighting poorly

  8. beefmasterchris says:

    How much RAM will the xbone/ps4 use for gaming?

    • Flexanimous says:

       the OS should take up between 2.5 to 3.5 GB on each, consistently, microsoft’s 3 OS approach is in part based on maximizing the ram available to the console. From there, it’s split dynamically (iirc) between the CPU and GPU for various needs. Even in a 50/50 split, we’re still looking at consoles with at least 8 times as much memory available to each processor.
      However please for the love of god do not buy one of these, spend your money on a worthwhile investment, like a windows pc.

  9. GaryX says:

    Ugh, Teti, I can’t believe you could see those falling jet planes and not immediately know you had entered unto the vistas of the Great Beyond that is the Next Generation of not only video games but the Great Other: that ultimate We to which we all strive (if, of course, we bought the game new, otherwise ultimate sublimation into a greater sense of Being is $9.99).

  10. Andy Tuttle says:

    That was kind of dumb.

  11. Matt Koester says:

    The only spot where it was really noticeable to me was the Metal Gear Solid clip. I feel some things like cars and heavily stylized graphics aren’t gonna change too much visually from here on out, but humans look much, much better on PS4.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Hair and clothing have got to be the biggest benefactors of the hardware boost for people.

      And fabric.

  12. doctuar says:

    I understand this ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ thing, Sony aren’t going to risk doing a “Nintendo”. But in a world where Minecraft can smash sales records, and the Internet is torn asunder because the sequel to a pixellated, 2.5D platform is cancelled by it’s own creator, this obsession with realism seems less and less relevant.

    Maybe it’s because I’m in my 30’s now, but all the games I like are indie fare, with quite low-end graphics. If somebody tried to sell me a game on graphics alone, I’d be very cynical about it. There needs to be meat on the bones!

  13. Each generation of video game consoles will continue to push the envelope of cutting edge graphics.  While having great graphics is very important at the end of the day it all comes down to how great the gameplay is.  The truly great game throughout history has always had at least good graphics, but great gameplay, memorable characters and compelling storylines.  I’m just hoping the developers see the potential of having amazing graphics as a complement rather than the primary focus going into the new generation.

  14. Nurse Joy says:

    It’s always seems to get slower with visual imporvements from gen to gen, but the graphical potential of the system titles do see to drastically jump towards the end of its life.  Compare the first titles of ps2 to later games on the system such as MGS3 or the early titles of PS3/360 to later games on those consoles such as Black Ops 2 or whatever. It’s quite a big jump there, and you really see that the early titles of the generations don’t really match up to their later releases. I’d imagine this will be the case for this generation, too.