Do ‘Next-gen’ Games Deserve That Title?


Do the games we’ve seen for the PS4 and Xbox One we’ve seen so far really advance the medium?

As we all remember E3 2013 was the primary debut for the next generation of gaming consoles and games.  Sony and Microsoft had previous held events to show off their new consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, E3 was a chance to show case the many new games that will be arriving on the next generation of console hardware.

one nagging question keeps popping up in my head every time I re-watch trailers or interviews: is this next gen of gaming really “next gen”?

I certainly enjoyed myself watching the many press conferences and many brand new game reveals.  There are a quite a few new titles that are being released within the next year or so that I am very much looking forward too.  But one nagging question keeps popping up in my head every time I re-watch trailers or interviews: is this next gen of gaming really “next gen”?

First off I do understand that every console generation change includes a transition period where the current and next gens overlap for a bit.  And I do get it that at first, no one is really able to tap the power of the new machines and it takes a few years for developers to truly master just what the systems can do.

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The easiest place to spot this can be seen in the difference of graphics between games released at the start of console’s life and those released at the end.  Just look at the difference between Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2007) and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011) on the PS3 or Halo 3 (2007) and Halo 4 (2012) on the Xbox 360.  While those never looked bad, the more recent releases look simply amazing.

So what about this next generation?  Well the games certainly do look beautiful, just take a look at the Titanfall game play demo.  Titanfall is one the IP’s I am excited about and the game does look amazing, especially considering it is running on the Source engine of all things.  But even with its novel idea of merging the single- and multi- player experiences, it doesn’t scream “next gen” to me.

I remember way back in 2005 watching some of the first in game footage of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter for Xbox 360.  I was blown away.  The leap in graphics was simply astounding and the games themselves seemed to reflect this.  Ghost Recon for instance added a great layer of complexity over its previous console iterations.

I am just not getting that feeling from the first wave of new “next gen” titles.  Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Titanfall, Watch Dogs, Destiny, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Drive Club, FIFA 14 and the rest, they all look amazing and I’m sure will play amazing but they just look like current gen titles with super graphics.

…the idea of graphics being the only real difference is very dull for me.

Now granted that is probably because a lot of those titles are going to cross gen releases, but the idea of graphics being the only real difference is very dull for me.  However I am bit spoiled as I play on my PC much more than either of my consoles and PC gamers already have games with amazing graphical quality like Tomb Raider 2013.  So I want more than graphics to sell me on a new generation.

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However, not every game had this feeling to me.  There were a few like Dragon Age: Inquisition that hold promise, but it was impossible to tell with just a trailer but at last CD Projekt Red demonstrated The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.  Perhaps I am being blinded by my adoration for the previous games, but the The Witcher 3 looks to truly be a “next gen” game.

It certainly has the ability to be that.  The previous two games were wonderful at allowing you to move along the story in the manner you wanted to and I am confident CD Projekt Red will continue this trend along with the new promise of a truly massive game world.

there has always felt like a bit of a trade off between a wide open sandbox that ended up feeling a little static and a dynamic world that changed.

Indeed, it is this idea of a large, connected, open-world that I find to be the most “next gen” about the next gen.  I realize that the open-world style of game play has been around for a while but I feel that it is only in recent years that it has really started to truly become what it always wanted.  But there has always felt like a bit of a trade off between a wide open sandbox that ended up feeling a little static and a dynamic world that changed, but it moved you along a pre-set path.

The Wticher 2: Assassins of Kings had the makings of an open-world that did react to your decisions in the story, but it was still limited to set regions.  Of course there are open world games such The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim but that doesn’t quite hit the note of story telling I am looking for.

The Witcher 3 however appears to be ready to combine those elements.  It will take the best of an open-world game where the player can do or go anywhere while still retaining the deep and intricate story of its predecessors is what is truly sets it apart.  While story driven game play and open world game play and even a hybrid of the two are nothing new, the ability to truly combine them into a single, unified game world is something that this generation has never quite been able to achieve.

For me, this is what I am really looking for in the next generation of games and so far it is The Witcher 3 that looks poised to do so right out of the gate.

E3 2013 was certainly a lot of fun and it was delightful to tune into the many game premiers.  Yet so far the next gen of games don’t really appear all that “next gen” to me.  Then again, this is a transitional period so a lot of overlap is expected between console generations and games.  However I can say that for me at least, next gen or not, there are a lot of new titles coming out that are worth being excited for.

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About Paul

Paul Stehlin is a Gamemoir writer who likes to spend all day talking about games and not much else. Find him on Twitter at @sharkboy421 or on his own blog at corrin.blog.com

There are 5 comments

  1. unevenwizard

    I understand where you’re coming from. Any games released on the PS4/Xbox One AND the PS3/360 won;t allow most publishers to give the “next-gen” versions it’s full attention. And even though new engines are already available to devs (Unreal/Cryengine/etc), I don’t expect them to really realize those engine’s full potential for a few years at least. I can’t wait to play the next huge Fallout or Elder Scrolls in 2-3 years.

    1. Paul

      Oh that is definitely true. I realize this is still the “transition” period from the current generation to the next so the games that are on the next gen will still be very similar to those on the current gen. Even more so for those that are released on both. And I also agree, I can’t wait to see the games coming in the next few years.

  2. dakan45

    am gonna derail this.

    pc has “next gen” visuals for many years now.

    Games like bf3 and max payne 3 run on low on consoles, metro last light and crysis 3 even lower than low, far cry 3 on medium barelly hiting 30 fps, goes down to 24 sometimes. The last of us by pc standards looks 2006 considering how crysis has better graphics better lighting and texture quality.

    Now why am i saying this? Keep reading, it will make sense.

    The likes of titanfall and destiny run on old engines that are current gen, their gameplay, graphics and style is current gen. Crysis 3 may look “next gen” on pcs but it has small maps and limited interaction due to weak hardware.

    Lets face it, consoles are 8 years old, the footage you have seen from watchdogs were all from pc.

    Those games on ps4/xbox one will look “next gen” compared to 8 year old consoles, like they do on pc, but “next gen” is not about graphics, but gameplay and game design camapabilities, look how games have changed from ps2/xbox era. Next gen will bring bigger maps, more interactions, better physics and character animantions, new ideas. They will makes games that were not possible on current hardware.

    Eg killzone shadowfall may “look” next gen but plays just like your typical fps, thats NOT a next gen game.

    1. Paul

      I agree Dakan45. For me, that is one reason why even a solely next gen game like Shadowfall doesn’t quite feel “next-gen”. Graphics are certainly nice and I love how good the games are going to look, but as I said before and you also mentioned, PC has been doing that for a while.

      That is one reason The Witcher 3 looks so exciting because it at least appears to move beyond what is already being done.

  3. Titanfall

    Probably one of the reasons Titanfall doesn’t seem “next-gen” is because footage hasn’t been released yet of it running on last generation hardware.

    On the games that have been released for next-gen and last-gen consoles like Battlefield 4, the differences are pretty significant. To me personally, BF4 on the 360 reminds me of how the first Xbox games look now. Low-res textures, choppy framerates… the 8 years in evolution between the two hardware releases is pretty evident when you can compare them running side by side.

    We also might see more “next-gen” looking games when devs no longer have to concern themselves with producing games for older hardware. Currently they still want those last-gen sales and are tethered to producing content for the lowest common denominator.

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