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Patrick Hope: PS4 releases underwhelming thus far

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About five months ago, I wrote about how the PlayStation 4 was off to a good start. It wasn’t the greatest console launch ever or anything, but there were some good games that did an admirable job of showcasing the new hardware. So, checking in almost half a year later, has there been anything to really up the ante?

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Nope.

The first four months of this year have been among the slowest I’ve ever seen. All we’ve really gotten of note from the next-gen consoles has been “Titanfall.” The revival of “Thief” kind of got hammered in reviews. “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes” was a $40 extended demo. “Infamous: Second Son” is the definition of solid but unspectacular. Even the latest “World of Warcraft” killer, “The Elder Scrolls Online,” has released to lukewarm reviews. There just isn’t a whole lot out there right now.

There are really only four games thus far that I would really categorize as great: “Bravely Default,” “Danganronpa,” “Dark Souls II” and “South Park: The Stick of Truth.” Note that I’ve written about three of those four. And to really underscore how little the next-gen consoles have done, the former two are on portable systems and the latter two are on the PS3 and XBox 360, the newly-minted last generation.

Now, this isn’t unique to this console generation. The now-dominant Nintendo 3DS looked like a disaster mid-to-late 2012. The PS3 and Nintendo Wii both experienced some pretty significant droughts soon after launch and it took the 360 a couple years to really bring the pain, finally running out “Bioshock,” “Halo 3,” and “Mass Effect” within three months of each other. And the PlayStation 2 had to wait more than a year before it started to put together a formidable library. It’s always going to take a while for developers to really figure out how to optimize a console’s performance. That’s not to say it isn’t annoying, however.

It’s never fun to look at your expensive, rhomboid piece of plastic sitting there doing nothing as you catch up on that “Skyrim” run you never bothered to actually finish. It’s a reminder that being an early adopter is often not the best route, as there’s going to be a lot of downtime before your brand new toy is going to show its true form and really start paying dividends. And there really isn’t anything else to do besides wait, as cutting and running is a bad idea, because eventually the games will come and you’ll have to buy the console again. And no one wins then.

And the games are coming. This year alone will likely see the releases of “Destiny,” “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” “The Order: 1886,” “Watch Dogs” and others. That’s not even including the yearly releases like “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed.”

There’s a lot to like if you just wait for it.

But what to do while waiting? That’s where I come in!

The obvious answer is to finally get into the portable systems. The 3DS has been dominating for a while now and the PlayStation Vita is finally, and quietly, putting together a good library. You might as well take the chance to start exploring what these systems have to offer. Broaden your horizons a little and you might find your favorite new companion for your next long trip or boring commute. Please don’t play these systems while driving, though. That’s really dangerous and illegal.

Your other option is to dust off your old systems and get into retro stuff. Retro gaming is bigger than ever right now, with people wanting to replay their childhood favorites left and right. Most old games are cheaper than buying new ones anyway — unless you’ve got some really high-end gaming tastes. And if you’re being completely honest with yourself, that pang of self-worth you get for remembering the locations of the warp whistles in “Super Mario Bros. 3” is a little stronger than the one you get for winning a round in “Titanfall.”

So yes, it can be pretty boring right now to be a gamer. This year isn’t shaping up to be the greatest ever or anything, but stick with it and it’ll get better. I hope. If it doesn’t, I’m going to end up looking silly and no one wants that.

Note: Things are also slow enough in current-gen releases that it’s allowing me to do something special for the month of May. For all four weeks, I’ll be writing about some of my favorite game characters ever. Please get the appropriate level of hype.

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