Feature: Share Play on PlayStation 4

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For most 20-something gamers, childhood is basking in the warm glow of a tube TV at a friend’s house at night, rejoicing in multiplayer nirvana with games like Goldeneye 007 and Mario Kart 64 in an era when split-screen reigned supreme.

Ties were tested and virtual lives were lost: ‘Watch and learn!’, friends would naively proclaim, seizing the sweat-laden controller during a particularly tricky level of Crash Bandicoot, before slinking into the silence of shame as Cortex laughed maniacally during the CONTINUE? screen.

Sibling rivalries were temporarily postponed as little brothers were desperately drafted into the fray by assuming the less-coveted role of Player 2. ‘Perhaps today is the day I defeat Doctor Eggman once and for all!’, older brothers bravely aspired. ‘Perhaps today is the day I am finally allowed to play as Sonic’, younger brothers contemplated in hope.

But years passed, and friends and families moved away in search of University, work and love, for pastures greener than the Emerald Hills of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Although the advent of online gaming bridged the inevitable separation of former classmates and gaming compatriots, the true essence of ‘couch multiplayer’ seemed reserved for the ranks of young families and FIFA-obsessed undergraduates. With Sony’s latest system software update on the PlayStation 4, however, the couch is back – and with a vengeance.

Introducing Share Play. The ability to play games online with a friend as if you were huddled together on that patterned 90s couch once more. Selecting Share Play allows you to effectively ‘pass’ your friend your controller, allowing them to take control of your game as you see it on your screen, or to alternatively ‘pass’ your friend a second controller which can be used to play local multiplayer online.

Wanting to convince a friend to purchase Destiny? Share Play. Stuck on that terrifying boss fight on The Evil Within (curse you, spider lady…)? Share Play. Or how about just dusting off those ‘local-only’ PlayStation Plus favourites like Octodad, TowerFall and Spelunky for some carefree, throwaway fun? You guessed it – Share Play.

Buzzwords such as ‘innovative’, ‘game-changing’ and ‘revolutionary’ are industry pre-requisites in marketing campaigns nowadays, but this really is the next level for gaming. Remote Play was just the beginning. This is innovation. Of course, there are always spanners to be found in the most well-oiled machinations. Alas, there are connection and latency issues abound and few developers restricting Share Play at a whim are unavoidable problems which Sony are most certainly aware of.

In the so-called ‘Console Wars’, Nintendo have occupied a niche market which is set to further explode in popularity upon the release of Super Smash Bros. 4, and with Microsoft’s proverbial hype-train that is Halo: The Master Chief Collection quickly gathering steam, Sony needed a literal game-changer to propel them into the new year. And boy, with all the games November will have to offer, Share Play is unmistakeably the console exclusive worth having. All hail the couch!

Review: The Last of Us

The Last of Us

This is it. This Naughty Dog mutation of the action adventure genre echoes hauntingly of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, splicing survival horror with astonishing set pieces, creating a breathtaking post-apocalyptic dystopia which is inescapably gripping and unequivocally horrifying synchronously, giving birth to perhaps one of the most authentic relationships seen, not just in videogames, but in entertainment history.

Behold, The Last of Us. This Playstation 3 exclusive begins with an extraordinary exposition, ravaging your expectations and feelings almost instantly. An infection has all but decimated mankind, and society and architecture are in an inert state of decadence, as abandoned streets and cities become camps and quarantine zones. Humanity has been divided into the infected and survivors, factions that don’t exactly put the ‘civil’ in ‘civilisation’. One of these survivors, Joel, is entrusted with smuggling Ellie, a gutsy teenage girl, to a small band of insurgents called the Fireflies, a personified beacon of light in these dark times. Here is a man who has nothing left to lose. At least, not at first.

How strange – a few bullets and a health pack will leave you feeling armed to the teeth. Never before has a game felt so tense, as you want, need, to survive just one more minute. No matter what. Of course, this can be totally draining, particularly as your failings are exposed in a procession of gruesome deaths, each as brutal as the next. Trust me, these mushroom-adorned quasi-zombies are not fun guys. But despite how taxing gameplay can be at times, it is as infectious as the blood borne virus, and the need to endure and survive is shared, transcending the barrier between character and player.

Paced perfectly, it’s the infinitesimal moments interspersed throughout that encapsulate human nature, and propel The Last of Us from simple enjoyment to gaming nirvana. Like the tiny spores that ravaged this world, it’s the little things that have the most effect. There is a real sense of delicacy in character interaction glimpsed only briefly in the Uncharted series. From the rubble of these once populated cities blossoms a truly believable relationship, which flourishes further with every twist and turn of this narrative rollercoaster. The Last of Us is a Molotov cocktail of visceral reactions and raw sensations, a beautiful explosion of life, and this slow-burning relationship between Joel and Ellie is ripe with emotional depth. Naughty Dog have crafted a masterpiece, a prodigious effort which may be regarded as their magnum opus as the sun sets upon this console generation: a defining hallmark of the Playstation 3.

It is the people who grew up with Crash Bandicoot, laughed with Jak and Daxter, and relished the thrill of Uncharted who will come to appreciate The Last of Us the most. It is a mature culmination of Naughty Dog’s greatest hits, which scavenges the best elements from Heavy RainTomb Raider, and even that of 2013’s other gaming exemplar – BioShock Infinite. If you thought Elizabeth was a fantastic companion during your journey through Columbia, and a shining example of artificial intelligence, you’ll simply adore Ellie.

Honestly, the worst part of the game is knowing that this is it, and it won’t last forever. If The Last of Us was the last game you were ever going to play, you’d die happy. With gorgeous lighting and textures, and a rich spectrum of sounds, this is life, or at least as real as life gets. And at 16 hours short, it moves pretty fast – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

10/10