What Defines A Next Gen Experience?
Everyone is talking about how the Xbox One is going to beat the PS4 or how PS4 will definitely win the “next gen” war, but no one is talking about what makes an experience truly next gen!
Everywhere, on gaming forums, on N4G, Reddit, Twitter etc. people are posting articles like: “10 reasons why Xbox One is better…” or “I am choosing PS4 over…” and many other what I like to call “b*llshit articles just to get traffic on site”. But I still haven’t read something like “What defines next gen?” or “Should you get excited about next gen?” and those are among the themes I want to talk about here.
Now the next gen talk is bigger than ever. During their press conferences Xbox and Playstation revealed some truly amazing and beautiful games, more info about sharing, connectivity, new features, remote play etc. Both (EA was OK, but I am not going to talk about it here) of the press conferences were great, but Playstation’s was, in my opinion, way better than Xbox’s. They revealed a lot more than Xbox, a sh*tload of games, for PS3, PS4 and PS Vita. They showed off remote play, the new XMB, talked about the release date and take a lot of shoots at Xbox. However this is my opinion and let’s call it wrap-up of this year Gamescom. Playstation Won!
Now in both these conferences, Playstation and Xbox showed new footage for their first and third party next gen games. Infamous Second Son looked stunning, so did Killzone Shadow Fall. Rime is going to be probably the best looking game ever. TitanFall looked awesome, Call of Duty Ghosts looked…ehm like Call of Duty. Battlefield 4… OMG. Ryse looked like a movie and not a videogame (great!). Ubisoft’s games perfect as ever! Destiny was jaw dropping. Knack looked amazing! Forza 5 and #DriveClub, both looked stellar.
But if you try to define a next gen experience only by its looks and jaw dropping visuals, then we can say that we already have next gen experiences. The Last of Us is probably the best looking game ever on consoles, God of War Ascension too. GTAV looks absolutely beautiful and brilliant, Battlefield 3 on PC looks fantastic. Bioshock Infinite and Dishonored, both jaw dropping. In the racing games genre, Gran Turismo 6 is probably going to be the best looking racing game. And there are loads more of examples of how great some current-gen games look on a 7 year old console. Now don’t get me wrong, next gen games look better than current-gen and will look way better as time passes, but even some those when compared to some of the GOTY material games I mentioned above, some of them don’t look so “next gen”. So having only beautiful graphics ain’t gonna cut it.
Now about the gimmicks, mechanics and overall gameplay, what can be considered next gen? Battlefield 3 64 player online match on Ultra Setting on a beast PC is already next gen, there is no discussion about that. On consoles however, the experience it is sh*t compared to the PC experience. I have played both and there is no comparison between the two. Now Battlefield 4 will replicate this feel the PC players have already experienced for two years now, but can we call it a truly next-gen experience? Simply put no, cause as I said we can play already experience next gen right here, right now on PC. Also there are some rumors on the internet that games might not look like their PC counterparts even with the immense power the next gen consoles offer, so yeah… I took Battlefield 3 as an example, but the same can be said for games like PlanetSide 2, Blacklight or even Minecraft. The “next gen”, in FPS games, is already here! Also having a mocaped dog or fish AI isn’t next gen…
What about third person action/adventure/open world etc. games? When Ubisoft first revealed Watch Dogs, it blew me away. The graphics, the gameplay, the mechanics etc. everything looked like nothing I had seen before. But as the time passed and with the gameplay reveals of games like Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, GTAV or The Division, my excitement about Watch Dogs kinda faded away. Again, don’t get me wrong, I am still excited about Watch Dogs as much as the next guy, but how much do we know about it? How big is the game, lasting appeal? How big is the map? What are the activities that Aiden can do on Watch Dogs? Hunting down bad guys, stealing/hacking ATMs or whatever, escape from the police, we have already been there done that like a million times. If you compare Watch Dogs with, let’s say GTAV, it doesn’t look that great. I highly doubt that Aiden will ride a motorcycle of a cliff and skydive or play poker or pilot a jet or do the crazy stuff you can do on GTA V. We still don’t know if you can kill pedestrians in the game and cause mayhem like you can do on GTA games. Sure it looks astonishingly beautiful and has some cool hacking “things”, but it ain’t gonna cut it!
Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag looks like Assassin’s Creed 3 on steroids. Everything that made AC3 great is now bigger and way better looking on Black Flag, but I don’t wanna chase down a piece of paper just to please someone or I don’t wanna collect 1 million feathers to unlock a skin. Another game that is praised like the true “next gen” experience is Infamous Second Son. Probably it is the best looking next gen game right now, but what have we really seen about it? We have only seen Delsin hit some dudes with a chain, shoot smoke out of his hands, fly 100 feet into the air and execute a ground pound. That’s pretty much all what we have seen. What’s so next gen about it? As Watch Dogs we don’t know how big it is, what can you do etc. It looks fantastic and appears to run at a steady 60fps, but if you see closely in the E3 demo, a whole section of the world is just not there, it pops in a few seconds later. Meh…sure you can go and say that it’s a demo, unfinished and blablabla, but know that these demos have to be perfect since they need to excite the buyer, to create buzz and hype, but whatever… The Xbox One exclusive, Ryse, looked like a live action game with beautiful graphics, but the gameplay seemed like a bunch of QTEs strung together…bleh I don’t want to play another Asura’s Wrath. Nothing special about that!!!
What about racing games? Need for Speed Rivals looks stunning and so does #DriveClub, but we have already games like that. Where is the innovation, what makes them next gen? From what I have seen so far, nothing. Forza 5 is doing something really cool with the “driveatar” mechanic, where the AI learns from you and the other players, but in time we will see how that actually work, if it does work like they have marketed it.
Before I go to the “But there is hope in the horizon” part, I want to sum up what I have said till now. Beautiful graphics alone doesn’t make a game next gen. Cool and neat gimmicks and features alone, don’t make a game next gen. A combination of the two, maybe, but there still cannot be called truly a next gen experience.
But there is hope in the horizon. Games like Destiny, The Division and The Crew offer the true next gen experience, in my opinion. So you might ask: “Why them? What makes them so special?” Well, first off the big open online persistent word. Technically these games are a new genre in gaming that we haven’t really seem before. A blend between a cinematic singleplayer experience, multiplayer and MMO. You are thrown into these giant worlds with a fantastic singleplayer story, full of activities to do, missions to complete, things to collect and unlock, random events where players come together to take down a giant enemy or fight one another for something (like a weapon in The Division) etc. Fantastic social features, drop-in drop-out co-op, instantaneous PvE or PvP, fantastic and working companion apps, make these two games truly next gen.
This is what I think defines next gen, connectivity and social interaction! Always online, persistent worlds with a sh*t ton of things to do, see and a large number of other players to interact with. Companion apps and SmartGlass have been only a sh*tty gimmick that no one really liked and used, but what the devs are doing with these second screen experiences for the next gen is truly remarkable. The Division companion app is practically a game on itself, it looks like XCOM. You can join your friends while they are playing on the big screen, you can help or grief them and you can see everything in real-time. That is crazy and it is super f*cking cool! Destiny’s companion app is kinda the same, you can switch your load out, customize your character, set up matches, see challenges, check o your friends etc.
These three games (I am sure there are a few other I could have mentioned) combine everything perfectly. Stunning graphics, insane particle effects, fantastic gameplay with strong shooting and driving mechanics, character progression and an insane level of customization, other cool gimmicks, giant persistent always online worlds and a level of connectivity and social interaction never seen before. If you ask me this is the true next gen experience, so Kudos to the guys over at Ubisoft and Bungie for achieving that. (Sh*t son, The Crew map is the whole USA, how crazy is that??!!)
The next gen consoles are power houses, but only a few of the big developers are tapping into the true potential of these consoles. I can say that the Indie Community is using the tech at their disposal way better than some of the big industry players are doing. But then again we don’t really know what many of the top development studios like Naughty Dog, Rockstar, Black Tusk Studios, Robotoki, Bioware etc. All we know is that this is the best time to be a gamer! I believe in the next gen, I believe in these studios, I believe that the PS4 and Xbox One are going to be the best things ever (the first better than the second), but what do you think? Do you agree with what you just read? Did I miss something or got something wrong? The comments box is there for that, so go crazy!