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Why The Eighth Generation Fails To Excite

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For many, excitement over the eighth generation of consoles is, understandably, at a fever pitch. With the Wii U already on the market, the PS4 launching towards the end of the year and widespread reports of Microsoft’s plans to announce and detail the 360’s successor in the not-too-distant future, it is all but upon us. The question is whether the high levels of anticipation can be justified. The ideas that we’re seeing – second screens, socially aware hardware, implementation of more control mechanisms – are all progressive without really being impressive. The technical specifications of Nintendo’s console are massively outdated already, and while those of Sony’s and the rumoured specs of Microsoft’s next are more than reasonable, all they are at the moment is future promise.

And promise of what? Better visuals? More realistic physics calculations? a greater sense of persistence and dynamism in gaming worlds? That’s all good and well, but does it necessarily equate to better, more innovative and involving games going forward? Early evidence says no. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of companies stepping forward to present engines that they claim as being scalable and cross-generational, with the most prominent being Frostbite 2 and CryEngine 3. Gorgeous titles have been crafted on these, with the flagships of Battlefield 3 and Crysis 3, respectively, being true standouts. Despite being built upon these forward-facing platforms, however, none of these games has done a single thing to visibly advance their genre, let alone the industry as a whole.

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It might be argued that their design ambitions are necessarily hampered by having to allow them to run on the ageing consoles, but this is a hollow retort. The PS3 and 360, even in their twilight days, are acting as home to games that are far more inventive and impressive than aught that we’ve seen advertised from these cross-generational engines. Games like Dishonored, The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Bioshock Infinite and Remember Me prove that technology is subservient to creativity and it is the latter that is currently lacking on the future consoles. Even if one chooses to disregard that fact, how can one say that the technological leap will allow more self-aware AI, a greater degree of intricacy in level design, a greater sense of presence or more refined mechanics when there has been a void of all of these things on the supposedly superior PC hardware? A desire to ensure platform parity? The differences in Battlefield 3‘s multiplayer and visual proficiency across the different platforms proves that to be a fallacy.

There isn’t a single game in development, that the mass media is aware of, that one can point to as clearly belonging to a new generation. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Diablo III, Destiny and Watch Dogs all serve to rob momentum from the future by launching simultaneously and fully featured on current platforms while Killzone: Shadow Fall appears to fall into the same trap as the first-person shooters listed above. To be fair, we haven’t yet seen enough from DriveClub, inFAMOUS: Second Son, Dragon Age III: Inquisition or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to pass judgement on them, but it is reasonable to assume that they won’t be overly different from what has come before due to all but one of them being part of firmly established franchises while the last is in a stalled genre. What little we do know is enough to assume that they are not exactly aspiring to what is clearly a new level. It might be normal to look at things this way at the inception of a new generation, and there is no doubt whatsoever that the matter will improve on that front as time goes on, but I’m genuinely curious as to why gamers are so excited by the prospect of new hardware when there is nothing in terms of interesting software to back it up.

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Developers may be appeased by the abolition of the memory bandwidth constraints of the current generation, but until they show me that they are making full use of their new freedom, I shall remain unimpressed. It seems almost as though the new hardware was forced by the likes of DICE, Crytek and Epic; developers that lack the creativity to wow gamers with new forms of content and instead rely on shiny new graphics in-house and licensing their engines to third parties more capable of inspiring through design. Based on the content that we currently know is in the works, the eighth generation really isn’t the tantalising prospect that many are touting it as and I, for one, will be more than happy to wait for a couple of truly generation defining titles before jumping aboard, no matter how long that may take.

Damien Lawardorn
Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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7 Comments

  1. I think the initial lineup of games will be ok at best. The one title I see as being truly great is Watch Dogs. I think that the level of persistence and the fact that the world just feels alive makes it at least a little innovative. I most certainly will not be buying a new console at least until a price drop happens, as I have a nice gaming/game design PC already and will be able to play most of the games I am interested in on it.

  2. I think it may be a bit too early to say it doesn’t excite. You’re correct that we will probably still see the same kind of games this coming generation that we have now, but I also think with new technology comes new experiences. I think physics will play a much bigger role, just by looking at what the new engines are producing. It’ll be interesting to see, but things like Geo Mod in Red Faction will look stunning if used in any upcoming games.

  3. I agree with this editorial. I was trying to explain this similar thought to a friend of mine. He was relaying his excitement of the next gen.Battlefield. I told him at this point the shooters have reached a zenith in terms of gameplay. no matter how good it looks, you will only be able to shoot the same amount of enemies within the same amount of space because we are limited by our own senses and what is feasible as cover based gameplay. The next gen seems poised to take even more control away from the gamer than this one has with more scripted events to show off pretty graphics. A thousand buildings can crumble with detail of startling minutia, but I’m just a spectator. Uninteresting, to say the least. Immersion seems to be the only thing that will improve with the ability to produce larger crowds of NPCs and have better surroundings during actual gameplay. I do welcome that.

  4. Personally, i belive multiplatform games limit the capabilities of the p.c. Even when a computer exclusive is released its still heavily influenced by the console norms. On a side note, indie games are going to be the new frontier for innovation, where as blockbuster titles will probably use them as a source.

  5. This article made me recall the PS2 launch and the release of Tekken Tag Tournament 2. This was one of the first (if not the first) 3D tag team fighting game. It had jaw dropping graphics for the time and incredible gameplay. I remember I used to run home after school and play this game till my mom came home and peeled my away from the TV =p

    While I unfortunately no longer have the time for such long gaming sessions, I really do hope some games really use the extra power and introduce new gameplay mechanics or even offer a fresh take on existing norms. The drawback however is that there will more than likely be more than a few misses before people start figuring things out.

  6. “[…]refuses to hook his gaming devices up to the internet, allowing him to appreciate the excellence of the single player experience all the more.”

    i.e. Has no right whatsoever to be making such sweeping remarks as the following drivel: “The differences in Battlefield 3‘s multiplayer and visual proficiency across the different platforms proves that to be a fallacy.”

    1. You don’t have to have played Battlefield 3 to know that are differences between the PC and console versions of the multiplayer.

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