An exclusive release that feels genuinely exclusive
Remember when you could look at a screenshot of a game and have a reasonable chance of knowing which system it was running on? In the old days, computer and console hardware generated imagery that felt unique to them: ZX Spectrum games looked sharp but horrendously limited in their use of colour, and C64 games were chunky and a little washed-out. NES owners quickly became accustomed to Nintendo’s muddy 8bit colour palette, while Master System users enjoyed a bombardment of luminous reds, blues and greens that helped the console impersonate the excesses of Sega coin-ops such as Space Harrier and Out Run even when it was otherwise so wretchedly ill-equipped for the job. The N64/ Play Station era was the last one in which, from a glance at a screen, we could make an easy call between competing formats. Today, the goal for the platform holder is to look at least as good as its competitor, not different.
It’s to be expected, given what’s going on behind the scenes. Xbox One and PS4 are, technically, the closest relatives to have fought a console war, with AMD supplying the guts of both boxes. When you look at the games themselves, Microsoft was once the company you sided with if you were serious about shooting things with a gun, but even that old rule is being broken down, mostly because Sony has done such a convincing job of being like its competitor in terms of online play and core controller design. All of this leaves the elements around the periphery having to work harder to distinguish the platform as a whole – hence Microsoft’s pursuit of Kinect, and the introduction of the Dual-Shock 4 Share button.
As the videogame industry’s crawl toward homogeneity continues, Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive looks like a game we can really get behind. It is, as its creators explain in our cover story, the result of wanting to make something that stands apart in 2014. It’s not an FPS, it isn’t swamped in browns and greys, and it has a weapon that launches vinyl records. For Xbox One and videogames as a whole, that feels like a victory already.