The Outer Worlds begins with your character coming out of cryo-sleep. They’ve been out of commission for years as their colony ship traveled across the galaxy, but once awakened they’re able to pick up right where they left off. I’ve come to take it for granted this console generation that my games can do this as well.
It’s become standard for consoles to checkpoint where your game is at before it shuts down. That way, when you start it back up, you can get right back to that boss fight that crushed you the night before or solving a puzzle you’ve just realized the solution to. Ironically, despite the role cryo-sleep plays in The Outer Worlds, the game itself doesn’t support suspend mode, at least on Xbox One where I’m playing it.
It took several days of me holding down the home button on my controller and shutting down the console before I remembered The Outer Worlds needed to be treated differently. It’s not necessarily the game’s fault that modern consoles have taught me bad habits, but it was jarring and frustrating. I’m sure in a few years people will feel the same about coming across the odd load screen here or there, at least if promises about what the PS5 will be able to do are to be believed.
Once touted as a small quality-of-life improvement to make switching from the PS3 or Xbox 360 to the PS4 or Xbox One more enticing, it’s something that has made fitting games into the little cracks and pauses in the churn of daily life much easier. Nothing hit home for me how much we seem to have been collectively conditioned by this convenience as when, after a late night of Colossus slaying on the PS2, my friend simply turned off the game, only for the consequences of his actions to slowly dawn on him as he watched us stare blankly at him.
But I also didn’t realize just how good it feels to turn on my console and immediately start playing my game exactly where I’d left off the night before when I went from The Outer Worlds to Death Stranding. The latter can feel so sprawling and epic, overwhelming in the distances you need to traverse and the granular management of those treks, that the first time the game came out of suspend mode I was briefly shocked, probably like how I felt the first time I experienced it after buying a PS4. There was Norman Reedus standing exactly where I’d left him, sheepishly shifting his weight under the dozen or so containers and ladders he was carrying on his back.
It reminded me that “next-gen” experiences aren’t always the result of some big, shiny new feature, but sometimes the culmination of a dozen small improvements and amenities that together make the past unrecognizable. I never knew how much I wanted to be able to shut down my console at will until it became second nature to me.