This weekend I finished Marvel’s Avengers, a game that has a pretty cool story about Kamala Khan wrapped in far too many menus. I had a grand time taking the fight to AIM and collecting resources to make my superheroes feel strong and powerful, but the biggest enemy wasn’t an Adaptoid or a massive machine of war. It was my own console.
Towards the end of the game, when enemy density ramps up and the big enemies with fancy special effects all arrive, things on screen just went from slight issues to feeling like I was playing in bullet time. As I approached the final mission, sometimes I felt like I was watching a slideshow and trying to decide what to do. As you can imagine, I died a lot in these sections as the frame rate varied and hiccuped and sputtered and died on me. It pulled me out of the fun several times, and it nearly ruined the big climax of the game, a level that has you play as every Avenger in the roster to beat the big bad.
Now with the next-generation of consoles on the way, I am really worried about what the future holds for me. When I bought my PS4, there was no inkling of an idea that there would be a mid-lifecycle refresh that adds more power to the platform. Until then I bought a console and it played games until the next generation arrived. It was simple. Sure, many will argue that the refresh was necessary and that is a debate for another time. My issue is that I don’t feel confident in just buying one console and having it be the solution for a generation of games. How do we know that a more powerful Xbox Series and PlayStation 5 aren’t already in the design steps, preparing to arrive in a few years? I’m not sure I am ready to drop R12K on a console to have a newer, bigger console arrive shortly afterwards. If I want to feel like my hardware is obsolete by the time I run a game on it, I already have a PC to get that feeling. The big difference? Buying a PC is opting into that never-ending race. Consoles were never about that, until a very short time (relatively) ago.
My issue isn’t even just with Marvel’s Avengers in the twilight of the PS4. No, this happened in Control as well, where things would get so slow and messy that you couldn’t dodge incoming attacks. It ruined so much of the fun of the experience that despite loving Control, I haven’t gone back to hunt down the last few collectables and missions, because nobody wants to play a game that looks like someone stuck in molasses.
As the next generation starts, Xbox already has two SKUs in the market, meaning developers need to work to make sure it runs on both sets of hardware properly. Why stop there? Nobody has said there won’t be a PS5 Pro or a… I have no idea what would be bigger than an Xbox Series X, to be honest. How do I know I won’t end up watching game slideshows soon, and when will they communicate it?
At least prepare me if the one console for a generation system that I have been used to for so long is all over.
What do you think? Are we going to see the beefy upgrades at some point, or was that a once-off event?