PS4: No Man's Sky is a concept game done right
No Man's Sky (PS4)
WHILE for most of us the bread-bin-sized BBC Micro was a primary school treat, some had the public-service approved tech in their very homes, where young fingers unrestricted to Granny's Garden could explore the 2048 star systems of Elite.
And if the 1984 classic was a quantum leap in scale – here's the next one. With 18 quintillion planets to discover, No Man's Sky would take a gamer over four billion years to unearth all its trinkets.
Irish-born Sean Murray's much-hyped space exploration sim invites players to boldly go where no one has ever gone before and is the ultimate trip for budding astronauts – so come have a go if you have the right... what's that stuff?
Waking up on a planet with a spaceship that won't move inside a suit that barely keeps you alive, your first goal is to scavenge for the resources needed to power your craft and blast into space. From there, the universe is your oyster, with a clever algorithm procedurally generating near-infinite planets to explore, each with their own atmosphere, plant and animal life and environmental hazards.
The scope and sense of discovery is incredible as you dander to your planet hopper, break atmosphere, blast through space and land on another world with nary a loading or cut-scene hiding the seams.
With no pre-set story mode, the gameplay involves hours of planetary perambulation, mining precious resources to feed your tech or sell at trading posts. The shackles are off, then, as you check out new planets, be the first to discover and name a new life form or escape the Sentinels – hulking scavengers that can be ignored or shot, raising your wanted level a la Grand Theft Auto.
And while you'll share the universe with other gamers, it's so vast you're unlikely to find them often, making it quite the event when you do.
Both wildly ambitious and charmingly chilled (fuelled by a hypnotic post-rock soundtrack from Sheffield's 65daysofstatic), No Man's Sky is a concept game done right. Its saturated 70s pulp sci-fi aesthetic is spot-on, conjuring up the new-age loneliness of Silent Running.
Being hyped for years has meant No Man's Sky had some pretty big space boots to fill, and while its sedate pace and the tedium of constantly having to scavenge for resources won't be everyone's brew, it's undoubtedly an experience like no other. In Kubrickian cinematic terms, "My God – it's full of stars". Or as Arnie would say, "Get your ass to Mars."